photo: Sebastian Madej
During our off day in Berlin, we shot an acoustic punk street rendition of our song “Ride” off LIFE UPSIDE DOWN. Footage by Foo.
Los Angeles, California - March 2017
Drug addicts are stepping over my body as I pretend to be asleep on the cold living room floor in Los Angeles. Strange men wander in and out of the unlocked front door, making their way to the bedroom to score. I'm grateful for a floor to sleep on, but night three in LA is proving to be a rough one. My friends have been gracious in letting me stay there, but their roommates are an angry drug dealing couple named Lizzie and Duff. They are coming down from their cocaine, whiskey, and nicotine buzz.
It's 2 am. Their fifth customer has walked in the unlocked front door and over my air mattress into their bedroom. I continue to fake sleep. Bad techno is blasting thru the walls.
Lizzie and Duffs overweight, neglected cat is attempting to sit on my face as I sleep. My pillow is covered in cat hair. Their cat, Rex, is well known around the neighborhood for peeing on guests bags. I sleep with one eye open, gripping my pillow tight. Rex is clawing at my air mattress, as if intentionally trying to pop it so I'll wake up on the cold hard floor. I push Rex off my "bed". Lizzie sees this and flips out on me. Her bloodshot eyes explode out of her head as she yells over the loud techno.
"What are you even doing here!? We don't want you here! If you don't like cats, you can leave. There are five that live here!" She walks over and kisses the cat repeatedly on the head, cuddling him like a crying baby while mean mugging me with her resting bitch face (RBF).
I hide under my blankets, praying for morning. Lizzie turns on the lights in the house and begins to wrap shipping packages as loudly as possible, the sound of packing tape screeches as it rolls off the reel. There is a computer printer next to my head. She turns it on and begins printing stuff relentlessly. It's 3 am. I pretend to find the good in this dark moment. This will make a good chapter of a book, I thought.
Lizzie slams on her keyboard, pretending to type emails.
"Please don't be mean to me", I said.
"I'm not being mean!", Lizzie scoffs. Her coked out brain in a schitzofrenic rage. I hold my tounge, afraid that some trust-fund LA druggie will pummel me with a Louisville Slugger while I sleep.
My friends had informed me that Lizzie and Duff once sprinkled low grade LSD all over a parking ticket in order to poison the government clerk who opened their mail. They had also been known to roofie each other just to get fucked up on the cheap buzz. I'd seen stuff like this only in "Trainspotting". Lizzie and Duff were major-league ass holes. They would sell any drug under the sun to keep the habit alive. I drifted off to sleep as Lizzie hammered on her keyboard and ripped thru another cigarette, the computer printer buzzing above my head.
I woke at 7am, estatic that the sun came up. Lizzie and Duff hadn't gone to sleep. Their eyes were cracked out and rabid. "I need some fuckin nails and a hammer!", Duff said at me. "We need to fuck up this city truck that makes us move our cars for street cleaning." Man, was Duff mad that he had to move his car from 8-10am on Thursdays.
I laughed nervously. Was this psychopath seriously intending to explode the tires of a government vehicle? I scrambled to get all of my stuff together and escape Duffs rat hole forever. Cheap techno was still bumping thru the walls. I gave Rex the cat a middle finger goodbye. Lizzie and Duff were hammering nails into sand paper to place all over the street. They would indeed destroy the tires on the city truck as it swept up their cocaine bags and schringes.
It's inevitable to find dangerous people along the road at some point. You cannot reason with people on drugs. It's critical to never mouth off to them, as tempting as it is. You have too much to lose. They have nothing to lose.
If you're a musician touring the DIY circuit, I recommend melatonin as a natural sleep-aid. Putting in headphones and drifting off to a podcast is a great way to escape a scary lodging situation.
Being in a nomadic arts occupation, uncertainty rules my world. I have to surrender to it. I don't understand the rooms I wake up in, I have no idea who/what will stand in my way, and I don't know what waits around the corner on the foreign streets that graciously allow me to exist upon them temporarily.
Uncertainty keeps my life fresh, but contorts my rhythm and wants to throw my brain off the tracks. Uncertainty has a rep for being "bad"...because it can feel TERRIBLE and scary. I live for it, because it is exciting. Uncertainty is a beautiful by-product of freedom.
My career is uncertain. I am operating on an indie level without a safety net or security for the future. Sometimes 21 people come to my show, sometimes 1000 people come. I play a giant festival one day, and a stank-ass dive bar the next. I am fed a delicious feast by the promoter one night, and a rotten hot dog the next. It's pretty exciting actually.
I know nothing else. A life of tour buses and cozy green rooms is a myth to me. I never want to set foot on a tour bus. You can get addicted to that shit. $1000+ bucks a day for a tour bus. That's not sustainable in my world...in most worlds.
My buddy Steve plays stadiums in a famous rock band. He doesn't have to load gear or sleep anywhere besides sweet hotels. He feasts like a king every night. He can't go back to "DIY Hell" as he calls it (I just call it reality:). Comfort is a drug. I can't get too comfortable. If I do, I won't be able to do this for a living anymore. That is certain.
A Motel 6 with boogers on the wall is a luxury to me. It's a step up from the bed of pizza boxes I slept on in Pittsburgh.
Here's the blatant reality of the modern music/arts industry. If you're selling 1000 tickets/night, you can't expect to do those numbers next year. There are too many bands and too many shows in the world. Listeners have so many options and you must be prepared for them to leave you. Every hour, a hundred bands are breaking up and 200 are starting up.
"The Toilet Bowl" circuit (a term coined by Frank Turner to reference 'small dingy clubs') is always lurking in the rear view. If you want to make art for a living, you must embrace that you'll be back on the Toilet Bowl Circuit at any moment. The truth is, It's amazing to be on any circuit at all. No one stays on top anymore. There's too much stuff.
I'm trying to embrace the rickety roller coaster. The way up is exciting. The way down is terrifying. Those clackety tracks make the car shake and it hurts my balls and my brain. If you're making art for a living (or you want to), all I can say is ride the highs and write great stuff when you're in the lows. The uncertainty is a luxury. It is fuel. It is un-tapped momentum.
I believe every "creative person" gets their golden moment. Perhaps mine has passed. Perhaps it's still coming. Fortunately, I will never know. The uncertainty keeps me doing this. It keeps me hoping.
Behold, the first ever documented band to get kicked out of Wal-Mart for playing an illegal show released official music video for "Can't Get Enough."
A few summers ago I retreated to the Historic Holiday Motel in Door County, USA to escape the world. I had been beaten down by a toxic relationship and was writing about trying to bounce back from the damage.
This is what came out. It's called The Aftermath and it's about just that.
If you have a few seconds, give it a play on Spotify and/or add it to your playlists. That gives it the best chance to get into the world & helps others discover it.
Over the years I've been very lucky that the people who come to my shows are often folks I relate to on a personal level. Not always, but often. I dig connecting with other oddballs, bohemians or "fish out of water". My community does feel like a weird and fun rock n' roll family. This is a note for that family, my inner circle.
Please note I'm not selling anything here, I’m just writing to ask for your ideas in launching this new album, Life Upside Down, with me.
This album was made with a minimalist and analog approach...it was recorded to tape with just me and my drummer Matt. Because this record was made so differently than previous ones, I want to market it differently as well.
Rather than working with a marketing team of industry pros who may not have a "heart connection" to the project, I want to market this album grassroots and work with those who feel most connected to the project...ideally, you :)
This is the album I've been trying to make for years, and now I want it to reach as many people as possible.
I’d like to team up with you in getting the album into communities and outlets that would benefit from it. If you have a podcast, work in radio (or have a friend who does), run a big blog, or are connected to an influencer who would love this album, let me know by emailing LifeUpsideDownAlbum@gmail.com Please include...
- The community or media outlet
- your relationship to the community or media outlet
- size of community/number of readers
- how you'd like to help (specifically :)
I’m open to anything, of course, but ideally I'd like to focus on outlets that will move the needle.
If you have ideas, suggestions, or better, have access to a large audience of your own, I'd love to hear from you.
Thanks friends. Good times ahead,
Last fall while touring with Violent Femmes, Gordon Gano introduced me to Kevin Hearn from Barenaked Ladies. Kevin came out to my show in Toronto. I then made a joke about playing a kazoo solo when BNL came to Milwaukee. Funny enough, it actually ended up happening. Thanks Kevin for teeing this up.
Life Upside Down LP enters the world Sept 7.