Sometimes winter comes too soon and it's kind of a drag. I am a big fan of changing seasons although I almost always wish that autumn could last longer than it does. Anyways, in alignment with a new habit I'm developing to say 10 good things about anything I have a negative attitude about, I'm gonna do it with winter. Not that I'm dreading it, it's just that I'd rather sweat than shiver.
10 Good Things I'm Looking Forward To About My First Winter in NYC (in no specific order):
10. Improving and optimizing and studying and cultivating relationships.
9. Specializing in The Pizza Bats
7. Dogs in sweaters and booties on walks.
7. Cranking out the hours and not knowing what opportunities will crop up.
6. Not having to drive to get anywhere.
5. Getting to wear my boots.
4. Not having FOMO when I just want to sit inside and make music.
3. Continuing a new tradition with this Christmas's second annualnut loaf. It's really, really good, y'all.
2. Using baking as a way to warm up the apartment: Maybe I'll learn some casserole recipes.
1. Seeing how NYC dresses up for the city for the holidays.
I've been a mega fan of Louis CK's work since I first saw his standup special "Hilarious" several years ago. From there, I had to know more and began my quest to watch pretty much everything he's been responsible for creating. From his early standup to Pootie Tang to his short-lived sitcom "Lucky Louie" to his impressively surreal and beautifully thoughtful "Louie", I've fallen in love with the guy's stuff. He's got a brilliant show that came out several months ago, and it's weird because there hasn't been a lot of news about it; maybe it's too dark, too real, too funny, too tragic? Idk, but it's transformative so I gotta tell you about it.
Now I'm not generally into TV shows, in fact I think they're largely a huge distraction, but earlier this year, comedian Louis CK quietly released a 10-episode series exclusively on his website called Horace and Pete. I discovered recently that some generous souls had uploaded [illegal?] versions of the show on YouTube, and over the past week or so, Sydney and I watched them all. The show is incredible and you should check it out.
It's the story of two brothers, Horace (played by Louis CK) and Pete (played by Steve Buscemi) who own a bar in Brooklyn. The bar's been their family business for 100 years, and it's a surreally tragicomic environment where the most esoteric individuals--they, and the by-standing twenty-somethings who have gradually come to populate the borough (hipsters, if you will)--congregate and discuss, usually peacefully, their generally dark views on a variety things including culture, current events, sexuality, bigotry, alcoholism, drugs, Bambi, and the Holocaust.
The show is... powerful. It's funny and sad and twistedly beautiful, and it delivers potent lessons for its audience that helps us to confront things within ourselves that we generally like to deny even exist. Horace and Pete unapologetically exposes the underbelly of human existence, and lays before us the evils we perpetuate in the name of tradition; all of this is accomplished, of course, with Louis CK's bizarre and brilliant brand of humor. With a cast comprised of countless geniuses from both the acting and comedy worlds, and a captivatingly melancholy original theme song written by the legendary Paul Simon, the show magically unclogs dormant emotional and psychological conduits and ignites our souls and minds to think and make connections in ways that we thought we'd forgotten.
Check it out, for the good of humankind. You can get it legitimately from Louis CK's website here, or if you're unwilling/unable to pay for it you can poke around and find it on YouTube (that's what we did). I guess you could probably find it illegally on a torrent website, but I'm not going to condone doing that (😉 winks out to tha anarchists doe), and you should just probably buy it if you can. That's all. It changed my life and I highly recommend checking it out.
So, we're trying this new performance tactic. Actually it's not all that new, but it's the first time I've tried it in New York City. I used to do it a lot while I was living in Tulsa mostly during the first Friday art walks in the Brady Arts District. Jake and I met our friend in New Orleans to do it for a week during Mardi Gras season. We each have a license to do it in Chicago. What is it?
We've been playing music for strangers in the streets and in the subway tunnels with a box in front of us in hopes that people enjoy what they hear and want to throw us tips. It's called street performance or "busking."
We've made more money busking the past two days than we have at any of the three bar gigs we played last week. In the past I would have reacted really strongly and negatively towards the venues, faulting them and society for not valuing good music. But the thing is that cash is a piece of paper that represents something. Often in my life it has represented time: the time I'm willing to watch over a place and help anybody should they come in, or the amount of time I cook sandwiches for people or slice their carrots into pretty little ribbons. But in this case it's real human value. We're not really asking people or expecting people to give us anything. We're welcoming them into our world. I'm hoping that I bring enough value to their experience while waiting for the train that they want to reciprocate by giving me a bank note that I can use for something that's important to me.
Over time I'm certain that this rate will increase because our act will improve. We've very deliberately decided to implement a few tactics to expedite improvement:
2-mile rule: All performances will take place within two miles of our home to better build a community following. Bushwick is growing in population, especially the millenial, music-loving, self-employed, time-flexible population. There's a lot of opportunity for business owners and creators like me.
Repertory sets: We've noticed that people respond faster and with more enthusiasm to songs that have recently been on the billboard charts. We're now supplementing our current set list (which is composed of about 40 songs ranging 60 years) with songs from the past 10 years. Eventually we will have sets for all types of themes: 90's nights, dance music, classic rock, Americana... but always songs we like and enjoy playing.
Practical contexts: We need to be somewhere we can be heard. Yesterday The Pizza Bats ventured to Times Square and nobody could hear us, everyone was on their way somewhere, and the bright screens outshone us. There were hoards of people but nobody understood what we were doing. The subway tunnels are great because it's not unusual to see performers there, the acoustics are super awesome for harmonizing, and there's just enough wait time between trains for someone to decide if we bring them value or not.
I would say there's one more necessity to expedite our improvement, and that's experimentation. For the first time ever I'm experimenting with presenting myself solely as a vocalist. I used to refuse to perform without my guitar, which was actually a representation of being fearful of criticism. So I'm doing that, but ultimately I want to get a battery-powered amplification system (there aren't electric outlets in the NYC subways) to amplify the bass or to run produced drum and synthesizer tracks through Ableton Live, as well as a microphone or two. We will continue to experiment with instrumentation using whatever we have access to, which right now is, guitar, bass, computers, and voices.
Best wishes to you all,
This is something I've pondered a lot, also not surprisingly inspired by Wagner's The Artwork of the Future (click the link to buy it on Amazon, and PB gets a cut):
Let's consider a simple metaphor for an enduring artwork.
U've got two things basically.
1. The Warrior & 2. The Armor
What is The Warrior?
The warrior is the meat of the thing; it's a work's flesh and bone. If a song (or whatever it is you're making) were are person, how would that person be? Are they strong? Are they educated? Are they well-funded? Do they have a gender? Do they have a religion? Ethnicity? Race? Sexuality? Nationality? What do they look like, like, what's a snapshot of their life and what sort of potential do they have? What sort of weaknesses or disadvantages do they have? Etc., etc., you could go on questioning and describing...
Now, what is the Armor?
The armor is the way that The Warrior is adorned. If Wagner's logic holds true (and it seems to do so generally, that is, with the exception of his thoughts on Judaism), then this would translate to The Warrior's external quality, or what translates to something like "Fashion". (btw Wagner disdains "Fashion" and is like omg I hate fashion, but fml it's really important to suit the style of the time period you live in and the culture from whence you originate) So... What sort of costume are they wearing? How does that costume affect their evolutionary strategy? Like, what might a given "suit of armor" or guise protect our warrior from? Also where is it vulnerable?
Last night we played our first gig in Bushwick. It was basically an experiment to see if we could play covers for two hours. The songs we played were strong, meaty stuff: we represented some of the greatest songs from some of the greatest songwriters of all time. We performed them alright and had way less mishaps than we could have. There's was some trickiness with the sound, but we made it work. Anyway, so we played the greatest songs of the all time for people.
The problem is NOBODY CARED.
Song (The Warrior) = clutch.
How the Song Is Presented (The Armor) = not spectacular.
But why? Because here's what we're doing: we're playing guitars and singing. Do you know how old that activity is? It's fuckin' old. The act of playing a plucked string instrument while singing is basically a Warrior in itself (in fact, I'd argue 100% that it is).
What that in mind,
2 guitars and 2 voices (The Warrior) = clutch.
How 2 guitars and 2 voices is presented (The Armor) = not spectacular.
But what's not spectacular about it has virtually nothing to do with the song's nor the performers' integrity. It has to do with the way it is adorned; we aren't working big-picture enough. We aren't thinking "Fashion"-ability enough.
And then I found my answer. It's right in front of my face and I spend most of my waking hours with it. It's a computer. It's those goddamn robots again. So now we gotta get 'em on our team and figure out how to combine what we're doing (2 guitars and singing) with how it is presented (computerized Armor).
I look forward to the process and the results.
Well, now, The Pizza Bats are on their way. We've got our first live show in New York City (Monday, 9/26/16). The more we go out and talk to people about what we do, the more people we meet who basically just say, "yeah, that's awesome, if you wanted to play every night a week you totally could." Because we're in New York and it's the land of opportunity, y'all!
Maybe you've noticed Jake is a really charismatic writer. He just wrote an e-mail to the Bushwick Bizarre venue with a subject line of "You Should Book Us," and, tah-dah, they were down. This also speaks to the coolness of Greg and Jean, who are our contacts over there.
Anyways, before I ramble my way into the intricacies of booking shows, I really want to write about a recent idea we've been placing particular importance on: the hiring of a personal manager.
I've been reading through a fabulous book, apparently (based on it's own liner notes) clouted as the
Bible of the Music Business, entitled All You Need to Know About the Music Business and written by Donald Passman. Did you know there is a group of four advisers an industry musician will typically employ? They are the business manager, attorney, agency, and personal manager. The personal manager is pretty often someone who is a close friend (although Passman gives fair warning not to hire family), who deals with a mountain of organizational tasks, and is ideally a huge believer in the band and its mission and what it puts out.
Unlike an attorney or a business manager, an enthusiastic, inexperienced manager may be more of a blessing and more available to a band like us without much popularity. Passman writes, "If they're bright and motivated, I've seen their energy overcome the lack of experience and political clout with superb results," especially since "it takes as much (or more) work to establish a new artist as it does to service an established artist, and guess which one pays better (and sooner)?"
So I'm researching management companies in the area and also putting feelers out to you! If you know anyone remotely related to the music industry (even if they work in the basement sorting paper) who may have some leads or some information about who's out there, go ahead and e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a facebook message, or a direct message on instagram.
Love and happiness,
This song was written over the span of one hour on Facebook live video. We combined our own ideas with the suggestions of the friends who were watching. The song isn't great, but the process was a lot of fun, and we know it's gonna get better the more we do it! <3<3
By relocating to New York City, we had ripped the rug out from under our own feet, and even though I could feel the tension rising (made worse by having just a couple hundred bucks to my name), I was confident that the two of us would grow from the move.
I knew that healthy habits would be a big way to manage stress and face the city’s constant trials. I kept up with exercise, studying, writing, coffee drinking, and applying for jobs. We had hit the reset button, and at that point had just a few clothes, a couple notepads, our laptops, some key books, and certain personal treasures (double rainbow maker).
A week passed, and I noticed that most people on the hiring side of the job market only really started biting when I met them in person. I also began to realize that landing a salaried position--or even an interview for one--seems to require either a ton of luck, a mutual friend, or both (I had neither), but I was running out of cash so I took a couple part-time jobs to cover my bases.
Soon we were asked by our hosts to either fork over some money or ship out, and, unable to fulfill the former option, we took the latter and began playing shelter by ear. Often, Jake and I split paths only to reconvene the next day to fill each other in. By some stroke of luck, a very generous friend welcomed us to what space she had. Three weeks into our NYC batventure, we each had some part-time wages coming in.
One hostel, two sublets, one closet, four couches, and four weeks later, we toured a windowless bedroom in Bushwick. We pooled every last dollar we had together, and put down a payment on it the next morning.
We still don't have a mattress or windows, but we’ve got a roof, instruments, power outlets, bookshelves, and a little privacy: batcave sweet batcave.
Chicago acted as a hibernation period for The Pizza Bats. As fate would have it, Jake and I were extremely fortunate not to need full-time jobs during our 8 months there (from Jake: idk if you’d necessarily consider selling your car and/or all of your saxophones “fortunate”, but that was fortune nonetheless).
This was a challenge to maneuver because, quite simply, without the forced routine of an employer expecting me to be somewhere on time nor the motivating factor of getting paid to be somewhere, it’s easy to waste time just by being plain disorganized.
In order to combat the stagnation, I set out to take control of my habits and beef up my inner nerd. One of the hardest things to do was quit reading fiction and watching TV (though there were some exceptions, including Rick and Morty and The Walking Dead), but I had faith it would be worth it for the sake of my own personal growth.
Having begun Tai Lopez’s Accelerator course, it became apparent to me that anything I didn’t understand, had fear of, or had disdain for was generally a topic that I didn’t have enough knowledge about. That, and when you want to increase your knowledge on a topic, there’s p much books written about everything. My goal became reading a book a week, and now I read three books a day.
I have learned that reading a book in its entirety is not totally necessary, and can actually hold you back from the true goal of reading, which is education. By developing the habit of only reading until you’ve learned one new idea, fact, or concept, you give yourself more time to process the information, and it is ultimately more directly applied. It has transformed the way I gather information, and I believe it can be helpful to anybody willing to give it a try!
When Syd and I were living in Chicago, we landed a regular gig at this place called Irish Eyes. Irish Eyes is a sports bar over by DePaul where college-aged (and usually quite a few older people, too) came to get drunk and sing along to live covers of pop tunes. The Pizza Bats played two-and-a-half hours of songs, and in a lot of ways the gig was tyte. It really helped us stay motivated to learn and rehearse new songs as well as test and improve our performance stamina, but after a just a short while doing the gig, it became clear that we needed to do something more creative and writing-focused.
While their regular late-night performer--a cat named Dylan Hankey who’s basically a bottomless superhuman jukebox--rocked out, I passed Sydney a note that said something along the lines of, “Hey, aren’t we writers? We should be in New York or Nashville or LA, right?” and we proceeded to pass the note back-and-forth to each other, adding a little more to the conversation with each pass. We decided that night that we would move to New York City ASAP. The next day, we told our roommates we were moving out and bought one-way tickets to the city.
One of the key influences in our pursuits has been an entrepreneur and educator named Tai Lopez. Jake had been following him for months by the time I heard about him, and I was a little put off by his SoCal cool-confident air, but with a just a bit of attention I began to realize that his ultimate goal, teaching others how to achieve “the good life”, contained a lot of wisdom.
A major part of Tai’s philosophy is based on what he calls the four pillars: Health, Wealth, Love, and Happiness. In each area, he asserts that (if you’re like most people with dreams of being a whatever-it-is that haven’t come true yet) you’ve got to first challenge your paradigm, the lens through which you see life. This can best be accomplished by learning from the best, and if you can’t meet them in person then the best solution is to read books by or about them.
Today I use books as stepping stones to build up the pillars where I’m lacking or imbalanced (and it shifts everyday). I read about the achievements of others and the wisdom of leaders, and I explore my own habits and patterns of coping. It’s come to a point where I don’t feel fear or confusion about my future: success is no longer a question or hopeful yearning, and as I build knowledge and habits each day, I am confident that I will get myself to where I want to be!