I didn’t expect to write this blog post, but after the announcement of the lawsuit dismissal against Tobias Forge it provoked some thoughts. Maintaining any musical group isn’t an easy task, and as time wears on members grow and even evolve beyond the confines of any group. How that growth and evolution is handled depends on the situation. If it happens in a small music community handling such issues becomes a minefield that can explode, leaving pain and resentment. Regardless there are important, though apparent, lessons when forming a music group gleaned from this lawsuit.
The utmost lesson is the importance of getting everything in writing. One of the biggest points in the dismissal was because, while there is no legal definition of a “band”, the role and duties of members weren’t defined where any argument could be made about specific contributions or earnings. The only thing the court could go by were the contracts offered. If anyone outside of Tobias Forge created characters or songs the evidence is scant, if at all existent. When everything is specified about who gets what and for how much there are fewer chances of issues. And, no, that isn’t from a legal aspect and nothing in this should be construed as legal advice, just my observations (it should go without saying, but that’s part of the joy of living in a highly litigious nation). Even with expectations given in writing sometimes contribution levels are hard to discern.
Contribution is always an issue with groups be it for bands, projects, or anything else. Sometimes the contribution is specific to only one or two people. This is often seen in projects or the result of organic evolution of a group. The last one is where most groups get into trouble. The earlier the role of each member is established the better. I think, though, based on what has been made public that was part of the issue. I get the impression that it was clear in Tobias Forge’s head, but maybe not apparent for the others. That would explain why they left and the resentments surrounding the updated contract. This was probably exacerbated by how at least one former member was friends with Tobias Forge.
Emotional bonds within any professional environment is inevitable. Performance art requires a level of trust and bond. It’s why some recruit their romantic partner, family, or friends as there’s already a bond and familiarity. This has also proven to have many pitfalls. Personal tensions between people have a way of spilling over in their shared endeavors with disastrous results. Moreover it tends to end up messy and public. In the case of the lawsuit it ended up unmasking the frontman. To say that part wasn’t calculated nor based on emotion would be naïve. Though I covered many of the risks involved I don’t discourage people from forming anything musical with friends or loved ones, let alone breaking up anything when it gets to that point. It is something that must be considered when entering a partnership with close personal ties. I’m fully aware there are groups where personal ties work out. However for every success story there are ten failures. The lawsuit with Ghost proves how this one ended.
If one thing can be taken away from all of this, besides getting everything in writing, is the importance of consideration, be it for the long term or for the dynamics incurred. I think most saddening about this lawsuit is not how public it was but the cautionary tale it serves and who really wins in the end. As far as the courts are concerned it’s obvious. But there are clearly underlying feelings that will remain unresolved for some time, if they’re ever resolved.
I’ll admit I’m beating a dead horse by talking about the Music Modernization Act, but honestly I’m amazed there isn’t more buzz. It’s a big deal, and one where people who should benefit will (or at least put the gears in motion). It is not perfect, but it’s a start in acknowledging changes in the industry that have been going and will continue.
The Music Modernization Act streamlines a few different acts, including the CLASSICS Act, the AMP Act, and parts of the Fair Play Fair Pay Act. It basically mitigates liability for companies and makes licensing for playing songs a bit easier and efficienct via electronically. It will accomplish some of this by consolidating all of the current music databases into one database run independently of the labels. Moreover it establishes rates based on the market value of music as well as who gets what.
What does all of this mean? For artists it means a lot. It means musicians and companies can negotiate a better rate for airplay, get paid faster, as well as giving them the option to distribute royalties to producers and other contributors. It also extends who can get royalties for what songs and extends royalties to songs before February 15, 1972 (lots of artists before or around the 50’s have been royally screwed over in their dues). Admittedly it seems much of this tends to favor signed artists, but it is a start.
Despite the strides forward this act certainly isn’t without problems. The first issue is compiling several different music databases into one. This has to be done within 90 days of its signing on October 11th. There are also issues of how to handle unclaimed songs, which seems to be solved with setting up a claim before a deadline, where if unclaimed will then go into a publishing house of sorts. There are also issues of how to handle indie artists (which honestly seems to be addressed in the law with unclaimed songs) and indie songwriters to ensure their fair due (which doesn’t seem to be addressed apart from the deadline for current songs). I think this is the only real unaddressed issue of the act.
Now that it’s established what it means for the music industry what does it mean for music listeners? It actually means more music will potentially be available for streaming. Quite often I hear how musicians don’t make their music available for streaming –or, in some cases, pull it –due to licensing or royalties. Having a modernized and comprehensive system provides a better incentive for artists to use platforms like streaming. If the act provides enough incentive for indie artists they too can take advantage of it and expose more listeners to their music. This last part, however, is dependent on some aforementioned factors for indie artists and creators. If the act properly addresses those issues indie artists could take advantage of that, and it creates a platform for indie creators to further their independence from mainstream labels. Again this is a boon for listeners as this means more music is out there.
While it does have problems the Music Modernization Act creates a foundation for the industry to shed an antiquated model and allow for more freedom for artists to function independently, possibly even as a more lucrative model. The implementation of the act will prove to an absolute benefit to those in the mainstream industry, but time will tell how it works out for indie artists.
Some bands when they’re experimental try to emulate other bands. Some bands when they’re flamboyant lack the musical substance to match their flare. This isn’t the case with Scott Yoder.
The psychedelic and experimental nature of Scott Yoder’s music will enchant the audience and lure them into another world of rockstars depicted with distortions and and atonal vocals matched with the pitfalls that come with that world, marked with break downs that were syncopated or polyrhythmic. While sometimes the lyrical content was a bit lacking I think that’s only a problem on my part. Otherwise when the mics for backup vocals were up (more on that in a moment) the blend was amazing and added much more depth to the music. There was a lot of thought put into both the music and the performance.
There was equal thought placed in the stage effects as there was with the music. At times, though, I felt it was too much for such a small stage. Even though the fog was a bit overpowering at times (but at least it smelled a bit like cotton candy and not the usual dust smell) it complimented the psychedelic elements of the music quite well. The strobe light effect also added to the performance, I personally don’t care for them. That said I won’t count it against them, just as I’m not counting the issue with the back up vocal mic. It doesn’t seem the sound engineer wanted to pay attention to back up vocals in anyone’s set and this is no exception. The audience ended up liking it anyway. It took a while for the audience to warm up, but with the help of some of the people involved with the band that happened. It probably would have happened eventually but it helped give the extra push.
With an influx in the revival of experimental and psychedelia Scott Yoder is a shoe in to rise to the demand. It will be interesting to see musically where this artist goes and grows .
Danny Dodge and the Dodge Gang is one of the those bands where the name is a mouthful, but for once the “name of frontman and the whatevers” format is a name that fits their throwback style.
DDatDG provides the listener lots of 60-70’s inspired sounds whether its atonal, gritty vocals reminiscent of Roger Daltrey bits of rock mingled with surfer style and blues. There were some things which were interesting, such as experimenting with bleeding as a transition into other parts of songs or even different styles altogether. At times, though, I focused on the lack of blending of harmonies. Given how the style is overall a 60’s-70’s influenced style I can forgive this issue. It was certainly a nice change instrumentally though lyrically I found the content wasn’t too noteworthy other overdone topics.
What I can’t overlook is the way DDatDG neglected their audience. There were times the audience didn’t seem interested, namely in the beginning (which is common) and when the band fiddled with stuff a little too long. This is something that happens and wasn’t fully their fault, as the bands didn’t really have time for a sound check. Nonetheless having to fiddle with equipment with an audience waiting is easily remedied. Most bands use banter, but DDatDG need work on this. I personally find asking if the audience is having fun rather cliché and redundant. They’re always going to say yes (though one of these days I’m going to say no just to see what happens) and the banter kind of dies afterward. This is precisely what happened in that situation. We’re left as an audience to awkwardly stand there while the band fiddles with equipment in silence most of the time. Naturally I’m the only bothered by these issues. The audience focused on when they played the songs, and they loved them. This was helped along by a band that when they played showed lots of enthusiasm.
DDatDG is certainly great at music and have a name to reflect a time that fits their style. While there is a need to work on their stage presence the audience doesn’t seem to mind, and that’s what matters.
When Drugs & Addicts got on stage I will admit I rolled my eyes. I’m used to seeing lots of gimmicks with bands and assumed what I would listen to would to something with country or even folk influence. I was mistaken and am pleasantly surprised.
Musically Drugs & Addicts has a foundation of pop punk but likes to mix other genres. Some songs have a blue grass element reminiscent of Mungo Jerry, sometimes the songs have some country elements, and there was one song that really played with psychedelic distortions paired with doo-wop. It was interesting and for the most part pulled off successfully, though I’m not confident this is a good sign. This can indicate a band hasn’t found its sound or wants to test to see what’s most popular and go that direction.. Regardless, it was still pulled off well, and when it wasn’t can be attributed to back up vocals not blending the harmony or sudden breaks that come off as awkward (there was a fake out with one song that fooled everyone. While different I’m not sure how effective faking out really is) and seem to be a replacement for a transition. Ultimately I suspect there was more intention than ultimately expressed as displayed with some intricate composition and skill such as parts where timing was essential with polyrhythmic interludes sprinkled throughout their set. It certainly compliments how the band loves to psyche out the audience and display provenance.
Overall these guys seem to love to ham it up. If they didn’t love to be over the top with Texan style cowboy outfits it was with the goofy nature of the frontman or over the top solos. It was a nice change to see a band not take themselves seriously while paradoxically taking themselves seriously. It seems to serve enough to make the audience confused but also intrigued enough to stick around. The only time the band kind of lost them was when the frontman needed to catch his breath and didn’t always sing into the mic, albeit he didn’t seem to do much to warrant this action. I’m willing to chalk it up to nerves. Anything else I’m not qualified to lecture, given how my shape is rotund. Despite this minor inconvenience the audience loved them and almost whatever they played. I think other than what’s mentioned.
Drugs & Addicts know how to mess with the audience a bit without isolating them altogether. I think whatever their sound it will be sure to attract an audience who will enjoy the ride.
I finally had a chance to go to a local record store to check it out, as they also have local bands play from time to time. I found a couple of records to buy and put it up for a vote which one to review. Melody Echo Chamber’s “Bon Voyage” won, and it’s been quite the trip (pun intended. I await your complaints in the comments). Since the album came with some goodies I thought I’d look at the whole package including artwork.
When it comes to the album itself it was, well, interesting. It was packaged with a phenaskitscope disc and a tiny leaflet with a download code. The wheel itself is supposed to be viewed under a bright light and through the camera on my phone (seemingly defeating the purpose of the aesthetic of a retro feel if you ask me) but I tried it out anyway. It came off as a blur on my record player, and even followed the suggestion to try a strobe light effect at 30 Hz, only to see the same blur. Admittedly this could be an issue with the operator as well as the record player (it’s old and I’m certain has a belt or motor issue. I have to play 33’s on a 45 belt) but that was my experience nonetheless. The most disappointing for me how the download code didn’t work. I ended up emailing for support, but I don’t know if I sent it to the wrong extension or no one is manning technical support. As of this publication I haven’t heard from them in over a week. It’s a shame because I wanted to compare the sound quality to a digital copy just to see if the widely held belief about records “sounding better” bears any weight.
The album artwork is nice and suited for the album. It carries the element of otherworldly hippie vibes reminiscent of 60/s and 70’s art and comes off as something of an homage to the styles of Aubrey Beardsley. I also appreciate the lyrics printed on the inner sleeve, though I probably would have arranged it slightly differently. The way it’s set up a song for the a-side appears on the sleeve’s b-side. I’m fully willing to admit this personal qualm is insignificant, though, and accept the layout as is.
I was forewarned with this album that many longtime fans had issues with how different this album was from earlier works of the group. I can see why, but when one puts aside previous ideas of the group and accepts what is presented will still enjoy the music.To compare my record to a digital one I did resort to music uploads, but I found the sound engineering consistent in both formats. The lo-fi elements added not only to the experience of listening on an old record player but to the 60’s-70’s era jazz mingling with various different styles, sometimes changing even through the song. Sometimes it was jazz with trip hop like in “Cross My Heart” and “Breathe In, Breathe Out”, sometimes it was jazz mixed with funk and r&b such as in “Visions of Someone Special, on a Wall of Reflections” and “Shirim”. These songs will almost seamlessly transition through those and avant garde elements and lyrical whimsy of love and loss to create not only the sense of a musical journey but almost an altered state. This is further enhanced by deviating from lo-fi for moments of clear quality, such as in “Var Har Du Vart?” and parts of “Desert Horse” which not only seems to convey moments of deviating from the fantasy but an equally surreal reality.
At times, however, the fantasy journey suffered from turbulence. I feel like the sudden breaks at the end of songs was part of that element of bringing the listener back to reality, but instead it broke the flow of the album. The disjointed flow lyrically of “Quand les Larmes d’Un Ange Font Danser Le Niege” not only disrupted the overall flow of the album but didn’t seem to deviate in a way that added to the song. I get that was the point, but the deviation didn’t add much to the song. It was the same thing with moments of “Breathe In, Breathe Out” even though these elements are carried through the album (even lyrically with the “breath in, breath out” comment. This is repeated in “Var Har Du Vart?”) Regardless of some problematic implementation there is a lot of thought put into the end product, and the problems are overshadowed.
The journey of “Bon Voyage” is one the listener will enjoy. There’s a lot of take in, but much of what is conveyed is easily understood and serves as a gateway to more profound themes and concepts in the album. Though the album has its faults, one of them being the gimmicks that come with the record and the rest having to do with the music, both of which can be disregarded by the average listener. It’s perfect for tuning out the world and tuning in to one’s inner world.