Written by Ramesh Srivastava
I'm going to write this first column with two things in mind: first, the fact that we are on the brink of 2007, namely New Year's Eve 2006, and secondly the knowledge that this article will probably come out around SXSW this coming year. This past year (or perhaps year and a half) was all about change. Sometime around June 2005, I uprooted from my comfortable surroundings in Glasgow, Scotland and moved back home to pursue my life with Voxtrot. In the course of one day, everything changed. I left Glasgow, flew to London and then to Chicago, passed the eight-hour layover with my dear friend Ian, and then, just before boarding my flight to Austin, came to the realization that my wallet had been stolen.
Thus, I arrived in Austin sometime around midnight with no money, no wallet, and no security, and I was also set to become acquainted with my new room in my new house with no sheets and no pillows. The very next day, I awoke determined to find a job. I walked to the bus stop, picked up a copy of The Daily Texan, flipped to the jobs/classified section, and found an ad which read, "Substitute Teachers Wanted." I phoned the listed number from a pay phone and was given an address to which I directly headed. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this was not a normal school, but rather a pre-school; surprise or not, I filled out an application and was immediately given a trial shift. This trial shift turned into about a year of full-time work and experience, which was incredibly fulfilling, though admittedly equally exhausting.
Eventually, there came a point when the balance of full-time teaching (well, the teaching of "play-based learning", anyway) and Voxtrot became too much, so I was amicably let go by the pre-school and allowed to give my full attention to the band. When I think about the last year and a half, it seems completely insane. In that time, we have released three EPs, toured the United States (sometimes only partially) about six times and the United Kingdom once, and written our first full-length album, about half of which is now recorded. I am not making this list as a practice of self-glorification, but rather to illustrate the level of activity we've chosen. If you make music that you believe in, I think that you can, to a point, choose the level at which you would like to operate. Obviously, there are variables of luck and external influence that factor into the equation, but a lot of it comes down to a clear decision to be a hard-working band.
Of course, it's important to remember that the music industry is a fickle thing, and the whole thing can probably turn on you at any moment. I suppose all you can do is make up your mind to ignore external opinion and continue to make music that you think is important and relevant. Before we signed our record contract, I was filled with this notion that "making it" would imply a solid career where I could pursue my passion whilst sustaining myself financially--in other words, that the gift of stability could be bestowed by that great record label in the sky. I was soon to learn, however, that a lot of the worry, pressure, and paranoia begin with the acquisition of label support. The lead up to making a big career decision like that is very exciting, and after it's done, I suppose you have to rekindle that excitement and forward the kinetic motion that was present before, specifically by deciding how far you want to push it within the new parameters that you have been given. It's a bit different, though, because now everything is a little more public, and public ambition risks a great deal of embarrassment. But I want to be sonically ambitious, whilst maintaining an emotional relevance--the sounds inside my head are big, so why can't the sounds on the tape be big as well?
Perhaps a lot of it hinges upon never settling on the idea that you've "made it," because that sort of pride has a close relationship with imminent disappointment, primarily as a byproduct of stunted progress. At the end of the day, the most important element (for me, anyway) is the emotional connection. I have always responded to music emotionally, and if I can give that to somebody else--or potentially a lot of people--then that's something to be proud of. I am so thankful for my interactions with people who have gained something from my music. I'm also very thankful for the opportunity to foster relationships with people and places I would probably otherwise have never encountered.
So Happy New Year, everybody. Time for a resolution: I think my New Year's resolution shall be balance, to try to be productive and continue working hard, but also take care of myself.
Hope it's a good one.