Written by Ramesh Srivastava
I. AM. EXHAUSTED. I may have a sinus infection, my throat is feeling borderline scratchy, I have the aches and pains of an aging hockey player, and as somebody told me in Berlin, I look "at least twenty-seven." I'm twenty-four. My aunt conjectured the other day during my rare day of countryside rehabilitation that I "probably have a terrible lifestyle." I do. But hey, let's be honest: —it''s hardly coal mining, and at the end of the day, it's usually a rewarding and unique experience.
Still, I can't escape the feeling that this kind of non-stop touring lifestyle for smaller bands is an experience specific to the modern Internet-dominated climate. Once upon a time, album sales actually counted for something and could (gasp!) financially benefit the artist in some way. These days, unless you're part of a very select few, it's almost impossible that you can sell enough records--particularly in the early part of your career--to recoup the money that the record company has invested in you. When we were recording our last album, our producer, Victor Van Vugt, informed me that, in the not-so-distant past, it was not unusual for really big bands to sell 5, 10, even 12 million records. As a model for comparison, sales for the last Radiohead album did not even reach one million within the United States.
Which presents the question: how, then, do bands--especially bands who are trying to start out--make money? The answer: touring, touring, touring, more touring. We receive money when we begin a record cycle and when we complete a tour, but it means that, a) to keep people interested, and b) to keep ourselves afloat financially, we have to tour every couple of months. Touring is indeed fun, but, as I mentioned before, exhausting. I think it's important to question at what point the necessity of touring overtakes natural, creative impulses. Personally, I find it impossible to write on tour, and thus I become very frustrated because the ideas in my head are not able to reach greater manifestation at the time.
Maybe the trick is learning to say no: learning that sometimes, to promote quality, you have to go against the grain and do what you feel is right. Maybe it's best to go away for a while, be creative without supervision, and come back fresh. For me to write, I need to feel a part of things, to feel at home. This leads to a new important question, then: the relative definition of what it means to feel "at home." Is it possible to find happiness in a largely rootless existence? I suppose we shall find out....