elmer martinez

Why your band should never play for free


Photo Courtesy of Elmer Martinez, writer

If you didn’t already know this, a young band or artist should take every opportunity they get to perform. Contrary to popular belief, building an organic fan base is more important to your growth than how many followers you have on social media. Playing shows enables you to mingle with potential and established fans and, in addition to promoting your music, you have opportunity to show them your personality and stage charisma, further strengthening their love for you.

Every musician who has been in a band will tell you that they do not play shows for the money. That statement is so true it’s become cliché and the idea of the broke musician living off of ramen noodles and spam is the stereotype anyone ever envisions when you tell them you want to make it a career. You can’t really expect to make more than $50 from playing at a small coffee shop on a Wednesday. More often than not, you might not get more than $12 and your friends in for free.

The fact that you are getting paid at all says a lot more than the amount. It is a thank you and a sign of respect when the promoter hands you that white envelope or that stack of one dollar bills at the end of the night. They appreciate that you put on a decent performance and that you helped bring people in the door. You are being paid for the time and effort you put into writing a set of songs and for practicing in sweaty garages and living rooms every weekend. You should not settle for less.

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From Indian Lakes and The American Scene

April 6, 2014
Strummer’s - Fresno, CA

The Able Bodies Tour

It’s so exciting to see a band I’ve been listening to since the beginning get to play sold out crowds full of fans just as enthusiastic as I am.

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Pictured: empire! empire! (I was a lonely estate)
Listen to they’re newest album You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Last September I drove to San Francisco with Haden and Luke to see one of our favorite bands. We got there and Place Called Home had just begun their set. After the lights came on, we made our way to the outdoor area behind Sub/Mission Art Space as we waited for the next band to set up. While navigating through the backstage area I caught a glimpse of Cathy from empire! empire! (I was a lonely estate) and went over to tell her that my friends and I drove 2+hrs to see them perform. After a few more trips to the out door area and after I typed some questions up on my iPhone, I went up to Keith and Cathy to bother them for an interview.

First off, what are your names and what do you play in the band?

Keith Latinen: My name is Keith and I play guitar and sing. On the recordings, I play everything that Cathy didn’t play.

Cathy Latinen: I’m Cathy and I play guitar!

John: I’m John, the drummer.

*Gooey is the bass player in eeiwale*

How has the response for your new album, “You Will Eventually Be Forgotten Been?”

Keith: I think it’s been overwhelmingly positive so far. You’re always going to get some people who aren’t gonna like what you do but the longer you’re a band the more inevitable that is. Overall I think it’s been really great, we’ve been really happy. I think it’s hard for any band if you haven’t had an album in over 5 years. I think some of the expectations are gonna be, for some people, impossible but we tried to approach it as the next logical step for us as opposed to trying to write the same album again or try to top it we’re just moving forward which was best for us.

What has been the most memorable part about this tour?

Keith: Before you came and asked us this question we were trying to remember what the names of the places we’ve played at.

John: We had a very fun house show in Moscow, Idaho. It was kind of a last minute show on a Sunday night. It was fun!

Keith: I’m gonna tell you my highlight, it’s incredibly nerdy. I found TWO out of print boardgames at miscellaneous stores that we’ve traveled through and I’m pretty pumped to play them. Besides that, obviously the shows have been amazing. I think the highlight for me is having Cathy back on tour. This is her first US tour that she’s done with us since 2011. She’s done one-offs or international tours mostly. She has a full-time job and so that keeps her away from the road most of the time.

Gooey: Mine was playing with Mineral!

Keith: That just seems like 100 years ago! That was the first night of our tour! Chris Simpson came and did guest vocals on our new album and he came out and sang that song with us.
Do you have any memorable moments Cathy?

Cathy: Other than playing with Mineral I would say…..We went to Washington state and I have family in Washington. My grandpa passed away last year, my grandma passed away years before so we went to their old house before it’s up for sale so I got to kinda see the house for kind of one last time so it was really important to me, it meant a lot.

How many shows have you done on the west coast?

Keith: This is only our second west coast tour ever. The first one was 2 years ago. We did most of the west coast then too. It’s great to be back. We’ve been meaning to get back it’s just taken us a long time. Writing the album has taken us a long time. Everything was sort of put on hold until we finished the album.

How do you think the crowds compare to the Midwest?

Keith: That’s a tough question because the Midwest and East Coast are our bread and butter.

It’s in the center of the US.

Keith: Yes it is and so many of our friends’ bands are from there. We’ve just played there so many times. It’s just so much different. Out here because we haven’t played so many times I think it’s a different a different crowd because people haven’t seen our band so the expectations are a little bit different just because we had only come out here once before and most people don’t even realize that we’ve came out here before. It’s different but it’s great because you find people everywhere. I think we’re fortunate with our fans because the people who like us really really like us and they connect with us. I think that’s the same everywhere.

Do you have any thoughts Cathy?

Cathy: I think it’s really awesome coming out west and seeing new places. I’d never toured out here before. I’ve been out here but never on tour. It’s just a different experience. Less familiarity like there is in the Midwest and out East. It’s been amazing.

What are your plans after this album and after this tour?

Keith: we all talked about it and thought about what we’re going to do going forward and we’re going to tour as much as we can off this album. We’re gonna go to Canada, we’re gonna go to Japan, we’re hoping to go to Australia, and then we’re going to start writing some new stuff. This is real exciting for the 4 of us because as opposed to the band just being Cathy and I, this is now the band. So everybody will be able to bring their own voice to the table. So I think it’s going to make for a much more collaborative effort. I think it’s going to be a much stronger, more exciting version. This whole tour, every show we play together we get tighter and tighter and we’re already to the point where we can now look at each other and know exactly what everyone else is gonna do and we’re really excited to see where that goes into writing. Less splits, more full length’s, that’s my motto going forward.

Can you tell me your favorite song on You Will Eventually be Forgotten?

Keith: It’s gotta be the songs that Bob Nanna and Chris Simpson sang on because they’re my musical heroes. Besides those, because those are my obvious choices I think it would be the first song “Ribbon” I feel like its one of those songs that sets the tone for the entire album. For me, I feel like weight of that song is carried by the story, the lyrics, and the vocals themselves because the guitar is so sparse. I feel have arrived more as a vocalist and I feel very comfortable where I am at now, where we are at now.

Cathy: I probably have to say the one with Chris Simpson. I just love that song so much. It just means a lot.

Gooey: My favorite song to play live is the second song on the record. The bass parts are really fun on that song. Most of the songs are pretty fun to play.

John: I like playing that one. I also like playing “Foxfire” because it’s sort of faster I guess.

Keith: Fun fact about that song: It’s the only song in my entire life I’ve ever written that starts and ends distorted and there’s no clean in it. In my entire life that’s the only time I’ve ever written a song like that and I’ve been writing songs since I was 16 years old and I’m 31 now. I thought “I want to write a song that is just distorted.”
John: I also have a bell solo on that song so I hit a lot of bells.

Gooey: I like the structure of that song too. Each part flows into the next song very well.

Keith: That’s why I’m really excited going forward because it’ll be interesting seeing what we take as a band and sort of move in that direction. John was in a band previous to this and the most concrete thing that we had written with him was
On Time Spent Waiting, or Placing the Weight of the World on the Shoulders of Those You Love the Most and people really seemed to like that. I love that EP but we had a different vibe on that then we had on anything else and so we really just think that we can go back more to that vibe or maybe move to a different direction I don’t know. We’ll see.

Why do you think Midwest bands don’t come to the west coast very often?

Keith: The real answer is the driving distance. When you go to the East Coast, you can get to a new state or a new city in an hour or 2 and the most you’re doing is like a 5 or 6 hour drive. Here it’s much more expensive to do.

Gooey: And the 15 hour drives.

Keith: The Midwest and the East coast are the hub for what is happening here. You do well in those areas whereas bands don’t’ do quite as well out here or as they would do there in general. Obviously the bigger you get the more crowds you can draw everywhere. That’s the real answer. That’s why we went to Japan before we went to the west coast. It just worked out easier for us to do that.

Cathy: A lot of people do 10 day tours and things like that where it’s just not feasible to get out and then come back within that period of time.

John: Most tours revolve around breaks in college.

Keith: More like how much time you can get off without losing it. Most of the time when you’re a DIY band you’re happy to break even or just a little bit of money.

Keith: It’s sort of a sign if a band from the midwest can tour the west coast they’re doing well.

I think there are more people in the west coast appreciating the scene. In Sacramento, I’ve seen bands like The World is, Old Gray, Tigers Jaw, and Dads in similar sized venues to this one (Sub/Mission Art Space) and they’re usually packed. There’s definitely an audience here so if you can get more Count Your Lucky Stars bands out here that would be great.

Keith: For example, that’s why we brought Free Throw because we wanted to everyone a chance to hear Free Throw. And we love touring with CYLS bands because we run CYLS and those bands are our friends. Last time we came with Warren Franklin and the Founding Fathers. It’s something we can do for them and I love that and it’s been great. The reaction to Free Throw every night has been great. A lot of people are like “Woah I’ve never heard them before but I love this band!” and they’re being their records. That’s what you want to see, that’s the whole point of it. It’s kind of like planting seeds, the more that you bring them out the more they can come out here and maybe they can bring another one of our bands. It’s hard for any band from the midwest or east coast to get out here but it’s not anything you guys are doing wrong. It’s just most bands are incredibly poor and getting out here takes a lot. Gas is really expensive in California.

Any parting words?

Cathy: Thank you!

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Last Saturday I got to see Sun Valley Gun Club play 30 minutes from my house. I had no idea there was anything remotely close to a music scene in Grass Valley so I was really excited to see what it was like. They were supporting Ghost Pines at their album release in this small but very cool venue/opera house between a bar and a Jiu Jitsu studio. SVGC are some of the nicest people in the Sacramento scene and it was a pleasure spending time with them.

Interview from that night will be up sooner than later.