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Interview: Stray From the Path - 04.03.12
 

Stray From the Path - 04.03.12

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Stray From the Path - 04.03.12This is one of the many interviews that went into reporting our Too Long; Do Read feature about Kickstarter and crowd funding platforms. Check out the full article if you like this interview with Tom Williams from Stray From the Path, who describes his negative viewpoint on the model.

For starters - what's your full name, how old are you, and what do you do in Stray From the Path? How long has the band been around?

My name is Tom Williams, I’m 24 years old and I play guitar in Stray From The Path. We have been touring full time for about four years, but we have been a band ever since I was 14 and playing local shows.

I've read some stuff you have said about Kickstarter before. I guess the broadest question is, why is it about Kickstarter and other crowd funding websites that irks you so much? What makes you so bothered by it that you not only have a negative opinion, but also choose to deliver that opinion passionately in public forums?

Why I so passionately speak negatively about Kickstarter is because I don't want kids to cop out. We live in a generation where local bands care more about their light boxes, scrims, and merch designs than they do their songs…Where their singers find "techniques" to scream, instead of actually screaming with emotion. Everybody is copping out on music. Bands get big on the Internet as is, which is fine because that is what today has become…bands don't have to tour to get popular anymore. But I hate the fact that people could plan the start of their career as, “Okay, we will get sweet scrims and light boxes, I’ll put holes in the knees of my pants, we will start a Facebook, get a viral video, get a following and then start a Kickstarter.” I don't want Kickstarter to be a new Myspace or Facebook.

It takes away the hard work. I mean, how many people would watch baseball if it was so easy to be on the Yankees? Nobody, because the team would eventually suck, along with the whole league.

That is what is happening now, everyone is going from the couch to the majors, and so many of the teams suck.

I think a lot of bands that are bothered by the crowd-funding Kickstarter model are bands that are used to doing it themselves. They're used to that DIY mentality of getting by and trying to be successful under their own power. Is that what you would say SFTP came from in your guys' early years? If possible, give us a story or two about your struggles early on, and why overcoming those struggles makes you against bands using Kickstarter now?

Absolutely. To this day, we don't have a manager, business manager or anything. We are self-managed, and have been for a very long time.

We had a lot of struggles, like most bands do. We have had our trailer stolen with everything in it, and we just recently flipped our van, totaling the van and trailer and breaking equipment. After all of that, we didn't miss a single show and we didn't ask anybody for a single dollar, when most bands would just open a PayPal or a Kickstarter. It brought us together, you know…like a BAND. That shit matters, bands overcoming obstacles brings you together, makes chemistry and makes you write better music together. But that goes to people not giving a shit about that because music quality is so far down the totem pole.

You said earlier that Kickstarter is a “cop-out.” Why do you feel that way? If bands can raise the funds they need to get things done through this model, why shouldn't they? It is a matter of pride, or of something else?

It is a cop out. Patent Pending is one band that is from Long Island, I’ve seen those dudes a ton of times. I found out about Kickstarter from their video. They pleaded about how from Day 1 they have been in debt and they NEED $15,000 (I think it was that much) to record their next record. So that is teaching that any band can just mismanage their money completely, and then just ask for some.

We recorded our first record, Villains, with Kurt Ballou of Converge. Although Sumerian Records re-released it, we originally released it ourselves. We funded it ourselves. We paid $2,000 dollars for it, and we recorded the entire record in three days. We did this because we had no money and we did what we had to do to get it done.

We still, to this day, haven't spent $15,000 on a recording, and we have worked with Kurt Ballou, Misha Mansoor, and Will Putney…not exactly a bunch of bums.

I think the most common argument that people use in favor of Kickstarter is that bands aren't actually just taking donations or having people give them money. They're selling products, usually intangible or unique products that enable them to make a big profit, and use the money for their goals. They aren't forcing their fans to contribute to their project, and if fans want to give to some band, why shouldn't that band use this model? What would you have to say to an argument like that?

Yeah, they aren't asking for money with “$1 virtual high fives” haha.

If kids want to give their money to bands, then sure. But kids can also go out and buy heroin, but because they want to spend their money, does that make it ok?

Obviously that is extreme…but what I'm saying is, just because that’s what the fans want to do, doesn't make it right. Again it teaches laziness, there is no thrill of earning something.

In today's industry, most record labels are struggling. Many can't give artists the budgets they want to record and publicize an album, which is why bands turn to Kickstarter. How do you think independent artists should go about creating music if they don't have the support of a label?

If I were to start a new band today, I would still go on tour, and I recommend that to newer bands all the time. That is how we got signed and gained a fanbase. By touring so much and organically growing. It is hard to say because this is what I grew up knowing how to do it, and also we get a lot of support through Sumerian, so its also hard to say what its like to be on a label that can't do anything, has no staff and can't get things done.

But even still, like I said before, we are very self sufficient, and I feel like I would still be the same way if I were starting a new band right now.

Winding down the questions here. This is more of another point for Kickstarter that is often made by those who support it. Obviously Kickstarter and crowd funding are not exclusive to music. A lot of filmmakers, video game makers, technology creators, and many, many other types of people have used crowd funding to do things they might have never been able to do otherwise. Are you as against Kickstarter when it's being used for non-music purposes? What if it's a small book club in a small town that's using Kickstarter to let family and friends contribute cash so they can rent out a bigger room to meet on weeknights? I guess what this question is asking is...where, in your mind, does Kickstarter belong as an economic tool, and where is the line drawn? Should NO band use it? Is there a case when a band SHOULD use it?

This is a great question, I haven't even thought of that.

I don't know if this will be hypocritical…but I for sure support it with people making films, video games, art or writing. I just don't know how people usually go about making these things. If people think someone has a great idea for a video game, then it’s awesome if they donate towards it. But I just don't know about that scene…there might be a video game programmer that says, “No, fuck that, this is how it should be done.”

But I don't think any band should use it, it takes the soul out of the music. Lots can be done by figuring out how to make things happen. It’s just too easy to ask for money.

The reality is, if someone flipped their car driving to a band’s show, that band won't donate to their PayPal account. People say, “Well, if kids donate to the band, maybe the band is very important to them.”

So with that being said, is the fan not just as important (if not, more important) to the band? If someone hit me up for money, I wouldn't be able to help out, and just because I play in a band doesn't mean I deserve special treatment. My band members and myself are just like any other kids, and we should be treated that way, nothing special. If they love the band, buy our record, buy our merchandise, and come see us live, but don't hand me any money. Fuck that.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 9 of 9
02:37 PM on 04/03/12
#2
cubine
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Love the band.

However, I completely disagree with a lot of what he says, and yes I do find it very hypocritical for him to give other forms of media a free pass on using kickstarter.

Also, acting like finding techniques for screaming is a bad thing is completely out of line. Plenty of guys have ruined their vocal chords and can no longer be in a band because they try to just scream however feels natural, and that's a damn shame. Close Your Eyes in particular was a band that was finally putting out good material, and then the guy blew out his voice and now they probably aren't coming back any time soon. Screaming technique benefits your health. It's like saying "You shouldn't try to learn guitar technique because if you learn classical technique there won't be emotion in your playing." What? No. Technical ability on any instrument, voice included, should help you more effectively express your emotions.

TL;DR: Using proper screaming technique is healthy for your voice and should not be ignored.
03:03 PM on 04/03/12
#3
RobbieBerns
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Haha, he was just trying to make the point that instead of earning respect and money the way with hard work, kids are looking for the quickest way possible to achieve "success."
03:36 PM on 04/03/12
#4
bcblink
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Love the band.

However, I completely disagree with a lot of what he says, and yes I do find it very hypocritical for him to give other forms of media a free pass on using kickstarter.

Also, acting like finding techniques for screaming is a bad thing is completely out of line. Plenty of guys have ruined their vocal chords and can no longer be in a band because they try to just scream however feels natural, and that's a damn shame. Close Your Eyes in particular was a band that was finally putting out good material, and then the guy blew out his voice and now they probably aren't coming back any time soon. Screaming technique benefits your health. It's like saying "You shouldn't try to learn guitar technique because if you learn classical technique there won't be emotion in your playing." What? No. Technical ability on any instrument, voice included, should help you more effectively express your emotions.

TL;DR: Using proper screaming technique is healthy for your voice and should not be ignored.
He means that kids are more into trying to find the technique to mimic their favorite vocalist rather than finding their own voice and just singing with emotion. Obviously he's not saying "don't use any vocal techniques"

FWIW I agree with his opinion of kickstarter and I don't think he's being hypocritical at all. Music is much much different than other forms of entertainment, especially the genre that he and SFTP are in.
05:21 PM on 04/03/12
#5
NickNodirection
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I love thomas.
06:45 AM on 04/04/12
#6
TheSkyline
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Interesting read but completely disagreed.
08:01 AM on 04/04/12
#7
NegativeCreep
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I do agree, I wasn't sure if I would at first because any argument that starts with criticizing other people usually doesn't give way to much, but I forced myself to read it. I'm glad that in the later questions he put his points down intelligently instead of only insulting (which he still did).

It's hard to draw the line with stuff like that, as mentioned in the last question. I'm glad he didn't pretend to know about stuff he doesn't.
01:10 PM on 04/04/12
#8
designerbandaid
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I get what youre saying and i love your band but just dont try so hard dude. unsigned artists having kick starter is a great idea. some people dont have sumerian...
03:32 PM on 04/04/12
#9
cubine
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He means that kids are more into trying to find the technique to mimic their favorite vocalist rather than finding their own voice and just singing with emotion. Obviously he's not saying "don't use any vocal techniques"

FWIW I agree with his opinion of kickstarter and I don't think he's being hypocritical at all. Music is much much different than other forms of entertainment, especially the genre that he and SFTP are in.
How is music so different from other art forms?

I feel like he fails to address the fact that nobody is required to give Patent Pending's Kickstarter any money. Making a Kickstarter does not equal instant funding for a record and 99% of bands trying to pull off a get-rich-quick scheme with Kickstarter will fail miserably. He acts like Kickstarter is some kind of cheat code to take people's money when in reality, your Kickstarter will almost undoubtedly tank if you don't have a legitimate reason for it and solid credentials beforehand.

In addition, if you fund a Kickstarter for a band's record, basically all you're doing is pre-ordering the album a ways in advance. You're still paying the band for their music, which is exactly what people do when they buy records/merch/tickets anyway. Sure, DIY is great, but you may as well say that since Stray from the Path sells their records for a profit in order to fund more albums/tours then they're using album sales as a "cop-out" since they should just give away their music and fund the albums with their day jobs.

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