‘Untitled’ – From the Musician
by Anna Denejkina
The following, untitled piece was written in early 2011. This article was never published, and until recently almost forgotten.
The piece is a collection of three interviews with: Trent Grenell of The Seabellies, Treelo Herrington of Norse and Nathan Morrison of Sex In Columbia, describing the current entertainment industry environment from the view of the musician, taken from three levels of accomplishment.
It is ‘outdated’ due to the passing of significant events mentioned, albeit, it is still relevant within the current climate.
Open any street press magazine, click on any industry website, and you will find yourself inundated with artists – successful artists – that seemingly came to light over night. Their struggles, misfortunes and years of hard work are left in the past, becoming a void that is seldom touched upon again.
Forget the genres and their myriads of subgenres; ignore the niche of any musical style, and thus open your eyes to the fact that each band starts at the bottom of the same ladder – that allegorical beginning of any working and striving artist; the foundation that has been fittingly dubbed as the “grassroots”.
Born and bred in an industry climate that longs and feels nostalgic for the eighties and the nineties, where possibilities seemed endless, to the current, and assumed, end of possibilities. From financial problems, personal relationships taking a sharp fall south, to numerous sacrifices – this path appears to have become the rite of passage for an upcoming band in the 21st Century, the latest version in the plethora that is the struggling musician.
“I used to always kind of be in favor of it when Napster first emerged,” commented Trent Grenell on the issue of music becoming a free medium. “I couldn’t understand why so many artists were up in arms about it.”
The Seabellies, NY
He continued. “To be honest, it’s pretty disappointing these days. There are a lot of factors, but I guess the main thing that we’ve been dealing with first hand in the last year, is trying to get people buying music, buying our albums. A lot of people are in the camp of “music and art should be free”, but I don’t know if many of those people have ever actually tried to make a living from it.”
Grenell is one sixth of Sydney based, alternative rock outfit, The Seabellies, and has voiced an opinion that resonates with musicians from all walks of life.
“It’s a bit delusional to think that everyone should be getting it all for free,” concurred Treelo Herrington of Southern Highlands-based, extreme metal duo Norse. “Music should be free to an extent,” he said, “but it is a service and it should be paid for – if it weren’t, then you can watch every band go out of business.”
Last year saw one of the world’s most popular peer-to-peer file sharing websites, LimeWire, shut down after a four-year legal battle – but has this become as case of pointing fingers? One is able to throw a rock to find their personal scapegoat, as no one wants to take the blame, even partially. Unfortunately, it also seems to come down to public unawareness of the effort, time, love and money that goes in to making a record.
“If we rocked up to their job, wanted what they do; their service, and efforts that they have been working on for months, for free, I think that they would be outraged,” explained Grenell. “But for some reason, in this kind of discourse of music, people have just kind of got used to the fact that, “oh it’s free”, you can download it illegally, but you won’t get in trouble for it.”
Outlook voiced on the current musical environment came in harmony of one another, as this stress affects each musician equally – what was fascinating, however, was finding that the inner issues between musicians also held a lot of similarity, once again demolishing the differentiating factors of their genres.
“It’s a life style,” stated Herrington, a life-style that does not have a nine-to-five blueprint, but finds itself connecting with each outfit through sacrifice and becoming the central aspect of their lives.
NORSE, Robin ‘Frog’ Stone and Treelo Herrington
“We have tended to drop everything when good opportunities come along,” said Grenell. “We’ve all managed to get out of inner plans, at the drop of a hat really. It seems to be our main focus in all of our lives.”
“End of last year, we moved completely. Picked up and moved to the city,” affirmed Nathan Morrison of pop-punk band, Sex In Columbia. “Even now, we all work so that we can play music. And relationships, we’re lucky enough to have nice girlfriends, that you know, don’t get jealous, which comes into it a lot,” he laughed. “A lot of time goes into it, four, five nights a week is music, and now that we’re demo-ing, which takes up endless nights, and you’ve got to work straight away the next day, music is really kind of everything we do.”
Stories of playing to empty rooms, disappointments of driving for hours to find that their next show failed to get anyone inside – as well as sour experiences with promoters – are further phases connecting these three bands. Financial issues becoming a stress on the musicians themselves, through lack of any payment for their performance, or withering cash that barely covers gas money, was expressed by all through different occurrences.
“I know a lot of friends who have quit music all together because they need to make more money,” said Grenell.
“Melbourne was always our most notorious spot for that,” he continued. “We’d drive twelve hours toMelbournefor one night, play the gig to barely anyone, then turn around and go home, it was quite disheartening.”
“To win over Melbourne, which was actually quite recent, we had to go down and spend over a month there, doing residencies. A month of your time is no mean feat,” he concluded.
Treelo Herrington described a show in Newcastle, which saw them play to a near-empty room, making them understand that promotion of an event has become a factor which bands have to pursue, almost solely, themselves.
“We played in front of like ten people,” he explained. “We felt disappointed, I mean, it’s never a good feeling to travel so far and work so hard. At that point we were rehearsing five days a week, so to rock up and play in front of ten people, it’s disappointing.”
Morrison expressed the strain that travel and constant rehearsals have had on their inner network, leading to the loss of their former drummer, Mitch Gordon. “His job was a back-up plan for him,” he explained, “and with us being away all the time, [it] didn’t work out for him.”
“When we finally got our gigs in Melbourne, and knew that we had a few more shows line-up in Sydney- whilst aiming forBrisbane- that kind of really drew him apart from us. We’re still mates now, but for a long time it was a bit awkward, and we ended up just playing acoustic shows for six months while we were looking for a drummer – which is a pretty big gap.”
Through scratching the surface of these musicians and their bands’ existence, the question of why they keep striving and pushing forth is one that cannot be ignored. Their answers, alike, translate their passion with an adoration that is palpable.
“Have you ever been on stage in front of a couple of hundred people?” Humorously asked Sex In Columbia’s Nathan Morrison. “It’s amazing! There’s nothing better than playing music to people – especially your own music. To have people know your songs, and loyally come to watch you play because of your music… it’s a better feeling than anything else. Especially when we put so much effort into something, it’s just really rewarding.”
Nathan Morrison of Sex In Columbia
“When everything seems so tough, and then you finish and achieve it, it’s a really great feeling,” coincided Trent Grenell of The Seabellies. “I think the hole that it would leave us [with] if we were to just give in, just have day jobs, not have a band, and just make money and get on with life – I think I would feel eternally empty.”
Grenell’s zealous tone alluded to music taking over his life, choosing him, rather than him choosing it as a path, “it’s just such a satisfying, amazing feeling, and yeah, we’ve really got no choice.”
Rounding off these statements was Treelo Herrington of Norse, for whom music has been a central aspect from a young age. “I wouldn’t stop doing it. It is worth a lot more to me than that,” he asserted. “It’s a natural thing. I’m still studying all the time, I love teaching music and guitar, and you know, even if I wasn’t in Norse, I would still just play music every day.”
“Hearing the end result is a regular satisfaction, and you know that it’s taken all that time and all that effort, and it’s just like, you know what? It’s worth it! It’s really gratifying,” he exclaimed.
Entrepreneur, Michael Eisner, once stated in an interview from 1994, that hard work is the most important characteristic of success and through the changing environments of the music industry, to what we know it as today, passion and the aforementioned hard-work continues to be a blatant attribute, which seemingly overcomes any setbacks.
“It’s really rewarding, we love it, and we wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” finalised Grenell. “We just kind of hope that in the future people start to realize what goes on behind the scenes – its not just as simple as; get in a garage one afternoon, write an album and it magically appears out of nowhere – it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of time out of people’s lives.”
For more information on the bands, visit:
The Seabellies: http://seabellies.com
Sex In Columbia: http://www.facebook.com/sexincolumbiaAU