Music Hates You went to the Slayer concert at Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre last night to pass out postcards announcing the release of our new record. We handed out 1000 of them. (That’s all I could afford to print. It wasn’t cheap.)
This sounds fairly simple on its face, but if we sort of unpack this process as an event, it becomes kind of interesting and more complex.
Promoting our band is humbling- sure, we believe in the band the way that most folks believe in going to work or working their farms or going to church- but it was a challenge to confront a thousand complete strangers (esp at a Slayer show… bear in mind that this is a subculture that reinforces antisocial behavior) and say “I am in a band called Music Hates You and we just released an album called ‘Send More Paramedics’,” over and over and over…. and in this band, I am the verbose and extroverted one. Noah, for all his onstage fury and bravado, is an intensely private person. Zach is actually kind of a shy guy, and very sensitive to The Snub. There was a possibility that last night could have ended badly- if one asshole had torn up a postcard, thrown it over his shoulder and said something snotty, we would have been in a brawl- fat lips, broken noses and ‘Hello, officer!’
Fortunately, it went well. This is the work that we do.
Increasingly, I am seeing all of what Music Hates You does through the lens of class. I am a late comer to this party. These guys have been washing dishes, roofing houses and trying to push this thing over since late 2001. Once I was tapped to join the band, I was made aware of several long-standing conflicts the band had with some of the local music establishment. You can see it alluded to in this interview:
When you were first getting started, I remember there being some tension between your band and what some might call “the establishment” of Athens: Flagpole, certain clubs, etc. How or why did that come about and how or why has it eased?
We spray-painted some shit. People freaked out. Works every time.
When I joined the band, there were certain clubs we couldn’t play, some beef with the college radio station and some rumors and innuendo about issues with the local music press. All of this old animosity was hanging around like a bad smell.
Yes, Music Hates You did spray-paint some private property and some public property- and they took every copy of the local alternative weekly out of every box in town and spray-stenciled “MUSIC HATES YOU” in the center page of every one of them, then put them back in their boxes. Some of this stuff was obnoxious. Some of it was genius. Mostly it was the kind of thing where folks would go “Ha! Those pricks! Whatever!” and be done with it. I mean, it’s rock and roll, not a cotillion. Holding a grudge against a punk band for doing punk stuff is kinda, y’know, a bit silly.
But with MHY, in some cases, the animosity lingers to this day. I ran into it firsthand at the college radio station. Upon much reflection, I don’t think it’s simply a matter of MHY not adopting the proper posture when approaching The Throne as a punk/metal band. I think it’s as much that in a college town, where the vast majority of the people who are the Tastemakers are upper-middle class collegiates, it’s that MHY are aspirants from the wrong caste.
This sort of sniffy disdain for what we do is, I think, rooted in more than just aesthetics, though I am perfectly happy to annoy college radio effetes on whatever grounds it takes to put a burr in their panties. More than that, I think that it’s the fact that a band made of up guys who wash dishes or paint houses or fix cars might dare to believe in what we do passionately enough to promote it by any means necessary.
Self promotion? Tres louche, ¿non? “Isn’t there someone that one can PAY to do that sort of work? How disreputable!”
Metal is essentially working class music. Paul Westerberg once famously said (I am paraphrasing here because I can’t find the quote online) “Middle class kids make the best rock music. Working class kids try too hard.” I see what he’s getting it. It’s sort of like the William Butler Yeats quote: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” Taken out of context, that’s Pavement in a nutshell. It’s hard to work the ironic disdain tip when one is standing in a surging tide of Slayer fans handing out postcards as fast as possible saying “I THINK YOU’D LIKE MY BAND!”
But, like I said, it’s the work that we do, and what propels us is what lies beyond failure. We can’t take this casually and hope that someone decides we’re cool enough to sell ten thousand records that record store clerks will horde. After all, we’re not the sort of people who can fall back on grad school. Option B is the Void. Jail. Alcoholism. Crime. Institutionalization. Oblivion.
So, last night I watched my band hitch up their jeans, brace themselves for the inevitable humbling, and wade into a sea of people saying “Check us out. Here’s our MySpace page. Here’s our website. You can listen to our music there. We hope you enjoy it, because we want to be your favorite band.”
Because we do. I’m not ashamed of that.