Posts Tagged ‘Midnight’

Anna Bulbrook photo by Curtis Buchanan, Distinct Daily

Anna Bulbrook photo by Curtis Buchanan, Distinct Daily

By Glen

One year ago today, The Airborne Toxic Event hit the stage in Santa Ana, CA for the one and only complete album performance of Songs of God and Whiskey. No such excitement this year, unfortunately, but it’s been two months since our last Toxicity, so I figured it was time to catch up on a few things.

Coming Soon: Toxic History – The Book

Yup, it’s been painfully quiet around here lately, and it’s not just because The Airborne Toxic Event is way off the grid at the moment. All of my spare time has been directed towards another TATE project: Toxic History – the book!

That’s right… our massive trip down Airborne Toxic memory lane is coming soon to a bookshelf near you. I am just in the process of polishing up the manuscript and preparing to publish with Lulu. Much more news coming soon. In the meantime, if you want to catch up on the blog series, you’d best do it soon. Most of it will be going offline soon, in preparation for the book launch. The last few chapters will be saved for the book – we’ve gone as far as we’re going to go with publishing it here on the blog.

All of this means that things will probably be even slower here at TIN over the summer, unless of course the band kicks back into action. But stay connected to us on social media (Facebook|Twitter|Instagram), where, over the next year, we’ll be celebrating memorable dates in Toxic History.

Stay tuned for more!

Getting to Know Anna Bulbrook

We all know Mikel Jollett’s back story, but one thing that struck me in the process of writing Toxic History is how little is out there about the other band members, at least in comparison to the lead man. But Anna Bulbrook has been doing her best to remedy that, with a couple of illuminating features.

First came Distinct Daily, with an artsy but very informative video feature on the violinist/keyboardist/tambourinist/guitarist/singer/songwriter/feminist ambassador/festival organizer. Shortly thereafter, Anna wrote her own story for 21cm. Together, these two excellent pieces chart Anna’s journey from classical music student to music dropout to Kanye West support to The Airborne Toxic Event, and finally to the front woman of The Bulls.

Anna sums up her journey so far thusly:

So, at 33, I’m technically the worst violinist that I’ve ever been in the traditional sense but the best musician that I’ve ever been. I’ve been humbled in the process more times than I can count, and I’m sure I’ll be humbled a few thousand more – but I can’t wait to find out where music will take me next.

We can’t wait, either.

Drinking the Lemonade

One other quick Bulbrook note… One of the biggest musical happenings this spring was the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade. Shortly after the album dropped, Anna revealed on Instagram that she contributed viola to one of the tracks on the record. A scan of the album’s extensive credits reveals that she played on the first song, “Pray You Catch Me.”

Toxic Gold

As always, we’ll round out Toxicity with some video goodies. First up, while Anna is talking about herself, here’s an interview she did for Girl Rock Nation around the time of All At Once:

And now a couple of thrilling performances by The Airborne Toxic Event: the potent punk rock of “The Kids Are Ready to Die”/”Welcome to Your Wedding Day” from Roxwell, and an acoustic “This Losing”/”Sometime Around Midnight” combo from Live Daily Sessions, circa 2008.

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Randy with Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Randy with Steven Chen and Adrian Rodriguez of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Los Toxicos is a monthly feature where we get to know a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event. To nominate a fan (or yourself) for a future month, e-mail us.

Name: Randy Ramsey (@randymanramsey)

Where are you from?

Williston, ND (via Metaline Falls, WA)

Tell us about yourself (who you are, what you do for a living, hobbies, etc.).

I’m Randy Ramsey, 40 years old. Married 14 years with 3 kids, son Jaydis (10) daughters Maleah (8) and Tyleigh (6).

I’m a field engineer for an oil and gas service company in the North Dakota oil fields. My family takes priority over everything in life, but when time allows music and sports are my passions. My wife and I are big UFC fans and have attended 5 fights in Vegas. We love to travel and if we can squeeze in a concert, even better.

It was great meeting some amazing people in Reno (Glen, Thomas and Katie, Kenny, Brooke, Amanda) and forging friendships with others who love the band as much as I do. I regret not going to the Sacramento show. Almost everyone I had met offered me a ride there.

How did you become a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event?

I’m a latecomer to The Airborne Toxic Event party. I’m sure it was in 2012… my introduction, like most, was “Sometime Around Midnight.” I’d heard it on AltNation one night out on a drilling rig. The only line I could remember the next morning was, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” I googled the lyric and the rest is history. Instantly hooked. I purchased all the music I could find.

Do any of your family or friends like The Airborne Toxic Event? Did you convert them, or did they convert you?

My daughters Tyleigh (6) and Maleah aka Missy (8) love Airborne Toxic. My son Jaydis (10) likes all music including Airborne. I wouldn’t say he’s on the same level as the girls. My wife Dolly, not so much. Her and I have totally different taste in music. I can guarantee that if I like it, she won’t. She’s into country and hip hop. And I’m into GOOD music.

What does your Airborne Toxic Event collection include?

A couple of shirts, a signed setlist, ticket stub and wristband from the Reno show, and pictures from hanging out after the show.

What’s your favorite TATE song, and why?

Too hard to choose. Right now my favorite is Songs of God and Whiskey. Favorite song has got to be “Missy” (live) because I love hearing my daughters sing along to it.

I think part of the appeal to Airborne Toxic is the lyrics. It really is poetry. The detail in the songwriting, the emotion. I pay attention to lyrics in songs, and hands down the music is brilliant.

Randy with Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Randy with Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event in Reno, NV

Have you ever had a special experience at a TATE concert? Tell us about it.

As soon as the Reno show ended, Daren was collecting the setlists. I saw what he was doing and yelled his name. He looked at me, held his hand up and gestured, “Give me a sec…” After collecting all the setlists he reach over the stage and gave me one. I asked if I could get them signed and he told me to come around the back.

He was a man of his word. Also got Steven and Adrian and Anna to sign. This was the night Mikel was sick and went AWOL right after the concert.

When Steven and Adrian signed it, I asked them if they were going to the afterparty at the club across the street. They said they were and to come say hi.

Myself and a couple other fans were waiting for Anna and Mikel to come out (not knowing that he was gone for night). Anna come out, talked and took pictures with fans. As she signed my setlist she asked if I had seen where Steven, Daren, and Adrian had gone. I told her they had said they were going to the club for the afterparty. I walked across the street with her (and a couple other fans). Entered the party. Chatted with the guys from Sir Sly for a few minutes. Bought Steven and Adrian and Daren a couple rounds. Steven kept thanking me for the drinks and stated he didn’t have any cash on him because he didn’t go back to his room after the show. I told him it was no problem, it was my honor to buy them drinks.

Randy and Steven at the afterparty.

Randy and Steven at the afterparty.

It was very loud in the club and we all left. When we got outside a couple other guys recognized Adrian and Steven. One was a band member from Zella Day, the other was from Cold War Kids (both bands were playing the next night at Cargo). We walked around downtown Reno for a bit. We lost Daren. Hit a liquor store. Walked around more. Found Daren. It was surreal. We finally made our way back to Cargo. Hung out some more.

Steven told me a couple stories that night. I won’t share them but if you get a chance to meet him and hang out ask him about the keyboard that they built into the junked piano. And how everyone hated it (except Mikel). And ask him about their night in Vancouver, BC, the bar and police.

What’s on your Airborne Toxic Event bucket list?

To get them to play a show in North Dakota.

Are there any other bands you would recommend that Airborne fans check out?

Augustines (formerly called We Are Augustines). They are probably the second most played on my iPod. Here’s a little sample…

I’m also a huge Killers fan, and they’re a great live show if you ever get the chance to see them.

A shot from Reno:

Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and The Airborne Toxic Event under the neon lights of Reno. Photo by Randy.

Mikel Jollett, Steven Chen and The Airborne Toxic Event under the neon lights of Reno. Photo by Randy.

Toxicity 93

Posted: February 12, 2016 in Toxicity
Tags: , , , ,
Anna Bulbrook's Girlschool artist portrait, by Jen Rosenstein.

Anna Bulbrook’s Girlschool artist portrait, by Jen Rosenstein.

By Glen

It’s the dead of winter – literally and figuratively, as the tumbleweeds blow across The Airborne Toxic Event landscape. Even the ever-trusty Anna Bulbrook has gone quiet of late – though we do have a bit more Girlschool coverage to catch up on. But first, my 15-seconds of fame…

TIN Hits the Radio Waves

A couple weeks ago, my fellow British Columbian (represent!) Tim de Monkey gave me the heads up that CBC Radio was looking for stories about bands that are tragically underrated. One thing led to another and before I knew it, my letter was being read on air, as a lead-in to “Sometime Around Midnight.”

If nothing else, I think we converted Stephen Quinn, the program’s host, who tweeted: “The letter was brilliant. Thank you! I know them but will now dig deeper.” And on having to cut the song short: “So pissed we had to fade it under. My note for the early fade outcue was, ‘No! Don’t do it!'” Agreed, Stephen!

Anna Bulbrook’s Girlschool: Smashing Barriers, Smashing Success

Anna Bulbrook’s little festival grew into quite a big news event, generating an impressive amount of coverage – universally positive. There is clearly a thirst for what she is doing for the female music community.

As the festival opened, Dazed published an insightful interview with the founder. I had to laugh at her response to the question of whether it’s harder to collaborate with women than men; I assume she had her Airborne bandmates in mind when she said:

I think I semi-expected that to be true, because it’s a stereotype that exists. But I have found collaborating with women on writing music for the Bulls, or working with my crackerjack team at Girlschool, to actually be a far more free and direct process than some of my recent collaborations with men. Men have their own dynamics, egos, emotions, and politics as well. Everyone does! Making art is emotional, whatever gender you are, and bands are emotionally supercharged environments.

On the subject of the sadly still sexist music industry, Anna had some pointed comments, but also an inspiring vision.

Why aren’t there more women artists graduating from their local scenes to the next level? We supposedly “handled” this back in the 90s!

I think that music should be a safe space for everyone. Period. So I think standing up for what’s right – whether it’s standing up for yourself or someone else – is a good place to start. I also think creating intentionally positive pathways or environments for music, which is what we are trying to do with Girlschool, is another answer. And by the way, these pathways don’t have to be “female-themed” to be positive, either. There are myriad ways we can increase consciousness in our art form and the industry that surrounds it, and to make the world a more safe and free space for everyone.

I say: if the world doesn’t reach its arms out to you, then make your own, better one! And after a while, your new world will maybe grow to become the real one.

Anna also sat down with Take Part, with whom she shared a disheartening but unfortunately unsurprising truth about what she’s faced at times as a member of The Airborne Toxic Event:

“In the alternative rock world, there are very few female voices… There are also very few female side members in bands… People would think I was a girlfriend, or they would think I was the singer,” Bulbrook said, noting that as a classical  violinist who began playing at the age of four, she has the most professional music training of any of the members of the Airborne Toxic Event.

“I’ve been in the position where I was sort of asked to dress a little more provocatively to get a label executive to consider us more seriously,” Bulbrook added.

Like she said to Dazed, you would like to think we’d gotten past this kind of garbage, but clearly there is a long way to go – which makes her efforts all the more important.

“I call this the vitamin gummy approach to feminism,” Bulbrook said of creating an event stacked with a lineup of talented female musicians. “You make something that looks delicious, tastes delicious, but it also just happens to be really good for you.”

Live Nation TV combined their own interview with Anna with coverage from the first night of the festival. Asked about the future of the collective, Anna says there is definitely more to come.

We couldn’t plan this weekend without talking about all the other things we want to do. Unless lightening strikes, there will be a future for Girlschool. What that exactly entails, we’ll probably start planning it 24 hours after this weekend.

Finally, to tie a bow on our Girlschool coverage, here are a couple photo galleries worth checking out. LA Record provides a glimpse inside the event, while Jen Rosenstein took striking portraits of each Girlschool artist.

Toxic Gold

Missing Mikel? Us too. Remember that time he took the encore out to the street behind the venue?

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

Matt with Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event

Matt with Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event

Los Toxicos is a monthly feature where we get to know a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event. To nominate a fan (or yourself) for a future month, e-mail us.

Name: Matt Jameson (@mattjameson91)

Where are you from?

Stockton, CA

Tell us about yourself (who you are, what you do for a living, hobbies, etc.).

I’m 24 and I work in a dispatch office for a gasoline company that delivers to stations all over California. For fun, I mostly read or play guitar. These days most of my friends are spread out pretty far so I spend most of my time at home or driving for several hours to see them. As for concerts, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what most Airborne fans have done. I attend about 5 concerts a year, and have yet to go very far to attend one. Which I really have no excuse for since my schedule is so open. Perhaps it’s time for a late new year’s resolution?

How did you become a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event?

This calls for a story, and it began sometime around midnight. Many years ago I went through a pretty bad breakup with the girl who, at the time, was my whole world (oh youth). The situation had been mostly my fault and I had a very difficult time forgiving myself for that. So about a year later, I was still feeling penitent and still struggling with my frequent encounters with her. Since it had been so long, I kind of had this belief that I didn’t have the right to be heartbroken about it anymore. So I mostly kept my remorse to myself, while shaming myself for not having gotten over it yet.

Well, one day, I was driving a few friends of mine out of town with my friend Gage riding shot gun and playing DJ. Since he is originally from L.A. and returned there every summer, he always had amazing music to share. This time, none of it really caught my attention. I was just mindlessly driving and ignoring the conversation. That is, until something caught my attention. An explosive violin melody, paving the way for some of the greatest lyrics I have ever heard. From the moment it began till long after it ended, I was completely captivated by this story of a man, a woman, a bar, and that internal war we all go through when in the vague company of someone who once loved us back. He was telling me a story I had lived so many times, I almost felt like I knew this singer personally. Since that day, I have been completely in love with this band. And they have touched my life in more ways than I can ever fit on a page.

Do any of your family or friends like The Airborne Toxic Event? Did you convert them, or did they convert you?

Aside from Gage, no one else knew who they were. And I haven’t had much success converting anyone since. My girlfriend enjoys “Changing” and my best friend enjoys “All I Ever Wanted,” but I haven’t turned anyone into a fan yet. Though I did encounter someone who I believe to be the only other fan in my town. Hi Katie!

What does your Airborne Toxic Event collection include?

Oh boy. It would be easier to show you. I mostly collect posters and vinyl’s. I have limited wall space so I have to be picky. I don’t get to hang up the posters from individual concerts. I also have a stack of limited/signed CD’s that I’ve gathered from Ebay, and a framed collection of picks that only contains 4 so far. I am always on the lookout for more, so if you have an extra of any of your picks, contact me!

Airborne Toxic Event memorabilia

And here is my prized possession. A custom art piece made by my friend and girlfriend as an anniversary gift. I had it signed by the band and gave Mikel his own copy. He told me it was “really rad.” I wish I knew what he did with it.

Airborne Toxic Event artwork

What’s your favorite TATE song, and why?

That award goes to “Bride and Groom.” Along with being wonderful to listen to, “Bride and Groom” is another song that tells me a story I’ve already lived. That feeling of being comfortable in a situation that you know has an expiration. And the frustration of knowing that sometimes, things just don’t work out. The lyrics are beautiful and Mikel manages to open up a bit about something very personal, while weaving his confessions into metaphors and creative phrasing. It’s as if he sings in a language you can only understand if you’ve travel down certain roads in life. Or perhaps I’m completely wrong and just interpreting his music my own way. But that’s the beauty of music, isn’t it?

Have you ever had a special experience at a TATE concert? Tell us about it.

I’ve had my share of high fives, selfies and conversations with the band. But those aren’t the memories that really stick with me as much. What I find out satisfying about Airborne shows is seeing how much the band loves what they do when they are on stage. Their passion for their music and their fans is contagious. It doesn’t seem like they are just doing a job. They play every show like it’s a party to celebrate the end of the world. I wish everyone had a chance to experience how incredible it is to be a part of that.

What’s on your Airborne Toxic Event bucket list?

I am hoping for another Fillmore. The tickets sold out before I got any, and I didn’t watch the stream. So to me that show is a legend. I have daydreams about a five night show with every album. I would trade my car for that.

Are there any other bands you would recommend that Airborne fans check out?

Lately I’ve been hooked on Little May and Falls, the latter of which I discovered at my most recent Airborne show. If you haven’t heard them yet, do yourself a favor and check them out. They are so charming.

And as a bonus, here is a couple of pictures from the 2014 Ace of Spades show in Sacramento.

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event, 2015

Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event, 2014


Mikel Jollett and Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event, 2015

Mikel Jollett and Anna Bulbrook of The Airborne Toxic Event, 2014

Toxicity 90

Posted: January 8, 2016 in Toxicity
Tags: , ,
Anna Bulbrook and The Bulls will play the GIRLSCHOOL Collective's Field Day Weekend later this month.

Anna Bulbrook and The Bulls will play the GIRLSCHOOL Collective’s Field Day Weekend later this month.

By Glen

As expected, 2016 has come in like a church mouse for The Airborne Toxic Event. But while we all wait to see what the future will bring, a certain violinist is still here to keep us entertained.

Anna Bulbrook Goes Back to GIRLSCHOOL

The multi-talented Anna Bulbrook is quickly becoming a leading ambassador for women in rock. After her band the Bulls successfully hosted the all-female-fronted GIRLSCHOOL residency in Los Angeles last August, they are now taking it to the next level. GIRLSCHOOL is back in session for the 3-day Field Day Weekend festival, Jan. 29-31 at L.A.’s Bootleg Theater. More than a dozen artists will join the Bulls in a smorgasbord of gifted female musicians, with all proceeds to benefit the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls. Click here for tickets.

Tying a Bow on 2015

As expected, there hasn’t been much in the way of Airborne news as we close the door on 2015 and enter what is expected to be a quiet year for the band. All we’ve been able to dredge up of late is a pair of photo galleries from the group’s set at last month’s Not So Silent Night in Denver, courtesy of Westword and Greeblehaus (Amie Giese, a big TATE fan), and some major kudos from Popdose, which placed both Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey high up its Best of 2015 listing (in a tie for 5th).

The Airborne Toxic Event ranks right up there with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus in terms of clunky indie pop band names from the 2000’s. But the music, oh the music, is so freaking phenomenal. From their breakthrough single, ‘Sometime Around Midnight’, onward, the band rarely releases anything less than a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. That said — a lot of their best stuff doesn’t wind up on their proper albums. They have a knack for recording one-take ‘Bombastic’ video versions of their songs and scatter them like Easter eggs on the YouTubes for fans to find. As richly as their studio albums are produced, there’s something magical about the Bombastic versions that deserves an eventual box set. I bring this up because this year they released an entire second album as a limited edition digital only bonus to their new album, Dope Machines. This surprise album, Songs of God and Whiskey, was almost immediately out of print. Head to their website to this day and they say it’s not available. Search iTunes or Amazon and you can find it with a little work. I bought it for $10 and it was worth every penny. I don’t get the business model of making your best work in years so damn hard to find (this NEEDS to be released on CD), but I digress. Let’s talk about the music.

Songs from Songs of God and Whiskey, much like Foo Fighters’ Saint Cecilia EP, were written throughout the band’s career — and playing them loud confirms why this band is so damn wonderful in the first place. Every instrument crackles and shines, the band is on fire.

The proper new album, Dope Machines, is a different affair. Their signature guitars and Anna Bulbrook’s viola are downplayed and synths are pushed to front and center. It’s a risky move considering that crescendo of strings IS the band’s sound. But the bold move pays off. Dope Machines is the band’s most uplifting and joyous album since their debut.

I think we can all concur with the author about the urgent need for Songs of God and Whiskey to be released on CD – and vinyl, while they’re at it.

The Sad State of the Music Industry

There’s been many lamentations of late about the current state of the music industry, with its ever-shifting business models and penchant for churning out sound-a-likes heavy on groove but light on content – an environment that is not particularly suited to groups like The Airborne Toxic Event, self-admittedly not a singles band. Now, two more influential figures have added their voices to the growing, ever-concerned chorus.

First to weigh in was award-winning singer, songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett, who had this to say in an op-ed for the Washington Post:

How bad is the problem? Consider this: In 2014, sales from vinyl records made more than all of the ad-supported on-demand streams on services such as YouTube. I’m not running down vinyl — it is still the best-sounding, most durable medium we have for listening to music, by far. But why should a technology most people consider outdated generate more revenue than an Internet service with more than 100 million American users? That’s just wrong.

Just two decades ago, a music superstar was born when her record went gold, selling 500,000 units. Today, experts say it takes 100 million streams to match that kind of success. Even the most relentless year-round touring schedule or advertising licensing deals can’t match the income that a hit record once produced…

For small and up-and-coming artists, the income collapse has been even more severe; copies of one-penny royalty checks are rampant on the Internet. These artists are struggling American small businesses, and the deck is stacked against them.

Noted music critic Neil McCormick, meanwhile, came at it from an artistic angle in The Telegraph:

Adele represents a throwback to a time when the whole world sang the same songs. It is the one album everyone will have heard or heard about. Interestingly, this sales success was achieved while the singer refused to allow her album to be streamed, the new favoured technology of music distribution.

In 2015, subscription services Apple Music and Tidal were launched to compete with the major established (but mainly ad supported) platforms of Spotify and YouTube.

There is nothing inherently bad about streaming. Indeed, if they can get enough subscribers for paid services, then it may yet prove to be the financial saviour of a music business that has been struggling since the internet came along. But streaming is having a negative impact on the kinds of music that people listen to.

When listeners don’t purchase an album, there is very little impetus to lavish love and attention on it or explore the work of artists in depth. Instead, streaming promotes individual tracks, often from curated playlists.

It is a form of internet radio, a competitive listening arena where the idea is to grab attention by any means possible. It favours the hook, the novelty, the high impact sugar rush of instant gratification, whether that involves bold DJ beats, histrionic singers, combative rappers or saccharine ballads from querulous singer-songwriters. It is a singles market, in other words…

Should it concern us that so much of this new pop is utterly formulaic, giving people what they already like with just a subtle twist? It is an odd paradox that an obsession with novelty should create an atmosphere of bland conformity.

According to John Seabrook’s behind-the-scenes look at modern pop production, The Song Machine, the peculiar sameness and banality of singles are a result of the huge teams of songwriters and producers required to craft even the most insignificant hit. Nobody seems worried that the depth, nuance and flavour of a song is sacrificed, as long as it sells….

The slow and sparse maturation of live stars might be a scary reflection of what is happening in the grass roots, slowly dying from lack of care. Down on the ground, small venues are suffering. It is estimated that 40 per cent of music venues in the UK have closed over the past 10 years.

Venerable live forums like the Sheffield Boardwalk and the Cockpit in Leeds have shut their doors. Promoters can complain about business rates and lack of government support, but the bottom line is surely that audiences  are uninspired by fading local and national scenes.

Low-level bands can’t afford to go on the road because tour support from record companies has all but dried up.

Big labels used to spend a lot of money on A&R, nurturing promising talent, and sticking with particularly interesting artists for the long haul. Not any more. So, while the virtual world expands, the physical space where communities of like-minded music fans can interact keeps shrinking. Vital support networks are dying.

And as fewer dynamic new performers with original perspectives break through, live audiences drift further away. It has become a big pop monster eating its own tail…

The year will also be remembered for the awful scenes at Paris’s Bataclan venue, a direct attack on music by forces of terror.

It should serve as a reminder of how important music actually is in the fabric of our lives, and why we need the freedom, creativity and community it represents more than ever. Somewhere, somehow, the spirit of great, world-beating, popular music with ideas, emotion and substance has to rise again.

Not to be outdone, our friend Julie posted her own thoughtful musings on the subject, exploring a number of alternative approaches that have allowed some artists to continue to produce meaningful work while actually not having to worry about whether it’s time to go look for a day job.

According to Nielson SoundScan’s 2012 report, the three remaining major record companies of the once “Big Six” now control 88.5% of the global music market (sales of CDs, music videos and MP3s). That would be Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. In the age of the Internet, with rampant illegal downloading, music sharing on social media and the popularity of streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, sales, even of MP3s, have steadily decreased. There is no doubt that this is what has led to the current climate of label desperation, in their last-gasp efforts to maintain big profits.

This desperation has created, as I see it, an adversarial relationship between the artist and their fans. At the very least, these corporations, through their own petty financial fears and insecurities over losing their market stronghold (which began a long time ago), have bred a culture of distrust. Fans are viewed by these conglomerates much the same way that I see the squirrels in my backyard — running off with the goods (or the bird food) without so much as a “how do you do.” It then becomes the sole sales strategy of the label to find a way to force music consumers to pay for their music and punish them when they don’t, rather than trying to develop new business models and marketing strategies that adapt to the changing environment and cater to the specific tastes of each artist’s fanbase.

The music industry “old guard” has also set requirements for musicians that are so unrealistic and myopic that all but a small handful of top earners churning out mainstream dreck are destined to fall short. This includes expected sales figures, radio airplay, Shazam numbers and other metrics, demographics and analytics — while dismissing old-fashioned ideas of community building and consumer loyalty.

Even as The Airborne Toxic Event celebrates 10 years as a band in 2016, these issues are no doubt weighing heavily on the minds of the musicians as they plot a course for the future.

Toxic Gold

According to last fall’s TATE fan survey, a slight majority of us are traditionalists: we like our Airborne Toxins pure, not remixed. Nevertheless, here for your consideration is “Sometime Around Midnight: Robo Patrole Remix.”

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

A TATE ChristmasBy Glen

‘Twas Sometime Around Midnight on Christmas, in the Graveyard Near the House,
TATE’s Facebook page was quiet – not a single synth-related grouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that some show dates soon would be there.

Clad in a tour shirt, I dozed in my bed,
While The Thing About Dreams played in my head.
I imagined myself wielding Anna’s viola,
Plucking the strings out ‘neath the pergola.

All At Once in the street there arose such a clatter,
The roar of a Dope Machine the silence did shatter.
In a stupor I stumbled down from the second floor,
Swaying, braying, I burst through the door.

It was a bleary-eyed night, beneath the streetlight,
I needed a moment to take in the sight.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a poet, a singer, weighed down with gear.

The mermaid tattoo was an obvious tell,
I knew in a moment it must be Mikel.
Greedy for more, I was blinded by fame,
And I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Daren! Now, Steven! Now, Adrian and Anna!
On, roadies! On, Pete Galli! And you too, Bill Handlin!
To the top of the stage! To the top of the wall!
Not so high please Mikel – I’m afraid you will fall!”

And then, in a twinkling, I came up with a plan,
Nervousness be damned – it was Time to be a Man.
“It is most unexpected to find you out here,
Like the surprise God and Whiskey you dropped on us this year.”

“We take care of our fans,” he said with a wink,
“You should know that by now, wouldn’t you think?
On The Fifth Day of Christmas, your True Love asked me,
To give you a gift you never thought you’d see.”

He was dressed all in black, from his head to his foot,
And into his guitar case, his hand he did put.
“What can I give you? Another masterpiece?
What more could you want after a double release?”

“All I Ever Wanted,” I slowly began,
“Was just one more gig for a crazed super fan.
Can you please play Poor Isaac? That song is so boss,
And if I may be so bold, how ’bout Something You Lost?”

He was cooler than cool; I was feeling unworthy,
My insides were Numb and I was getting too wordy.
But he put me at ease with a nod of his head,
He’s good with his fans; I had nothing to dread.

So I took a deep breath, “A request if I may,
A happy TATE song for the holidays?
A little less death, a little more joy,
Something appropriate for my little boy?”

He said, “Not my style; that music sounds dated,
And holiday cheer is so overrated.
I’ve tried to be sappy; I’ve tried to write kitsch,
But sometimes Christmas can make you feel like shit.”

He sprang to his bike, flashed his 7th Heaven smile,
And then he assured me, “We’ll be back in awhile.”
And I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Please don’t forget to Shazam TATE tonight!”

Anna Bulbrook gets high as Mikel Jollett looks on during The Airborne Toxic Event's set at Riot Fest Toronto. Photo by Trish Cassling.

Anna Bulbrook gets high as Mikel Jollett looks on during The Airborne Toxic Event’s set at Riot Fest Toronto. Photo by Trish Cassling.

By Glen

We’re smack dab in the middle of the most action-packed week The Airborne Toxic Event has had in months. After playing four sets in three cities in just over 48 hours last weekend and hitting Buffalo Tuesday night, the band finishes off the first portion of the Whiskey Machine Tour with another four set, three city, 48 hour whirlwind: New York City (last night), Anna Bulbrook’s hometown Boston tonight, and Philadelphia tomorrow. That final stop will include a private set for the winners of the band’s Shazam contest, to be held a couple hours before the main event.

A Close Call

The band’s frenzied performance schedule this week is made all the more remarkable by the fact that Mikel Jollett has been doing it hopped up on painkillers after a recent car crash that could’ve been much worse. He shared the scary details in an interview with CBS Philly:

I hydroplaned on the 10 freeway and spun off and totaled the car. I almost died; like, it was crazy. Went down an embankment, got pinned by a boulder. I just spun off the freeway at a high speed. It was insane. My back’s all messed up… nothing major, just some muscle stuff.

As to playing the shows on meds, he says, “It’s been interesting. We played a show the other night and I forgot the lyrics to a song, then we play another show in Toronto at Riot Fest and I forgot the lyrics to another song, and I put it in the wrong key, because I’m on all these muscle relaxers and pain killers. The show’s been loopy, but fun. I’ve never been that into drugs, more than you’re average wayward rock and roll person in the big city I guess, but man, it’s been a whole nother experience.”

I’m sure I speak for the entire Airborne fan community when I say, thank God it wasn’t worse. Take care of yourself, Mikel, and thanks for keeping the show on the road.

Speaking of God, elsewhere in the interview, Mikel waxes theological as he considers the Pope’s visit to Philly coinciding with the band’s show on Saturday. He also looks back at the reaction to Dope Machines, concluding that he had fretted unnecessarily.

I think I was hand-ringing over nothing. When you make something, you spend so much time on it, you feel like a lot of nervous energy about how it’s going to be received. Early on there were people, like on Facebook that were so mad that we made an electronic record and I wasn’t sure if they were expressing some larger will, and it turns out they weren’t.

A Not So Silent Night

The Airborne Toxic Event has been a regular at holiday shows over the years, and the first announcement in that regard came down recently. The band will return to Denver with Bastille, Cold War Kids and others on Dec. 5, for Channel 93.3’s Not So Silent Night.

Reading Between the Lines

From the department of “I May Be Reading Too Much into This” comes this tweet:

It’s just four little letters that could ultimately mean nothing, but that “hmmm” has me quite optimistic that we will get some kind of official recording of Airborne’s very popular cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” before too long. May it be so!

Road Recaps

Assorted coverage of The Airborne Toxic Event’s most recent road escapades:

Anti Music tagged the band as one of the MVP’s of Riot Fest Chicago.

Music Felon published a photo gallery from TATE’s electrifying gig in Austin.

AXS Entertainment captured the fun at Riot Fest Toronto. So did Riff You. And so did The Reviews Are In.

Buffalo News published a huge collection from Airborne’s visit earlier this week; if you were there, you’ll probably find yourself in their extensive fan shots.

Mulling Over Midnight

As part of their ongoing “What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?” series, Popdose recently covered The Airborne Toxic Event’s best loved song, “Sometime Around Midnight.” The writer, Beau Dure, muses about why he feels so connected to a song that describes experiences he’s never personally had – a sensation that I am very familiar with myself.

The question I’ve wrestled with is this, and the reason I’m writing about this song in this series: What do I get from this song? Why does it resonate with me?

I’ve never been in this situation. I was never a serious drinker — never “lost in the haze of the wine” or stumbling down a street oblivious to everyone’s stares. I haven’t had a breakup I regretted since I started college.

The closest I can come to that feeling would be in college, watching situations in which I didn’t even have a chance to be the ex. I haven’t checked with Duke, but I may still hold the university record for unrequited crushes. I can’t think of a specific situation in which I saw someone I admired from afar walking off with another guy, but if you add up all the times I realized someone was out of my league or just walking in different circles (like frat parties, which I never had the slightest interest in attending), I could probably come up with a pretty good amalgam.

Indie History

Noisy published a compelling retrospective off failed Los Angeles radio station Indie 103.1. With the station’s heyday having coincided with the rise of The Airborne Toxic Event, the band gets an extended spotlight in the story. Mikel recalls what the station’s support meant to his upstart operation:

We had been a band for about a year and I think Mark Sovel had us in to the studio to do a live performance of a song. It was really cool because we were just a local band playing Spaceland and El Cid and places like that.

I had this little clock radio and it was on Indie 103.1 and I heard our song, “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” and was like, “Woah, this is so cool!” It was like that moment in La Bamba.

It’s one thing when you hear something through your speakers or monitor speaks in the studio or something, but hearing something that you’re a part of on your tiny, little fuckin’ digital talk radio—that’s a trip. I think it also followed the song “Push” by the Cure, which is one of my all-time favorite songs. I kind of welled up a bit.

In January of 2008, we played this [Indie-hosted] residency at Spaceland and in the fourth week of the residency—again, we’re still a local band, no manager, no record deal, nothing—and Indie 103.1 added us to their rotation, started playing our song all the time, which was a huge deal for us…We never figured that the radio would play us and then they did. It was this really weird moment because it was embarrassing how exciting it was.

KROQ [added The Airborne Toxic Event] that same week and it was crazy. The audience totally changed. It was bigger. I think 1200 people showed up to that show for our residency and Spaceland has a capacity of 300. There’s a little documentary online about that night. That was kind of weird. The week before, there was 200.

The other thing that changed was the audience. Before that, it was our friends and people in the scene and music fans from the Eastside or wherever. Then suddenly people drove from the Valley or people drove from the South Bay or the Westside to come see a show at Spaceland. It was just a much bigger crowd and it was a different kind of crowd.

Radio is very competitive and there are all kinds of charts that show you the research of how this song is performing…There is detailed research and it’s all tied to ad revenue, right? But, Indie 103.1 didn’t seem to care. They just liked playing what they liked and they had some cool people working there—Sovel being one of them—that just had good taste and liked good music and just sort of believed that if they did that then the rest of it would fall into place.

Toxic Gold

Yep… I’m a little obsessed with “Pursuit of Happiness” at the moment. Here’s the performance from Riot Fest Toronto, courtesy of danielscissorhands.

GlenGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.