Let's drop the royal we. It's just Jef here, guys, and I'd like to talk to you for a moment.
Much attention, and much more debate, has been given over to Black Congress's public withdrawal from this weekend's GhoulsFest, and also to my own just as public condemnation of the manner in which they did so.
Having dreamed of breakout success as a Houston musician myself, I simply could not wrap my head around why such a talented and acclaimed act obviously on their way up would purposely piss off the head of Houston's newest fall festival. Honestly, I still don't, but doubt as to the justifiability of the opinions I have expressed through Rocks Off on the matter has begun to plague me.
First off, it was pointed out to me that I had done the exact same thing myself as a journalist some time ago by taking a private debate with Weird Party over doing an article on them public, in some sort of half-assed attempt to prove... I don't know. Something. It made sense at the time. Turns out, I'm somewhat of a hypocritical douchenozzle.
So maybe what Black Congress did wasn't the unimaginable sin I claimed it was. I still wanted to explore why they did so. Comments posted on the stories by the band made one thing very clear; they do not care what I or the Houston Press think about them, and would prefer to be left alone.
Again, having done everything but blow the music editors of all the major Houston newspapers in search of recognition for The Black Math Experiment I am at a loss as to how one acquires this attitude in the music scene.
So I sent BC bassist Dann Miller an email:
Let's just say I've had enough of people being mad at me all week. I wanted to drop you a line real quick and tell you that I really do think very highly of Black Congress. Your music is phenomenal, really good stuff, and I beg the opportunity to review the next album.
As far as the Ghoulsfest article... I still think the Facebook thing was dumb. My opinion on that isn't going to change. I wrote about it because it was news, and to judge by the hits it got it was news. And then Chris Gray asked if I had anything to capitalize on the Daily Beast city survey. I suggested a rundown of all the boneheaded things I'd seen in the music scene this year.
I don't really agree with some of the things you guys do as far as PR, but I do respect you as a band a great deal. And whoever said that Ghouslfest will miss you more than you'll miss them? Hell, they may actually be right though I never would've believed it when this all started.
You guys are going to be one of the driving forces in music in this city over the next couple of years, and I hope that any animosity that may have arisen as a result of the press coverage you've received over the last week can be smoothed over with this: I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. I feel as strongly about what I do as you do about what you do, and sometimes we all go a bit too far.
I don't think you could hurt our feelings if you dedicated an entire week to it. I don't think you get it. We do this so we can hang out and make music that we like. That's it. Your blog doesn't affect us personally or as a band. None of us care if you think our Facebook update was dumb. There is no animosity, there are no hurt feelings, and I for one am not mad.
So it didn't start off very well, but Miller did agree to talk to me a bit more.
Jef WIth One F: So, does Black Congress have any professional aspirations? Are you honestly just in this for fun, or do you hope to break out into mainstream success?
Dann Miller: We would be completely delusional to have professional aspirations playing the kind of music we do. I was not in Black Congress when it was formed, but I'm pretty sure there is no goal other than to make music that sounds good to us and hang out a few times a month and play some shows.
My days of busting my ass for a band are pretty much over, and I never expected any type of success from it, most certainly not "mainstream" or I wouldn't have been in a band called the Jonbenét, or currently be in a band who uses a Black-power fist on an upside-down cross for a logo. I'm pretty sure neither of those are well modeled marketing plans.
JW1F: Do you really not care what the press thinks, and if yes, why?
DM: Music press is opinion-driven. The opinion of someone I don't know writing about my band means nothing to me. Besides, any negative comment you can try to muster up about us personally, or as a band has most likely already been said countless times by one of us to each other.
JW1F: Is the band united around the sentiments you've expressed on this issue, or is everyone just expressing their opinions as individuals?
DM: I don't think my statements stray too far from what any other member would say. Some of them might think I shouldn't have bothered responding to this, but I happen to spend a lot of time on the computer for work and as the youngest, I have a shred of youthful energy left to type this crap. If any other members feel I have misrepresented them, they're obviously more than welcome to chime in.
Chris might have the energy as well, but his responses would probably be a little more bitter and humorous. As far as Bryan, the opinions expressed by Bryan Jackson are solely those of Bryan and do not reflect the opinions of Black Congress. You said you were getting complaints because you're spending too much time covering a 'certain band'. I agree.
I think your time is much better spent writing about bands that are really working hard trying to "break out," and scrawling their names on parked vans, and putting sponsorship ads on their MySpace pages, and playing every show they possibly can because those bands get super-stoked when they get these little write-ups. This weird attention we're getting is unwanted and started from a really stupid misunderstanding.
JW1F: Bearing in mind that you cannot convey tone of voice well in an email, I'll preface this with, *not said in a bitter, sarcastic tone AT ALL* I'm meaning all these questions at their honest face value. Do you want the press to ignore you?
DM: Wanting the press to ignore our band would be a little odd. Do I want you guys to say when we have a show coming up? Certainly. But when you rush us to make a comment about a misunderstanding that we were still sorting out and then post two blogs about it, I'd rather be ignored at that point.
JW1F: Also, do you have something against bands like Skyblue72, who do follow a business model rather than a "let's have fun" model? (Note: Skyblue72 usually has a van painted with show information parked on Montrose.)
DM: I've never heard their music and I definitely don't have anything against them, or other bands for that matter, because they don't affect me, but there are definitely bands that run themselves in a way I find to be disgusting. I'm sure the way we run our band is completely stupid to some of those bands. That's fine.
When you're spamming up the Internet trying to win some sort of contest so you can open for some bigger band in your genre, I don't really dig on that. There are bands that are constantly looking for someone they find to be in an authoritative position to validate their band with awards and acclaim, but that's not me.
My old band won a few HP music awards and never went to pick them up or went to a ceremony. I appreciate it, but that's not really important to me in the grand scheme. Again, that's just my opinion. I've just never understood the kind of bands that have lighting and a drum riser in their practice space either.
That's just me. Whatever works.
JW1F Let's say for the sake of argument that I was a record exec offering you a contract. We'll handle your PR, pay for your recording, the standard stuff. In return, we get some say over content and where you play. What would your response be to an offer like that?
DM: If that was all you were doing, I'd say no. Chris records us. We do our own "PR," obviously, which led to you writing three blogs about us. I guess we're doing okay on our own. I would not sacrifice content and where I play for someone doing things we can do ourselves at our own pace. Throw me five million dollars, on the other hand, and I'll be a dancer for Justin Bieber.
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JW1F: Whom should we pay attention to? What as an artist do you wish I as a journalist would do for the scene?
DM: Who you should pay attention to isn't really for me to answer. That's your job. I could list all the bands in Houston I think deserve your attention but so far none of them have been neglected by the press because they're all great bands.
Black Congress plays Walter's tonight with Eyehategod.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.