The story of a band you never heard of and never cared about told just because I can.
This story is an multi-chapter non-fiction short story based on my own personal musical journey. It’s not intended to disrespect anyone, but I feel it presents a pretty fair account of events that happened across the few years I developed the idea for, and eventually the band named, The Mobius Project. It was written mostly in one sitting, and finished in a short second, based on a personal desire to reflect, and is presented here with few edits and revisions. I’m open to all comments, no matter what you have to say.
Thanks for reading.
Ch 3: “Velocity makes balance possible”
I spoke to the people at my school about bringing Dan on to work there and I watched the newspapers for job openings that he might be interested in. Bringing Clint out was out of the question because he had a family in TN and had just built a house, but Dan was younger and mobile. He visited over the winter break and we even rented a drum kit from a local music shop, pretty much the only local music shop, and took over a classroom at my school for a couple days to jam…loudly. Eventually we found him a job, although sadly not at my school, and a year almost to the day after I arrived, Dan landed in Maui.
The plan was to spend several months practicing and then start performing. We took an old workshop that was attached to our house and turned it into our practice space, lovingly referring to it as “The Shop”. With all of our instruments and gear set up in there, blankets and cardboard put on the walls and carpets on the floors, we set immediately to work practicing and arranging my material to put together a set. I’d been doing my leg work getting to know the scene, the venues, the people, and although it wasn’t encouraging for two would-be rockers amongst all the Jawaiian, Reggae, cover bands, and the fact that almost all music was played in bars, there were signs of hope in musicians like Erin Smith, her later band The Throwdowns, bands like The Cities Love You and Lava, and some of the venues that hosted a variety of music like Mulligan’s. We weren’t going to even bother gathering other musicians before we got started. We’d both been jaded by the process of waiting on chance to deliver the right artistic collaborator into your lap, and we decided we were going to just plow ahead as a two-piece. I would sing and play guitar, Dan would play drums. We were determined to make it work, and if it attracted other people to the project, then so much the better. The initial months of practice dragged on however, as my song writing isn’t really conducive to just drums and guitar without a lot of complication, and I was a very hesitant singer. When I’d been singing with Invisible No More I hadn’t been playing guitar at the same time. And when I’d been doing the two simultaneously before INM it had just been an acoustic guitar. There was a whole level of emotion that I hadn’t tapped into that was necessary for this set up that I was struggling to reach, and the more we practiced, the more I simply sank back into playing guitar and told myself I had to get one thing right before I could begin the other. We stagnated a little bit and our march towards playing shows slowed down. Eventually the “few months” we discussed became an open-ended goal of “when we’re ready”.
Eventually, at Dan’s urging, I agreed to take on a singer. At least with someone else handling the singing duties I could concentrate on playing guitar and really try to make that special rather than having divided attention, I figured. But Alison, who was also a teacher at the Montessori school I worked at, and I didn’t see eye to eye about the musical direction of the band right from the start. Dan was enthusiastic about having a female singer because he was into girl-fronted bands and because he thought it offered something different. Personally I did prefer a male voice, but was willing to give it a shot if it could get us out of the rut we were in. But there were arguments about her having to sing my songs, about me feeling like she was too hesitant and not actually singing out, the two of them wanted to be a little pop-ier than I did, I got picky, she got defensive, Dan would stay out of it, and practices blew up into arguments.
Eventually there came a point where I told the both of them that I was willing to drop all the rest of my songs. We agreed we’d continue to play the ones we’d already learned, and that seemed to quiet things for a while. When we started writing from scratch together there were still arguments about lyrics and musical direction, but some of those tensions resulted in what I felt were some amazing songs. I still wrote all the music, and just kept my nose out of lyrics, and Dan and I would do arrangements together, and things kinda clicked along for a while. I didn’t agree with all the decisions that were made, but several songs in particular came out of this period that I consider to be some of the finest music I’ve ever written. “Worth” and “Jane” are two of the songs the three of us wrote together that, although there might be things I’d personally change about them, I happily claim my hand in them.
We tried to exploit social media as much as possible. Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, ReverbNation, anything we felt we could use to put ourselves out there we used. Dan and I created a website that I was damn proud of. The Mobius Project became an outlet for my writing, visual art, video making, and music…and we hadn’t even played a show yet!
But this was still a bit of a sticking point. We didn’t know how to go about getting our name out or booking shows, but Dan and I especially both felt the pull to do just that. We wanted to be a rallying point for a rock scene, especially for young kids who were mostly excluded from the music scenes in Maui because of the bars-as-venues norm around the island. We wanted to change that. But how to even start?
The idea came up to begin doing acoustic gigs in the park as a way of introducing ourselves. We made up some fliers, announced it through social media, and began every couple of weeks going into a park in the late afternoon to play. The first time we did it two people came. That was fine with us. We were doing it for the passers-by as much as those that knew about us already. We video taped the performance and released a few videos through our website and YouTube. Then we switched to a busier park. That landed us in the middle of some regulars, as well as some groundswell enthusiasm, and some of my favorite evenings of the park performances. People would stop and listen, and recommend places for us to play or people to talk to. But mostly they just liked to listen. We were only doing acoustic stuff, sometimes with hand drums, sometimes with a tiny drum kit that was pretty much just a snare and a cymbal or a tambourine (or both), but it got people into our songs that wouldn’t have otherwise stopped to listen to us play a full-on rock show. I felt connected to people through my music. When we played a song I had written, or music that was mine, and people responded, I felt tremendous.
Our first “break” if you will came through a friend. Pete, who had been the guitarist for Lava (pronounced “La-wa”) before they split, had a new band, Fish Tank. I knew him because he was a diving instructor for my students. He offered us an opening spot for Fish Tank on a Friday at a bar that had not too long before been renovated and who was trying to get more live music into their weekly rotation. It wasn’t the perfect venue for us, but it was a gig…a foot in the door to the scene. And boy, did we land on Diamonds like a ton of bricks.
Diamonds was not a huge place, but Dan is a huge drummer. Not physically mind you, but he’s a loud man behind the kit. When Dan lays into a snare, they know it for miles around. I’m no slouch myself, but I kept turning up to hear myself over him in the small space and crowded stage, and the sound guy kept wanting me to turn down so that he could run me through the house speakers instead. It was a constant back and forth, with dirty looks and all. Regardless of the internal struggle taking place, there was a small but full house there to see us and we went over well. Some people who’d just been there for the usual Friday drinking were a little confused by the appearance of this alternative/alt-metal influenced/existential rock band, but the majority of people responded really well to us. It was the highest point so far, and that’s what I’d really hoped to get out of the night. Of course I was shaking like anything because I already have stage nerves, and I’d begun drinking energy drinks early in the day so that I was sure to be awake, and all I’d had to eat that day was some eggs an hour or so before the show, but I got out of it alive and well, and inspired.
After the Diamonds gig, we put out more videos (in the form of a series vidcast), pictures, artwork, tweets, and website updates while we figured out our next move. It was great having an ongoing project that brought the artistic creativity into my daily life that I seemed to need the direction the band offered in order to draw out of me.
Gigs, however, were hard to come by on the island for all the reasons previously mentioned, but one of our best happened to come to us. I received a phone call from a guy who owned a coffee stand in Kahului. It was situated in the parking lot of one of the strip malls in the main commercial district area. He was looking to do an open mic style evening that included us, but was a little hazy on the details. In the end we decided that what we really wanted to do was to create a rock show that was based around an open venue so that younger kids could come, and that featured musicians we knew and respected, including younger acts that couldn’t play in the bars. We’d seen young bands leave the island specifically for this reason (The Cities Love You) and wanted to help the scene. For Dan and I this had been one of our original goals. This was a way to make that happen.
So we advertised it as a fundraiser for the local libraries, who were struggling in the down economy, invited a singer/songwriter named David Kaye to open for us, and called it the “Rock In The Lot”. We had a great turn out at the first one, and we did this same gig several times, inviting other artists to open including a couple of kids we’d seen play at Hot Topic who called themselves Pretty Going Fast. They weren’t my style of music, but they were good kids and they were trying to do something interesting. They were exactly the kind of act we wanted to promote and give a place to play with the Rock In The Lot.
Eventually the park evenings and some of our connections yielded a gig playing the main stage in Wailuku at a First Friday event. The main stage was sponsored by a local clothing company and happened to be right across the street from the only locally owned record shop on the island, Requests. It was a great opportunity.
Between the first Rock on the Lot and the First Friday gig we made the decision that we needed a bass player. We were a three-piece, but one of those pieces wasn’t the bass. We made an attempt with a friend of ours who played guitar and volunteered to switch over to bass, but inconsistency and weed eventually did in that relationship. He would show up at a session with me to learn parts and be very creative and a quick learner, and then cancel for two weeks, only to show up at a band practice reeking of pot and unable to follow anything. He was a good guy, but he just wasn’t right for us.
There was another option, but it wasn’t so straightforward. One of the friends I’d made since arriving on the island was a guy named Ryan. I’d met him at a regular Sunday evening dinner that was open to friends and family of one of my students. A different collection of people, some regulars, some now-and-again-s, would show up each week to have dinner and chat at one family’s house. Ryan and his wife were regulars. Sometimes after dinner the guitars would come out, and from the first time I went Ryan and I hit it off. Apparently Ryan was a drummer by trade from his younger days, but he was so musically gifted that he was accomplished on drums, bass, guitar, piano, and I’m sure other instruments that I don’t know about. He’d seen us play at the first Rock In The Lot and he’d come to jam with us a couple times after that, sitting behind the drum kit while Dan noodled on guitar, or playing guitar or bass or whatever, and his wife would come along just to hang out. The two of them are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. But Ryan was a pretty busy guy, and his life had recently gotten even busier as he and his wife had their first child. But, as before, enthusiasm ruled the day. We decided to ask Ryan if he’d play with us at the First Friday gig to help us fill out our sound for the bigger stage. He missed making music so much that he agreed to make the time. Before the gig even arrived however we’d asked him to join the band permanently, and again he agreed.
Ryan’s addition to the band was a huge jump forward musically for us not only for his technical ability, but his experience, his creativity, and his general demeanor. Ryan’s addition to the band was when we became a serious band.
Next – Ch 4: Rising at one end, unravelling at the other