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 7: The indecision of semantics and vague terms
We took three new songs, “Stuck”, “Privileges”, and “If Good Guys Win, What’s That Make Me” to an open mic at (where else?) Diamonds for what we hoped was going to be the start of the next chapter in the band and the continuation of our ascension to a band of consequence in the Maui scene. We wanted to continue to unlock the doors we’d been prying open before with playing to the underage crowd, pioneering new venues for rock shows, and generally helping to build a scene in the area that was accessible to more than bar bands and people playing Jack Johnson covers to tourists (no offense to Mr. Johnson intended). We were building our set, and these songs represented the jumping off point of new material and a new sound for us with me as the front man and an expanded role for all the instruments. Dan was not only becoming sharper with his chops but he was becoming more inventive with his parts. Stops, experimenting with the roles of cymbals and toms in building and creating presence, Dan was a hell of a drummer at this point, but he still maintained his metal influences and really drove the power of the songs we were writing. Ryan was filling in vocals and matching me step for step, using the bass as a lead instrument. I played the songs straight up the middle on the guitar. As it always really had been, but now more than ever, what defined The Mobius Project’s sound was the inventiveness of the rhythm section.
There were several other bands coming out and really making a splash in the rock scene on Maui at this time. Moth was blowing up from their Battle of the Bands win, Minor Setback had scored an opening gig for the Bad Brains at the Hard Rock Café when they’d come through, Order of the White Rose, who had been a round for a while, was playing with some of the new comers and adjusting their set up, and most interestingly Owaila was beginning to play shows.
Owaila (pronounced: O-vai-la; Hawaiian for “Who?”) was a rock outfit who neatly wrapped their Hawaiian influences up in real driving music. They were popular guys and it didn’t take them long to have some great recordings and a real following. Dan and I saw them at their first show, and we knew right away that this would be a band to connect with. We also happened to know that the band had been accepted to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas the following year, and would be putting on some fund raising gigs. The open mic at Diamond’s that we chose for our new beginning was chosen in part because it was MC’d by the drummer from Owaila, and we’d had a few conversations with him about possibly filling opening slots at those gigs if he liked us.
Because of the venue, and our previous experience there, we chose to go a little stripped down for the gig. I bought an acoustic-electric guitar and we spent most of our time arranging and practicing the songs as acoustic songs, but with a plugged in bass and subdued, but full, drum kit. What we were counting on was the energy of the music we brought. A lot rested on me to convey that energy through the vocals and my performance.
But in the end it was all of us that brought it that night. We played our three-song set to a raucous reception, particularly from that of Mike, the Owaila drummer, who told us we were “just what they’d been looking for”. All in all it seemed like things were on their way up and couldn’t get much better.
Looking back now on what happened next I can’t help, as useless an exercise as I know it is, but ask “what if?”
After the Diamond’s open mic we practiced a couple more times, and then took what felt like a well-deserved break. Dan and I being teachers, we had time off around Christmas, and I chose to go to New York to pursue a long-lost relationship with a girl whom I’d known since I was 19, and had reconnected with recently. Dan was in a new relationship of his own, which was getting serious fast and would eventually play into the outcome every bit as much as my own situation.
While I was in New York I received a phone call from a solo female singer/songwriter, Stef, who we had known from the Battle of the Bands, and whom I had spoken to since about doing something together at some point in the spirit of collaboration. In the call she asked about following up on that request, and suggested that there was the possibility of doing something big arising through some people she knew who were promoting shows on the island. I spoke to the guys and we agreed we were interested, and that we would talk more when we reconvened on Maui after the holidays.
Vacation seemed to treat us all very well, and within a couple of weeks we were all back and ready to look into this new musical project. Our open mics went on the back burner for the moment due to pressing work schedules, as well as what was described to us as the impending nature of the potential gigs with Stef. She explained to us that people she knew in a local promotion company were putting together a series of gigs on Maui, and had invited her to play. She and they didn’t feel that her solo style was appropriate for the size of the show they wanted to put on, so she was looking for a band to help her out. If it went well there was the potential for more gigs in the future. She told us it was more than just being her backing band, however, she wanted to collaborate with us, having us infuse her songs with our sound, and possibly even do a couple of our own with her stamp on them. We agreed that this seemed like a worth-while task and, as the shows she was telling us about were a lot sooner than the potential Owaila gigs, which weren’t supposed to be till the summer, we set to work with Stef a couple days a week working on her material, although we still practiced on our own occasionally just to keep up with our own set progression and tinkering with the album idea we’d had.
What the time with Stef turned into was a far cry from anything we expected. Stef was really only comfortable playing her own material, and struggled to play anything that she hadn’t written. She wasn’t able to explain what the actual chords and music she was playing was, and she only played structures as they made sense to her, and some of her songs were difficult to discern patterns to. We had success with a couple of songs, and Ryan followed some of her other material better than I was able to, but the end result was that it was taking us a long time to get a set together. We took on a few covers just to have a common beginning point with songs we were learning, and focused on those and the few songs we were able to play together. Some of our songs that we discussed playing I was taking the lead on simply because she wasn’t able to follow our structures either.
And the show dates kept moving and becoming more vague. What was originally a February show then became a March show, and then became completely unknown. Between those frustrations, my work schedule, and a growing certainty that my time on Maui was coming to a close, I began to feel like we were wasting our time with Stef.
When I broke the news to the band that I was going to move to New York in the summer I agreed to stay on long enough to see this first show through and Stef, Ryan, and Dan discussed going on as a three-piece after my departure. But even with my reduced responsibilities and withdrawn role I still couldn’t understand the wonky nature of what we were supposed to be accomplishing. I became frustrated with the fact that it seemed like we were becoming just what I hadn’t wanted us to be: Stef’s backing band. And furthering my frustration was the fact that it felt like it was happening simply due to her lack of desire and ability to meet us half way on the material. She gave us songs and if we were able to follow them then we made them into good songs. If we couldn’t find the song in what she gave us then we struggled and she could offer no help. We were getting lost, and other than getting to play music I was coming to view band practice as something that was adding stress to my already stressed schedule. I left the band.
I didn’t feel like I had any other choice. They decided to rename themselves because it didn’t feel like the Mobius Project without me, and in truth it hadn’t felt like that for me since we started working with Stef. They carried on for a little while longer, even going so far as to follow Stef along to one of her solo gigs to add some simple backing with hand drums and bass, but they eventually called it quits too. Dan’s relationship was coming to a tipping point, and without the driving enthusiasm and direction the band had had before Ryan’s responsibilities seemed to take his time away too. Real life set in, and the band was forced to give way.
Epilogue: In a city of a thousand stories
In the end Dan and I both left Maui. The circumstances surrounding the final days, and apparently some stuff that had been building for a little while, lead to a split that was less than amicable. What once was a close friendship, the closest to having a brother I’ve ever had, instead is now a frosty divide. Ryan still lives there with his wife and son, and I assume has gotten back to his normal adventurous self minus being in a band. The Maui music scene plugged along and several of the bands we knew have grown or changed, or not, and things aren’t much different than when we were there, or so it seems from the outside.
I’m contemplating the future of the idea of The Mobius Project. I’m living in NYC and, having once been in a small pond where even being a small fish felt big, I just don’t see myself giving another go at the band set up. Who knows what the future holds, but I can’t see it coming together and meshing with life like it did before.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up on music all together, and that’s what I’m working out, I guess. I don’t know what’s going to become of the Mobius Project now, but I know that it can still be for me what it was originally intended to be: a way to bring creativity into my every day life. I tell this story because it’s the story of my musical journey so far, with respect to the people and incidents that got me making music in the first place. It’s relatively short because the time period it covers was relatively short. But I’m at a place where I’m contemplating what to do next, and as so often happens, I’m looking back to decide how to move ahead. But if there’s anyone out there that’s even read this far, I imagine you must be asking yourself why you should even care about this story, so I guess that’s what I’ve come to.
I said in the beginning that I felt like this story, as much as there are parts of it I’m more than happy to leave behind, is a room of open doors. There’s a lot of open topics here that I’m considering lately: friendship, family, accomplishment, creativity, identity, music and art, love, frustration…it’s like a room with many walls, all covered in murals, and lots of doors. Each door allows me to look backwards on the structure from a completely different perspective and to see something entirely different. And each comes with it’s own set of emotions. But I guess everyone has a story that works like that for them; everyone has their “room of doors” story. This one’s just mine…well, one of them anyway.