Up-and-coming East Bay group Disgust Of Us (dOu), who headline at Balazo 18 Gallery in San Francisco tonight, Friday 4/11, are an example of a tireless, focused & dedicated group of young Bay Area musicians whose passion for their art overrides everything else in their lives. They're happy to be making music and playing concerts.
I recently caught up with the band members Cheryl and PJ to ask them about the trials and tribulations of being a hard working young rock band in the Bay Area these days, the BARR cooperative that they are a part of, and several other things related to Disgust Of Us. The interview begins below, past details on tonight's show.
Tonight, Friday, April 11, 2008 they perform at Balazo 18 Gallery located at 2183 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. In addition to Disgust of Us are Sister Grizzly, Project Alpha, and The Union Trade. Admission: $5. 7:00 PM Art show by Marc Tweed and Jon Weiss + 8PM bands start to play. Concert is hosted by Pacific Noise (the online Bay Area TV show), who did an interview with dOu.
AMOEBLOG: First off, for people who may know nothing about Disgust Of Us, can you tell us a little bit about when and how you formed, who is in the band, instrumentation, etc.?
PJ: A few of our friends decided it would be fun to go to an open mic and have each of us play a couple songs alone. I was in my former band at the time so that was no big deal to see them play, but I never heard Cheryl before, even though she had also been in bands in the past. After I saw Cheryl perform, I demanded that she do something with music. She said she would try if I played with her, but that she had quit playing with people for the last 3 years for a reason, and was hesitant. So there it started in late 2005, and we began writing songs at a feverish pace. We had our first bass player vanish into thin air, we searched for drummers for months only to realize that someone loosely associated with our friends was a mad sweet drummer - Sam Banker. Sam played with us a few times and agreed to join the project. Then we put an ad out for a bassist and we found Lisa Carhart, whose chops boosted our sound. So for almost two years, the four of us played shows around the Bay Area and down south. Toward the end of this time, Lisa decided she needed to focus more on her gainful employment. So in her absence, Laura Bagnato, a friend I knew from back East that moved here a year after I did, will be taking over the bass slot. We have enjoyed playing with everyone that has been a part of this and we look forward to playing with Laura. We look forward to what we hope will be fun times.
AMOEBLOG: When did you release the CD you have out and are there other recordings?
PJ: We’ve never had an official release for Our Error since we finished the 10-song recording in July 2007, but we leaked the CD out to friends and whoever came out to a show and asked for one. We also just started selling it on our websites, meaning, it was available online yesterday. We do have a 3-song demo, but good luck trying to find it. I don’t think I even have a copy. The three songs that are on it were re-recorded on Our Error so it makes the original demo obsolete.
Cheryl: …or worth more.
AMOEBLOG: In your opinion, what specifically of Disgust Of Us' music makes it unique?
Cheryl: This probably counts in a more indirect way, but we are half East Coast (Maryland) and half Bay Area (Oakland), so the influences and styles from each region/culture as a combination definitely factor into our sound. What I hear from the audience is that they can’t pinpoint a genre or even come up with an adequate description of the music, but neither can we. It’s time for new schools and neologisms anyway. I’m sick of the boxing of everything in to the past. We are always growing and creating our sound. Connecting to a vocal or instrumental melody is pretty important to me and as a band we try to make that aspect of the music as intense as we can.
PJ: I think first and foremost, honesty has been the main key for us. We play what we feel suits our emotional states and what comes out inevitably sounds different from what we hear from other bands. It’s an interesting chemistry that I can’t really explain, because I don’t know exactly how it works. I don’t think I want to know how it works. It’s like economics, no one can really fix it, you just do what you can and watch it go, hoping for the best.
AMOEBLOG: What is the most rewarding factor of doing what you do as a band?
PJ: The complete exhaustion of output. When you feel completely spent from doing something you love, that is one of the best feelings you can experience. The more progress dOu makes, the more tired we get, and I love that. Being wiped out from working 9-5 for someone else just makes you old. Following your passion makes you a tired 5-year old, only to wake in 5 minutes excited about everything. I love all we do as a band down to hand-making CDs, passing out flyers, talking to bookers, and answering these questions.
Cheryl: This band restores my hope that you can actually do something fun and live in this society. It’s hard work because we all have full-time jobs and try to play out 2-3 times a month, and practice 2 times a week, and when we are not asleep or playing our instruments, we are maintaining the back end of the project – all the CD material, flyers, merch, web pages, promotion, booking, strategizing…a day job becomes merciless on one’s energy when you are virtually maintaining a small business after your paid work day is done. We just want to avoid monotony and have a good time. Live shows do that for me, as does meeting people that wish to enrich their life in as many ways as possible. I want to see that more, that’s who I want to be around. Day-to-day life as it is doesn’t seem to offer that. We would work 24 hours a day for this because we are serious about finding the potential in ourselves for selfish reasons, for each other, and for those willing to listen. I don’t want or need to be passive and bored, and if the music thing works out, I’m definitely not stopping there.
AMOEBLOG: You guys are hard-working, always playing shows. What has that experience been like and what have you learned from plugging away at your art?
PJ: It’s been hectic but playing live is always rewarding. We thrive as a live band and sometimes that is our main motivation. There have definitely been some disasters and it’s embarrassing to play to your moms and maybe two others. But sometimes strangers show up and make everything seem less about impressing your moms. We are learning how to be more careful about the bills we choose and where we play, and just when we think we have it all under control, we book a show that ends up hurting our morale. But fuck it, we like playing live with anyone, anywhere.
AMOEBLOG: What do you think of the Oakland and SF club scenes right now? Is it easy to get booked and what is the support network like among other artists and music fans?
PJ: I think the scene is alive and people are going out and having fun. The problem is there are a lot of bands and a lot of band trends. Pressure from bookers forces bands to try to achieve a particular sound and the clubs don’t encourage originality. The positive thing about the Bay Area scene is that it’s so big that there will always be pockets of really exciting and interesting music. It never hurts to be in an area with a historically rich past. I also think the Bay Area scene is the most relaxed out of the major music markets.
Cheryl: Oakland’s scene is either undernourished or very underground – it’s hard to find anything fun to do when the venues are scarce and hardly anyone wants to cross the bridge for whatever reason. I wish there were more outdoor day or nighttime fests to go to in Oakland, more communal events. The warehouse scene hasn’t been easy for us. Maybe we don’t fit in anywhere. Maybe we aren’t avant-garde enough or pop enough. The SF scene is hard to access because of the vastness of it, there are tons of bands and the bigger venues are choosy. Needless to say, there’s elitism and favoritism everywhere. Booking is more about the who’s who game and we aren’t popular, so that is a roadblock. However, we’ve been able to book a couple shows a month through our own guile, so maybe we are doing all right. Our fans are mostly our friends mixed in with a handful of strangers that happen upon us, and they give us cherished support.
AMOEBLOG: Disgust Of Us formed at a time when the music industry was (is) undergoing some major changes. You have been around in a time when CDs are not selling like they once used to but when getting music out there via the likes of MySpace, etc. has made things much more accessible. Do you think overall bands like you are better off in this new digital music age or does it just make it much more competitive than ever?
PJ: There will be a lot of positives and negatives. Kids from affluent families will have a huge advantage with money, time and resources. Most importantly, I think it will come down to writing good music. Bands will probably have to learn how to make more money at their live shows and maybe act more as theatrical companies. Labels will become less and less prominent and management or production teams will be a bigger influence. The important thing for us is that we’re not a money-driven band, and we just want to play all over and make sound recordings. We would love to be able to focus solely on music so we will have to be creative in attaining that.
Cheryl: This change was inevitable, so musicians need to have more to offer because of the democratization of the means of production and increased accessibility. Anyone can make an album and put it out there, so there is more to listen to than ever. In this sea of noise, you have to stand out. I fear the introverted will suffer. Standing out has to do with having a solid sound, working hard, having money to invest in the project, and those with resources are more likely to survive. Nowadays you need talent, charisma, business sense, capital, PR skills, web savvy, recording expertise, and overall stamina to stay visible, so it is competitive, and everyone will be forced to evolve. Maybe that means musicians will have more control over their work, be able to make money off of more than CD sales, and be their own boss. That isn’t as easy as getting signed and watching the royalty checks flow in. It’s really about taking ownership of the entire process, which is pretty daunting, but cool.
AMOEBLOG: Can you tell me a bit about the Bay Area rock cooperative that you are a part of: Bay Area Rock and Roll (aka BARR)?
Cheryl: BARR is a bunch of bands that we are all friends with. We decided to join together to create a scene that promotes musical diversity within that scene. We wanted to break away from scenes based on conformity and just help each other. It’s about increasing each other’s draws, cross-promotion, pooling resources and having a great time at each others’ shows. Right now it includes us, Superfinos VTO, Raised by Robots, Papersons, and Long Thaw. You can check it all out at bayarearnr.com.
PJ: The BARR bands don’t fit into prefabricated scenes. It’s not about a specific sound; it’s more about good music and a strong work ethic.
AMOEBLOG: What can be expected at your concert tonight?
PJ: Intensity ten times. One struggled over word, split sighs of ugly remarks, and hopefully some smiles.
Cheryl: Expect a variety of religious experiences. And clown tears.
AMOEBLOG: Any shout outs or things to add?
PJ: Hi, Mom and Dad, all my love from California.
Cheryl: I love you, Mom. Thanks for this, Billy Jam. Smiles to all the people that have fun with us and make me laugh.
For more information on dOu and samples of their music, visit the Disgust Of Us MySpace.