Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cheapskates and Dreamers

No one seems to know what's best for themselves, including me. Most people tend to want things that have been made to seem glamorous by stereotypes and media, and the under-achievers just do as least as they possibly can, for as long as they can.

When I think back to when Lauren and I first started Agent Ribbons, I recall long nights of crafts on the living room floor, listening to music and indulging in voicing our wildest dreams. We certainly didn't think they were wild dreams at the time--in fact, we openly discussed lofty and expensive plans for the future without even a salt-shake of embarrassment, going so far as to setting tentative dates by which we might be able to afford a second apartment in San Francisco or have the means to purchase this or that for our parents and friends. The tentative dates were no more than one or two years away at the time, and we had JUST started the band!

Naivete is a real gas...

It's been exactly three and a half years since we began this project. That's not bad. We've accomplished a lot in that amount of time for having no help from record labels or booking agents or publicists. I'm very proud of what I have learned and had the privilege to experience, all thanks to being a touring musician, but I have to admit that I thought I would be adequately surviving by now! Struggle makes a person consider what they really want and what they really have a chance at achieving. I've gotten my most frivolous aspirations out of the way by now, but I'm having a hard time visualizing what it is that I actually want or expect from all of this.

Do I desire wealth?

We're not really the kind of band that can make that much money, not only because of our genre and aesthetic, but because we're not fickle with musical presentation (meaning we don't ever practice!) and I will never care enough to tamper much in these departments.

Do I expect to make a living at this?

I think that in the short term, the answer is definitely 'yes.' But when was the last time you heard about a small indie band having a retirement plan? I'm not sure of the longevity of this scenario.

Is this at all about money?

My heart wants to call out, 'absolutely not!' But on the same token, what will become of me if we don't ever make any money?

Wait, don't tell me! I've heard this one before: I will have to do SOMETHING ELSE!

Therein lies my dilemma. One of my favorite pieces of advice to give to serious aspiring artists is 'do not acquire any useful skills and you will be successful.' Now that I'm on flatter land and can see further ahead, I'm wondering if I should shut the fuck up with those kinds of suggestions. What do I know? I'm not successful enough to give advice! I'm not even old enough to rent a car, for god's sake! Come to think of it, I don't even have a driver's license (sorry, other members of my band)...

I'm always complaining that I don't have enough time to pursue my myriad of other interests, but I'm scared to death of having plenty of time to do exactly that. It's hard to imagine switching gears completely, and even though everything has been rewarding and worth while, it leaves an aftertaste of wasted time and energy.

To get back to my original theme for today's writings, though, I feel like there has never been a point where I actually wanted what was good for me. Being in a touring band is not really in my best interest, but it's what I have wanted for so long. I wish I was smart like Aaron Ross, who has an adorable family and solid employment and lives in the beautiful mountains and still makes music that wrecks me when he finds a bit of spare time. He doesn't seem to worry about what his music will achieve and just lets it flow out into the world on its own merits, unsolicited. I don't know if his setup is credited to smarts or just cosmic wisdom, but whatever it is, I ain't got it!

Maybe we all become more practical with the passage of time. I hear that's the idea, but other than discovering cooking, The Velvet Underground and quilting, not all that much has rearranged in me since the turn of the century, seems like. I am more practical with money, even though I don't have any. Maybe that's the first step towards getting some! I've learned to be as generous as I can afford with what I have since my life is possible due to the kindness of others, but to be conservative and resourceful when necessity absolutely requires.

Another important lesson (and I'm making this a separate paragraph to draw your eye here because this is the good stuff!): There's a big difference between spending as least money as possible and being cheap. A BIG DIFFERENCE.

Constantly buying inexpensive things because they are the cheapest is not intelligent. Sometimes, cheap stuff is the best way to go because there is no money to spend in the first place. However, going with something that costs a little more can often save you money later, and that's just as good as saving money now because you're probably not going to have money next week!

This is even sometimes true for going out for a meal. When I'm on the road, if I eat crappy stuff on a couple of occasions in a row because it costs less than something a few dollars more, I will pay in other ways. Usually, this will effect how good my body feels, how good of a mood I am in, and soon I will be hungry again. This is just one example. Cheapery annoys me more and more these days...

So there! I guess I know what's good for me at least once in a while. I think I'll stop while I'm ahead so that you can mull over this sage advice and not think I'm a total mess!


1 comment:

  1. god. you know, i admire you. you and lauren. i really do. and i love you both.
    i can't even imagine doing what you both do.
    with the little that i am doing with the band, i already feel overwhelmed.

    love you natalie. hang in there.