ROCK & REPRISE.NET
Just when things looked like they were coming together, things started to fall apart. Jud's brother Joe announced that he was quitting the band and applying for law school. It took the whole band by surprise.
“The timing was weird because we had just gone to Nashville,” said Jud. “We had a music attorney up there who had set up meetings with the William Morris Agency and Sony and Universal and ASCAP--- people like that. So we went up for a couple of days and met with all these bigwigs. They were telling us they liked our music and gave us all their contact info. Basically, we got advice on what we needed to do. And a week after we got back, Joe has this epiphany and says I don't want to do this anymore. It was weird that it happened right at that time. Right when everything was looking up. I said what do you mean? What have you been putting in all of this time and effort for?
“Joe could probably give you a better answer as to why, but I'm sure it had a lot to do with me and the way I was as a band leader. I used to be kind of rigid and if he didn't do what he was supposed to do, I would get on him. He's pretty sensitive when it comes to things like that. He probably took a lot of things personally that were just business to me. Like, you're supposed to put up flyers today and why haven't you. Little things like that.
“That and I don't think he was quite ready to commit to something the way Logan and I were. I want to chase the dream.”
Indeed, he wasn't. In fact, the decision to leave the band was a personal one not really having to do with the band.
“I left because my heart really wasn't in it,” Joe said. “I wasn't interested in playing a bunch of shows, taking band pictures, updating websites, and all the other things that are necessary to make it as a small town indie rock band. That whole life style wasn't appealing to me. I was dividing my time pretty evenly between school and music and, as a result, felt pretty average at both. I decided I needed to pick one. I felt bad about it for a while, but now I am 100% sure that I made the right decision.”
“I think if we had been successful right off the bat,” Jud continued, “if we had landed a label deal, everything would have been fine and it might have worked out, but that's not how it happened. It is sad to me because I felt like he went through all the shit, the bad gigs and now it feels like we're on the uphill. I wish he could have enjoyed more of the successes. I know he enjoyed reading some of the reviews we got from the self-titled album, but I don't think he got to enjoy some of the later things.
“But I think Joe is happy now. He wants to do his own thing and has his own band, Bobcat. It looks like he's going to law school and will be doing that whole deal. I think he's in a good spot and that makes me happy.”
Joe's leaving put the band in a bad spot, though. While they had few gigs scheduled, it took the wind out of their sails. Jud and Logan put their heads together to figure out the next step. Jud had a handful of songs ready to record, but without Joe...
California, Here They Come.....
Afraid of losing the momentum they were gaining, they opted to record the songs, only in Los Angeles. They had made contacts and needed the change of scenery and, what the hell, their songs were mostly guitar anyway, so they scheduled a close to month-long session and headed to Southern California.
They thought the changing of scenery would take the edge off and at first looked upon it as a working vacation, but there was a lot of money involved and the pressure soon began taking a toll. They had borrowed to make this happen and, besides that, they were not really a band at that point. Until they had another guitarist--- not just another guitarist, but a guitar player who became a member of the band--- they were in a limbo of sorts.
The sessions started out tentatively and went downhill from there. The music was fine. It was the feel--- as if they were not in control. In fact, at times as if they were spinning out of control.
“We were working with Jason Hollis and Warren Riker,” said Jud, “who were kind of self-proclaimed recording experts. Warren had three Grammys, which was appealing to us, and Jason had allegedly been instrumental in getting a deal for a band called The Pink Spiders and they sounded like they were excited to record us. Now, we didn't really like any of the bands Warren had worked with, but Jason was kind of our life coach, trying to help us get to where we wanted to be.
“So I guess, to make a long story short, at that time and as a band, we really didn't know what we were going to do. Joe had left and at the same time, Blake, our drummer, didn't seem to be into it anymore, so really it was just Logan and I. We were trying to find a guitar player and that wasn't going so well. We decided we could record even without the second guitar and drums, but we had to borrow a lot of money and that made us uncomfortable. We decided to do it anyway.
“There was a lot of pressure on us and at the same time Jason was saying how much he liked our band and how we should get together with someone who could help us go in the direction that we needed to, recording-wise. So we said, okay, fuck it. Let's just do it. We went out there without Blake because he just didn't want to go. We had money to pay for him, but he refused.
“So Logan and I went out to L.A. and hired a drummer. We had decided we were going to do a three-song EP and release it as the Research Turtles. By that time, we had been working with Hollis for three or four months. He had some really good ideas and gave us some good advice. We learned a lot.
“We went out there and met Warren, who seemed pretty cool, and the next day we had a pre-production meeting. When we came in, the first thing he did was smoke a bowl. I mean, I don't like drugs, especially when I have work to do. I didn't think that was very professional of him and maybe showed it and things went downhill from there. He had written a bunch of notes on a toilet paper roll, what he wanted us to do on the songs. And he put it on the wall for all to see. This was Riker.
“We we went into the studio and Riker said things like do this and this is wrong so do this. I said, I don't like it. I like it the way we had it. He said, well, that's wrong. It won't sound as good. Try it this way. He was rearranging the songs and making them more complicated. And the songs weren't better.
“He kept giving me shit for arguing with him. He had this kind of mentality where he seemed to see the talent in the band and was going to nurture it and everything would be better for it. Riker and Hollis both had that attitude. I'm sure they were thinking, they are a good band and if we make them better, we'll get credit or whatever. That was the vibe I got. They were trying to control the songs and took them in directions that neither Logan nor I agreed with at all. They kept saying, that's okay, we can always go back and change it, but let's at least try it.
“Well, we were trying everything and I would look at Logan and say, why? I mean, in a producer's role, I expected them to try things but pull ideas from all of us. The way they did it, it felt like we were being bossed around and I don't like that at all. I mean, if we were a young band and needed the guidance, okay, but it wasn't like that. I was thinking, hey, we're going to pay you thousands of dollars to let you boss us around? I wish I would have said, thanks, but we're going to do it our way. But we're out in California and on their turf and still not used to everything.
“They were going to bring record people in to talk with us in the studio. Just so we could shake hands with them and get on their radar. I think the first person they brought in was Andy Lurie (110 Management, who works with Evanescence, Shooter Jennings, and The Duhks, among others). We kind of hit it off. He was a really nice guy. He seemed to really like the music we were doing even though we weren't at the time too pleased with it. We talked a little about him maybe managing us, but the last day, when we were mixing, he asked me how I thought it was going and at the time I thought we were going to be able to re-record some of the tracks, so I said okay. That was the last time we talked.”
Logan's take: “The whole time, we were on edge. I think we were delusional. We were trying to convince ourselves that things were cool. Like, these guys know so much more than us and we're spending so much money, let's stay in good spirits. When we talked with people, we basically faked it--- like, if we act like we're in a good mood, it will maybe be a positive thing in the end. That, I think, turned into a month of us faking these awesome moods. When we got back and saw that we were still not happy, the scale tipped in the other direction. We shut down.
“In L.A., we worked and lived under super-stressful conditions. We had to be close or we both would have gone nuts. When we got back, we didn't talk to one another for at least two months, and I'm talking even casual conversation to see what was up. It was shut off. And I didn't pick up my guitar for that entire period. We both went into recluse mode.
“When we finally did get together, we began airing our souls about everything that had happened.
“We ran into a guy who used to photograph the band, Chad Whited, and told him how fucked up our trip was. Everyone we had told had been looking at the whole thing like we were going to be signed to a big record deal and it was like the best vacation anyone has ever been on. After we got back, when people asked us about it, we would just say, yeah, it was cool and let it drop. So when this photographer sat down with us, we told him about what a terrible experience it had been and how we were trying to get through it.
“He bought a pitcher of beer and we started talking about doing a show. Like maybe we could do a benefit. That was when we started getting excited again. That was also when we started looking for another guitarist. Everything started to kick back in--- a solid three months after we got back from L.A.
“See, we needed to talk. We ended up saying, hey, we had a bad experience there and here is what we learned. A summation of the entire conversation was we're not going to be happy if we're not playing music and we're willing to work our asses off to make it a career. We realized that we do get each other and we know what we want, so why aren't we doing it?”
It was a million dollar experience, evidently, that neither would go through again for a million dollars. The time off was a time of serious soul searching. And trying to figure out what to do next.
“We were going to release the recordings as an EP, like we'd first planned,” Jud said, “but then I thought better of it. I was a mental wreck for a good three months. I didn't trust anyone. I sat there and tried to work everything out in my head, wondering what the fuck I was going to do. It was the worst feeling in the world to produce an album I didn't like and have so much pressure to release it, you know? I can't even put it into words.
“So I was sitting here and going over everything one step at a time. Like, just what happened? I didn't want to talk with anybody about the trip and at the same time, Jason was calling saying, hey, we got to release this, we have to get the artwork done, blah-blah-blah and I was saying, yeah, we'll get there. Finally, Logan came over and I told him, we can't do this album. I don't want this released. It just doesn't feel right. The big factor was that we like Jason and didn't want to lose him, but in the end we decided to take that risk.
“That's the thing. We were having dinner with Hollis and Riker in Los Angeles one day and there was a comment from them about, well, we're just looking out for our best interests as well. I could see that. Finally, though, I called Jason and said we really like working with you but we're not going to release it. I halfway expected him to go ballistic, but he said, no, I totally understand. You have to do what feels right.
“That's the way the whole thing happened and now, looking back on it, I am so glad we did it. I mean, I kept thinking we wasted all that money but the experience we had, as dramatic as it was, gave us something money can't buy. You know what I mean? I feel like, having gone through that, I came out okay. I mean, if nothing else, I know I will never be out in that situation again. Doing something I don't agree with. Ever. Now I know better where to put my foot down. And I know my limits. For the longest time, I was furious. I had never had anyone sit there and say you have to do things this way. I was doing mixes with them and would try to tell them to put this in and Riker would say, okay, later. Then, at the end, he didn't do any of the things I had requested.
“But lately I've had a change of heart, to a degree. I think that maybe they were doing what was in their best interests. I mean, from Warren's perspective, if he could produce three songs and have us go, 'Man!', then he could do the whole record. There would be something in it for everybody.
“I would hope that the fact that we didn't release the EP might change their attitude in the studio, that they would rethink how they treated us. I can imagine how Warren feels, working three weeks of his life trying to make the record sound as good as he could and then we call and say, sorry, we're not releasing it. That's almost a slap in the face.”
Andy Lurie? They never heard back, in spite of emails and phone calls.
“I contacted Lurie after we got back, but he never responded. It got to the point where I thought that maybe something had happened. Like maybe something had happened with his mother, who was not well when we had talked. But he didn't respond at all. I finally got pissed because even if something had happened, he had plenty of time to get back to me and not leave me hanging.”
When asked if he thought that not releasing the EP might have had something to do with it, Jud gave a mental shrug. It was obviously in the past. Jud was looking forward. But not before one last explanation.
“I can see it from both sides now and it seems a bit clearer,” he went on. “And it is not as personal as it seemed at the time. You can't blame them. I think they did it that way because that's the way they knew how to do it.
“I was going in open-minded, I thought, but the fact that they didn't listen... I started thinking I wasn't a good musician because I couldn't take directions. It was almost like they threw me a test and I failed. I felt like I choked. Because I wasn't coming up with any creative ideas. I shut down. I was letting them put all of their ideas into the music and it was really unnerving. I felt really tiny. And there were people coming in and going out all the time. I didn't want to meet people. I wanted to get some work done.
“I think the only person I talked with at that time, besides Logan, was my dad. It got to the point that I would wake up and think, today is going to suck. After three or four of the twenty-one days we were there, I said, okay, I'm just going to do what he (Riker) says. That was really the only way I could get through it. I couldn't keep fighting if they were going to win all the time. It felt like they were strong-arming us the whole time.
“The original plan was for Hollis and Riker to come to Dockside, where we recorded our first album, but they were resistant. They made the excuse that they had never worked at that studio before. If I had had any brains, I would have forced the issue because we felt so comfortable there. But it didn't happen.”
Chapter One: The
Boys From Lake Charles