I remember driving home from Little Rock. It was quiet for a while, as we tried to process yet another disastrous end of a tour. Then we covered up our stress with lots of jokes and laughter. We were always good at laughing, no matter what we were going through. Part of our name, “The Undeserving” come from the acknowledgement that what we got to do was a gift. We didn’t do anything to deserve to travel the country and play music, and we always remembered that. The truth is the wind had left our sails. The last few months had been a complete roller coaster. We had finally released our record, but had lost a lot of money, and missed a lot of work in the process. At this point there wasn’t a lot of direction. We were constantly sending our record to music magazines and publications hoping for a spark. The idea of recording more songs was pretty much a pipe dream, we still hadn’t paid for the songs we recorded in 2011. Internally we were struggling. All of the stress and what started to look like failure had taken it’s toll. We were tired, and stressed, and searching for direction. All we knew how to do was plug away and play as many shows as we could. We were trying to stay united while our career was crumbling.
January 2012 rolled around and Brennan told us he was leaving the band to pursue his own recording business. Brennan and I had founded this band together 6 years prior, and it was emotional. It was in some senses the end of an era. We wished him the best in his new endeavor, played an uneventful but sad final show, and were faced with a decision. Keep going, or hang it up? Kyle, Jim, and our longtime sound man/tech Matt Grabowski had a side project started that eventually developed into Last of the Wildmen, and were even playing shows and did a small tour. They were all single, and had flexibility and wanted a fresh start. I was working and had a 6 month old, and couldn’t give the band the constant attention it deserved.
But the idea of some fresh chemistry was intriguing to us. We still wanted to release the songs we had recorded a year earlier, and the only prospect to do that was to keep going. We also had some very talented friends join our group. Phil Tabor had started to do some video work for us and although he was young, we all knew he was extremely talented, and a good guy too. We had made friends with some guys from Australia, Alex Malcolm and Glen Hanbury had been helping us out. Alex even came over and stayed with us for several weeks and went on the Mike Mains tour with us. They wanted to help us out and were in the early stages of setting up an indie record label. At the time I was working part time at my church, and the opportunity for a good paying full time job was a possibility. If we were to keep going as a band it meant pulling my name out of the running for the job. So this decision wasn’t just about keeping something alive and making it a hobby, it had to be for real. We had to give it our all one more time and make it worth while. We wanted to explore new territory and see what we could be creatively. We wanted to get in front of new crowds, and most of all, we wanted to have fun. Our friend Matt Grabowski moved from our tech man to our new guitar player, and we were off.
The first step was figuring out new ways to be seen and heard. We had never made a music video before, and Phil and I had an idea for a video for one of our most popular songs, “There For You”. We started putting a storyboard together and before too long we were ready to shoot. We talked my wife into being the pretty girl in the video, but we needed a beach and a pier to pull off what we had in mind. There’s a local state park near us in Ohio, and we knew to film we had to acquire permits. We called the offices, and told them our story and what we intended, and they granted us permission to film for a day on the beach and pier. We got assurance from them that permits wouldn’t be an issue and we were good to go. So we loaded up several vehicles of people, camera and light rigs, a generator, and all of our gear and headed for the beach. This particular beach was pretty secluded, and you had to use a small trail to get there. It took us about 2 hours to set up, because we could only get so close to the beach with our vehicles, so we had to carry our amps, instruments, and that god awful generator through a small line of woods, through the sandy uneven ground, and onto the beach. We had gotten our instruments plugged in and were about to start shooting the band shots when the police pulled up. And they WERE. NOT. HAPPY.
We explained the situation to them, but they weren’t hearing it. To them, we were trespassing and were all going to be cited, and they were serious. We told them we had permission from the local offices, and they said something to the effect that the local offices can’t give that permission. One of the guys on our crew came up to see what was going on. He happened to know one of the officers, and was able to calm the situation a bit. They forced us to tear down, and go home, and waited there for 2 hours while we did. Not only were we again discouraged, but now totally embarrassed for the people that came with us to help. There were probably ten of them who gave an entire day to make this happen. People that believed in us after all that we had gone through, and here we were, about to get them arrested because of our own irresponsibility. We were relieved that we weren’t in more trouble, but again sent home, tails between our legs. Phil quickly put together a storyboard for “Cheer Up”, and it became our backup plan. We filmed it in a day, and even then were told to move our stuff after we had it all set up, but that story is less interesting. We got it filmed, knowing it was really an experiment for what was to come.
Sometime in early summer we landed a corporate gig that paid well (compared to what we normally made). We all decided that instead of splitting the money we would buy one of the songs that we had recorded a year earlier. “Baby Run Away” was a power pop anthem written by mostly Kyle, and it was the most radio friendly hook fest of a song we had ever written. We were going to put all our eggs in that basket, and hope for the best, one more time.
To be continued….