gas money.

The rest of the records came.

Suddenly we were swamped in piles of boxes; a thousand Melting Hopefuls and five hundred cuppa joe records, plus all the inserts and baggies and sleeves to go with them.

We had decided that cuppa joe needed a little extra oomph in the promo packages, so we went to the store and bought a bunch of packets of Taster’s Choice single-serving instant coffees.  We were going to send a promotional cup of joe with every promotional cuppa joe.  We had also stocked up on little plastic animals and stickers, and we also had bought about a half-dozen big packages of vacuum-packed coffee, which we had the guys in cuppa joe autograph in silver marker (doug autographed all his by writing “hi.  it’s doug.”).  We sent those to some of the bigger college radio stations and magazines along with the records.

At this stage we had developed a pretty exhaustive list of zines, radio stations, and other VIPs for promo packages.  On top of that, I was starting to get letters from major labels and distributors; some seemed curious as to what we were doing, and others were transparently looking for free shit, but I didn’t care – I added them all to the list.  

The cuppa joe record sounded fantastic; I was really happy for having chosen “french toast” as a B-side to “bottlerocket.”  At the same time, I felt that “bottlerocket” was the best song of all the songs we were about to release – even better than “Allnighter.”  So we began billing it as “The best song ever written.”

I wanted really badly for cuppa joe to have every possible opportunity to piggyback on the buzz generated by Melting Hopefuls.  I didn’t want them to get lost in the excitement of “Allnighter,” a record by a band with a much bigger following and a much larger group of industry-types who were aware of them.  We really found the cuppa joe guys to be charming; they had taken to calling us “Uncle Al and Aunt Sandy” in an endearing sort of way, and it really did seem like we were sort of guiding them through a bunch of processes that they didn’t understand very well.  I wanted their record to sell just as many copies as the Melting Hopefuls record – so I went overboard with little cuppa joe-related trinkets, “bottlerocket”-related hyperbole, colored vinyl, numbered editions and other things to hype up the “limited” nature of the busy work ep.

At some point I started talking about the prospect of a record release party, and Rich suggested that we book Under ACME.  We had been to the club at least a dozen times by this point, but had never actually booked a show ourselves.  I talked to Ray about it, and asked him if he thought it would be too much for me to ask if the bands played the show for free.

“Are you going to charge at the door?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “I figure I could use the money to promote the records.  I’ll charge five bucks, and if we get a hundred people to show up, it’ll be a few hundred more dollars that I can spend on promotion.”

“I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” he said.  “You’re putting out our record; the least we could do is play a show for free, especially when the money is going to help promote our record.”

I called Ralph and asked him if Footstone would play, and as Ralph always would, he said “yes” without hesitation.  Ray called Ditch Croaker and asked them to play, and they agreed.  That surprised me, but I was happy to have them.

So I called doug.  cuppa joe had never played in New York City before – the record release party for Elizabeth was the first time they had ever played North Jersey.  This time, cuppa joe would be going on much later at night, in front of a much bigger crowd than they had that evening at Live Tonight.

I explained to doug that I wanted to have a record release party at Under ACME, and then I had to explain what Under ACME was.  I told him he’d be sharing the bill with Melting Hopefuls, Footstone, and Ditch Croaker, and that it would be a joint record release party.  I explained that he’d be playing in front of a much bigger crowd than last time.

“I’ll play if someone pays me for gas money,” he said.

I nearly choked on my tongue.  I told him I’d pay him, and then hung up the phone.  “He just told me he’d only play if we gave him gas money,” I told Sandy.

Her eyes widened. “Really?” she asked.


“Call him back, tell him to have his party at City Gardens,” she said.  “Oh, wait – they can’t play City Gardens.  Their bass player is fifteen years old.  Tell him to have it in the City Gardens parking lot.”

We sort of laughed.  We were putting out their record for them, piggybacking it on another band that was far more popular, which would ensure it was exposed to lots of people who ordinarily wouldn’t have listened to it.  We were about to spend hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours promoting their record.  We were lining up a release party with three popular bands from the northern part of the state, and giving the band an opportunity to play a show in the Village, where they’d never played before.

They wanted gas money.

“Man,” I said, “That Elizabeth release party must have been a miserable experience for them,” I said.

Here’s “french toast,” by the way – the first song on the B-side of busy work:

~ by Al on February 26, 2009.

13 Responses to “gas money.”

  1. Ha! I forgot about this story. “French Toast” makes me happy when I hear it.

  2. Makes me want to sit in the sun and eat breakfast…

  3. Makes me want to put out records again. cuppa joe were so much fun.

  4. […] is nasty.  The three members of the band signed these packs in silver marker, which I described in this post.  Thankfully the single-serving Tasters Choice packs that we sent to college radio stations all […]

  5. Yikes – I don’t even remember hearing about this one. I think you should make Doug reimburse you. Hey… I drove 45 minutes up to his house before we all drove up to New York and I don’t think I ever got my share.

  6. All I remember thinking was that to ask for gas money, that Elizabeth release party must have been MISERABLE for you guys. I actually felt guilty for asking you to come up and play your own release party!

  7. Maybe Doug should chime in on this one – we were really excited about the release party, though. Sorry for the guilt. Paging Doug.

  8. Yeah, that’s great, Steve. I haven’t had any communication with Doug in 15 years. Let’s start him out by reading the post where I rag on him for asking me for gas money.

    Why not point him to one of the entries where I compliment his songwriting? Or talk about how he inspired me to do the Schoolhouse Pop record? No, let’s point him at this one first. After that, let’s point him to the one where I said you guys sucked at the Elizabeth release party. 🙂

    Let’s not forget that I did ask you guys to drive 800 miles from Trenton and play for FREE…

  9. Ha – you know, I think he’s been exploring already. And he’s smart enough to search for his own name, so he can find all the dirt – then the nice parts will seem that much sweeter.

  10. FYI the search term I used was “gas money.” Though for what it’s worth, I’ve read most of the nice entries already and whatever critical words have been written on the blog about me are probably well-earned.

    I have no recollection of this at all, by the way. But I can say that I (and perhaps we) were largely oblivious to what you were shelling out economically. If I put myself back into my wise-ass 20 something mindset, I probably thought gas money was a perfectly reasonable trade for our time and effort. My wise-ass 38 year old self, however is asking “Taster’s F’ing Choice”?!!

  11. Yes, definitely “we” – I just thought, “That’s what a record label should do – compensate us for our hard work.” Ha!

  12. Ugh. Not the best entry, as I stated, for Doug to read early on, although as perplexed as I was by the request at the time, I felt equally bad that the LAST experience where we asked you to come north and play for free (the Elizabeth party) must have been such a nightmare for you that you didn’t want to come back up again.

    But I definitely wouldn’t call myself “critical” of you, Doug. You had a lot to do with why we kept the label going, your enthusiasm for indie music was contagious and your songwriting was (and probably still is) outstanding. It always made me happy to be the guy that got to expose people to your songs and still does.

    And no, I was nowhere near the coffee snob in 1993 that I am today. Today, it’s nothing but Folgers.

  13. […] a couple of jokes about entries right here in this blog – the one where Doug asked me for gas money for cuppa joe to play their record release party, and the one where we silkscreened their CDs so […]

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