thank you – mommy.

Mommyheads One SheetWhen it came time to start promoting Flying Suit, nothing could have prepared us for the amount of help we got from the band.

It was cool enough to be putting out a record by a band with such a great pedigree.  They’d been around for a while and had released music on a couple of labels that had higher profiles than ours – Fang and Simple Machines.  They had participated in the original Simple Machines 7″ club that launched that label and gave it it’s name.  They had toured a number of times and done a great job promoting themselves along the way.  They had fans.

But more than that, they actually engaged in promotion in each city they visited.

A few weeks before our CDs arrived, Adam sent us a stack of promotional posters that he had printed up to advertise the record.  “We send them to the clubs we’re playing at, and they help us out by dropping them off at the local mom & pop record stores,” he explained.  “We do the same thing with the local college radio stations.  The stations and clubs are happy to do it, and it helps us get our record in the stores.  The stores are happy to do it, because if we’re in town playing a show, the stores can sell some more records.”

It all made so much sense.

Adam kept a copy of the tour itinerary with him at all times, and it was a sick itinerary.  Between October 4 and October 29, the band had scheduled a show every day – 25 consecutive show dates, and two shows in Illinois on October 15.  Then they built in two open days at the end of October – not to take time off, but in case they were able to book other shows while they were still on the road.  

They took the first week of November off – that’s when they planned to go into the studio and record our Schoolhouse Rock song, as well as a few other tracks they were planning to record.  Then, 19 more shows in a row without a day off, starting in Baltimore and ending in New Mexico.

These guys were not afraid to work.

Mommy TourAs if simply playing the shows wasn’t enough, Adam would mail CDs and posters ahead of time, and then schedule his own interviews with college radio stations and local zines.  He did those things to promote the shows, but obviously they helped promote the record as well.

He also repeatedly checked in with our distributors, to make sure that they were aware of the tour, and which stores in each market needed copies of the CD.  He was like a machine.

Meanwhile, Mike Hart was criss-crossing the US on tour with Kittywinder.  He learned some lessons from Adam, and took advantage of the promotional machine assembled by their label, Zero Hour Records.  As they were touring, Mike was doing promotional work for Toast – but he was also doing promotional work for Dromedary and for Flying Suit.

A relentless networker, Mike was spreading the word about Dromedary in every city Kittywinder visited.  

By mid October of 1994, I could count on daily demo tapes from bands in every city along the Mommyheads and Kittywinder tours.  Even the ones that didn’t drop Mike or Adam’s names were obvious; you could actually track the bands’ tours by the cities from which the demo tapes came.

The band was scheduled to be in New Jersey at the end of October; long before they got there I had received reorders of Flying Suit from every distributor and Revolver had reordered twice.  On top of that I had received reorders for nurture, which seemed to be selling almost as well as Flying Suit was.  

I printed up some flyers advertising our entire back catalog, and received orders for the cuppa joe and Footstone seven-inches (distributors stayed away from the Melting Hopefuls records and from the Elizabeth CD by that point).

Before the Mommyheads got through with the October leg of their tour, I received a call from Adam.

“I really think you need to make a second pressing,” he said.

I looked at the piles of CDs I still had left in my office.  “Why?” I asked.

“We’re running low,” he explained.  “And we’re going to get a review in New York magazine.”

New York magazine.  I didn’t send anything to New York magazine.  I explained that to Adam.

“I thought your promo list was a little light,” he explained.  “I made up one of my own.  I hit some of the zines you hit with second copies, like if I knew someone who writes for the zine.  I sent some to specific college DJs I know.  I sent some to some of the freelance writers I know.  One of them writes for New York.”

I thought for a minute, then responded.  “First of all,” I said, “from now on, I don’t want you sending out any more of your own CDs as promotional copies.  I’ll compromise with you and mail them myself.  This way I know where they’re going, and I’m not doing double-work on my end by sending copies out to people you’ve already hit, or vice-versa.”

“Okay.”

“Second of all,” I continued, “I don’t think a review in New York magazine is going to translate into increased sales.  We had a top 20 single in SPIN and didn’t get a single order out of it.”

“Al, we’re running out,” he said.  “I need more CDs.”

The arrangement I had with the band was that they would receive 10% of whatever we pressed for free, and could buy additional CDs for $5 each, to do whatever they wanted.  The band had purchased a bunch for $5, and were selling them off the stage at their shows for $10.  They received 100 copies from the first pressing, and bought 100 more.  Not bad.

I sold them 100 more CDs from my stash.

By the time they got to New Jersey, they had asked me for 100 more, and I had ordered another thousand from the pressing plant.

The band played the Knitting Factory in New York on October 26.  One of our favorite clubs, we decided that this would be the show we all saw together.  So Sandy, Rich, Lissette and I crowded into my car, drove to Hoboken, and took the PATH ride to the Village, walking the final few blocks to the club’s old address on (I think) Bowery.

They were great, once again.  And so much better at a club with a decent sound system.  The club in Berkeley was nice, because it was their home, but the sound there sucked.

Afterward, Lissette said “I love them.”

“Thanks!” I responded.

“No,” she said, “you don’t understand.  This is the first Dromedary band I’ve ever liked.”

“You don’t like Melting Hopefuls?” I asked.

Hate ’em,” she replied.

“Footstone?”

“Eh,” she said.  “Not my thing. I like the guys, but their music is too loud.”

That was true.  Lissette was a Top 40 person.  I turned to Rich and said “That’s what happens when you meet your girlfriend at the mall.”

“It’s all at the mall,” he said, repeating a Mommyheads lyric.

The next night, the band was playing at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick.  It was the one mistake I thought they had made on their tour.  October 27 was a Thursday night, and the band was originally booked to play at Maxwells.  Early in the tour, Adam asked my opinion on scrapping that show and playing at the Court instead.

“Play Maxwells,” I told him.  “It’s a much better club, in a much better area.”

“Last time we played Maxwells during the week, there was nobody there,” he said.  “The food is good there, and they’re good to the band, but if nobody comes to the show, we don’t make any money.  I think we’re going to try New Brunswick this time.”

“New Brunswick doesn’t have half the music scene of Hoboken,” I explained.  

“I think we’re going to try it.”

They did.  Sandy and I decided to go to the show, since the Knitting Factory show was so great.  It was a work night, and it was a long way for us to drive to New York on a Wednesday and New Brunswick on a Thursday, but we decided to do it anyway.

The band was great.  But the club was fairly empty.

After their set, we sat with the band and talked, downing a few beers and talking about the show, the CD, and what came next.  During the course of the conversation, Adam told me that the band was exhausted, and that they still had to drive ahead to Boston for the next night’s show.

“Don’t be silly,” I said.  “Come stay at our apartment.”

It took very little persuading.  They could pull their van immediately behind our apartment, and not have to worry about someone breaking into it.  They could save the cost of hotel charges and meals.  They could sleep in the following day, take hot showers, and still be in Boston in plenty of time for their show.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” they asked.

“Not at all.  The only catch is this – Sandy and I both have to go to work tomorrow.  So we need to leave now.  We’ll give you directions from here, and leave the door unlocked.  Tomorrow morning, we have to get up early, so you guys just get up whenever, and let yourselves out.”

On the way home, we talked about the wisdom of inviting these guys into our house and then just letting them stay there.  We didn’t really know them.  I had obviously spent a lot of time talking to Adam on the phone, but had only met Michael, Dan and Jeff once in Berkeley and then the prior evening at the Knitting Factory.  We were inviting strangers into our home, and leaving them alone.

When we got home, Sandy and I grabbed a bunch of pillows and blankets and put them in the living room.  We opened up our futon so some of the guys could stretch out.  Then I left them a note, letting them know that there was a pot of vegetarian chili in the refrigerator, and they could help themselves to whatever food or drinks they could find.  Then I went to bed.

The following morning, Sandy and I woke up and got ready for work, snuck downstairs and stepped over the guys in the band (who were strewn all over our living room floor).  The living room looked like a bomb had gone off, with clothes and duffel bags everywhere.  I smiled as we left.

When we got home from work that day, our apartment was spotless.  They woke up and put the futon back together, folded up the sheets and put them in a neat pile.  They ate the entire pot of chili, as well as a bunch of other stuff we had in the fridge, but they washed every dish, figured out where everything belonged, and put them all away.  Someone had drank a single beer, rinsed out the bottle and put it upside down to dry in the sink.

I swear they left our apartment cleaner than it was when they got there.

Stuck to the fridge with a magnet was a note.  It said:

Dear Al & Sandy:

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

-Mommy

All I could think was No, guys.  Thank YOU.

~ by Al on June 15, 2009.

4 Responses to “thank you – mommy.”

  1. They left us t-shirts, too. I still wear mine – it’s one of my favorites.

  2. That’s right. I forgot about that, and it was worth mentioning: they had “Flying Suit” T-shirts made up all on their own (which they made good money on, selling them from the stage). But they did leave us two T-shirts. Sandy’s still fits, but mine seems to have shrunk – which is weird, because they were both made from the same material. I can’t figure out why one T-shirt would have stayed exactly the same size after all these years, but the other one shrunk so much that it no longer fits me.

  3. Al, wasn’t the Knitting Factory originally on Walker or one of those streets just off Broadway in sort-of TriBeCa? I went to one show there a million years ago, and i know they moved after that show, but it might not have been their first address.

  4. Heh. It wasn’t on Bowery, it was on Houston. Nice catch.

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