geffen (not dromedary).

The Mommyheads toured the US in support of Bingham’s Hole, and I couldn’t wait until they got to New York.

Once the band left San Francisco (armed with a new supply of CDs fresh from the third pressing of Flying Suit, which we paid for with the very last of our money), they spent the next few weeks sleeping in hotels and donated spare rooms.  When they toured in support of Flying Suit, I spoke with Adam once every few days – he was doing interviews, working to ensure that the record stores along their tour had copies, checking to see how things were going on our end.  This time, they were touring to support their new CD – our CD was just something else for them to sell off the stage.

So I wasn’t getting the phone calls.  The new guys were – at a label called Dot Dot Dash, by the way – really nice guys.

I don’t remember what club the band played.  It was in the city somewhere, a decent-sized venue.  I went by myself – Sandy had to stay home and babysit, and Rich couldn’t make it that night.  And when I got there, the place was mobbed.

I was still so proud to have worked with them, so proud to be their friend.  Just being there in the club, knowing that I had something to do with the band, thrilled me.

I found a chair and sat down as the band took the stage.  I ordered a beer, and I sat there and watched as the band blew through their set.  They were amazingly talented; their live performance was simply spectacular.  The music off Bingham’s Hole was much more jammy and boogie-oriented than the pure pop of Flying Suit, which gave the band more opportunities to open up and play – and they could play.  Michael played the keyboard like I’ve never seen, alternately caressing it and beating it, playing every part of it and coaxing all sorts of noise from it.  Dan played percussion like a madman, holding down the beat and all the fills with just one hand while holding various shakers, maracas, and other handheld percussion instruments in his left hand, shaking them in front of a microphone.  Jeff held down the bottom end, stoically standing in the middle of the stage, his left hand walking up and down the neck of the bass.

And Adam was, quite simply, the best guitar player I’d ever met.  He played rich, complex chords and soulful, bluesy solos, singing along as he played.  He played it like he loved it, like it was attached to him.  It was amazing.

I sat there, all alone at a table, nursing a beer and listening to this great, great band, enjoying the moment and simultaneously looking forward to the time the band finished playing, so that I could say hello, buy them a drink, and hopefully start the discussions about a possible followup to Bingham’s Hole, this time on Dromedary.

Eventually, the band finished their set – they actually closed with something off Flying Suit, and Adam acknowledged me in the crowd.  I couldn’t believe he’d even seen me there, but he didn’t miss a trick.

After their set, Adam first walked over to the Dot Dot Dash guys.  He spent a few minutes chatting with them, but then came over to me.  He brought an older man with him that I’d never seen before, gave me a hug and sat down.

“I want you to meet my father,” he said.

I shook his hand enthusiastically.  “What a pleasure to meet you.”

“Al’s label put out Flying Suit,” Adam explained as his dad nodded his head knowingly.  We chatted for a few minutes, and then his dad said “I’ll leave you two to talk.”

“What a nice guy,” I said.  He seemed like a really hip guy.  I thought back to my father, just in his late 40s, scared to death at the Footstone show just a year or so prior.  And here was Adam’s dad, hanging out, enjoying the indie rock.

We talked for a while about the show, about the progress of Bingham’s Hole and the tour.  We talked about family, fatherhood, Dromedary and dayjobs.  Time passed.  The conversation was comfortable, as it always was with Adam.

“So, what comes next after Bingham’s Hole?” I finally asked.

“Well,” he replied, “that’s the good news.  We signed a deal with Geffen.”

Adam had told me once before that he was talking with a major label, but couldn’t tell me specifically which label.  Frankly, when he said it, I didn’t take much stock in it.  By that time, I had spoken with so many bands that were “talking” with a major label at one point or another, and my experience always was that those talks dragged on forever.  Major labels wanted you to think they were interested, string you on for as long as they could, build a relationship with you, make you think they wanted you.

The Mommyheads put out records on indie labels, and financed their own summer/fall tours.  They played wherever they wanted and drew enthusiastic crowds.  They had multiple releases, plus enough T-shirts to start a wardrobe, which they sold off the stage at their shows.

The Mommyheads did not need major labels, and major labels did not need them.

“Geffen!” I finally sneezed out. “That’s great.”

“We’re going to record our next album with Don Was,” he said.  “I think that’s pretty cool.”

“I always kinda liked Was (Not Was),” I lied.  “That’s a hell of a producer for your first record.”

The conversation then revolved around Geffen Records and Was (Not Was).  Always polite, and careful not to sound insulting, he explained that he was excited to see how far the band could go once it had big-league radio promotion, and major label tour support.  He spoke as if I might be insulted to hear that my company was not as big and powerful as Geffen Records.  He also took great care to let me know that they would always have a relationship with Dromedary, and that they wanted to sign a new licensing deal with us so that we could somehow be involved in re-releasing Flying Suit on Geffen.

That sounded nice.  Maybe we could turn it into something bigger.

I never mentioned to him that I wanted desperately to put out the next Mommyheads record, and that I had been planning to discuss it with him that night.  I didn’t want to rain on his parade.  Plus, I wanted to keep the friendship strong – my main guiding principle had been to maintain all our friendships first and foremost, and with steve from cuppa joe pissed at us, Footstone probably leaving us for another label, and every other band we knew missing or working with other labels, we were not achieving our goal.

Eventually, Adam stood up.  “I haven’t seen my family for a while,” he explained.  “I should go now.”

We hugged and shook hands, I congratulated him again, turned around, and left.

The ride home was quiet – I was alone, but I usually talk to myself in the car.  This night, though, I was mentally exhausted, disappointed, and unsure of what was coming next.  I drove home in silence, occasionally shaking my head, wondering how I could have lost all my bands at once like that.

~ by Al on September 23, 2009.

2 Responses to “geffen (not dromedary).”

  1. Ah – I just got the title, hours after reading the post. Nice delayed payoff.

  2. Congrats. 🙂

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