Monday, May 20, 2013

6 Reasons To Release Fewer Songs More Often

How many songs should I record?

This isn't a question I get asked very much, but I wish it was :) There are a lot of bands coming into the studio recently recording 10, 12 even 15 songs. That is good news for me and the studio, but not so much good news for the bands. As soon as I find out a new band wants to record more than 4-5 songs especially a new band, I immediately try to talk them out of it. I'm probably the worst recording studio salesman in the world - hahaha - but it really doesn't help to record a large amount of songs these days and here's some reasons why:

1. You need to develop your sound
New bands and bands which have gone through major member changes especially need to develop their sound. There is no better way to develop your sound than recording 3-4 songs and then really analyzing them. Usually a band's first songs are all over the place without any strong cohesiveness or style. This is good because you (or even better, your audience) may gravitate to one or two songs more than the rest. This gives you the opportunity to explore what makes those songs more appealing and try to introduce more elements from them into your other songs.

2. You need to develop your songs
Many times if there is a cohesive style, the songs themselves may be rather flat and under developed, either from the point of view of you, as a band/artist, or from the perspective of the audience. At last count there are exactly 1 gazzilion active bands/artists on the planet right now. To stand out, you need to make your songs as good as they can be. Maybe there are 'holes' in the song - parts which don't hold the attention of the listener - parts which perhaps need re-writing or additions. Issues like these are much easier to address when dealing with a smaller batches of songs. Trying to fill out and refine even 6+ songs is a major undertaking both from the creative side and especially from the budget/money side if the problems don't crop up until after the recording process begins.

3. Most people don't listen to LPs front to back anymore
The way people consume music has changed radically in the past 10-15 years. Spotify, Pandora and YouTube have changed the way people are listening to music. They are hearing mixes of various artists and not just jamming a whole record as much anymore. This is especially true if the artist is new or more unknown. You'll have a decent shot at getting people to hear 1 song. If the song is good and keeps the listeners attention, they might listen to 2 songs. If after those first 2 amazing songs, you become their new favorite band, they might listen to 3-4 songs, but almost nobody will listen to 6+ songs in one sitting from a new or local band.

4. Stay more in touch with your audience by recording fewer songs more often
Writing, practicing, recording and releasing songs takes time, especially if you are refining them to be as great as they can be. This process for 8+ songs could easily take over a year. In that case you have only one major thing to talk about on the Facebooks/Twitters/Internets for 12-18 months. If you record 3-4 songs every 3-6 months you will have 3-5 'big' things to talk about in the same amount of time. More things to talk about = more opportunities to stay fresh in the minds of your listeners/likers/followers/fans.

5. More releases means more feedback

You always want to be flexible. Its harder to tweak your style into something that could ultimately  prove to be much more successful if you're entrenched in a 12-18 month writing/release process. I believe the most important thing that the immediacy of the internet has done is given a voice to listeners/likers/followers/fans, whether that means something like public outcry changing the ending of a major video game release like Mass Effect 3 or gently guiding a local band into a more appealing direction, this public feedback mechanism is unique to this time and should definitely be taken advantage of. I'm not saying you have to 'beta-test' your songs by posting works in progress for critique (though that is pretty cool), but by having a shorter release schedule you'll have more opportunities to get feedback to tweak to (or ignore ;) )

6. The dark side
There are a lot of pressures and emotions that go into being in a band. Maybe the band chemistry changes and a member becomes problematic, maybe someone has to move away, maybe you don't like the way someone smells anymore, maybe life just happens and someone has to leave or worse yet the whole project disbands. Even if you are on the same page with goals from the beginning, doesn't mean it will stay like that. This creates a much, much larger problem if you're working on a 6+ song release on a 12+ month schedule. There is a lot more wasted time and money chucking out an LP that has a lead vocalist that just quit compared to just adapting a new member to the next set of 3 or 4 songs. Just remember bands are like having a relationship with 2+ more people and has the same kind of volatility that goes along with any other close relationship.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Meditation Biking OR 4 Steps to a More Relaxed Ride

I rode my bike down to the lake today. The trip is a decent ride about 9 miles each way. My bike doesn't have gears. Its a 60's Schwinn Cruiser with coaster brakes. I don't listen to music when I ride and without gears my mind starts to drift to the subtleties of biking. I start to think about all the different sensations that are happening in my body. I start trying to dissect the automatic and investigate things a bit more, in hopes of making the ride more enjoyable. Here's a few things I noticed today :)


Since I'm on a cruiser, I'm sitting nearly straight up. When my posture is right I can release nearly all the tension in my back and just stay suspended in the seat, pretty much by the curvature of my spine. This makes for more effortless riding. If I end up more hunched over, I lean into the handle bars, the more I lean into the handle bars, the more my forearms, shoulders, and back muscles engage creating tension. The same thing happens with gripping the handlebars. I'm always trying to use the lightest, most relaxed grip on the handlebars as possible. To me, gripping the bars tighter doesn't create more control, it just creates tension. I let the bars stay loose in my grip and if I go over a rough patch of road, only then do I engage a firmer grip.

When riding I try and keep my breaths as even as possible. Chest breathing promotes tension and anxiety - two things I never want while I'm riding my bike, especially through traffic. I'm always trying to use stomach/abdomen breathing as it promotes deeper breaths. Not only are the deeper breaths especially helpful going up hills but deeper breathing is also more relaxing, making for a more enjoyable ride.

I notice that, of course, there's the down motion in pedaling and up motion in pedaling, but there's also the 2 ends nobody thinks about as much: the transition of the down into the up and the transition of the up into the down. Today riding along the lake paths, I tried to be mindful of keeping these transitions as smooth as possible - trying to avoid any 'stops' or 'jerkiness' between the down and up motions.

I push down on the pedals and the bike goes, sure, every one knows that :) but paying attention to my legs as the pedal goes up seems just as important as the force used to press down. As I'm nearing the end of the down motion, I try to make sure I guide my leg through the transition described above and then I try and release as much muscle tension in my leg as possible - simply letting the pedal guide my foot back to the top. By keeping my legs alternating this 'empty' state, I seem to have more stamina and push especially on hills.

Paying close attention to the subtle interaction between my bike and I as well as the inner workings of my body during a ride helps create a more meditative experience. My mind can then unwind at the same time I'm exercising my body. I usually arrive at my destination feeling more relaxed than if my mind is simply focused on the route or my time.

It'd be cool to hear what inner workings you pay attention to on your rides or what you think about the above 4 ruminations. Leave a comment on the blog or hit up my Facebook page :)

-Shane Olivo
The New Loud

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Breaking Edge OR I'm 37 and Just Started Drinking Alcohol

I had my first alcohol this last November (2012) at 37 years old. I've been technically 'Straight Edge' my whole life - no alcohol, no cigarettes, no drugs - though I was never fond of the whole group of people that identified as  'Edge'.

Ian Mackaye Talks About Straight Edge (Skip to 9:30)

The 'Edge' kids were always way too preachy, and humorless most of the time. I never cared if people around me smoked or did drugs or drank. I just didn't want to do it. Why? Growing up I lived with my mom and Grandmother and Grandfather. My Grandfather would come home everyday from working at a printing press and proceed to get wasted drunk. He would then scream at my grandmother blaming her for everything bad that happened to him (in life) until he passed out on the living room recliner, only to get up the next day for work and repeat the process. My dad was never around, because he was always on drugs and running from cops. I saw what was happening from when I was little on. Everything left a big impression and given that all the males - even all my uncles on both sides of my family (6 in all) - were alcoholics or on coke at one point or another, I figured it was a good bet to just not start at all. So I didn't. I built up a business, a recording studio, which I'm sure was paid for in large part by the amount of money I saved not drinking alcohol through my teens and 20's.

So why start? Why 'break edge' now? 

I can sum it up in one word: ATTACHMENT. I realized I had come so far along using the story of my male alcoholic family members that it didn't make sense to me any longer. After all, they weren't me. Biological predispositions or not, I am my own person. I was holding on to not-drinking and letting it control me just like the addictions controlled my family. My fears and ideologies had become attachments. So essentially, I was being controlled by the very thing I was trying to avoid. I decided to drop them and truly drop the past along with it. I never think about the alcoholics in my family anymore, so they can now begin to fade from my life completely instead of being conjured or summoned at every social get-together when I get asked what I'd like to drink. Its been a very freeing experience.

So next time you and I are out, we'll have a drink together and it will be different, but not because there will be a glass of alcohol in front of me, but because of all the ghosts I've left behind me.

-Shane Olivo
The New Loud

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Make Your Band Successful

The most important thing you can do to make your band successful is both obvious and deceptively simple: Keep your band together.

You and your fellow band members don't have a lot of control when it comes to who likes your music or which blogs will write about it or if it gets any kind of airplay. What you do have control over is yourselves: how you interact with each other, what your individual and collective goals are, and most importantly how you treat each other.

Its so obvious. I mean if the band isn't together of course it can't become successful :) I have a strong belief that if 4 people who hadn't ever played instruments came together with the same goals, focus, and good communication they would be eventually become a famous band (if that's what their goals were ;) )

Here are a few ways to get and keep your band together, focused and strong.

1. Everyone in your band should be on the same page.
The best way to do this is with clearly defined goals - especially ones you can break down into numbers. Don't let people get away with answers like 'I don't know' or 'I guess, I'll have to see how it goes'. The more specific you can be the better.
- How many shows do you want to play now - Twice a month; every weekend all weekend?
- Ideally how many shows do you want to play or CAN you play - is a 60 or 90 day tour too much?
- How much is everyone willing to contribute monetarily to the band - how much money can you contribute of your own/month $0? $1000?
- How much personal time is everyone willing to contribute - 10 hours/week; 20? 50?

In addition to clearly defined goals with numbers you should all talk about what the ultimate goal for the band is. Is it 'have fun'? If so, what does 'have fun' mean to everyone? Try not to have answers that are open ended - "Dude, I just want to have fun, but if something happens, you know, that's cool." Those answers tend to create a lot of problems down the road.

A lot of bands ask this question and answer it with "I would like the band to get to a point where it breaks even money-wise." Fine. If that's what you want, write songs in the basement and don't play shows. No recording budgets. No gas for shows. No merch costs. BAM! You just broke even - goal met! The problem is people want some form of success in addition to 'breaking even'. They want to record and play shows and have merch. If you really want to have all those things AND have your band  break even, its a good exercise to define some costs so you have a better understanding of how much you should be looking to make in return to break even. For instance call some recording studios and get realistic budgets for how much it is to record. Call merch vendors and find out how much it is to get shirts pressed. If you know your recording will be $1000 and shirts will be $500 and you know how much you plan on charging for shirts and recordings, then you know you have to sell 'x' amount of recordings and shirts to break even. Having that 'x' number is KEY. It gives you something to shoot toward while you're trying to 'spread the word' (market) yourselves.

2. Be not only cool with one another, but be a family.
Have respect for other members and try to find ways to talk with each other that are not incendiary or cause flare-ups. If someone has a problem with something try to use "I" statements to approach the other person(s). For instance try approaches like "Maybe its just me, but I feel like that part you're playing is not totally on. Can you show me what you're doing?" instead of "Dude, you're totally fucking up that part like ALWAYS! WTF!"

A lot of people just use the latter way and play the "Dude, I'm just being honest!" card, but there are ways of being honest without insulting someone or damaging their ego - and ego damage control is key to communicating with other musicians/artists.

Being a family also means being there for each other no matter how bad things get. In the Nirvana video below (at 2:00), Kurt is having problems with a bouncer. Watch how FAST Dave and Chris throw down their instruments to come to his aid. Amazing solidarity!

3. Sometimes its best to love the one you're with, not the one you want.
Everyone has their own idea of what they would like the band to sound like. With that sound comes individual styles of play. If you find that you have a member whose personality fits in well with the band, but his playing style is a little different than what you would like, its best to try and modify your vision to match the members you're playing with. For instance, The Smiths almost didn't use Mike Joyce, because they thought his drumming was too aggressive at first, but in the end I think the aggressiveness of his style adds something to their sound, they maybe wouldn't have got with a mellower drummer. Same with Andy Hurley from Falloutboy. Falloutboy would sound totally different if Hurley's drumming was a more poppy style instead of the hardcore background he came from. Also when people play to their strengths they feel good about what they're doing because they're doing something they are confident with.

Being in a band is like having 4 (or more) girlfriends or boyfriends and they're all different and all have different quirks and personalities. If you can find ways to focus yourselves, communicate better, and appreciate one another for who you are, your chances of survival AND success as a band will be much greater.

- Shane Olivo
The New Loud
Bobby Peru Recording

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

5 Ways Tai Chi Has Made My Life (and Jiu Jitsu) Better

I've been practicing Tai Chi about 4 years now. I love it. It has become one of my passions. Last year I also started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Neutral Ground in Milwaukee.  About 6-7 months ago Jon Friedland, the owner of Neutral Ground, gave me the opportunity to teach a Sunday night Tai Chi class there.

One day I saw one of my fellow Jiu Jitsu brothers at a concert and I was telling him about my Tai Chi class . He asked me how I got into Tai Chi and what I felt the benefits were. In the concert atmosphere it was hard to put together any concrete thoughts so I answered with a very generic "Uh… I don't know. I like it." - Hahahahaha

I feel like these are 2 really good questions though, so I thought I'd take the time to answer them here. Each question is pretty important, so I've decided to separate them into 2 different blogs :) This is part 2 of 2 and focuses on 5 things Tai Chi has done for me in life (and in Jiu Jitsu :) ).

1. Tai Chi makes my body feel electric and alive.
After doing my Tai Chi form my body feels as if I have heightened sensitivity from the inside out. I'm sure some would describe this as 'chi', but I'm more western and the concept of 'chi' just doesn't quite resonate with me as much as some people. Maybe my blood is flowing more or more freely into areas normally constricted by everyday postures such as desk sitting or couch lounging. Maybe its the deep breathing that oxygenates my blood more or maybe its the much needed relaxation my muscles need. I'm sure its a combination of all of those and probably 1000 other things that create that tingle-ey, vibrant feeling that happens through my whole body while doing Tai Chi.

2. Tai Chi calms me down.

Since I started doing Tai Chi, I am able to better control my emotions. This isn't to say I don't get into arguments with people or get upset ever. But when arguments pop up now, I feel more 'in control' of myself and my ego than before I started Tai Chi. Also any post conflict stress seems to melt away almost immediately. Leaving me with a clear mind to examine the situation and hopefully gain perspective from it.

3. Tai Chi trains my body to be more relaxed and flexible.

At Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class people are always remarking about how flexible I am. I don't really practice a whole lot of stretching. Mostly my body is flexible from keeping the muscles relaxed. When my muscles are relaxed there is way more flexibility than a stressed or tensed muscle. In life, this 'muscle state awareness' helps you breakdown and dissect which muscles you actually NEED for any given task. Even in things like driving or cooking there are unnecessarily tensed muscle groups which lead to body stress. In BJJ terms, this extra flexibility might give you an extra few seconds to think of an escape or way out of a bad position before tapping. Or maybe someone doesn't have a submission on properly, relaxation gives you the extra flexibility that you need to not tap on something that isn't done correctly.

4. Tai Chi makes me more aware of my own body
The Tai Chi I do focuses on one 'basic' 37 posture form. The form is refined first from the external/physical aspects - body alignment and positioning. Because the process is an endless refinement of one set of movements, there is a meditative quality that comes into play as you begin to work on the internal aspects of the form such as breathing or muscle states or being aware of your 'center' and balance. This all adds to a heightened body awareness not only when doing the form, but in all aspects of life - walking, driving, rolling at Jiu Jitsu.

5. Tai Chi gives me a fresh perspectives on life
Tai Chi was originally developed from Daoist philosophies. If I find I'm having trouble with something and need new perspective I tend to examine it through a Tai Chi 'lens' where I can put to work the principles of staying relaxed, not trying to meet force with force, and keeping with the 'flow' in all aspects of my life from work to relationships to Jiu Jitsu.

Even after 4+ years, I feel my Tai Chi is just developing. Yet even so,  the benefits above (in addition to countless others) have already enriched my life so much that I will always be on my Tai Chi journey :)

-Shane Olivo
The New Loud

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why (How) Did I Start Doing Tai Chi?

I've been practicing Tai Chi about 4 years now. I love it. It has become one of my passions. Last year I also started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Neutral Ground in Milwaukee.  About 6-7 months ago Jon Friedland, the owner of Neutral Ground, gave me the opportunity to teach a Sunday night Tai Chi class there.

One day I saw one of my fellow Jiu Jitsu brothers at a concert and I was telling him about my Tai Chi class . He asked me how I got into Tai Chi and what I felt the benefits were. In the concert atmosphere it was hard to put together any concrete thoughts so I answered with a very generic "Uh… I don't know. I like it." - Hahahahaha

I feel like these are 2 really good questions though, so I thought I'd take the time to answer them here. Each question is pretty important, so I've decided to separate them into 2 different blogs :)

1. Why (How) Did I Start Doing Tai Chi?
I've always been interested in martial arts since I was a kid. I mean what kid doesn't like ninjas? When I was younger and all through high school I had terrible allergies to the outside as well as having asthma which totally dissuaded me from any physical activities or sports. By the time I was in my early 30's, I felt a real itch to start something martial arts-wise but didn't really know where to begin. At this point one of my best friends had been working on Southern Style Kung Fu and then Bagua for about 10 years. I talked to him about starting a martial art - I wanted him to teach me, but at this point in his life he didn't really have time.

The advice he did give was this: "Since you'll be just starting martial arts now, being a little older, you might want to look into some of the internal/softer styles of martial arts like Tai Chi or Bagua." Softer/internal styles of martial arts focus more on what's happening within your body and tend to be more meditative. Tai Chi specifically trains relaxation, sensitivity, center and balance. They focus on a 'soft' power which is, in theory, supposed to be able to overcome harder strength based attacks - though there are very Tai Chi 'masters' skilled enough to demonstrate this adage. Tai Chi is also a form of Qi Gong which has many health benefits from increased bone density to lowering blood pressure.

The Bagua teacher he learned from was very skilled, but only taught the public on Saturdays in Madison which didn't work very well with my work schedule at the studio. So I asked my friend if he knew any Tai Chi places and he said "I know this guy that's really good. He makes these crazy YouTube videos. You should check him out."

That's my Tai Chi teacher Casey in the video. Casey's been working on Tai Chi for about 13+ years. In the winter of 2009, Casey was teaching out of the Neutral Ground space (where I teach now). He had a Sunday morning class that I started going to. 2 years later, in January 2011, I went down to San Diego and competed in my first martial arts tournament, taking home 2 gold medals and 1 silver medal in Fixed Step, Restricted Step and Moving Step Push Hands (Tai Chi Sparring).

I love Tai Chi. It has benefitted my life in countless ways since I started. I'll focus on a few of the most important ones in the second half of this post: What Does Tai Chi Do For Me?

The Newloud

Friday, May 3, 2013

2 Simple Steps to Letting Go OR How To Save The Next Taco Night From A Stupid Argument

I can start obsessing about things fairly easily. Like my girlfriend won't return a message or text and it starts this feedback loop in my head. I wonder what she's doing that she didn't respond. I start to feel small and unimportant, my ego starts to get hurt, I start to get pissed. In reality all I'm doing at that point is drinking past or future poisons. Almost anything that is messing with your present can be traced to the illusions that are the past and future playing tricks on you.

So this is what I'm working on now: Eliminate any possible past or futures that are negatively effecting my present, my NOW.

I learned a trick which works really great for this. When I find myself getting upset because of projections or memories or regrets, I simply ask myself 2 questions:

1. What are you feeling NOW?

The first question has to do with the moment. What am I feeling right this second? What I want to be feeling is happiness or whatever my version of 'happy' is. So if I'm not feeling happy or content or positive, I determine how I'm feeling and then move on to the 2nd question.

2. Is there anything missing?

Why am I feeling like I'm feeling and how is it messing with my NOW? What is missing that I am not happy or content? Then I go through a list of things.

For instance: I inadvertently start a fight with my special lady on Taco Night about attention that I feel I've been missing (past) and attention I feel like I should receive (future).

These regrets or negative projections are simply past and future poisons. I can't go back in "time" and add the attention I was missing and by focusing on negative things yet to come or uncertainties I am simply making myself miserable thus causing a fight and totally messing up my present, my NOW.

Ahhh my NOW… what really IS my NOW?

My NOW, Taco Night, should've been a blast! (I mean how can you mess up Taco Night?!? There was even Patron… I'm big stupid.) In fact, after stripping away the illusions and tricks of the past and future, most situations are not inherently bad, they're actually pretty good. Even during the mundane, I become more attuned to my present circumstance which creates a kind of wonder that brings pleasure and happiness. I am walking and begin enjoying the weather (no matter what weather it is). I am driving and begin to enjoy the music I'm playing in the car or the response of the vehicle to the slightest movements of the controls.

Without the past and future gremlins mucking things about, life begins to really open up. But just like anything, it takes practice. I'll still have my fair share of ruined NOWs while this new line of "thinking" becomes more automatic.

At least the next Taco Night will be safe :)

-The New Loud

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Letting Go, Bike Riding

I rode my bike today for the first time in like 2 years. I didn't ride much last year, too damn hot and when it wasn't it seemed too cold - lol.

Anyway I rode down to the lake today and back. While I ride my bike, sometimes all over town, I don't consider myself a 'bike-rider' - I don't have a bike suit or a bike with gears (60's Schwinn with coaster brakes) or even a helmet (probably should get one of those).

I feel like a bike ride through traffic is an excellent way to practice 'letting go'. People drive poorly, they don't pay attention a lot - they're on their phone or distracted by their destination. They're definitely not paying attention to me on my bike. They cut me off or they ride stupid close. I've even had someone yell that I should be on the sidewalk - which is precisely where bikes should NOT be.

Anyway, stuff happens, stuff I can't control... I get pissed... I want to catch up to them and spit on their car or kick it or yell some shit at them, but their car is much faster than my bike, especially MY bike. I think "Wait until they get stopped at that light, Ima catch up and then SHIT IS GOING DOWN!!!!"

But that never happens. Their light is always on a repetition ahead of mine or they turn. So there's nothing to do except let it go. "Whatever!" Sometimes I try and put myself in their shoes, maybe they're having an emergency, maybe someone is hurt or their wife is pregnant and about to have a baby, maybe they just had a bad day and they just want to be home. I can't say.

am not.

I guess feel like I'm progressing because I'm getting less and less worked up by these situations. Most times the revenge scenario isn't even fully developed before I just drop it from my mind. Which feels a lot better than trying to catch something I'm never going to catch to create a situation that probably shouldn't be created.

-The New Loud