The Heyday on grassroots capitalism, working independently and not getting dates
The big news here is that the Heyday have a new EP out and will be playing a CD-release show on October 1st at the Gothic. But the Denver foursome has a lot more going on than just that. In this extended Q&A, bassist and vocalist Peter Wynn goes more in-depth on the band's auction-style fundraising and tells us about the challenges an indie band faces without the safety net of a label.
So you've produced this new album independently. Tell me about your departure from Aware.
We actually produced the first album on our own, too. We released it after working with a local producer, Chris Jak, who works up in Fort Collins at The Blasting Room. It was after we put that record out in September of 2007 that we started working with Aware, and their imprint A-Squared. They helped us advertise and get the album out on more of a nationwide scale. They also helped us with touring and everything, but they weren't really in the picture when we started recording. We stopped working them about a month and a half before we started recording this new EP.
Do you think you might have the same relationship with them in the wake of your new release?
Yeah, we think so. They've been super cool; there were just a couple of different reasons involved. But we talk to them all the time, and they're excited about helping us out. It's just been so long since we had anything out; about three years. We met a bunch of people out on the road who were really excited to hear our new stuff, so we've really been looking forward to this. And now here we are. We'll see what happens.
Where did you get the idea for this auction-style fundraising? It kind of reminds me of what Radiohead did with In Rainbows.
We saw a number of different groups who were doing some creative things to promote their work. We played a show with the Damnwells in Chicago in December of 2008, and they were doing a project like this. We had a few examples of some creative things people were doing, so we figured we'd combine some of those strategies.
First, we had to figure out how much money it would take for us to get this EP done. We didn't think we'd be able to raise enough for a full album, but we were okay with that. We just focused on raising enough to get about six songs done, and tried to come up with a way where it would be fun for people to donate. We started with the pre-order; some of the lower-level donations would get you a digital copy when it comes out, and that's something a lot of bands do anyway. But we came up with a lot of different ways for people to contribute.
One of the guys who contributed was able to come up and spend the day at the studio. He got to hang out all day and work on the vocals with us. We had a tiered system so that the more you contribute, the more you could participate.
Right now, we're going out to hand deliver some of the CDs, we're driving around meeting people, and we're working on a vinyl which is something we've wanted to do forever. I think people feel like they're getting more out of it than just clicking a button on I-tunes. It's a little more personal.
Definitely. It gets your fans involved, and it sounds like more of a grassroots kind of thing than a corporate kind of thing.
That's actually one of the reasons we started working with A-Squared in the first place. They had the grassroots idea, and we saw it as more of a long-term solution to some of the music industry's problems.
A-Squared wanted to get us out playing colleges, doing the acoustic thing, getting us out to meet people and being more interactive. That's really what this whole project was about. Hopefully, it will keep people as fans for a much longer period of time. Like that guy that came up to the studio, hopefully he'll remember that forever.
Were you able to raise everything you needed to record the EP?
Oh yeah. I don't know the exact numbers because we're still trying too see how much we'll be able to do with the vinyl and all. We're still working some of those things out. But as far as the recording goes, all of our CDs are in production and our designs are done for the T-shirts and everything. We're still stretched pretty thin, but once we get through the CD release show, I'm hoping we'll make a lot of it back.
There was a guy in Chicago who we met at a show, and I won't tell you how much he gave us, but he gave us a whole lot of money. I don't know what he does for a living; I haven't talked to him as much as some of the other guys. But he was really interested in the project and he made a nice donation. So we were fortunate, on smaller levels, too, to receive stuff like that from around the country. We received donations from places that we didn't even know we had fans.
So what did that big donor get in exchange? You mentioned the guy who came up to the studio, what were some of the other donation obligations you had to fulfill?
As far as the guy who gave us a lot of money -- we're trying to figure out when we can meet up with him and take him out to dinner or something. He actually said he didn't want anything in return, which was a nice thing. We didn't hit any of these big, nationwide marks that we set, but it was interesting to see where a lot of the action fell. Now we know what people are willing to spring for.
We had a lot of donations in the $35 to $50 range, where we were giving away a copy of the first album, the new CD, the vinyl and then the documentary when it comes out. Another thing we did was something I remember doing when I was like ten years old. Some labels would let you pre-order a CD, and you'd get your name in the liner notes. I remember going through the CD booklet, and there was like a thousand names, and the print was so small, but I was so excited about it. We're putting some of the donor's names in there as a way of saying thanks.
Nice, sounds like you have all the options covered.
Oh! One other thing. We actually had a date night auction. Our old keyboardist, who left the band in July to move to California, he and I were the only single guys, so we auctioned ourselves off. We didn't get any dates.
You're kidding. That's tragic.
I know! I don't know if people thought it was creepy or what. I mean, we just figured we'd have a drink or hangout or something.
Well, now you know that one doesn't work.
Exactly. But I don't think the whole auction thing is just an idea if you're poor. I think it's an effective way of getting people involved, so that they feel like they're contributing to the band. It's a cool way to get people excited about the new record.
How do you like the sound of the new EP? Is it different from your first record, or do you feel that you guys have grown together as a band?
Yeah, I think it's better. I wouldn't call it completely different, though. We wrote all of those songs from the first record the summer after we graduated from high school. Those songs are about four years old, and a lot has gone on since then. So you might actually be surprised that it's not a bigger departure. Some bands will put records out just two years apart, and it sounds totally different.
But we've been on the road a lot since then, and we've gone through a lot of trial and error with our sound. I think we've matured sonically, and we spent a lot more time getting the sound right in the studio. We also know each other better and that helps the way we play together. We went into this record knowing how we wanted it to sound.
Our goal wasn't to just get the tracks out. We spent a lot more time just writing these songs; some of them we've been kicking around for two years. But people who liked our first record will like this one too, and I think we'll pick up some new fans as well. It's still fun, it's still a sing-a-long, and there's still handclapping.
The production sounds really slick too.
Yeah, the guys at The Blasting Room really killed it. They mixed it for us this time, and we've gotten to know them really well. It just sounds amazing, I'm still kind of blown away by it. I get really excited when I listen to it.
Will you be hitting the road pretty extensively with the new material?
Yeah, now that school's back in we're looking to. But it's tough financially. A lot of the schools we're going to are good about helping out; but everywhere you go from here, you have to drive kind of far. There's a show we were hoping to do later this year in Virginia, but that's 1,800 miles from here. That's so much gas and time; we have to analyze it really hard before we book anything.
We've had some bad luck too. We bought a dud trailer and earlier this year the wheel fell off. We had to sell it, so now we don't have a trailer. We have to cram everything into the van. But we're doing as best we can, and the college thing helps out a lot. Hopefully things go well with this CD and people are excited about it. That will open some doors for us.
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