July for kings "Swim" album was one of the best albums of 2002 with a number of "classic" modern rock tunes. In 2003 they parted ways with their label MCA that went under Geffen, but this hasnt stopped the band. New songs are up on their website and there are more to come, so this isnt the last that we have heard from these youngsters from ohio........
Hey there Joe! How?s the life in Ohio?|
Joe Hedges: Hey Johan! Very good, thank you. Ive been busy with JFK stuff (writing songs, keeping the website updated, shows, etc), and lots of other personal and professional endeavors. Just trying to keep myself moving. drinking orange juice and eating some saltine crackers at the moment. I quit smoking a couple weeks ago; i cant stop eating.
Quit smoking is a good choice. How long have you been smoking and is it tougher to quit it than you thought?
Joe Hedges: ive been smoking since before i could drive. Its not tougher than i thought it would be. its not any fun at all, and i didnt assume it would be.
Some sad things has happened since last we talked like the lost of your record deal with MCA. Did it came as a shock for your or was it something that could feel before you got the message?
Joe Hedges: was definitely something that we saw coming. In fact, there were rumors about MCA going under for years, even before we were signed there. As our album came out and time wore on, it became increasingly apparent that something was awry. By the time the collapse/merger actually happened, we had already fully accepted it and it didnt bother us much.
Most bands that I have talked to that have been dropped are quite pissed over their ex labels. How was your divorce with MCA and what are your feelings for them now?
Joe Hedges: MCA no longer exists. The label went under completely and merged with Geffen. When that happened, we were dropped, and most of the other bands on the label were dropped. Most of the people we worked with were fired. It was sad. Its not just MCA either. That sort of thing has been happening everywhere in the music business. Things are just now starting to get back on track, but its going to take a little while for tihngs to completely stabilize. As for our take on the whole thing and our lingering feelings toward the now non-existent label, i think we came to terms with it all rather quickly. It was out of our hands. Im not angry. There really isnt much room for anger with me anymore. Unfortunately, we were signed to a huge label where only a few people really cared about us (or even knew about us!), and we just got lost in the cracks. SWIM obviously could have been better promoted, we obviously could have sold more records. But life is so crowded with what-ifs already. The important thing is that we learned from the whole experience and made some real fans. We are ready to move on.
That?s true Joe, we can?t live with thinking of what-if?s all the time. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that something good will come out of a bad experience. There aren?t to many major labels left at the moment. I think that a big reason for that is all those downloading programs like Kazaa and the first one Napster. Personally I think it?s amazing that it?s legal, or at least almost legal to use those programs at the moment. It?s a kind of theft from the artist every time someone downloads a song. What?s your opinion on this subject?
Joe Hedges: Its a terribly complicated subject, and Im not a music industry specialist by any means...i just make songs, however, I have an opinion on just about everything, and heres mine on downloading. I love the internet. I applaud iTunes for stepping out and putting some money into something that should have been done years and years ago. It is far easier for me to blame the labels for not having the foresight to see internet downloading coming than it is to blame millions of kids and college students and adults for choosing to do something that many didnt initially know was wrong. Im not trying to justify or rationalize stealing but if you have a lemonade stand in a yard with a sign that says "free" and its a warm day, people are going to take free lemonade. if across the street you put a 99 cent lemonade stand with two cute little salesmen, I think most people have a conscience and would go ahead and pay the 99 cents for the kids. Until iTunes, there really hasnt been a good alternative to Kazaa and iMesh or any of the free sites. iTunes should have existed in 1998, and you can only blame music industry politics for its belated arrival. Its Apple (the computer company...) that finally stepped up in a big way. I guess the majors just needed shaken up, and for better or for worse, this is how its happening.
If you compare getting the major deal or keep it, which was the most difficult do you think?
Joe Hedges: Like i said, the MCA/Geffen merger was totally out of our control. It really wasnt a question of difficulty--there was nothing we could have done either way. Finding a deal was definitely challenging. It took us years to even become a speck on the radar.
Promotion is a big key to success, which is quite sad to be honest. Do you feel that you label supported you 100%? If not, what kind of promotion would you have likes to have had?
Joe Hedges: No MCA didnt support us 100%. Ask most anyone that worked there what kind of promotion we had and i think they would tell you "July for what?" Nobody was delusional about that, even from the first week that "Normal Life" hit the airwaves. Im not sure what kind of promotion we would have liked to have had. Theres the radio, print, and TV outlets. And maybe a blimp. I always thought it would be cool to have a big July For Kings blimp to fly over baseball and football games. Blimps are awesome. Really, i think how much is often more important than what kind.
Even if 2003 had some sad moments must it also had been a great time for you with touring and meeting all your fans?
Joe Hedges: Absolutely. Overall, weve had a blast. The last couple years have really taught us a lot about being on the road, being in the studio, and being a band in general. Theres nothing we enjoy more than being out on the road. We have yet to become desensitized to it or bored with it in the slightest. Meeting people at home and in other cities is still one of the greatest parts about being a band.
How long can you be on the road before you want to go home to your family and friends?
Joe Hedges: Im to the point now where it takes a couple weeks before I start to get really home-sick. Of course there are things that might affect me sooner than later, but for the most part Im used to traveling. In fact, I really dont like to be home for more than a couple weeks--i get stir crazy. I love to get out and play in another city or couple cities, even if its just a weekend trip. Its really refreshing and affirming.
Was it much different touring after you got signed compared to when you where an indie band?
Joe Hedges: Not really. We were busier after we were signed, but generally speaking, the show experience is no different for an indie band than a signed band. a "label" is just that-- its a label. It doesnt make you a different band. I guess sometimes you can use the clout of having a label to end up with a deli tray in your dressing room, instead of just a cooler of water. But at the end of the day, that doesnt really mean jack. The important thing is getting out there and connecting with people.
To meet your fans must be one of the best things as an artist. How does it feel going on stage now when youve done it a couple of times. Are you nervous?
Joe Hedges: I still get nervous now and then. I would worry if I didnt. When youre nervous, it just means that youre invested in something enough to worry. And thats not such a bad thing. I like that initial rush of the sets opening, and the adrenaline that gets you through the end. I am really comfortable on stage once I get through the first song or two. Sometimes its the only place im truly confident. Im a quiet guy in my daily life, so I really value my time with the microphone. You dont have permission to run around and sing and yell about what youre feeling in the grocery store. Its good to have that opportunity, even if it comes with the occasional nervousness.
Many bands seem to fight hard for years and then after they got dropped after their first major album they just split up. Was being signed the ultimate goal for you or was it just a bonus.
Joe Hedges: A few years ago, we did see getting signed as a big goal. I would be lying if i said anything otherwise. i think most bands look at it that way, but after going through the wringer once, weve learned a little more about what to expect, and how to handle being let down. Thats part of life. We are certainly not splitting up. On the contrary, we accomplished one of our big goals, so theres no reason to think we cant continue to step it up. The ultimate goal is not, and never was, getting a record deal. The ultimate goal is making great music, and getting it to people to share. I guess I already said that. But seriously, its about the music. Everything else is secondary, utilitarian.
Now lets talk about what?s happening at the moment. You have written some new songs that are available on your website. Two of them are ?The Distance? and ?Six Hour Drive?, which both are really good. It feels that they?re written while you where touring according to their titles. Am I right?
Joe Hedges: Sort of. They were both written at home on breaks during a very active period for us. While "Six Hour Drive" is quite literally about a six hour drive, "The Distance" is about metaphorical distance. Its more about that horizon in your mind--where you are, where you are going, and why.
How many new songs have you recorded and have you been in contact with some new labels?
Joe Hedges: I have probably recorded twelve or thirteen songs acoustic on my personal computer, as well as the "Six Hour Drive", "The Distance", and "Perfect World" recordings. They are not high quality (with the exception of Perfect World). We are preparing to make higher quality recordings of newer songs this spring. We have been in contact with, and have done showcases for a few labels that expressed interest in the existing recordings, but we havent been looking all that seriously yet. Weve decided to wait until we have better recordings which better represent the songs. With a lot of these people, you really only get one shot. if you come to a label with a terrible sounding demo, and they are incapable of imagining it in another state, theyll probably be reluctant to listen to anything else. We want to make sure we have all our ducks in a row, so to speak, and really pursue this when were absolutely confident we have great recordings of new songs were proud of.
Do you think its different now after having being signed once when looking for a new home for the band?
Joe Hedges: For sure. Were going to be much more careful this time. As our experience has proved, being on a label doesnt guarantee you anything but a deli tray, and even that you cant get all the time. We have friends who were signed and didnt even have their albums released. Anything can happen. This time around, well do everything we can to hold out for the right situation.
I?m sorry for your friends. I know so many great bands that have their album stuck at a label that will never see the light of day. That must be the worst nightmare as an artist.
Joe Hedges: In some cases, a label will give the disc back for the band to release on their own. Sometimes albums just get "shelved". I guess theres a weird dichotomy, especially on a first album: the artist, who has spent his or her whole life working towards their first major label recording, then the major label, comprised of hundreds of people, all working on lots of different projects. You dont really know if youre going to be heard.
If you could choose label would it be a major one once again, or?
Joe Hedges: It really doesnt matter. There are plenty of large indies who have been extremely successful lately, and there are just as many majors (like MCA) who have went belly-up, or are barely hanging on. I think the game is changing. As long as were with people who honestly believe in us and want to work with us, were going to be happy, and hopefully successful.
You said that you think that the game is changing, which I really can agree with. How do you think that label scene will look like in a few years?
Joe Hedges: Not entirely sure. Obviously the internet has become a bigger part of the business, and I think it will continue to do so. History shows us that the music business operates on a cycle. Everything now is merging and collapsing. That will leave a void for smaller companies to spring up and be successful. Those companies will be bought by the bigger companies until eventually theres only a few. The few big companies will make poor decisions and theyll be forced to merge and collapse. Rinse and repeat. Basically, if that oversimplified pattern follows, then in a few years things should be in good shape again, as were in the middle of the worst period in music business history.
Let?s talk a little about one of the strangest covers for a while. Your song ?Girlfriend? ended up quite surprisingly, at least for me, on the Bob Guiney album ?3 Sides? from last year. Can you tell us a little about that story Joe?
Joe Hedges: The short version is that some folks at Bobs record label thought the song would be a good fit for him and he agreed. He recorded the song and they released it as his first single. I took a lot of shit for it. I was getting all this nasty "why did you sell your song?" e-mail. It was really frustrating. I dont think anybody really understood what was going on. In reality, I didnt even find out about the recording until just before its release. Under compulsory license laws, a songwriter and/or publisher doesnt have any say concerning whether or not a cover of a previously recorded master can be released. In other words, I couldnt have stopped them from doing it if I had wanted to.
That?s weird, I didn?t think it worked that way.. Then it?s possible that we can hear Marilyn Manson doing a cover of "New Black Car" in the future!??
Joe Hedges: As long as were talking possibility and probability, probably not. But yes it would be out of my control. And very strange. Actually, now that Im thinking about it, Marilyn Mansons "breakthrough" single was of course a cover of a Eurythmics song.
I guess that you don?t mind if the song would be a big commercial success that would get you a fatter bank account. But wouldn?t it also feel quite strange cause the two versions are quite close to each other? Do you like his version?
Joe Hedges: No I wont mind if the song enjoys some commercial success. The one thing I keep stressing to our listeners is that we are done with the song. MCA put out SWIM, and decided not to release Girlfriend as a single. Im glad for Bob, and Im glad the song has reached more people. Its not hurting us at all. Bob mentions my name in almost every interview he does. He was nothing but grateful and cool about the whole thing, and Ive got nothing to be upset about. People are always asking if it bothers me that hes getting more attention than we did. Of course it does, a little, but it isnt as if its taking away anything from us. I dont think its a big deal that the two songs sound similar. In fact, I think its flattering that they kept the instrumentation so close to the original. We came up with those parts a long time ago, and its good to hear other producers and musicians affirming that vision.
What do you think of the future for the modern rock and bands like yours, Tonic, Matchbox 20 and such? There?s fewer and fewer bands signed to the bigger labels, which I personally think is very sad.
Joe Hedges: I dont know. I try not to speculate. I dont think any one genre or group of artists have really stepped out and defined music in the 2000s. Right now, I think theres plenty of room for all sorts of artists, including us. I imagine it will be that way for a while. I just try and write from a place thats real. If big guitars or 3:30 minute songs go out of style, so be it. Production is only production. Its the center that matters. Singing and writing about the things you love and the things you believe in is always going to be cool in my book. Radio programmers arent going to change my mind...
What do you think you?re doing in 5 years? Still playing with July For Kings?
Joe Hedges: Barring any band name changes or seriously debilitating accidents, yes.
If you would do something other than music what would you like to work with?
Joe Hedges: I have lots of other things I do and plan on doing. I am also an artist and a webdesigner. one day I hope to write and illustrate a book. Maybe make a movie. Maybe some raisin bread. The sky is the limit.
What will happen next for you and the band? Any plans?
Joe Hedges: Record new songs, create new www.julyforkings.com website, secure new record deal, get a haircut, record new album, release new album. Thats the plan for now! This should prove to be an extremely busy and exciting year. Im just looking forward to releasing some of these new songs out into the wild.
Thanks for your time Joe and keep up thee the great work you?re doing. Hopefully will I talk to you again in a year or so when you have new album out.
Joe Hedges: Thanks a lot Johan!
Did you know that?
Steve Jones of Sex Pistols loved to listen to Foreigner and Journey in the late 70´s but never admitted it to the others in the band.