By Brian Ossip, DC Music Live
Clint Herring is a drummer and songwriter for The B-Film Extras, a local D.C.-area band. After years of trying to make it as a musician and a band by playing shows and touring in and around the region, Herring and his band mates decided that they needed a change, that the usual routine of “record and tour, record and tour” wasn’t working for them anymore. As a result, the band decided to “go cyborg,” and change the way they viewed the world of music. DC Music Live had the chance to sit down with Herring to discuss their musical future, and the reasons for the change.
I saw something on your website where you guys described yourself as “going cyborg,” which means taking your music more online and focusing more on content and creation. Can you explain a little bit more why you decided to do that?
It’s weird to be in a band because it can be very limiting. I think a lot of guys get in a band and feel that the only path for them is to just hit the road and play shows all the time. And we started to feel like doing that wasn’t having any kind of return for us. We saw a lot of bands and musicians who got burnt out, and broke, because it’s not cheap to go out on the road, and so we’d see these bands where that initial passion for music wasn’t there anymore, because to them it began to represent this struggle to afford life. We were saying, ‘What is that doing for us?’ A lot of our shows we put so much time and effort in to marketing them, and they’d be a lot of fun, but they just weren’t getting us new fans. And we really wanted to start embracing the internet more creatively.
So how did you decide to do that?
So everybody knows that you gotta have your Facebook page. And you gotta get your songs up on whatever the hot music site is, like SoundCloud. You have to do all that stuff. That’s band internet marketing 101. But we wanted to use it for more than that, you know? We wanted to start developing a connection where people could interact with the internet the way they do, but really experience our band as well.
And what are some of the ways they can do that?
We can be in the studio recording music and recording videos and doing things like that, that aren’t as taxing on ourselves and our budget as much, and we can get more hot-off-the press music right in people’s hands who are listening to us, you know? And so that’s kind of what we meant by all that. The unfortunate truth is that the music industry at large is very tumultuous. And so all we are trying to do is find a back door in, you know? And do it differently.
The whole thing is reminiscent of the Beatles, in a sense, when they decided that they were going to quit touring and playing shows to focus on making records.
Yea, and obviously I’m hesitant to compare us to the Beatles, but I think it’s coming from the same place. They, as a band, wanted to do more. They wanted to be larger than the conventional band. You know, I think a lot of bands believe that they have to fit that mold of what people say a band is, you know? And I think the Beatles wanted to push that, and make it so that that creative group of people could do more than just what a “band” does, you know.
Right, and in doing so they turned the industry on its head.
And ultimately that’s kind of the same thing we want to do. You know, we’re all musicians. That’s our main thing, but we also come from theater backgrounds, performance, filmmaking, and things like that. And so we wanted to be more of a group of people that creates things that are centered around our music.
So you won’t be touring anymore, but you did mention that you are still going to be playing live shows. Except that now you are going to try and make them more of a special event. How so?
We want to take control of our public image, so to speak, and that goes down even to our live shows. We had a lot of bad experiences with the management of venues; they don’t treat us very well. And we put all this work in to playing at these venues and still didn’t feel like we were able to give the experience we wanted to. And part of that is budget restraints. You know we can’t be putting on these big light shows and stuff like that. But, we came up with the idea that we were going to play a show in the tradition of live theater. You rehearse for six weeks or something, and then run a show for two weekends, Friday through Saturday. And it’d be our music and everything, but there’d be a little bit more of a show element to it. And then really hype one show and get a bunch of people and then rent out a theater instead of going to a venue.
So do you think this is where music is headed? On that path your band has started down?
I think it’s going to ebb and flow for the rest of the history of music. Because I think what always happens is you’re going to get a bunch of people who are innovators. But the thing that’s going to happen is, like anything, there’s going to come a time where [innovation] is going to become the norm, and it’s not going to be so innovative anymore. And then, doing the old school thing of going on tour and being this really organic band, that’s gonna become fresh again. And it’ll cycle back to that. So it’s always going to be a cycle.
But what about right now? Where is the music industry headed?
I think right now the people who are really going to make a career in music are people who are accepting the fact that the music has changed, and they are going to approach it in a different way. I think bands and musicians that refuse to re-strategize their approach are just going to get stuck and, they may have a small career, but they’re not going to have those rich careers that I think that a lot of musicians dream about when they are little kids banging away on their drums in the basement, you know?
So what are your thoughts, then, about the D.C. music scene?
When I think about D.C., it’s frustrating, but also one word that I can say is “potential.” D.C. is not like New York or Chicago, or even these other places that are sprouting up like Nashville and Austin and all these places that have this budding music scene. D.C. has punk which happened here, but other than that it’s not known for having a scene. But it could be. I really believe that. There’s enough venues, there’s enough young people in and around the area that want to hear music. And there’s enough talented musicians that this place could really be a big scene.
What would it take to reach that potential?
I think that if one band were to come out that was really good at making waves and kind of took a couple of bands that were like them on their coattails, and we had those bands that we could call our own, I think that it would just set the whole place on fire. I think that the ones that look at D.C. as an opportunity are the ones that are out there in innovative ways and making D.C. into a scene. And those are the people we really need. We need musicians in this area that are going to get out there and see the potential in D.C. to be a scene and just grab it by the collar and turn it into a scene. And, you know, it’s happening, slowly.
So, to that end, where do you see the scene in five years?
That all depends on what the people in the scene do. In all honesty, I think that the future of the scene actually, as much as it depends on the musicians within it, depends even more on the non-musicians that are a part of the scene. So, you’re talking fans, and people who are starting blogs and websites, and recording and photography, and things like that.
Will that happen?
Right now, D.C. is a place you get out of to become a musician. I think if we play our cards right, and convert some of those suits that are working on Capitol Hill in their internships or something, if we can get them to put on their skinny jeans and go to a club, there’s tons of those people that are ripe for the picking for that kind of thing. If that all happens, then like I said, I think D.C. will be a destination for music again. So, I’m going to be an optimist and say that in five years, that’s what it’s going to be. It’s going to be a scene, you know.