It is always great to talk with artists about their feelings on the industry and what they are doing to advance and succeed. I had a chance to speak with Obe Babakhan of Until We Sleep and ask him about his thoughts…
Hey Obe! I wanted to thank you to take time to talk with us, and being a part of the Metalluminati family. I wanted to ask you what you feel is the most difficult thing to overcome in the music industry?
The dawn of the social media era in the music industry has had its pros and cons for our band. It’s easier these days for us to get our name out there as a young band but it’s just as easy for millions of other bands to do the same.
Staying on top of our social media sites (Facebook and Twitter), building hype, and finding ways to stand out in the enormous crowd has probably been our greatest ongoing challenge. In the real world, the challenge of keeping every member on the same page as far as time, money, and the pressures of everyday life is a close second. Luckily, we have finally found a group of guys with good heads on their shoulders and a great work ethic!
You guys just released a new self titled album. A lot of young artists DIY or record at home, but you can find reasonable studios that are willing to help artists. Talk about your experience and suggestions you could give artists in the recording process.
Yeah, we just released our first album at the end of January and had an amazing experience at our CD release show!
A lot more artists are doing things in-house because it is widely available, it is increasingly inexpensive, and the high quality of recording software. We like to do all of the preproduction ourselves because it gives us time to listen to the material and gain a new perspective on our songs.
When it came time to record the album, we did things old school and called in the professionals. There’s always room for other opinions and ideas in the recording process. Being able to take and make use of constructive criticism is imperative if you want to have an enjoyable and productive recording session. We had the privilege of working with Don Budd (Tone Freq Studios) and Sam Pura (Panda Studios). Even though they had very different styles and ideas, both of these guys know their shit and contributed to our sound in their own way.
Money is so tight as an artist in the modern era of music. Tell me how you went about deciding where to invest in yourself as a band, and what have you learned in the process.
Ahh yes, the money! First of all, every member in this band has a 9-5 gig! Without incoming funds our band goes nowhere. So many musicians think that they’ll “make it” by putting out a crappy demo on Facebook and hanging out in their mom’s basement smoking weed. Not even close!
One thing we are really proud of is being able to completely fund the band on our own. We have avoided outside investors such as friends, family, and small indie labels that are essentially just credit cards by another name. Recording our album at a quality studio was our best early investment because if you don’t have a decent product to push you have nothing!
Other than the usual merch, we’ve been putting quite a bit of time and money into social media and it seems to be paying off in a number of ways. We’ve been fortunate enough to know people that have had semi successful bands and we’re very grateful to be able to learn from their mistakes and successes.
Touring is so important in the modern music business, how will you incorporate this into your future as a band?
Since our album dropped we’ve been working on putting together some summer blast tours. We’re trying to reach out to other bands in different areas that are on the same page as far as trading shows.
It’s funny, when you start contacting these other bands you quickly learn who’s on board for the long haul and who’s going to end up quitting in a few months. Playing shows out of town and going on small tours is so important in today’s music industry and it’s really the main way that bands make their money.
I know you are big on DIY, and I am glad! Talk about what efforts you have made, and what has been successful and what has been unsuccessful.
DIY is exactly that — doing it yourself. I’ll tell you what doesn’t work: asking people to do anything for you!
We’ve learned the hard way that enlisting the help of other people and not babysitting them is a huge mistake. Vendors, promoters, other bands, and even friends of the band will at some point drop the ball if given the opportunity.
One thing that worked well for our CD release was bringing in our own sound guy. Brendan’s dad, Michael Meier, took time out of his work week as a pro live sound engineer to mix the show for us and it paid off big time for the band and fans! Booking our own shows and not having middle men take a cut is always a nice feeling too!
Being DIY, what is your feeling on record labels?
The more we hear about other bands’ experiences with labels and the more hard times we see “signed” guys having, the less interested we become in signing to a label.
Frankly, we’re turned off by the idea of somebody owning us without giving much back in the way of money or support. When a band can record their own album, make their own merch, book shows, even buy advertising and distribute a product worldwide with enough cash then what is the label for?
Labels have become machines that feed top-tier bands and executives with the blood and sweat of lower-level acts like us. The days of “I’m gonna get signed and the label will just handle me” are way over. We have friends that have been dropped from labels because they let the label “handle” them and now they owe the label thousands of dollars!
So, if you want our opinion, just save your cash and do it yourself. That way, if the band fails, you’ll still own all your music, van, trailer, and equipment. Oh, and your dignity!
So what is next for Until We Sleep?
2012 is going to be a busy year for us! Lots of shows to book throughout California, more merch diversity, and upgrades for the band. Oh, and by the way, we’ll be releasing our official music video this year so keep an eye out for that!
In the mean time be sure to hit us up on Facebook.
Thank you so much for taking to talk to us about and letting others know about your experience!
Thanks for having us, Jeff!