This is something that I’ve wanted to write for a while. I’m going to start making note of what I write people frequently when answering band e-mail and put it on the web just to make things easier.
Q: I was looking at the wikipedia page for “The Fear, The Fear, The Fear” and noticed the now commonplace warning on the discussion page about the album cover not have a fair use rationale attached to it.Â That got me wondering, does the Attribute-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC license apply to Defiance, Ohio’s album art and liner notes?
I would say that the CC license that we release our music under does not cover the album art/lyric sheet art, though it does cover any original layout text.Â The reason for this is not because we have different feelings about the artwork than the music, it’s just that, as can be seen from the style of artwork that we make, it is difficult to track down the source of some of the material we use in the content.Â The photo, for instance, that appears on the cover of The Fear … was found on a postcard at an all-night flea market somewhere in Germany.Â I’d say, in general, what we do constitutes fair use, but fair use is, unfortunately, a murky legal topic, and I’m not certain that our artwork contains only material that we can legitimately license under a CC-license.
Q: When are you coming to (insert town/state/country here)?
We tend to plan things really last minute and if you ask us, we probably won’t know. We post the details of the shows we’re going to play on our website at http://defianceohio.terrorware.com as soon as we know them.
Q: Are you signed to No Idea?
Our relationship with No Idea is the same as any of the labels that have released things with us (Dead Tank, Anti-Creative, Friends and Relatives, Plan-It-X) in that they pay for the printing and pressing of the records and CDs and give us some fraction of the pressing for ourselves. We don’t have any obligation to do future records with No Idea! or any of the labels that we’ve worked with. That said, we appreciate No Idea’s help with putting out our newest record. In my brief conversations with them, I’ve found that they’re cool, thoughtful people who have had a long and loving relationship with punk music, and give thought and concern to the ethics of how they run their label. They’ve been responsive to our needs and concerns and haven’t imposed any kind of limitations on what we choose to do as a band. Which, as its not the best situation for us to continue putting out new releases ourselves (and as much as I’d like to do it myself, I don’t have the personal finances to do it and don’t want to sacrifice my current projects. mobility, and volunteer responsibilities to change my financial situation to put out records), is all that anyone could ask for in working with people putting out records with you.
Q: How do you write songs?
This is a hard question because song writing is always something that has seemed pretty intuitive to me. I really don’t have a whole lot of musical ability, but I’ve always felt pretty able to string together three chords and some words into something that was at least exciting enough, to me, to keep working on it. But, I’ll try to answer your question the best that I can.
Everyone in Defiance, Ohio writes songs and some songs are just things that one person writes and everyone learns to play, adding little parts here and there, but sticking mostly to the person who wrote the song’s concept. Other times, someone will bring a song idea and the chord progression and words will stay mostly the same, but everyone else will hack and restructure the tempo, order of parts, and even add or remove parts until the song hardly resembles the original idea, though the changes are almost entirely always for the best. Finally, someone will sometimes bring a single part and we will build a song around it together.
As for how I write songs, I usually sit in my room with an acoustic guitar and just play around with different chord progressions until there’s something that just compels me to sing along. What I sing along might be a coherent verse, or it might be nonsense, but it gives me an idea of the vocal melody for the song. If it is coherent, it gives me a starting point for the theme of the song lyrically. If that gives me enough ideas, I’ll write a whole song around it, or maybe combine it with some chords or notes that I liked when I was messing around before, but never turned into a song. Or, if I’m really stuck, I’ll just show my idea to friends/bandmates and hope that they can help turn it into something more complete. Sometimes its good to just sit on an idea for months and when I try to remember it, my muddled recolection of it ends up working out in a way that the original idea didn’t.
Lately, I’ve been playing in a two-piece hardcore band which has brought the experience of writing music and lyrics exclusive to each other. I find this to be a lot harder, and it seemed impossible at first, but its getting easier. For this, I made rough recordings of the music and then walked around listening to it on my headphones and trying to think of things to sing along. So, it was definitely something that I had to work at, and make time for, rather than just happening.
Q: Do you guys have a guarantee? What are your requirements for setting up a show?
A: In terms of what we ask for in a show, we don’t have things like gaurantees. We just hope that people flyer for the show so everybody who’s interested in punk shows in your town knows about the show and try to get enough people to come to the show so that a cover charge or donation of around $5 will cover the cost of gas for getting to the show. We also hope that people can help us out with a place to sleep (we’re fine with floors, couches, whatever) and maybe some food or at least a suggestion to the whereabouts of a nearby cheap restaurant with vegan options or a grocery store. We hope that people choose a venue that’s appropriately sized for the number of people that you expect to show up (and not just counting your best buds). So, if you think 100+ people would like to see the show, maybe doing it at a cool bar that does all-ages shows or renting out a VFW hall. If it’s just going to be 40 folks, the basement is better. Finally, we ask that people doing shows provide a PA with at least 2 vocal mics (preferably 3) and at least 2 inputs for plugging things like violin, cello, and banjo into the PA.
Q: Why do you sell t-shirts that may have been made in a sweatshop?
Update: For this tour (March/April/May 2006) we now have American Apparel-based shirts which are sweat-free, although not without their own issues (see our friend Mikeal’s message below). The decision to use AA shirts, as far as I can tell, has as much to do with the fact that they allow you to pay for the shirts within 30 days (so we can pay for them after we’ve sold them on tour and have the money), rather than up front, as it does the ethics of their production/business. Friends who have made the shirts for us in the past have offered us this flexibility, but I guess it seems better to place the stress of having a few hundred dollars outstanding on a bigger company than on your friends. Some in the band like the fact that American Apparel offers better business practices, shirts that are of good quality, and fit well and that all of these things are a current viable reality. Personally, while I recognize that AA offers a better option for sourcing shirts, the reality of their business practices, objectives, marketing strategies, and image is very, very far from what I would like to see in business. But, the reality is that I play in bands, and do some community volunteering and choose to do those things instead of run a garment company, so I’m not sure if I could do better. If there are people who are offering new, ethical, paradigm shifting options in the garment industry, I would love to hear from them and try to find a way that we can support each other.
Here’s my original thoughts on the question: When I was attending college at OSU I was involved in various United Students Against Sweatshops campaigns, so I am aware of some of the issues with how many garments are produced, and I am very aware that we have absolutely no knowledge of the conditions of how our t-shirts are currently produced. We are able to get American Apparel shirts from the screen printing shop where Ryan used to work and where all our friends work which is where we currently screen the shirts. However, they are more expensive. We could charge more for shirts, and still have them be reasonably priced, and I think people would be willing to pay more for a more ethically produced shirt. The problem is that with the cheap shirts we have now, we can take them on tour and pay for them after we come back (and have sold some to get money to pay for them). With American Apparel shirts, they are expensive enough (and the screen printing shop has had some accounts go overdue with them) that we would have to pay up front. Since Defiance, Ohio doesn’t really make money as a band, we can’t afford to pay for American Apparel shirts up front. I guess this brings up the question of whether its worth taking shirts on tour at all if they aren’t ethically produced. This is a good question, and I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. It is our hopes that eventually the prices of American Apparel shirts will be low enough that we can afford to buy them up front for tour. Or, maybe we could work something out with friends bands where we can all buy collectively to make the price low enough. I’ve also heard that there are an increasing number of non-US t-shirt factories that have certified working conditions. All of these might be good options. While those are being explored, I guess the best I can offer is that we will screenprint designs on any fabric that people mail to us. So, if someone wants a Defiance, Ohio T-shirt but doesn’t want one that is on a potentially sweathshop-produced t-shirt, they can send us a recycled thrift-store shirt, or send us an American Apparel shirt, and we will gladly screen print it for them. Folks can mail the shirts to
PO Box 1218
and should include enough money to cover return shipping. -Geoff
My friend Mikeal responded with the following ideas about sweat-free t-shirts:
First (and this is something i’m sure you know) is that even anti-sweatshop groups don’t promote actually boycotting sweatshop-using companies. the reason is that contracts in sweatshops are sketchy to begin with and the employees are just barely surviving in the first place, so if the corporation using a shop has a decrease in sales, guess who doesn’t have any work at all anymore? so you have people who are just making it by to begin with now with no income. also, american apparel may not be the best solution. there’s a lot of documentation out there about how the chief executive of AA, Dov Charney, is a total piece of shit and has lawsuits against him for sexual harrassment. you may want to check out this article: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_26/b3939108_mz017.htm
Despite marketing itself as sweatshop-free (which is actually true), AA is still anti-labor. Attempts to unionize AA shops met with intimidation campaigns so fierce that the National Labor Relations Board had to step in. I’ve also read of AA paying it’s own store employees at less than a living wage.
Beyond that, it needs to be faced that American Apparel is still just a profit-driven clothing company that just happens to appeal to rich college liberals. The Gateway Center finally opened up this year, and the first store to move in down the street (on the corner of 5th and High) is American Apparel. They are a yuppie clothing store and have no problem assisting with gentrification efforts in every town they open stores. Now that they’re opening a store here, how long do you think it will take Campus Partners to put the final squeeze on pushing out the rest of the low-income housing around campus, or the independent sex shops and bookstores that lie in between 5th and the Short North?