Or, the Whale is steadily chipping away at the dream of playing music for a living. Since the San Francisco alt-country band formed in 2006, they've signed to Seany Records, toured the West on a consistent basis (this will be their 5th show in Denver in 3 years,) played SXSW, Daytrotter, and Paste Magazine in-studio, seen their single "Datura" get added to more and more radio station playlists, and recently inked a deal with new booking agencies in the US as well as the UK. In advance of the Colorado portion of Or, the Whale's current tour (4 CO shows in 4 days!) Luke Mossman (Achille Lauro, Hello Kavita) asked singer Lindsay Garfield a few questions about the San Francisco scene, constant touring, and the strain that can put on relationships back home.
Q: Could you reflect a bit on the San Francisco scene? There's so much music coming out of the bay area. Is there a sense of community and support amongst bands and venues?
A: One of the things that I love about the SF music scene right now is that anything goes. There are so many scenes happening all at once. I'd say that mini networks are forming spontaneously, comprised of groups of bands and their fans. So yeah, I'd say it's very supportive in that way. It's all very DIY and grassroots. I know a lot of people who do things specifically to help support the scene- like starting blogs, producing local music festivals, making compilations, etc.
Q: You guys tour quite a bit. How has being gone so much affected your personal life and relationships in San Francisco?
A: It can be a strain on our romantic relationships for sure, and has probably been the cause of the demise of a few of them (at least for me). Luckily most us are fortunate enough to have found people who can deal with their significant other being on the road a lot. They don't like it, but they support us. That being said, as we continue to tour more, time at home becomes more and more valuable, and I think ultimately, if this truly becomes a full-time thing, some major decisions may have to be made for some people.
Q: What have been your impressions of Denver and it's music scene over the several trips you've made out here?
A: Denver is a fun town! Every time we pass through, it just gets better. Our favorite Denver venue is the Hi-Dive. The people who run the place really know what they're doing. The caliber of bands they get in there is really impressive for the size of the venue, and the sound is great. And they treat you well - feed you and whatnot. They seem to care that you're there. Our favorite Denver band by far is Hello Kavita. They've really got it all - sweet, mellow alt-country songs, stellar musicianship, great, clean recordings. And they happen to be really nice people.
Q: What is your favorite venue/city to tour to?
A: One of our favorite venues to play is The Tractor Tavern in Seattle. It's really a perfect venue for a band like us. Great rustic decor, with old boots hanging from the ceiling and giant paintings of horses on the walls. The sound is good. Greg the sound guy is a buddy of ours and gets us dialed in right off the bat. But the real draw is the crowd. They come for the music. And it's really an event. They don't take it for granted that you've traveled 1,000 miles to play for them. They circle the show in the paper and write it on their calendars and show up early to hear all three bands. And they buy our shirts and records and talk to us after the show. And they come back the next time wearing the shirts, singing the songs- it's really touching.
Q: Considering the current state of the music industry, do you feel that being an independent band can be sustainable? The downside to pursuing music (for me) is putting a lot of other things in my life on hold. How are you able to keep going?
A: It is an uphill battle for sure, and I, like many indie artists out there, sometimes get down about it and start to question things- like how i'm 30 and still have to wait tables and live with roommates and why don't I just settle down and get a real job and start a family, etc. But I think the thing that keeps me going in these moments of self-doubt is the reality that we're constantly moving forward- making progress towards the goal of sustainability. And until that stops happening, I'll happily chip away at The Dream. I mean, c'mon, Im traveling around the country (and soon, the world!), singing in a rock band, made up of some pretty all right people, I might add. Now is not the time to trade that in for a steady paycheck.