Bards Missing in Action

Greetings, friends and fans, we think it’s about time for a blog post! We’ve been pretty quiet this year, but don’t worry—we haven’t gone anywhere. We just needed an extended break.

But now is the time to begin looking forward to next year. We’re looking for venues and even have a couple of performances already scheduled. We’ll be at the Prairie Land Music Fest and Campout in June of 2016 and InConJunction XXXVI in July of 2016, at which we will be the Music Guests of Honor. We’re really excited about both of these bookings, and we can’t wait to hit the road again!

In the meantime, we would like to introduce a bandmate who…isn’t exactly new.

Say hi to Riley!

No, that is not Sean’s sister, as several people have posited. Our rockin’ guitarist has recently revealed that she is transgender. Say hi to Riley!

Our extended hiatus has also given us time to move our base of operations from our home on the northeast side of Indianapolis to a new house on the east side of Indianapolis. The new place came complete with a pre-built recording studio in the basement, which we look forward to using to great effect for our recording projects.

So apart from the aforementioned events, what does next year hold? Nothing else is finalized, yet, but we’re looking at more festivals and are, as always, eager to play house concerts. Something that we’re especially looking forward to about next year is that we will have some extra hands to help out and prevent that one thing from happening again. Both of our new helpers have lots of managerial and retail experience, and we look forward to working with them throughout the year. We will formally introduce them in due time.

You won’t likely hear from us again before the end of 2015, but keep an eye on our Schedule page for information on our confirmed shows. We miss you all and we can’t wait to see you and share some music with you again! Contact us if you want us to come out your way, and we’ll come bearing music, mischief, and hugs!

Until then ❤

Starting Out in 2015

As you may know, we take a break every winter from December until at least February. Last year, we took a quick step out in the very beginning of March, and then really roared out of the gate in April with a week-and-a-half-long trip to Chicago, Winnipeg, and Minneapolis. We have a lot of very fond memories from our tour last year, and we’re looking forward to making more this year…but we’ll be getting a bit of a late start.

We were all set to begin our 2015 tour with a show at Indiana Comic Con in March. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized what a terrible idea that was. Not because of anything to do with the event—but because of some personal issues we’re both dealing with.

If you have her friended on Facebook, you might have seen Katt share that she’s been battling anxiety and depression since around May of last year. It turns out that several people on both sides of her family, going back at least two generations, have done their own toe-to-toe with these demons. Katt is getting help and trying to sort out how to manage these issues, but she needs a bit more time than would be allowed by our emerging from our yearly hibernation in March.

And actually, we both need a bit more time. We pushed ourselves hard last year, and we’re both still pretty burned out from it. We need to let the batteries re-charge and then yes—we’re going to try not to over-do it again this year.

And on top of that, we still have an album to finish.

Lastly, we’re trying to delay the start of our tour so we can spend as much time as possible with one of our cats. Our ten year-old brown tabby Bell was recently diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal tumor. There’s no way of knowing how much longer she has left, but we’d like to be here with her for as long as we can. Anyone who knows her can attest that she is one of the sweetest things on four feet. So we want to make her as comfortable as possible during whatever remaining time we have with her.

As things stand right now, it looks as if our first show of the year will be at IPCOD in May. It’s a free festival, and they usually have multiple acts and activities throughout the course of the day. We hope you’ll come join us!

You guys are the best fans in the world. We miss you. But we need to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves (because we’re honestly really bad at it). We’ll be getting a later start than normal this year, but even so, we’ll see you soon!

The Unfortunate Problem with Conventions

Wax Chaotic’s first ever concert was performed at InConJunction in 2011. InCon is one of our local science-fiction conventions, and the two of us have attended it every year for over a decade now. It’s one of the few conventions we plan on attending every year, whether or not we make it onto the schedule. We would love to attend more cons as just ourselves and not as Wax Chaotic, but it’s just not in the budget. Sadly, we’ve reached the point at which attending cons even as the band isn’t within the budget, either. Which is why in 2015, the number of conventions for which Wax Chaotic volunteers will be drastically reduced.

Since that particular InCon, we’ve had the good fortune to perform at many fine conventions around the Midwest and beyond. In fact, we’ve played at more conventions than we have any other type of event or venue. On the whole, it’s been a lot of fun. These are events put on by people who really love a lot of the stuff we love, and they’re all dedicated to giving everyone a fun weekend. But the end of our 2014 tour will mark the end of an era, at least for us.

Because while conventions are a lot of fun to play at, they are also unfortunately very expensive for us. We normally don’t like talking about money in such a public manner—it feels too much like airing our dirty laundry. But money is what currently makes most of the Western world go ’round, and so it’s a necessary evil that everyone has to deal with. And as independent musicians, we don’t have a great deal of it.

Sadly, neither do a lot of fan-run conventions. Conventions are frequently only ever able to pay for things like lodging and travel expenses for their honorary attendees, which of course we do understand. But this means that the financial end of things is pretty painful for us. At any given con, we usually have to pay at least $100 in registration fees; at least twice that for a hotel room; and $40 to $80 for gas, depending on where the event is (and we drive a Prius V that has really good gas mileage). Then there’s also food, parking fees, and vehicle maintenance. And if we want dedicated vending space for the entire weekend, there’s usually an additional fee involved there, too. That all adds up pretty quickly.

So it’s pretty painful all around. On the one hand, the convention people want to put on a good event for their attendees, with a variety of programming and activities to enjoy. And on the other hand, people like us just can’t keep volunteering for events at which they have to pay to play.

Another problem with playing at conventions is that we are by far not the only thing there is to see at such an event. As a result, we don’t tend to recoup the related expenses through merch sales. That sort of business model is only sustainable for so long, and we’ve about reached our limit.

So in 2015, we intend to focus more on other venue and event types. We would love to hear about your favorite coffee house, bookstore, festival, or library, and we would also be thrilled to come perform in your home or worship space (we fit in well at Pagan events and UU churches).

And please, if you’re doing programming for a con and you want us to come, don’t let that stop you from inviting us—that’s different than if we send a cold email with our hands up looking to get on the schedule. We know your finances are just as tight as ours, but if you want us badly enough to go to the trouble of inviting us, maybe we can work something out.

We’ve had a lot of great fun at various conventions over the last few years, and we can’t thank all of them enough for giving us spaces to play. They’ve been really welcoming (and forgiving) as we’ve worked to find our way. But it’s time to take a break from volunteering for them for a little while. In the meantime, if you’re looking for new cons to go to, ask us about our favorites. We’ll talk your ear off.

And we look forward to seeing you in 2015 at a café, in a bookstore, or maybe even in your own backyard.

Coming to the End of the Year

The days are growing steadily shorter and the nights ever colder, and we once again find ourselves at the time of year when we look back and reflect. We’re reflecting on what a wonderful tour we’ve had this year, and on all of the people who made it possible. As we wrap up our 2014 tour, we wanted to thank the following people:

  • Sean’s mom and step-dad, who took care of the cats and the house any time we went out of town—if you’ve been following us, you know we went out of town a lot this year, so that was no small task
  • Katt’s mom, who enthusiastically attended our shows each and every chance she got, talked us up to anyone who would listen, and repeatedly told us how proud we make her
  • Katt’s sister, who bravely opened her home to us when we needed to move the venue for our Cleveland house concert in September at the last minute
  • Sean’s aunt and uncle in New Orleans, who gave us safe and joyous haven
  • Our friends, who fangirled/boyed at us, helped us promote our music in a million different ways, and were so excited about our music that they were (to use some of their own words), “not unlike a child wanting to open Christmas presents at 1:00am because dammit it’s Christmas already”—and who were always excited to see us, but still understanding when we said they wouldn’t because we had to rehearse/rest up/travel/et cetera
  • All of our many fans, who give us both a reason and the ability to continue doing something that we are so, so in love with doing
  • All of the many gracious house concert hosts, music track programmers, and event organizers, who invited us to their homes and their events, and gave us places to play, express ourselves, and make new friends
  • Katt’s IndieGoGo backers, who eagerly jumped at the chance to bring her next CDs into the world, and then oh-so-patiently waited for them to be finished

This stunningly fantastic tour would not have been so without all of you. You made our 2014 touring season the best we’ve ever had, and we’re so excited to see what we all can do with 2015. Thank you all so much for coming on this journey with us.

Our last show of the year is over, and so now we withdraw into the background for a few months. We will rest and recharge and then reemerge in 2015 with new songs and stories to share. Until we meet again, lights and loves, keep your fires burning and take care. We’ll see you when winter is waning.

2014 in Review

Our 2014 tour isn’t quite over, but it is nearing its end. We have only two more shows left, both of which will be in Indianapolis. In part because she wanted to illustrate just how much we’ve done this year, and in part because we wanted it all laid out for us, Katt created this mock tour poster will all of our 2014 tour dates on it. We’ve already shared this on our Facebook page, but since that version came out really tiny, we thought we’d share it again on our blog so that it would be, well, legible. So here it is in all its glory. Click to embiggen.

Wax Chaotic's 2014 Tour

On Compiling an Album

Katt here again! This weekend, Wax Chaotic went down to CONtraflow in New Orleans. (Awesome, awesome con. Go, if ever you can.) As we try to do whenever we go to conventions, we sent out word that we’d like to make a con video. This usually entails an informal performance of a new(/-ish) song and some fan Q&A. The only question submitted to us was one best answered by me alone, so I thought I’d write up my response as a blog entry. We also couldn’t come up with a song to perform for the video that was actually ready to be released to the world, so sadly, we have no con video from CONtraflow.

But we do have this blog entry! We were asked,

… how do you go about deciding which songs (or to-be-written songs) should go on the same album, or what seems like it would even be a good concept to start with?

I’ll answer this question a bit backwards.

First, how do I decide what a good idea for an album concept is? Well, I’m not sure the answer to that will be overly helpful—to date, every themed album of which I’ve conceived has been thought of completely randomly. I just get an idea for something, and run with it. “[untitled]” came about because I was writing songs pertaining to my own life—”Coat of Scars”, “Buttons”, and “[untitled]” itself just to name a few—and figured that if I were ever going to publish studio recordings of them, I might as well do so as part of some sort of appropriately-themed project.

“Faces in the Fog”, for the record, was never intended to have a specific theme. It just randomly happened to turn into a compilation of a bunch of songs that were, for the most part, spooky stories.

I have multiple other themed album ideas in the works behind the scenes, and I don’t want to say too much about any of them just yet. But I will say that, like “[untitled]”, they mostly came into existence by complete happenstance.

As for the second part of the question, concerning an album’s content, if I’m working with a theme, then that part’s pretty easy. The theme for “[untiled]”, for example, is, “Where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going”. Once I knew that, I knew that I wanted to have songs for the project pertaining to several very important aspects of my life—long-time friends (“Partners in Crime”), found family (“Lost Girls”), cats (“Wild Hair Time”), the love of my life (“In a Hundred Different Ways”), the effects and social ignorance of psychological abuse (“Hand-Me-Downs”), finding the value of hardship (“Coat of Scars”), and others.

I’m currently working to round out rough track list drafts for two future themed albums, and in the process of doing that, I’m mostly writing down ideas. I know that I want to include in an album a song about this thing or maybe this other thing, so I’ll note that down and think of ways in which I might write a story or discuss the idea in question.

I’m also working to round out the track list for “Vagabonds”, which is intended to be Wax Chaotic’s first album. We hope that it will be a live album comprised of performances of various songs from shows during our 2015 tour. And its theme is…no theme at all. Which I suppose is appropriate for a group calling itself “Wax Chaotic”. (One of the things I love best about that name is that it sort of gives us the ability to do whatever we want to creatively as we feel the need to do so.)

So how am I deciding what songs should go on this disc? Simple: They need to be things that don’t already have a studio version available. Even better if they’re songs so new that no one has heard them before. We’re considering a possible exception to both of these rules (largely because having a live version of “The Singing of Dragons” with some good audience participation would make us really happy bards), but for the most part, I’m doing my best to stick to them when conceiving of track list ideas to get Sean’s input on.

And that’s about all there is to it at the moment. I really enjoyed answering this question, so thanks, Gabrielle, for asking it! I hope I managed to give you some useful information!

If you’d like to ask us—or any combination of us (the both of us, just me, or just Sean)—a question, you can do so on our Facebook page. If it’s something we can both weigh in on, it might even be featured in one of our YouTube videos!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Advice for Beginner Songwriters

Hey everyone! Katt here. I figured I’d publish this post on this blog instead of on my studio blog, as the question I’m endeavoring to answer was asked of Wax Chaotic rather than Dragon Scale Studios.

A few months ago, we were asked on Facebook what advice we have for aspiring songwriters. Since I’m currently the one doing the songwriting for Wax Chaotic, I thought I would try my hand at furnishing an answer. The reason I’m doing this as a blog post instead of in a video Q&A session as was originally intended is because it got a little long…

So we might as well begin! First and foremost:

If you’re writing for an audience, figure out who that will be
It might be useful to be cognizant of the tastes of anyone you’re writing for. They should not be the end all, be all of your songwriting existence—it is imperative that you write for YOU, too—but if you intend to show your pieces to anyone, it is highly recommend that, at the very least, you be aware of when you might offend them, for example. A song like “Fall from Grace” isn’t likely to go over that well at a festival sponsored by, say, a Baptist church.

Don’t weed your garden too closely
Don’t be afraid of your ideas. Don’t worry yet if they’re good or not. You’re just starting out. Just see what comes out of your mind and play around with it. Even if you’re not sure it’s good, it might turn into something amazing in the future. Alternatively, your audience may surprise you by latching onto it as something they really love.

Study the language you’re working with
By its very nature, lyrical songwriting requires more conciseness than writing prose. If you better understand the language you’re writing in, you will be able to use it more effectively.

Study music theory—at least the basics
You don’t have to be a master at music theory to be a musician, but knowing something about it will definitely help. For example, it’s useful for all of the parts of your song—verse, chorus, and middle eight if you’ve got one—to all be in the same key. Since I tend to write songs piecemeal rather than all at once, it’s not uncommon for me to get a tune idea for one part that’s in a different key than a tune idea for another part. Understanding the basics of how that works not only allows me to recognize when I’ve done that, but fix the problem, as well. That saves us a lot of time and trouble down the line.

Plus, if you understand how stuff like that works, you can add in intentional key changes and the like where you want them.

Don’t be afraid to sit down at a keyboard
If you have trouble writing melodies to go with your lyrics, even just a basic keyboard will help. Make sure it has at least as many octaves on it as you can sing comfortably (or that your vocalist can sing comfortably, if you’re writing for someone else). Don’t worry if you don’t know how to play piano. Just plunk around and see what sounds you like. I find this very helpful sometimes when I’m working on a new melody; hunting and pecking with my own voice only gets me so far for some songs. It’s nice to hear what other alternatives exist, and sitting down at the keyboard allows me to do that.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
When you’re ready to start sharing your pieces with other people, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and those you trust to help with your writing process. Sometimes a second set of eyes or pair of ears can be the difference between loving something you’ve written, and remaining lukewarm about it (or hating it).

Don’t ever go anywhere without a way to jot down an idea, or a way to record a melody sample
This is pretty self-explanatory.

Just don’t. Trust me.

You could use a notepad, your cell phone, or anything else that works for you. I have an .mp3 player with recording capability that I’ve used more for songwriting than I have for playing music. I’ve also been known to whip out my phone and sing and/or talk at it for a few minutes. The means by which you record your ideas don’t matter, only that you record them.

If this is something you’re serious about, remember that this is WORK, and treat it as such
You might hate working with deadlines. You might prefer to only write songs that come to you in a flash of inspiration, rather than sitting down and teasing an idea out over a period of hours or days…or years. While there is nothing wrong with either method of working, if songwriting is something you really want to do seriously, you’re going to have to get over yourself. Yes, you are an artist. But yes, you need to work with some measure of discipline, or you will never get anything done. Be prepared to dedicate a lot of time to your craft. Be prepared to make sacrifices where necessary. And yes, be prepared to force yourself to write sometimes. I know this is probably counter-intuitive because we’re used to the idea that forcing creativity produces nothing but crap, and while that is true to a point, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t make yourself work at it. Even if all you come away with is an outline for where you want your song to go, that’s more than you had when you sat down.

I very rarely ever sit down and braindump an entire song into the world. The majority of my songwriting is done over a period of days, weeks, or months—and yes, in some cases, years—and is something I really put a lot of thought and effort into. There’s a lot of brainstorming. I absolutely work with deadlines. So if time management is not your forte, it might benefit you to look into learning how to become better at it.

Important note: The word “serious” as used in the above paragraph is meant to denote “those who wish to be professional songwriters”, but it might also be used to denote “those who really, really enjoy songwriting, but who may or may not wish to be professional songwriters”. As far as that goes, there is no right or wrong way to do this. You go with whatever level of activity or definition of the word “serious” works for you. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, that is all that matters.

Find the process that works for you
It’s not uncommon for me to write something in my notebook only to then cross them out. Sometimes I come back to a song later and, upon realizing that it doesn’t quite say what I wanted it to, I will rewrite the entire thing. This is a legitimate way to work. You are not doing anything wrong by taking your time, or by rewriting things. You are finding your way to a process that works for you. And as long as whatever process that may be works for you, then that is what matters.

* * * * * * * * * *
And I think that about covers all of my thoughts on this subject for the time being. If anyone reading would like some clarification on the above, or was hoping I would discuss an idea and failed to, please let me know in the comments!