This entire last year while in school, I held a part time job at a cozy tea shop tucked in-between the infamous Harvard Square Urban Outfitters and a quant cupcake shop on Brattle Street. Not only did the gig provide me with piping tea on cold winter days, but I also got to know a variety of co-workers— many of whom are artists in the Boston area.
During quiet morning shifts and afternoon lulls, my co-worker Zach and I had many conversations about the local music scene in Boston, and the work he is doing with his band, Coaches. We babbled with excitement over his vintage synth purchase (which he often brought into the shop wrapped like a baby in a thick blanket), and the new music he was recording with the band. Zach’s dedication and excitement for the Boston music scene inspired me to learn more, and share his music with you guys.
Check out my conversation with Coaches below, and if you live in the Boston area, be sure not to miss their upcoming show at the Cambridge Elks Lodge on September 27th!
1. Can you first introduce yourself, tell us what you do, and tell us what band(s) you play in?
Hi I’m Brady Custis, I play guitar and sing in the band Coaches.
2. How would you describe the local music scene that you guys are a part of? What are some pros and cons of being where you’re at now in that environment?
I’ve grown to love the music scene in Boston. It’s a pretty tight nit community which means you’re gonna get both the good and the bad of what comes with that. Musicians are people and people are generally very wonderful which means you get a lot of supportive friends from other bands in the scene as well as supportive fans that want to see you succeed. Of course there will be some clique-y-ness between genres and some bad attitudes, but that really isn’t what its all about and the people who thrive in the community and actually leave a footprint understand that. Any kind of community including music needs respect and support to go on and Boston has that. Hopefully it will just keep getting stronger.
3. How did you guys first come together as a band? What advice would you give to a singer/songwriter or musician in general who is looking to find the right people to put a band together?
We all met at school at completely different points. I met Zach who met Eric who introduced me to Eric. I had a few classes with Donovan which mainly meant I would annoy him after class to try and make some noise with me. He’d always agree but we never actually did it till I was getting this band together for one reason or another. If I had to give advice to someone looking to play with other people I’d say just be open to meeting new people, but know what you want and who you can get along with in a creative atmosphere. A negative attitude is the easiest way to kill any kind of creativity. When everyone has a common thirst and can express ideas in a way that is actually productive you’d be amazed as to how easy it is to know you’re on the right track with a particular song or the overall philosophy behind your music.
4. How do you guys pay for things like studio time, practice space, distribution, and other marketing expenses?
It sucks, but you’ve got to spend just a tiny bit up front. Having some actually decent sounding recordings (something more than your computer mic into garageband) can do wonders in terms of getting you gigs which is really what gets you noticed. After that, use those recordings to get yourself gigs and then gig more and more everywhere you can whether it pays you or not - within reason. Some gigs can equal money but that doesn’t mean they’re the best gigs. A basement show is (in my humble opinion) more rewarding sometimes as it feels more community driven; by the people for the people. However, playing in front of 200 people in a venue with an amazing sound system is a completely different but equally valuable experience. I’ve made the same amount of money at both, meaning the high budget places will rip you off sometimes (sometimes they won’t), and the low budget places with surprise with how much they appreciate you (and sometimes they won’t). After that, spend wisely and save wisely. Determine what you actually need to get better and get yourself bigger better gigs. Don’t believe in your first EP anymore? Record your new material with the money you’ve made, but don’t do it at the expense of not being able to afford your rehearsal space. If you can’t practice then your live show will suffer making it harder to get gigs meaning you won’t be making any money. Since we started making any money, it all goes to a “band fund” which is used solely for want the band needs to progress: gas money for touring, studio time, the practice space, etc.
5. What criteria would you look for in someone that you would potentially take out on tour to help out with merch or management?
Anyone who is going to be a face that represents your band needs to be in line with your philosophical interests. For instance, I’ve found that the people who are in it to get chicks/hunks or an excuse to get wasted every night have no connection to what I believe and what I hope to achieve. Find someone who is an addition rather than a distraction. Your music is worth it.
6. In the past when you’ve toured, did you book your own tour? Can you tell us about that experience, and what you learned?
As a young band I highly recommend doing the only thing we’ve ever done: find another band to tour with. In my experience its easier to get gigs when you’ve got to bands already filling out the bill whose music hopefully is a compliment to yours as well. It also means more people doing the grunt work of emailing or calling venues. If a place you really want to play isn’t getting back to you just keep asking. Too much is obviously annoying but just enough can show you have an actual interest can be endearing to a venue.
7. What are some of the biggest challenges or set backs you’ve faced being a band in Boston’s music scene?
Honestly, I think the one thing Boston’s music scene lacks is legitimate venues where people will go to see new bands. Getting your name out there is so important and unless you have some connections to some already more established bands it can be very frustrating getting people to have interest in your music regardless of how good it is. I’ve seen plenty of amazing bands go unnoticed for a long time simply because no one took a chance to hear them. I think a lot of the local venues are actually really great, but they must have a hard time making a profit themselves which makes it harder for them to cultivate a supportive community. Boston desperately needs a legitimate all ages venue that is set on actually supporting the scene rather then struggling to stay open with expensive tickets for unknown bands and overpriced Narragansetts.
8. Going forward, what are some of the goals you’d like to achieve with your music and your band(s)?
I really hope that our band can be a positive force for the city. I see a lot of negativity around town sometimes and music should be such a rewarding experience that can bring all types of people together. Focusing on trying to cultivate a community that realizes how necessary it is to be supportive of one other is beneficial for everyone, including us.
9. Is there any other advice or input you’d like to add? Potentially for aspiring musicians, or kids who want to get more involved in their local scene.
Maybe this is just my opinion but I think its an important one. No one cares how good you are at your instrument, what pants your wearing, or even how good your music is unless you’re a good person. I’m not saying those things aren’t important to a lot of people. I’m saying that being asshole only benefits you when the people your trying to impress are also assholes and in that case, it benefits no one - least of all yourself. Take care of yourself and take care of others. Doing the right thing does more good for everyone then being an asshole does for you every time. Easy decision.