Ramblings

This weekend was spent stressing over the future of the band and my personal future. I'm 26 and have spent my entire adult life attempting to carve out a career in the music industry. Life always got in the way and still continues to do so. I got married at 20, divorced at 24, and spent the last 2 years figuring myself out. The last two years have been the best of my life, able to be fully myself and make my life into exactly what I want it to be. When Chase passed it brought things into perspective. I NEED to take the next step in making my life exactly what I wan. That means some pretty heavy decisions have to be made. The only way for Corner Gospel Explosion to have a shot at succeeding is to hit the road really hard. That's impossible with a traditional job. So we have to make a tough choice, either we go all in and quit our jobs, or I will have to make the hard choice to move on and attempt a career outside of the band. We all have some tough decisions to make in the next 6 months. If there's one thing I know, anything worth doing is worth the sacrifice to do it. 

Yesterday, Kate and I were driving and listening to music. She turned to me and said "is it weird to think that that could be you?". A wave of anxiety rushed over me and I broke down crying. Could it be me? Or is it just a burden I will carry for the rest of my life?

If you don't understand the burden of a creative person, this is how I explain it now: Imagine that you're underwater and you're fighting against it, desperately trying to find the surface, paddling and exhausting yourself. Every once in a while (sometimes a day or a month) you surface and take a deep breath. That breath is the most euphoric thing imaginable. All of the stress, anxiety, all of the struggling stops for a moment. Just as it comes, it leaves and you're back in the water, trying again to get that breath of air to keep you from drowning. I'm tired of not reaching the surface. 

The Official Band Announcement that no one cares about... yet.

The past few days I have been waiting to be interviewed for an online 'zine and I figured that I'd just go ahead and write it out here. I just want to get my thoughts together I suppose. We sat down last week for a few minutes and talked over our future. I think we all spent a little time on our own pondering about it. It's always encouraging when your thoughts are shared by other people close to you. We reached a consensus as soon as we started talking. I think I'm just going to lay them out in bullet points like the last post. It's easier for me to keep my thoughts together that way. 

1. Corner Gospel Explosion has decided to remain a 3-piece. That doesn't mean that we won't have some people filling in or helping out, but we're going to try our best to re-imagine our music as a 3-piece. It does mean that we will probably have to abandon keys/ synth for now. It's possible for us to work around it together, but then we'd have to sacrifice the quality of our live show quite a bit. We want to continue to be as entertaining as possible. 

2. We currently have plans to write, record and release a new album before the end of 2016, we already have 5 or 6 rough songs in the bank already. It's mostly just music, lyrics haven't been written yet. We plan on writing another 5-10 songs before we enter pre-production. Hopefully it captures our current feelings and emotions. 

3. The music will probably veer away from the sound in "Tension". When writing a cohesive album it's best to trim away the fat around the edges and try to put songs on it that make sense together. That won't be the case this time around. We're going to just let it be. The instrumentation will probably be all over the place, but we're ok with that. We probably won't be able to re-create every song on stage and that's just fine. We're not as concerned about the "Product" as we are about making something that sounds authentic, honest and raw. We will still strive to create a high quality album, but it's just going to be different.

4. We will also be working with Brandon to help get his project "A Year in Days" off the ground. While the music still falls in the "rock" genre, it will be very different from the style that CoGo plays. We really believe in what Brandon is doing and we be partnering with him to get it done. He's spent the last few years creating and needs to get an album recorded. I anticipate that we'll have that recorded and released in early 2017.

5. As with most local bands, we are reaching the place where we need to either make a hard jump and starting touring or accept our fate as a local band. Right now our focus is on renovating our sound, recording and releasing an album, but a time is coming when we'll have to make a decision about how much we want to try and make this a means of employment. That means quitting our job and putting our full effort into musical endeavorers. It's scary, but it's a hard truth we have to accept.

6. I really hope that we can achieve our goals. It seems like life is usually some good, some bad and a lot of hard work for just enough reward to keep you moving. I definitely feel pretty exhausted sometimes. There is a burden and pressure that comes with being a creative type. You're just pushing a boulder up a hill and when you get enough strength to push it up another few inches,  the hill gets a little steeper. You need those plateau's in life to breathe and see how far you've come. It's been a long while since I felt a plateau, but I suppose that it's just the human experience. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Is it entirely exhausting? Absolutely. What is there to do but keep pushing? We are so blessed by your support and we can't wait to show you what we'll make.

-Brad

$$ The Hard Truth $$

The hardest part about a tragedy is having to deal with the practical things in the aftermath. There are funeral costs, bills to pay, stuff to move. It's really hard to think about money in this situation, but here we are, three weeks later and these truths are starting to set in. When we lost Chase, we not only lost a friend and bandmate, but also a business partner. Here are the real ways that we are practically effected:

1. Show cancellations. We canceled the majority of our future shows. We are also unable to book for the future due to our clouded future. 

2. Loss of momentum. We spent the last year building steam. This summer was our first chance to make some real money to help facilitate the growth of our band. We gave all that we have and spent 100's of hours to reach the level that we're currently at. 

3. Loss of a Teammate. Chase had responsibilities just like anyone else. His most important role was to be our hype-man on stage. Beyond his keyboard/ vocal duties, he helped draw the crowd in and make our show exciting. Since I (Brad) am the lead singer and drummer, it creates an odd stage set up and Chase knew how to off-set it with his antics.

4. $$$. This part sucks the most. Money shouldn't ever be an issue, but it really does effect us. We were scheduled to make around $3,000 this summer. That's not big money, but it would have given us enough to fix up our van, buy a trailer and start saving for the future. As of now we have $200 in our business account and no way of getting more funds. It also effects money in the future.

5. Uncertain future. Will we be the same band without Chase? Of course not. He was irreplaceable and there is no work around that. Tyler, Brandon and I will continue CoGo, it will most likely still operate under the name Corner Gospel Explosion, but beyond that we aren't sure. We haven't really talked about it too deeply yet.

6. Performing. It's hard to imagine performing our songs consistently in the future. We did it when we opened for SmashMouth, but it was pretty difficult. In a pinch we can do it as a three piece, but its not about playing the music well, its about the fact that part of the soul is gone. Chase had an much ownership over these songs as anyone else. It doesn't matter if we get a new keyboard player or switch things up. It's just going to be difficult to play those songs.   

7. New music. If we do move forward and write new music, we have no money to record a new album. in 2015 we saved up $3,000 to pay for recording, mixing, mastering, artwork and physical production. We pride ourselves on not asking for money. If we need to do something or get something, we save and purchase it with cash. We make almost no money through streaming and album sales. That means that we have to play gigs to build funds. This becomes our dilemma: how do we make money to fund the album that we're writing if we are spending our time writing an album? We may have to give in and start a kickstarter or something. It's just not ideal to our values. 

8. What if no one cares? I think that we've all felt a little bit of this. What happens if we write new music and ask for money, but people don't really care about what we do? The future of Corner Gospel Explosion may be decided by the fall. Without Chase, we feel like a wounded duck. Will people still like what we do without him? I don't know how easy it'll be to move forward, if we have a group of people pushing us and encouraging us, then I think we'll be ok. If not, I really don't know. 

In the Corner Gospel Explosion camp, everything is up in the air. We want to write a real and raw album. We want to push forward the best we can and make Chase proud. Looking forward we can see a tough uphill climb, we can't see the top yet, but its time for us to take the first step.

-Brad

 

SmashMouth

The day after we learn that Chase had passed Tyler, Brandon and myself had to ask ourselves if we were going to cancel all of our upcoming show, or play them. It was too soon to think about, but it was on our minds. We had a brief talk, holding back tears and pacing back and forth. Some of our upcoming events were no-brainers. We had to cancel them, but there was one that we felt like Chase would have wanted us to play.

Three months ago we had been approached to open for SmashMouth (If you've seen Shrek, you know the one). It was going to be the culmination of all of our hard work for the past year. Our first shot to see if we were good enough to hold our own with the best of them. We had talks about what dumb stuff we were going to pull on stage I.E. having someone dressed as Lord Farquaad come on stage. When we first learned that our music had been cleared by SmashMouth's management, we all went out and had a celebratory drink (or two). It was a bucket list thing for a few of us (myself included). 

Now we're back in the present, one week before the show. Things seemed so much bleaker. Something we had thought to be a celebration, was now our personal version of a memorial service. We decided to do our best to honor him and put his keys on stage. Chase's younger brother Hudson asked if he could be a part of our crew for the night. We were more than happy to have him there, in fact, we decided to have him play a couple of Chase's parts. Cowbell on one song and keys on another (The Mickel bros are very quick learners it appears).

The day of the show, I woke up with an entirely unique feeling. I felt devastated and elated at the same time. Those aren't feelings that usually go together. There was a tightness in my chest all day. Not on the verge of a panic attack, but in the ballpark. We packed up the van, went to the venue. Kate and I sat in silence as we drove from the practice space to the house, not because something was wrong, but because we understood the heaviness of the moment. Moods lightened when we got there. We started unloading, met a few of the members, tried our best to enjoy the moment. Soundcheck was tough. we loaded our gear on stage, including Chase's keys. There they sat, alone for the first time. When someone passes away, it can feel like they just went away to college and aren't coming back or they bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the world. Maybe it's just a way to cope, but that's sort of how I processed it. This was one of 4 or 5 times when it felt very apparent, this time being the most apparent. I tried not to look at Kate while we sound checked. She's watched almost every single show and saw us grow. Her tear filled reaction made it difficult and now was no time to break down. We had to be strong for each other and Chase. 

The crowd begin growing, we were safely tucked into a make shift green room. Spirits were light, but the room was heavy. We made our way to the stage. 800 people eagerly waiting for SmashMouth, probably not even aware that there was an opener. We were announced and I walked on stage, grabbed my mic and said a few words about Chase and promised the crowd that we were going to rock out harder than we ever have. Just like that we were off. John joined on stage for the first song, screaming like he usually does. He came up too early and had to dance around for a minute. He has really been our 5th member. He's always coming to the rescue when there's a problem, he's been our sound man and recording engineer and Chase really had a special love for him.

We were off and rolling, with each song we became more and more aware of his absence. There were parts where only he and I played, now there was nothing but the sound of my drum set, no melody, no stupid awkward glances that we'd give each other. The resounding cheers from the crowd keep bringing a little smile to my face. He would have been so proud. Hudson did a fantastic job. He wore Chase's vest and embodied his spirit in such a perfect way. Our set finished and we packed up our gear. We made it through and felt as if we triumphed through tragedy. I can breathe easy. We all took a moment to absorb our feelings. we joined the audience for SmashMouth, we must have high fived 200 people. The vibes and love from the crowd was uniquely special. SmashMouth killed of course, we had a lot of fun, but it wasn't about opening for them or having some musical triumph. It was about honoring his memory in another way.

June 22nd - First post. our first week following Chase's passing.

Hello everyone,
Today I had my first chance to look back over the last few days and reflect. I think that I (and possibly the band) will start blogging our feelings and giving you updates as we move through this difficult time. (Warning, this post is stupidly long)

I keep thinking of ways to honor Chase. Every time I look ahead to the next day, my mind floods of things that we have to do to honor his memory. It started on thursday, as we began canceling shows and thinking about what Chase would have wanted us to do. He would have wanted us to keep playing. Keep doing what we spent so much time doing. So, we decided to say yes to a couple of select shows. Thursday night the core group gathered together and forced ourselves to laugh to keep ourselves from crying. We toasted to his life and to the 100's of stories that made him such a special person.

Friday, we gathered ourselves together and began speaking to the media. We sat in front of camera and did our best to honor and speak to the person that he was and is. We sat in the same place where we all met Chase. The memories of that building, the heaviness in that room. Even still, we were able to laugh. We laughed and we cried and we held ourselves together the best we could. Words flowing from our mouths, not sure how each word would effect our emotions. We then sat outside of a coffee shop, speaking to the same writer who interviewed our band just a couple of months before. Brian is a friend and a fantastic writer. We told some of the same stories, thought of some new memories. We Laughed and we cried again. As someone who is used to being interviewed about myself and my band, it felt very comforting to just be able to take a breath and talk about a friend, with friends, to a friend. Two blocks away sat the stage where we were supposed to play just hours later. It was raining, but I don't think anyone cared. A couple of hours later we met with some friends and musicians who were slated to play right after us. We shared more stories, more laughs and more tears. We raised a shot of tequila and shouted "Let's Go!", a common phrase Chase used to say, Usually before doing something exciting. That night it was more laughs, more tears, more toasts.

Most of Saturday flew by. Tyler and I played an early afternoon set with our other band Wilderness. When I'm onstage, it's the only time that my brain is able to shutdown. I was only left with my emotions as all of the responsibilities emptied my head. It was absolutely the hardest set of my life. We talked about making a T-shirt with the image of Chase's hair and beard. Tyler and I's cousin drew a quick sketch after hearing the news and we instantly fell in love with it. we knew that as many people had to see it as possible. We talked about making a short band announcement, just to say thank you for all of the support and to let people know what our immediate future was. We met up with some of Chase's cousins and family who had arrived that day. We had a wild and wonderful weekend with them during his brother Hudson's wedding, embracing us like family. So it was no surprise when they physically embraced us, understanding that we felt as much pain and sadness as them. More Laughter, more tears. We all made our way to a concert downtown. Many of the cousins piling in to Lt. Van, seemingly starstruck at the hunk of junk that we had recently purchased. The concert was turned into a benefit show for Chase's family. The bands on the bill were a lot the musicians he was most connected with and close to. We hugged and laughed and cried with the 40+ musicians who came out to say hello and offer their condolences. Uncle Indi bought the entire bar a round and we toasted Chase once again. The bands were able to raise $660, such a huge success. So much love in every dollar. After the show, we met up at a home, we laughed until we cried and visa versa. More toasts.

Sunday we gathered ourselves together and went to church. The majority of all the family members were there. The service felt bittersweet. Some parts were inspiring, other parts were sad and even frustrating. That's just how it goes sometimes. Everything can't be exactly what you need at the moment. Considering the heaviness and difficulty of that time, I can't imagine how hard it would have been to put a service together so suddenly. Regardless we were happy to be together, to be with family, to be close to the people who mattered. The rest of the day was very low key. Did some Father's Day stuff. Hung out, chatted about other normal things for the first time since thursday. Fell asleep watching Jurassic Park. (Most importantly, getting a good nights sleep for the first time).

Monday morning was met with a sense of stress and heaviness. Tyler and I had asked to speak at Chase's memorial service and tonight was the night. Tyler went his own way to write his speech, Kate and I worked on mine. By the time we finished, it was time to get a bite and head to the church. Tyler, Brandon and I agreed to play a couple of worship songs for the service. So we got there early to practice. It has been a few years since we last performed on that stage. It felt good and sad and empty and full and a thousand other things all at once. It was good to be playing music with Tyler and Brandon, even if it was just for 2 songs. The service began and I was asked to speak first. I clutched paper and the microphone as I waited to go on stage. I'm usually very comfortable on stage behind a drum set, but when you're about to speak in front of 1,000 people, it's a different story. I was thinking about what Chase would have wanted, how he would have wanted everyone to laugh and have a great time. So that's what I planned on doing. I held Kate's hand, she was a mess of tears. I approached the stage and took one last deep breath. I barely remember what I said, but the constant roaring laughter and the faces of Steve and Susanne right below me let me know that I had done exactly as Chase would have wanted. I swapped the mic with Tyler and he did an exceptional job. More roaring laughter, more tears. Speaking the stories that meant the most to him. The entire service was the maximum version of what we had done all weekend. Laughed until we cried, cried until we laughed. Our heart so full and empty at the same time. The service was over 90 minutes, but it felt like 10. We must have hugged 100 people that night. The hugs met with heavy smiles as we knew how tough it was for each person. After the service, we got to spend some much needed and very special time with Steve and Susanne. Telling them stories about their son that we hadn't been able to do. 
That night our laughter outnumbered our tears 100-1.

Tuesday morning some of the family had left. Some had to work. We were getting tattoos... Thanks to a cancelation, Tyler, Kate, Brandon and myself were able to get in all at once and get some ink. Each of us got the same one. That Iconic hair and beard. 
Tuesday night was something new for us. Tyler, Brandon and I went up to our practice space, set up the gear and played most of our set that we are planning for friday. There were a couple of songs that we couldn't quite bring ourselves to play. We talked a little bit about our future and how the band can honor Chase's memory moving forward. Making very loose plans, talking through the reality of our situation.

Here I am now, wednesday afternoon. I spent all morning working on music stuff. Working through the logistics of our show friday, planning the memorial show for July 2nd, sending a lot of FB messages and texts. Sitting here just thinking about new ways to honor his memory. New ways to spread the love that he shared with us and new ways let everyone know the mountain of a person that was and is Chase Mickel.

-Brad Parsons