Thursday, May 19, 2011

33 Days: Touring In A Van. Sleeping On Floors. Chasing A Dream by Bill See

33 Days: Touring In A Van. Sleeping On Floors. Chasing A Dream.Kindle Price: 
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For 33 days in the summer of 1987, Los Angeles indie rock band Divine Weeks toured in a beat up old van, sleeping on strangers’ floors, never sure they’d make enough gas money to get them to the next town. No soundman, no roadies, all they have is their music and each other’s friendship. 33 Days captures the essence of what it is to be 22 and chase a dream, back to a time in life when dreams don’t have boundaries, when everything is possible. The tour is one of those now or never experiences. Take a shot at making the band work or leave it all behind and go your separate ways. Every one of us has that moment where we have to decide to either live our dreams or give up and regret it for the rest of our lives. 33 Days touches that part of us. The road is filled with yuppies, brothels, riots, sleeping on floors, spiked drinks, DJs with no pants, and battles with racism. They set out on the road to discovery to drink in all they could and maybe sell a few records. They grew up instead.

Note from N.L Earnshaw - Wow don't we all wish we were this cool when we were young.  I couldn't be more excited about being able to help bring an audience to this book

Bill See was the lead singer for critically acclaimed Los Angeles band Divine Weeks for the duration of the band’s lifespan from 1984-1992. Divine Weeks was signed to the Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn’s Down There label in 1987 and released their debut Through & Through that May before embarking on their first national tour that summer. The journals Bill kept on tour are the source of the majority of 33 Days. Divine Weeks released one more full length album on First Warning Records called Never Get Used To It released in September 1991. Bill has released five solo records. "33 Days" is his first book.

What will readers like about your book?

When we left on that first tour, we set out to have our own Kerouac ‘On The Road’ experience, and when I wrote "33 Days" my motive was to write a book you'd go searching for after finishing "On The Road.: The book is less about a band "making it," and more about how crucial it is to seize your moment and the perils of sitting on your dreams. It's about liberation, giving yourself the gift of opportunity and ultimately defining your own idea of success. It's for anybody who ever stood at their crossroads with a dream screaming inside wondering whether to choose the road that goes off the map or fold up their tent and head back home.

Why did you self publish?

D.I.Y. is in my blood from putting out my own records, touring, self-generating hype, and forcing people to take notice. My band Divine Weeks made the jump to a bigger label that way, and I don't see marketing a self published book all that differently. I see young bands today utilize facebook, youtube, twitter and blogs, and wish Divine Weeks would have had those at our disposal. We sure wouldn't have starved to death on the road like we did. I see promoting “33 Days” as my chance to modernize the old D.I.Y. punk ethos I learned from Black Flag and the Minutemen. I'm making video tours of L.A. to show readers the town as it existed in the book, I'm making book trailers, creating youtube channels, facebook, of course, blogs, and the book's website offers a virtual tour of the book, and a portal into all the music, people and clubs found in the book.

What is your writing process?

The first step is always like this kind of purging, an exorcism. It's like journaling to and for yourself. Just try and be fearless and as unselfconscious as possible. Slowly you strip away the melodrama and focus in on the universal themes that make it as relateable to a wider audience as possible. I think the biggest obstacle to great writing is self consciousness. I'm not sure at what point but we lose that childlike brilliance to observe without self consciousness. I think all great writers are looking to recapture it. 
My book covers some heavy stuff in my upbringing, but what I tried to do was write without judgment or editorializing. No martyrdom. Trust the readers and let them conclude the significance as the story unfolds. And I think I made the right decision in that respect.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

Not long. It just starts pouring out and it's kind of like running down a steep hill. You're just trying to stay on your feet and not to fall as you get going faster and faster. What's fascinating is, although you edit it to death after that first purging, invariably that initial spirit always endures to the final draft. 

What inspired you to write this particular story?

33 Days is actually a combination of two projects that commenced simultaneously. The first, a letter to my sister who had been given up for adoption. She asked me to describe for her what it was like growing up with the mom she didn't have but I did. Well, as it turned out, the household I grew up in was riddled by alcoholism and mental illness. And I was originally going to call the book, "Hey Sis, Glad You Missed It" because she is so well put together and was spared the toxins, but that only told half the story. Anyway, the other thing I was working on at the time was turning the journals I'd kept on tour into a workable narrative. So I had these two things that initially seemed so unrelated but slowly it occurred to me that the background I'd written for my sister was actually the primary motivation for what lead to me starting a band and ultimately getting us on tour. So that letter I wrote her kind of forms the basis for the first chapter of the book.


The time has come to be brave. For the first time in my life — all 22 years of it — I wake up today with this crazy-ass belief. If I can just get myself in that van, I might have a chance…to make it possible. 

Today the door opens. The culmination of three years of maniacal drive toward a singular goal. To get out of this haunted house and get my band, Divine Weeks, on tour. It’s all I’ve thought about the last three years, daydreaming in class and writing out imaginary tour dates. Toiling at my windowless shit day job, shuffling papers everyday, helping rich men get richer while my dream just sits out there waiting for me to seize it. 

Now let me make something clear. Divine Weeks is not some big arena band on a major label with oodles of cash behind us. You probably never heard of us unless you’re one of the few thousand people who pick up the L.A. Weekly, L.A. Reader or BAM every Thursday to check what’s happening around town. 

This is not just our first tour. It’s basically our first time out on our own at all. We’re not going on some big tour by plane or train or bus. We’re just throwing two old love seats I found in my garage into the back of a Ford Econoline cargo van, putting them face to face to sleep on, and the rest of our stuff we’re storing in back. 

All the rock stars have let me down. It’s like they all lusted after stardom and once there, looked us in the eye and then fled. I’ve stood there outside after those big arena shows and watched them treat fans like an annoyance, get whisked away in their limos and isolate themselves in their extravagance and wealth only to moan about it later. I’m done with it. 

That’s what drew me to the Do It Yourself (DIY), just-get-in-the-van credo pioneered by bands on SST Records. Although we don’t sound much like bands like Black Flag, Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth, we’re inspired by their work ethic and aesthetic. Success doesn’t come to you. You go to it. Eschew major labels. Put out your own records, book your own tours. You don’t stay in hotels, you beg from the stage for a floor to sleep on. Create a community. Call like-minded bands, ask to open for them and promise to help them when they come to your hometown. Drop in on college radio stations and beg people to come down to your shows. No roadies, no high powered promoters. Black Flag pretty much invented it and bands like the Minutemen taught us how to go and do it. Mike Watt calls it “jamming econo.” 

Musically, we’re closer to the Who at Woodstock by way of early REM. But ideologically, more than any other band, the Minutemen are the closest to what Divine Weeks’ core is all about. Egalitarian, working-class, politically conscious, smart. Like us, their friendship and loyalty to each other shaped their very essence. Bands like the Minutemen were like indie rock teachers. They showed us and a lot of bands that being indie was a righteous cause — fighting the good fight against the bloated, arrogant and self-important hierarchy of major labels and radio programmers that keep good music off the air and relegated to garages. 

Every time we climb on stage, write a song, meet a fan, deal with a booker or a radio programmer, we feel the eyes of the bands that showed us how to do it are watching. We can’t let them down.

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