We’re all jumbled up here at Ebola HQ, tangled in a big messy webwork of conflicting emotions, of hopes and fears and passion. We’re just back from a week on the road with our pals in Mystic Knights of the Cobra, after barely resting from a 34-day tour of the Western states. We all piled into our trusty van, Melaena, and had the honor and pleasure of introducing Sugar City’s favorite rock’n’roll tornado to the good people of the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to all who came to support us, played on the bill with us, and put us up (and put up with us) each night. And we at Bobby Joe Ebola would especially like to thank Mystic Knights of the Cobra, who, whether they know it or not, have taught us a lot about rock’n’roll. Big ups also to our bandmates Josh Wharton and Sean McTiernan, who pulled double duty on this tour, playing drums and bass for both bands. You really should have gotten twice the drink tickets, guys.
Many of you are probably wondering about a series of Facebook posts by Corbett last Saturday night, which announced the breakup of the band. Knowing as we do the way the rumor mill will confuse the facts, we thought it best to address the issue head-on. You, our beloved friends and fans, deserve no less.
What happened Saturday night was not a publicity stunt, as some have suggested, nor a cry for attention. It was an expression of some very real frustrations, and serious problems we’ve had as a band for quite some time. We’ll get to that in a moment. We probably should not have vented our problems in such a public, sudden way, and we’ve been utterly overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy and grief in the form of over 400 messages & 200 calls from you.
To anyone who has written us, whom our music has helped through tough times or inspired you to be more awesome, THANK YOU. We’re really sorry if our troubles have become yours, but it does feel less scary knowing you’re listening and that you give a crap.
For nearly four years, we have poured everything we have into this band, in its second incarnation. Every dollar, every hour, every spark of creativity, we have thrown together around this band, in the hopes that we could start a blaze to keep ourselves warm. We’ve worked very very hard, and not to toot our own horn, we’ve accomplished the impossible again and again. We’ve spent over 9 months on the road, played nearly 500 shows, recorded and released dozens of songs, over a dozen videos, written two books, compiled a live box set, and much more. And what’s more, we have done it virtually alone.
Beyond some much-appreciated help with releases from several labels, nearly all work related to the band is done by Dan & Corbett. We both work 8-12 hours a day on this band from a computer, booking our own shows and tours, sending out hundreds of press releases, designing merch, and doing mind-numbing clerical work, to say nothing of the actual work of composing, rehearsing, recording and performing music, and driving all over the country (our bassist and drummer are still scraping together money to get their licenses back). We do a pretty darn good job, but it doesn’t leave much room for anything else. Between that and our tour schedule, we are not exactly model employees, nor the most attentive housemates, boyfriends, husbands or friends.
The thing is, good things have been happening for us. We’ve got this crazy show at Great American Music Hall on May 23, and the support we’ve garnered from local radio, local record stores and the community has been really positive. We were getting ready to record some brand new songs at Jingletown Studios in Oakland, which is a fantastic opportunity for us. We were polishing up scripts for eight ambitious new videos to film. And we were (and are) excited about the upcoming release of our two books, Meal Deal With The Devil, and The Bobby Joe Ebola Songbook on Microcosm Publishing.
With all those projects, of course, come expenses. The looming costs of the two books alone will be about $4000. Meanwhile, we’ve gradually run out of CDs of our album F (that’s the one with “Life is Excellent” on it), and have no funds to repress it. And the rent, as they say, is too damn high.
The whole band is in the same boat, and it’s sinking. We play on busted and borrowed equipment, scramble each month to pay for even the most meager necessities, and there’s no real light at the end of the tunnel. We lost our practice space and have had to rent out rehearsal spots with money we don’t really have. We’re sprinting through a marathon with no finish line. So here we are, utterly broke, tens of thousands of dollars in debt and growing, our social lives and family lives have atrophied and begun to wither, and it’s started to affect our friendships. And that’s where we found ourselves at the end of last week’s tour; stressed out and physically sick, with looming debts, too much booze (which sometimes is our only payment on tour), too little sleep, cranky and weighed down with a growing sense of desperation about whether this is all worth it.
So it is with heavy hearts that we decided to cancel our upcoming June tour to the East Coast, and all shows after this month, on an indefinite hiatus. Which really sucks, as we had some really great shows booked on this tour. We were were excited about being on bills with The Adolescents, Mikey Erg, Teenage Bottlerocket, Shellshag and others, and the amazing lineup at Do Ya Hear We? Fest in Chattanooga, which is the release show for our split record with Kreamy ‘Lectric Santa; to be on the amazing Art All Night Fest in New Jersey and dozens of other awesome shows.
To all who put shows together for us and to all who were looking forward to seeing us on the road, we hope you understand. We did not make this decision lightly. We apologize for the short notice, and for the uncertainty. Will we play and tour again? We certainly hope so. But we can’t go on the way we’ve been going.
A lot of this is money-related, unfortunately. We simply don’t sell that many records, and that sort of bottom-line thinking is pretty depressing. Many generous people have supported our IndieGoGo and Kickstarter campaigns, and even slipped us some cash on the side. We appreciate that, big time (it’s saved our bacon more than once), but ultimately that’s not a sustainable model for a working band. Our debts are one thing, but we don’t really have an income to speak of. If people were out there buying up our records left and right (or even just left), and packing into all our shows, we could plan band finances, and we could afford to hire folks to help with PR, booking, driving, selling merch and all the stuff we currently do ourselves. But we’re not moving units, as they say. It makes every tour a huge financial gamble, and we limped home from our recent Spring tour hundreds of dollars further in debt. Fun, but disastrous. We couldn’t really risk that happening again in June.
Which brings up the demoralizing possibility that maybe we’re just not as good as we think we are, or not marketable enough to do this as a livelihood. Are we too silly or our visions too lofty for the punk rock scene? Too weird and caustic for Saturday Night Live, or even those lucrative wedding and bar mitzvah gigs? Maybe the economy is keeping people at home while we’re in a bar somewhere, singing our hearts out on a Tuesday night. Maybe making all those videos has made it easier for people to experience us for free in their pajamas. Honestly though, if you want to come to our shows in your pajamas, we’re good with that.
So to answer your question; are we really breaking up? Well, that’s complicated. It largely depends on how things go over the next couple of months. We need to raise some money to shave away at debts and pay for projects we’ve already committed to; working whatever jobs we can find, knocking over liquor stores, maybe another crowdsourcing campaign. We’re going to look around for a booking agent, maybe a manager, a PR person, people who can do what we’re already doing, but better. The workload we have created with our big ideas has gotten too large for us to handle. With two decades of DIY art under our belt, we pride ourselves on our work ethic. Being overwhelmed like this is a tough pill to swallow. But we need help if this band is to continue. But how to afford it? It’s a paradox worthy of Wyld Stallions.
If you’re still reading, thanks for your support. We hope to see you at the Great American Music Hall on May 23. It’s going to be a great show, whether it’s our last show or not. If you’re looking for ways to help and haven’t bought our latest album Trainwreck to Narnia, that would be an excellent way to support us. You might even enjoy the heck out of it.
Get it on CD and Digital here from Rooftop Comedy: http://shop.rooftopcomedy.com/album/trainwreck-to-narnia
Get it on Vinyl from Dirt Cult Records: http://dirtcultrecords.storenvy.com/products/1050864-bobby-joe-ebola-and-the-children-macnuggits-trainwreck-to-narnia-lp
To all of you whose weekend was ruined by the thought of Bobby Joe Ebola breaking up, we’re really sorry. We’re going to try to make this work. No promises, other than that we will do our best as always. This is a really difficult time for us, and we really appreciate your love and support. We’ll keep you up to date as things progress.
The comments feature is enabled below; feel free to chew us out if we’ve stomped on your heart. If you have some helpful advice, constructive criticism, words of wisdom, offers of help, a couple of good jokes, we could use ‘em right now. Be nice to each other, that’s all we ask.
-Dan and Corbett