Salutations, profans, progeeks, and protaku. Today, we’ve got a special interview with geek musical duo, Debs and Errol.
1. How would you classify your genre of music?
Errol: Geek Pop!
Errol: Ear siege of destruction!
Debs: We write in different stylistic genres, including rock, acoustic, broadway, jazz, and acapella, but overall we’re not quite sure where we fit. Anything connected to “geek” or “comedy” is good.
2. Tell us about some of the other geek musicians you work with. How did these collabs come about?
Errol: Mostly, they have happened through an online songwriting community that we participate in called “February Album Writing Month” or “FAWM.” Usually, I find someone who is willing to give me an instrumental, and then I spring these crazy and geeky words on them. All is good. :D However, sometimes, the nerdiness is mutual. For example, Robyn Mackenzie (http://facebook.com/robynmackenziemusic) and I both have a love for Totoro. So we had to write a Totoro song.
Debs: You would be surprised at how many musicians are complete geeks!
3. Tell us about your webcomic.
Errol: Sometimes you come up with an idea and you think it’s a good one until you actually implement it. I thought, “How can I get people coming back to the site? I know, I’ll make a daily webcomic!”
Good grief. It’s hard to do a daily webcomic.
4. In your performances and especially in your comics, I notice you play to certain personae (the hopelessly clueless guy and the annoyed/distracted girl). How has that related to branding and marketing your band?
Debs: That’s a great question. You know, it was never something we consciously discussed. The way we act with each other on-stage is exactly the same as it is when we’re off it – it’s just the natural dynamic of our friendship. Though I think that Errol goes too far in the comics sometimes…
Errol: Too far? I think it’s all gold!
Debs: I’m not actually that annoyed all the time.
Errol: And we also don’t see each other that much. Debs is a busy girl. The comic is based on our lives, but to make it a bit more humourous, I do tend to stretch some things. However, I do mention in the liner notes when things are not stretched and the total and complete truth stick a needle in my eye. :D
The thing is, when we did our first show, there was a persona I did take on. I was the single, geeky, loner guy. It is especially clear in the song “That’s What I Want in a Girl”, which Debs loves because she gets to tease me incessantly in it. However, in real life, I’m married. And I’m not married to Debs (which a lot of people think.)
To make my persona match that, I chose to make myself single in the comics. It makes it a bit hard to talk about some things that I find funny, but I think my wife is thankful that she isn’t dragged into anything.
5. How have you approached the copyright issues surrounding your fandom-based songs?
Errol: Anything that is a cover or a parody is free!* Fandom-based songs, I think, are free reign. :D Not that I’m a lawyer and know any of this for sure.
Debs: Copyright laws in Canada seem really fluid when it comes to fandom, but taking a look at Fair Dealing laws is a good place to start. A number of factors are taken into account, such as how much of the original work is actually used and how many copies are made and distributed, and it works on a case-by-case basis.
Just to be on the safe side, we avoid using direct sources such as sound clips from movies, and would not sell a parody because the laws here in Canada are not clear-cut. In the States, creating and selling parodies is actually legal.
(*except for Double Rainbow, on our CD. We did speak to the creators’ directly and then buy licensing for that).
6. How do you fund your music?
Errol: We actually fan funded our CD. I never expected to get any money let alone figure out a target amount, so we just went for a simple paypal donation button on our site as opposed to using something like Kickstarter.
I honestly thought it would just be my sister and my mom who would donate. Surprisingly, more people did! THANK YOU!
7. How do you market your CDs and concerts? What tools do you find work best? (Twitter, vlogging, Facebook, etc)
Debs: All of the above!
Errol: We do as much social media as much as we can. My sister, who is a huge help, is hilarious. She is contacting bloggers on Twitter, via email, and in any way she can.
One way we market is our webcomic. And I also market via vlogging, and through some other projects that I do. I do a podcast with a friend, James P Sheridan and I do some skits and reviews with my friend Manda Whitney.
I am also trying to get more involved in the geek world at large, I never used to do that, but I am trying to get more involved in cons and stuff, and interacting more on Twitter.
Debs: Locally, we’ve connected through The Nerd Mafia. It’s a community of “geeks, dorks and dweebs” with a thousand different talents sharing and taking joy in all that is nerd. Also, having a lot of geeky friends help.
8. You crowdsourced sound effects on “Beastmaster’s Cry.” Tell us about how you did that.
Debs: “Beastmaster’s Cry” was written in 2008 as part of a weekly online songwriting project of mine, “Monday’s Music”. The lyrics are by D.J. Sylvis and they build up to a huge monster battle at the end. I knew that I couldn’t pull it off alone, so I posted a cryptic request on my website asking readers (who were mostly friends and family members) to send me monster sounds and battle cries, and then I mashed them all together in the original, demo version.
When we redid the song for Debs & Errol we invited our friends and fans (via our website and Facebook page) to send us some more clips that we added into what was already there. The resulting battle sequence is really quite epic because of the variety of clips that we got – people really jumped in and got theatrical!
9. How do you distribute your music and what influenced your decision to do it in such a way?
Errol: We distribute our music through CD Baby. CD Baby allows for physical distribution, as well as electronic. So we have the CD out on itunes, on Amazon, and almost every electronic music sharing site there is. We also have music on bandcamp and looking into other distribution sites.
We do have physical CDs, even if people don’t buy CDs anymore. However, CDs are cool, and it’s just fun to have something physical. We had 250 physical CDs made, and then when they run out, that’s it. No more physical CDs. Unless Debs decides we should print more.
Debs: We can as long as they are still ecofriendly. Basically, we wanted to give people options. At shows, we have both physical CDs and download cards available, and people have overwhelmingly gone for the physical CDs. That’s surprising, but kind of neat :) Then again, Errol did a great job designing the artwork, so I don’t blame them.
10. What do you expect for the future of geek music?
Errol: Well, I think it will continue to be the niche genre that it is. When it comes to music, you still have the same themes that have been around since someone decided that banging two rocks together sounds different than banging two sticks together. We sing about love, we sing about anger, we sing about relationships, we sing about our brokenness.
Personally, I want to sing about other things. :D
Debs: I hate to tell you, Errol, but you’re still singing about relationships. You’re just singing about your relationships with Totoro and sci-fi franchises. And I’m singing about my relationship with you and how I’m annoyed at you for not getting through certain sci-fi franchises.
Errol: Well, yes, but I mean other than the normal relationship problems people usually sing about. The romantic ones or the breakup ones!
Debs: I can only speak for my own experience, but I think the future of geek music is tied to the future of geekdom at large. I remember back when I was lining up for the Star Wars prequels, the media was generally very unaccepting and dismissive because it was so far away from the mainstream. That attitude filtered down into the public and to be honest, my teenage self found it slightly damaging. I feel as though things are more open now though. People come to our shows, and they might not get all of the references but most of them get a few. And even if they get none of them, they can still appreciate the music and the dynamic and the fact that we’re having fun. We’ve had quite a few people come up to us after shows and say, “I had no idea what you were talking about, but you were hilarious and I loved watching you guys.” So although it’s a niche genre, more and more people can grab a piece of it, I think.
11. Finally, are there any upcoming shows or perhaps a newly released CD that you’d like to talk about?
Debs: Why, it’s funny you ask :P In April we released our debut album, Songs in the Key of Geek, and it’s available in physical and digital format both online and in-person. We’re celebrating with a CD release party this weekend on Saturday, May 5th at the Imperial Pub (54 Dundas Street E).
Errol: CD RELEASE PARTY! HUZZAH! :D
Thanks for the interview! (and thanks for “I Wish Totoro Was My Neighbour.”)