Creative Adult on the Crookedness of the Music Industry and Playing By Other People's Rules
The band name Creative Adult is an inside joke, but Michael Bingham, the Santa Rosa rock band's vocalist and guitarist, does have a lot of thoughts on growing up. Creative Adult's four twentysomethings spent their musical lives until now in hardcore bands, which, to Bingham, meant booking his own tours and eschewing regular publicity. But Creative Adult is a different endeavor, one that includes using the larger music industry to his benefit. The burly guitar riffs and savage percussion on Creative Adult's discordant debut, Psychic Mess, owe a great deal to hardcore, though the players' musical goals seem to have evolved like their those of their career: toward something outside the scope of punk. Bingham attributes this new outlook to his developing prefrontal cortex, but Creative Adult is just taking up the common battle to run a band "like a business" and retain artistic integrity. We spoke with Bingham about being untouchable, ethical quandaries, and why the album title Psychic Mess will change his life.
Creative Adult opens a Noise Pop showcase with No Age, Hindu Pirates, and Dune Rats this Friday, Feb. 28, at Bottom of the Hill. It also performs Saturday, March 1, at Hemlock Tavern with Buffalo Tooth, The Vibrating Antennas, and Culture Abuse.
How long was the process to create Psychic Mess?
It's been six months since we recorded it and there were six months of writing it before that, so it's been a year in the making. At the same time, we're almost done with two more 7-inches. It takes a while for these kinds of things to happen if you're going to play by other people's rules.
Whose rules do you have to play by?
Well, if you want to advance yourself as a band, if you want to be part of the industry -- with distribution, a press agent, getting advances from a label -- it means that you're working with other people's timelines and you don't get to fully call every shot. If it was up to us, which we're used to, this record would've been out months ago, but without the resources we have now and people to work with, who knows what would have happened to it.
So you're trying to take advantage of resources, as you said, more so than in earlier groups?
We're smarter now and we're older. We've learned a lot, going through the ringer of touring. All of us used to tour for about six months out of the year. That said, we're going to do more tours with Creative Adult, but now we're trying to treat it like a business, in the interest of future self-sustainment. At the same time, the thing I feel obligated to mention if we're talking about resources, is that "resources" is a tricky word. "Resources" -- that's a nice word for when what you have to participate in is a large industry. That means there are sacrifices that we're making. We're participating in an industry now, which we've never really done before, and a lot of this stuff is really crooked and wrong and I feel like I should say that on record.
What changed your youthful attitude about rejecting industry involvement?
When you're young, you don't want anyone to be able to touch you. The way of being untouchable is conducting yourself in a manner where you don't work with anyone. We never had a publicist or booking agent and we worked with record labels that were just friends who had a little more money than we did. When you get older and learn about the industry, if you're smart you can figure out a way to use it to your advantage and still not let anyone touch you. When you're younger you think, "Oh, well the only way that I'm not going to let anyone's hands in my pocket is to just straight up do it all myself." When you get older you get more tired, but you're smarter mentally, so you learn to keep the "you can't touch our art" attitude and also say "you can help me and I can help you." Some of these things we're doing I wouldn't have considered doing in the past, like playing SXSW or Noise Pop. It's a moral battle.
A lot of times the people who've gone to school and work in the industry make more than the artists, so in that sense it's totally crooked and totally backwards, but if I want self-sustainment I have to figure out a way to use parts of it. We need to use it to benefit us because they use our art to benefit them.
When you first started Creative Adult, was there also a conscious decision to break from the sound of your earlier groups?
Definitely. That was the biggest part of starting this band. We had been doing this formulaic, regimented thing for so many years. People would ask what kind of music I played and I could just say, "hardcore," or "I'm a hardcore kid." We're all in our late 20s and that's a pivotal point in your brain's development. You know, I think what's called your prefrontal cortex develops in your mid-20s. That develops your ability to look out long-term. This band was about growing, being free, and learning about everything. We all write songs, we all contribute, and no one's ideas are put down. A lot of bands are one dude's show. People call us post-punk, because everyone has to call it something, but we don't say we want to write post-punk, we say we want to write.
Psychic Mess is definitely grounded in punk and hardcore, but songs like "Flash" are more musically inventive, with long builds and crescendos.
That happened naturally. People are going to call you something. The dude from Minor Threat said, "You have to label yourself, or you have to let people label you," and we just let people label us, which makes everyone happy. They can feel like they know what this is. But we do whatever we want. That was the point of starting the band, pure expression.
Tell me about the album title, Psychic Mess. Is that a comment on yourselves or others?
Scott wrote that so I can't speak for its meaning to him. To me the album sounds like a psychic mess. One time a crazy man, a very crazy man, once said something to me -- it's funny I'm telling you this of all people. I don't think I've said this to anyone -- but this crazy man whose name was Wilmer stayed at my house for a couple of weeks. I was 16 of 17 and I don't think this is a crazy act of god or something, just a coincidence, but he said to me, "You will write a record one day, and you will know when it happens, the name of this record will change your life."