Monday, August 1, 2011

If you like it then you gotta Kickstarter it, or: Griftamoose

Sometimes i worry that my friends don't entirely get me. See, i'm known for being a bit of a snarky crankypants, so much so that friends of mine occasionally feel the need to suggest that i focus on talking about things that i like (which i apparently don't do often enough, i guess) or to maybe remember that ultimately, many of the things i get pissed off and yell about ultimately do not affect my daily life. While this is all perhaps true, what these people tend to forget is that A) I'm not really losing that much sleep over a lot of this stuff, and B) ranting can be really goddamn entertaining.

Look, at the end of the day i'm an idealist. I passionately support things that i think are amazing (did i illegally download the new Helms Alee record? Yes. Did i then buy the vinyl directly from the band for $20? Yes i did, via The Fucking Wizard, who was at the show when i couldn't be. Props, Wizard!) and often find myself in a teeth-gnashing state when the number of people who agree with me on Any Given Artist is minimal compared to those who disagree with me on flaccid nonsense like, say, Mumford & Sons. Basically, i am able to sleep at night in a world where most people like stuff that sucks, but that doesn't mean i have to go quietly into that same night.

That brings us to Pomplamoose. You know them, whether you realize you do or not (and if you honestly don't, i'm really sorry for what i'm about to do to your brain). You probably saw them in their aggressively cute Christmas commercials for Hyundai last year (if you're a football fan, the only possible way you avoided these ads last Holiday Season was via alcoholic blackout, which, if you were attending Packer parties at Cactus Club, became more and more likely as the season wore on).

The band is a perfect storm of Everything DJ Hates About Life: they are cloyingly, saccharinely cutesy, from the hipster dude mincing around like a glittery asshole to the "look at us repurposing popular songs" shtick that was old somewhere around Me First and the Gimme Gimmes' Are a Drag record (if we're being charitable). The singer, Nataly Dawn, stares at the camera with the dead-eyed zombie gaze of a Christian fundamentalist and yarbles in that Feist/Regina Spektor iFectation that all female singers trying to land an Apple commercial use these days*. Also, their name is a spoof on pamplemousse, the French world for grapefruit, literally translated as "pompous lemon." While this is totally adorbs, i find it appropriately ironic that "pompous lemon" is now synonymous with "ironic hipsters shilling cars."

I also want to institute a rule that if your band name sounds like a character from the Hundred-Acre Wood, you don't get to play music unless it's targeted at children. Then again, maybe it is. OH HOLY FUCK THEY COVERED ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS EVER LET'S SET THEM ON FIRE:

Oh, hey, wait, that wasn't technically Spamlamoof, that was Nataly solo. Here's a video of Pamplesmurfalump covering Aerosmith (pray for Ben Affleck to fail in his mission, so that the asteroid destroys us all):

This "quirky" "musical" duo is being credited with "modifying the music industry," as their twee renditions of songs they did not write have earned them millions of YouTube hits and apparently enough mp3 download revenue that they don't work day jobs and even bought a house, all without the help of physical media or a record label, indie or major. Good for them, i suppose--although i hesitate to agree that any story that basically boils down to "band makes money off other people's music" constitutes a musical revolution (if that's the case, then Cherry Pie are the most revolutionary act in Southeast Wisconsin).

But hey! They have managed to make a living playing music. Good on them, i guess.

So why in the defaulted debt-ceiling hell does Nataly Dawn need to run a Kickstarter campaign to fund her solo debut album?

Pictured: the last goddamn straw

I know that I risk jinxing myself in saying that I have very high hopes for this album, but it's the truth! Over the last year, I have written songs that I'm proud of and that I believe represent a cohesive body of work. They've taken a lot out of me (in a good way), and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you.

It helps that I have so much faith in the musicians I'll be working with. Between the drummer, the bassist, the guitarist and the engineer, I couldn't tell you who was the most talented. They are the ones who will turn my bare bone songs into full-fledged works. They are the magic makers. I would tell you who they are, but you would probably get too excited and forget to give me money.

Everything is ready to go: the songs, the musicians, the studio. All I need is a little help from you! Every dollar will go towards the album: paying the musicians and the people who will be filming the recording process, reserving the studio and hotel rooms, renting gear etc. And if by some miracle there's anything left over, I will buy myself a brand new Jaguar...or the money will go towards promoting the album. I haven't decided yet.

(ED. NOTE: I'm assuming the Jaguar crack was a joke, unless they like to drive ironic cars while ironically slagging the bridge of a song that made them stupid popular.)

We had a spirited discussion on this very blog about the pros and cons of Kickstarter. I came out of that conversation with the conclusion that like most things, Kickstarter is merely a tool that can be used in a proper way or a douchey way. Album pre-sales for struggling artists? Totally cool. A way for a successful musician swimming in Hyundai money to justify a $20,000 album budget? What. The. Fuck.

Let's break this down: Nataly Dawn apparently does not have a day job, as Pooplemousse have raked in bank. I don't think it's a stretch to assume that Pompahufflepuff made a killing on those Hyundai ads. So completely ignoring the budget on this project (my band recorded, mixed and mastered our new record for $1300 total and it sounds, if i may be so bold, fucking awesome; add in Latest Flame's manufacturing and promotional costs and we're still not getting within whiffing distance of ten grand), why does she not have the money to throw down an initial investment of her own? Fuck it, let's get into the budget--hotel rooms? renting gear? Reserving a studio? Wait, what's wrong with the one in her fucking house?

As of my writing this, 972 people in this economy have donated $43,393 (including patrons who have donated up to $750 apiece to own an item of clothing that Nataly wore in a previous Pumpadump video. This begs the question "how much would she have earned if she said they were unwashed?")--$23,393 over the stated goal and $13,393 more than i earned in calendar year 2010. Fuck me running.

Look, i get that none of this directly affects me. If i don't like the project (you may have gathered by now that i don't), i don't have to donate. But am i alone in feeling like this is a huge goddamn grift? Where'd the Hyundai money go, if not to finance future projects? (I don't buy any "Pumplesnuff and Nataly solo are different projects, so maybe it's an accounting thing" theories, since the two of them are apparently profiting personally from their cover band--even if that's the case, save your damn money and finance your vanity project yourself, ffs.) And where did the $20,000 figure come from? I'd love to see an itemized breakdown of her project's budget, especially now that she's made over 200% of her goal. Her patrons should be asking for this too.

Maybe i'm just bitter that my abrasive, non-commercial noise-rock will never spur 900 people to send us $40K in exchange for the unwashed boxer shorts Yale Delay wore while driving the tour van through Georgia in mid-August. And maybe i should be old enough to have completely come to terms with the fact that the general population will always flock to non-threatening, easily accessible brain-shut-off pop music rather than seek out original, compelling artists. And while i mostly have come to terms with that, it doesn't make this scenario any less fucked up.

But even more than this just being an extended "other people don't like what i like, i guess i'll go eat worms" snit-fit, it begs to be asked: is this not a complete abuse of Kickstarter's mission? Am i wrong in thinking that a project like this undermines the projects of real struggling artists who legitimately need Kickstarter in order to fund their films, albums, and other projects? I can't be the only one who thinks that this campaign is a classic lesson in Doing It Wrong.

*True story: I'm in Los Angeles last year visiting my friend Ben and his lovely singer-songwriter wife (name redacted because i don't want our cattiness to harm her budding music career), and i watch the two of them perform at a tiny LA bar before some anonymous blonde thang on a piano. I make some sort of snarky tweet/FB post about Anonymous Blonde's use of the Feist iYarble(TM) during her cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and they both giggle. "Dude, every girl in Los Angeles is singing like that these days. It's so shameless. Everyone wants to be in a commercial."


  1. Clearly she blew the Hyundai money on her pixie stick habit. It's an addiction that's brought down many a twee band (RIP Tullycraft).

  2. Wait, how can you tweely garble Bad Romance? If you aren't being aggressive during Bad Romance, WHAT IS THE POINT OF SINGING BAD ROMANCE? It's like a call to arms. That's one of the best things about the song. It's a war anthem.