Photo Credit: Preston Thalindroma- Say Cheese and Die
I’d like to think that eventually the Expert Fans will all gravitate to each other and to the most badass of bands, but until then I want to introduce you to another one, Alexander Frost.
I met Alex via another Expert Fan, Ryan Romenesko, as well as a badass band, The Janks. Immediately we got along, even more so when I found out he was working with a band I had heard a ton of good things about. A bonus is that one of his two jobs in the music industry is working the door at The Satellite (which I frequent) and seeing that familiar face right when I walk in is one of the my favorite things. Plus, he’s happy to offer up a quick rundown on the bands right away if I am not familiar with them. Alex is one to loyally support bands he loves and is happy to spread the word about them. I always check out his recommendations. This is absolutely a person you want in your band’s fandom. So, say hi to him the next time you walk in The Satellite or see him in the crowd, he’s rad.
Anyway, its time to get to know Alex for yourself! Read below to find out how he ended up working in music when he initially came to LA to act, why his best live show trumps any other story I’ve ever heard, and he offers up a plethora of amazing advice for bands regarding licensing as well as how you should act towards the staff at a venue.
Western Massachusetts, 30 minutes South of Boston.
When did you move to Los Angeles?
Well, five years ago as of the end of last week. I moved out here to be an actor. I changed my mind after about seven or eight months and never looked back. I did theater all throughout high school. I was a Theater and English double major in college. I moved out here to be an actor and I gave it a shot, but it’s tough to be an actor out here. I didn’t enjoy the audition process, mainly because it’s like climbing up a ladder. I mean, it’s similar for bands, too. With acting, you’re auditioning for something and, especially when you first get to L.A., it’s some crummy project that you don’t even care about. You’re just hoping to add to your reel so that then you can audition for your next crummy thing and then your next crummy thing. Then, oh man, if you’re really lucky you get in a commercial. Which is great, and I’m not shitting on commercials, but I didn’t study acting to be in commercials. You’re doing un-fulfilling work. It just stopped being fun. What you really need to do is create your own stuff.
So, my friend from college, Matt Schwartz, who had already lived out here, called me up one day and he said, “Hey, Alex. I’m working for this musician. His name’s Gooding. He’s really cool. He’s got a licensing company and a band. We need an intern. You know a lot about music so why don’t you come by and meet him. Just see if you want to do this.” So I thought, sure what the hell. It couldn’t hurt. That was four years ago and now I’m the music director of a licensing company.
Jo: That is awesome! Then, you do the Satellite thing like a part-time …
Yeah, three or four nights a week. My day job is at a small company so I don’t have a ton of fellow employees. I mean, I love working for Gooding. I love my other co-workers, but a lot of them are remote. I just wanted to be immersed in people. I mean, it helps what I do on a daily basis because I’m hearing new bands, hearing the sound, seeing what’s popular, and meeting people. I mean, I haven’t signed anyone or started working with anyone directly from The Satellite to K2, but it’s a possibility and it’s always out there. The best thing about The Satellite is meeting people. I basically know you from there. I mean, partially Ryan and The Janks and all that. I’d see you there. That set it in stone and that’s the case with a lot of my other music friends. I’ll meet them there and then see them there and then drink some drinks. Then, you get to the point where you’re like, “Hey, I want to go see a show. Where are you going tonight?” That’s really fun. L.A. is great for that.
What are some things that you wish people knew about how they should treat someone working the door when they come in?
Oh, we don’t have enough time! I would say the thing that fills my head immediately is dealing with the list. People who are on the list or think they’re on the list. That usually causes me the most headaches because a lot of times people will show up and they’ll expect to be on the list and they’re not on the list. I mean, I can’t just take everyone’s word for it.
Sometimes, in extreme cases, if the show’s already started and this person can prove to me that they’re an industry person or wants to do something for the band, I’ll let them in. I don’t want to be that guy who’s like, “Yeah. No, I didn’t let that writer from Pitchfork in. He wasn’t on the list.” That being said, on the flip side to that is industry people who expect to be on the list all the time wherever they go. It’s like, “You know what, dude? Suck it up and pay $8.00 for once. Support the band and support the venue.”
I mean, then the band wants to make money. I think of it every night as that I’m working for the venue and the bands as well, because at the end of the night we’re all sharing the profits. I’m there to stop people from sneaking in so that the bands and venue can make some profit. You might be upset when I don’t let you in when you think you’re supposed to be on the list, but think about it from my perspective. Think about what my role is here, what I’m doing. Even if it’s your best friend that is in the band and you’re supposed to be on the list. If you take a step back, you should be happy that I’m actually doing my job. I don’t often have time to explain that to people.
That’s the other thing. The bands, the list…It’s not that hard. You know ahead of time that you’re going to have a list. Just get together for five minutes. Do it the night before. Please. That never happens. I mean, every once in awhile I’ll get a band that has their list together and it’s in alphabetical order. I’m just like, “Thank God for you guys. You’re amazing.”
Sometimes you get the random passerby who’s like, “Dude, can’t I just come in and have a beer?” I’m like, “No. It’s a music venue. There’s a concert going on you have to pay to see.” You couldn’t just walk into a movie theater and be like, “Well, I just wanted to get some popcorn and a coke and just have some of that for a little while.” That’s not how it works.
Sometimes, people will come up and they’ll demand a discount. Oh my God. Dance Yourself Clean. I mean, that’s a whole other ball of wax because it’s basically club night. All the time girls walk up to me like, “So, girls come in for free?” I’m like, “No. No, they don’t.” It’s 2015 and you’re not in Hollywood. This isn’t like, I don’t know, whatever the places are that cost $40 so w let one guy in and then four girls in for free and then they still made their money. That’s not the way it works. Or, people come up and they’re like, “So, we want the two for three deal.” Just coming up to me wanting to barter. I’m like, “This is not how it works.”
When you see a band live, what makes a show great for you, aside from the music?
There should be something magnetic. There should be something that’s drawing you into it and making you want to pay attention to what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Maybe in the best case scenario they give you a sense of why they’re doing it. If you see a band and they’re playing a song and you see them play it because it really means something to them, even without them diressictly saying that. In fact, I do not like it when a band intros the song and tells you what it’s all about, and when they wrote it, and how they wrote it, and all that stuff. I want to hear that from Wilco because they’ve been around for 20 years and I’ve been listening to that song for 10 years. I’ll get the story and be like, “Oh, man. That’s so cool. Jeff Tweedy, you went to see the Ramones and wore a tie as a belt because you thought it was cool and then you wrote the song or whatever.” That’s cool to me. If I’m hearing you for the first time, your song should speak for you.
Also, energy. Even if it’s just you and a guitar, you need to have performance energy. A lot of what I look for in a band goes to my training in theater, every single moment needs to matter from the moment you walk on stage. You never stop performing.
Jo: Yeah. I like that you put it that way because I feel like a lot of bands just walk out there and like … All right. Cool. We’re going to stand here do this.
Yeah, disaffected coolness is not going to do it for me. Let’s face it, people are going to see less rock shows. Clubs are closing all across America. We can’t afford you being too cool to care. You have to care or no one’s going to come. You’re wondering why musicians can’t make any money.
Who are you listening to right now?
I just re-discovered this band called Twin Peaks today. They’re from Chicago. They’re young. I don’t know why, but in the last couple of years I’ve found myself more drawn to a grittier sound. Not like metal, not like grungy and aggressive, but a little intentionally rough around the edges. Twin Peaks are that for me. I’m also really obsessed with Jason Isbell right now. He’s a country singer. He used to be in the Drive-By Truckers.
The Drive-By Truckers I didn’t really care for that much. They’re bar room rock and roll stuff. I mean, they were fantastic with their instruments, but he left them. I mean, it’s such a cliché, but he was an alcoholic, then he met his wife. He went to rehab, and cranked out two awesome albums. I just can’t stop listening to him
I’m obsessed with Ryan Adams. I don’t know if that’ll ever go away because he’s constantly churning out stuff. He’s a prime example, for me, of how social media can help deepen your appreciation because I’m following everything he’s doing. I know when something’s coming out. I know what he’s doing, especially since he lives here in L.A. It’s getting borderline creepy.
Local bands. I really like this band called Good Graeff. It’s a play on good grief. They played at The Satellite a couple weeks ago. It’s twin sisters. They just moved here from somewhere in Florida. They’re the sweetest people and they write really good songs. One of the sisters plays cello, which is always nice. It’s not just token. She’s not just playing the base line on the cello just to say she’s playing the cello. It’s really good. That’s the weird thing about working the door at The Satellite and meeting all the bands that come through is it’s harder for me to separate the people with the music.
If a band is rude or dismissive when they come and check in, it’s like I’m not going to listen to your stuff when you’re here and then I’m not going to tell anyone. Then, when I see you on a bill somewhere else I’m like, “Whatever.” I don’t harbor any ill will to bands because I know that it’s usually a big night for them. They’re tense, their mind’s on other places. Probably if they’re rude to me they didn’t even mean to or think they were. But, if you like them as people, you always want to go see them. The Janks are a perfect example. Their music rocks, but they’re also awesome people and they’re so involved in the scene. They’re there supporting other artists and clubs.
Best live show you’ve ever gone to?
The best live show I’ve ever been to was not this Summer but last Summer. I saw Arcade Fire at Barclays Arena in Brooklyn. Now, I’ve been a long-time Arcade Fire fan. I bought their CD when it first came out. I heard them on WBCN in Boston, which is now defunct. What was really amazing about that show was through some connections, and I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say, but starting with my brother-in-law we ended up being in the show. On the Reflektor Tour, for each show they had people in bobble heads. They had huge bobble heads for everyone in the band. Then, they also had all these funky world leaders. They had Obama and the Pope and all this stuff.
Every show began with them doing a parade through the back of the audience. Me and my brother-in-law got to be bobble heads. I forget who my brother-in-law had when we were talking in. I had Will’s head on. Oh, and also, since this was in Barclays Arena, the other people under bobble heads were David Byrne, Michael Cera, Spike Jonze, and I’m forgetting someone.
Jo: Oh my God.
Yeah. We got to go backstage. We’re hanging out. Also, the only thing I love as much as music is basketball. So it was really cool for me to be in the locker room of the Nets. Anyway, we get these bobble heads on. We’ve all got tambourines and shakers. We start the parade through the back. They’re high-fiving. People are looking at me like, “Oh, shit.” We lead them up on the stage and we sneak off, take off our bobble heads and our costumes. We were then front row for the entire show. They snuck us off before the end of the show, right before the encore. So, there’s a secondary stage in the middle, right where half court is and where the general area is. We all have Arcade Fire’s heads back on us. We snuak onto the stage and they rise us up on it as we’re miming playing to “All my Friends” by LCD Soundsystem.
“Then, they were like, “You’re not Arcade Fire. We’re the real Arcade Fire!” Then, Arcade Fire came back and did a Talking Heads song with David Byrne. We got to go on stage for the last song and dance around on stage. I mean, I was in the show, it was so amazing.
Then, shows that I haven’t been in…I saw Phoenix at the Fox Theater in Boulder two years ago and they were amazing. I saw Phoenix again at Bonnaroo and again they were amazing. Phoenix comprises all my other four favorite performances because I love them and they’re really amazing live.
What is some advice you have for bands? On the licensing side, the venue side, just in general.
On the licensing side, I would say learn how to craft an email. Learn how to make it really easy for me to listen to your music. It’s stuff that seems really obvious, but it’s surprisingly not. I mean, if you’re submitting to someone, anyone, whether it’s me or you’re bugging the guy to get on Kimmel or whatever, write a short email saying one or two lines about who you are, link to SoundCloud or whatever. Streaming is best. I mean, I certainly won’t download an MP3. I can’t afford that space. I just want to listen to it and quickly know. Then, I need to know how to contact you and what you do.
Also, know when and how to follow up. Respect that the people that you are soliciting are working and there’s a million people soliciting them too. I mean, I’m not even getting that many emails but it can take time. If they don’t get back to you immediately, don’t freak out.
Know about who you’re reaching out to. I work for Kingdom Two. We’re a production library. We’re not a record label. The artists that we sign, most of them are pursuing careers. They want to be … I don’t know, for lack of a better word, famous, or known, or successful. The production music that they do is not necessarily their main project. I’ll contradict myself and say, that being said, a great placement can totally launch you. I’m looking for composers. I’m not necessarily looking for bands. Mainly because the more people you get involved the more complicated it is, and the more people you have to deal with. People solicit me all the time thinking that we’re a record label or we’re going to do all this stuff. Know what you’re doing. You’re wasting your time. Research first. Follow up eventually if you don’t hear back from them, but kindly and not in a way that you’re annoyed.
On the venue side, know that everybody talks. If you’re rude or inconsiderate, everyone is going to know it. Just behave professionally. Arrive knowing, yeah, it’s a great show, we’re going to have fun, we obviously all want to drink. That’s great, but behave professionally. Try and have your list together. I need you to fill out these tax forms. Just do them. Really, it’s just your address and a social security number. It can be done in a minute. If you have questions or you need things, don’t make demands. Make requests. Be considerate of the other bands that are playing, too. You know what? We don’t have time for you to mess around sound checking forever. Also, if you didn’t bring your own sound guy, defer to ours please. Stewart, Chad, and Eric have been doing it forever and they have been doing it at this club specifically. It’s in everyone’s best interest for it to sound great. Help us help you. Try and go on time. Or, if you want to push it back because you’re waiting for people to come, run it by me.
It can all be summed up in be as professional and courteous as possible. Try and be on the same page with everyone in the band. I think the mistake that’s often made is one person becomes the person that knows everything aka the person who’s in charge. Everyone else is like, “Oh, I don’t know. Tax forms? I don’t know. That’s so and so.” Or, guest list? “Oh, yeah. That’s so and so.” Just be on the same page so that you know what’s going on.
If you could build a dream lineup, say at the Satellite, who would it be? Anybody.
This is hard. This is impossible. I think I want Ryan Adams headlining, just because he’s my favorite. That allows me some flexibility with the rest of the stuff because he can float in between genres. He will do two sets, one acoustic. In the opening slot, I want someone who is good, but not necessarily well known yet, someone who would benefit from the exposure. You know what? I’ll throw Twin Peaks. I really like the Replacements. Let’s say it’s the Replacements. We’re cutting Ryan’s acoustic set because we just don’t have time. The Replacements are in the third slot. Then, we need females in there. I could say Jenny Lewis. I mean, I saw Jenny Lewis and Ryan Adams on a bill already. So, Twin Peaks, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, the Replacements, and then Ryan Adams. And we’re obviously going to have a super jam at the end.