If ever there were a way to see in the new year, it’s by the arrival of the Jackalope, heralded by 20 Watt Tombstone. A self-styled ‘death-blues’ duo, they have kicked up a racket over the last few years as they’ve dragged their tour van through most of the US and several parts of Europe.
Now guitarist Tom Jordan shares how this working band coped with the coronavirus pandemic and what the duo has in store for 2021. Spoiler alert, their EP Year of the Jackalope comes out January 22nd!
Tell our readers all about your band! Where are you from and when did you get started? What is your music like?
We live in a smaller city called Wausau, in Wisconsin. about 40,000 people. We started this band in 2011 but didn't start touring until about 2 years later.
What are your goals for your band?
Oh boy, good question! We try to set smaller goals on a yearly basis for ourselves. realistic ones but keep setting the bar higher each time. We get restless when we aren't moving forward. obviously with COVID we can't do much at the moment, but we are still trying to adapt and do things. During the pandemic we finished our trademark, put out a bunch of new merch, and are releasing a two song cover EP in January. I guess goal wise right now is to get through the pandemic safely and do our best to help others do the same. When we get sight of the end of this thing, then the goal will be tour and release a new record of our stuff in 2021.
What do you do for a living? The band is actually our main source of income these days. We average roughly 150 shows a year, in 2018 we hit 203 in one year. We stay pretty busy and until COVID-19 hit we were able to usually do 2-3 tours a year for a month or so at a time. Now with things being more complicated, my drummer went and found a factory job until we can get back on the road. Otherwise merch and streaming have helped pay the bills and keep us afloat.
How do you balance your work and personal life with the band?
It's hard when you do most of the stuff yourself, but I try. A few years back it was harder for me. I spent way too much time doing booking, PR, and all the other stuff. Now I have learned to balance a bit. I do things like leave my phone in the other room when I spend time with my wife, and I also set hours for myself. At a certain time in the evening I am done with most business unless its important. Gotta set hours for yourself like a regular job or it consumes your life and leaves no time for family.
What do you consider to be the best investment you've made, music-wise?
This may sound odd, but I would have to say our van. We switched to a Diesel 5 years ago and it has made a world of difference. Its an older Ford E350 7.3L Diesel one ton and has outperformed every vehicle I have owned, in the band or personal. It's our house, our vehicle, our storage, its home. We eat in it, sleep in it. Its our fortress on wheels and hasn't let us down after 320, 000 miles.
What's the worst or least helpful thing you've ever spent money on as a band?
Hard to say, we are pretty careful with how we spend money, we tend to research stuff and work with a lot of great people who help us with advice. But If I had to pick something, in the early days we worked with a few agents that took an enormous amount of money and did very little. Luckily our first tour we got hooked up with a great agent and we learned a ton from her. Prior to her, we had a few stinkers who wanted to get paid and do no work. Since then we have been super lucky to work with some fantastic agents from all over.
What kind of merch sells the best for your band? And what do you purchase most often as a music listener?
Shirts and Vinyl hands down. probably followed by skate decks. For me, what i buy at shows really depends on the band. I am a sucker for weird unique things. When bands have things that most bands don't do or are just a solid idea, I will usually buy one. We played with a band once that had CBD products, That blew me away, so of course I bought some. Otherwise, Vinyl is something I always look for, or a t shirt.
If you've been on tour, can you share some tour budgeting tips?
Oh boy...how much time you got? ;-) Well first and foremost start small. do a weekend, then a 3 day weekend. then a week. make connections with bands from the area BEFORE you go. have them promoting. Also don't waste your money on rooms until you can afford to. Live like you are going camping. Bring groceries, a cooler and a tent. Also this is a big one... Just be nice! People you meet will remember you and want to work with you and that is how you build relationships. Takes years sometimes but that niceness will pay off in $$$ and gigs!
Which online music or social media platforms are most helpful to your band?
Right now I would have to say Facebook followed by Instagram. Both have helped sell merch and assist with things like live streaming and video we have done during the pandemic.
What does "making it" mean to you, and what do you think a band needs to make it in 2020?
I think "making it" is subjective to a degree. Everyone has different goals they want to meet. Some people see a record label as making it while others see money as the sign they've made it. For us, We just want to be able to tour and make a solid living doing it and play to people who love our music. We don't have any illusions about doing this. It definitely isn't easy!
What do bands need to make it? I'd say good work ethic. No substitute for elbow grease. I am a firm believer in the idea that if you work your ass off you will see rewards, it may not come right away but it will come eventually. Another thing that I think is important is good art. If you have a killer design people will look. Keep good artwork coming out and people will take that bait and listen to your music.
Preorder Year of the Jackalope here. Place your order by January 10th to get a 12x12 poster and 4x4 sticker! I did it, you should too.... \m/
To learn more about budgeting, band finances, and more -- and find some stoner metal Easter eggs! -- order Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials in paperback and ebook formats: https://amzn.to/3lCsFdq
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