Ask anybody involved and they will tell you that the music industry is a brutal industry in which to be. From record label execs trying to break the next big act to the acts themselves working towards their ultimate goals, the years are littered with those on whom the industry has taken its toll.
One of the bands hoping to breakthrough in 2022 are Richmond, VA rockers TellTale who recently dropped their new single “Cobain,” a track inspired by the pitfalls of becoming an “overnight success.”
About the song, the band says:
“There’s a line out the door of artists trying to cut their teeth, trying to be the next ‘great.’ You can make a goal of signing a deal or touring the world, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the hustle. The party lifestyle is going to try and sweep you up and people aren’t always going to give a shit about what you’re trying to do. So keep your nose clean and grind. Nirvana may have been an overnight success, but this isn’t the ’90s anymore.”
We spoke to vocalist John Carteret from the band recently about the track, their previous single “Out of Control,” and their own experiences traversing the music industry.
Thanks for your time. Early into 2022, what are your hopes and plans for the year ahead?
John Carteret: “Getting back on the road is a top priority. We’re releasing a lot of new music that really thrives in a live setting. There are quite a few dates in the works already, but we’re constantly trying to fill out our calendar. We just want to see people singing and dancing again, the new live set is pretty wild.”
Before we go onto your new single, your recent single “Out of Control” talks about a theory that kids are out of control. Was there a particular incident or story that inspired this?
“It’s common for young people to hear from older generations, ‘kids these days are out of control.’ That statement applies to so many things that we young people are often tied to. It’s kind of funny to think wanting to help protect and save the environment or have better treatment at dead-end jobs are ‘out of control’ concepts.”
What about you as a kid? Were you a model child or did you get yourself into scrapes and trouble? If so, any good stories you can tell us?
“Everyone gets into a bit of trouble when they’re a kid. Someone once told me the important thing is that you aren’t breaking any rules that might get people hurt, including yourself. I used to break into construction sites and tag (spray paint) all the unfinished walls. Stuff like that is just self-expression, it was going to get plastered over anyway.”
Can you recall a point where life changed and you realized you had “grown up?”
“Realizing your parents are human is probably the biggest part of growing up. Seeing someone you once viewed as a superhero have to go through major health complications really puts things into perspective. When you’re the one driving to the hospital, you don’t really think about being grown up, you just are.”
Life is very different now as compared to ten or even just five years ago. How much more do you think society has an influence on the way children act these days?
“More than anything, the internet influences everything that kids do, adults too. And our society basically lives on the internet at this point. So I would say ‘society’ has a much bigger influence than ever before. It’s this massive funnel of culture and opinion that informs people’s choices without them even realizing it.”
So, let’s talk about your new single “Cobain,” inspired by artists trying to make it big. From your time in the music industry, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
“It’s super clichéd, but the whole ‘no one will ever care more about your band than you do’ thing is spot on. Long after the rest of your team goes to bed, it’s writing, brainstorming content, and reaching out to new friends. We’re prepping for an album rollout right now, and I DON’T sleep.”
What advice would you give an up-and-coming band about traversing the music industry?
“Work with people that genuinely have the same vision for the project and don’t just pick the bigger name because they have more clout. There’s so much noise and so many opinions of the RIGHT way to do things that it can be easy to get overwhelmed and become stagnant in your art. From photographers to producers and everyone in between, make sure you are choosing people because you will make a good team and not entirely based on their resume.”
Obviously, the title references Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Was there direct influence from the Nirvana story?
“Kurt, definitely. He really has that poster-child frontman story. Good kid, rocked by his parent’s divorce, drops out of high school, ends up homeless for a bit, starts a band, career begins slow, finally gains massive popularity overnight. I think it’s the little visceral details that make him such a relatable character. Cobain hated touring at first. Before Bleach dropped, the man was already burnt out from playing shows to nobody. But that’s how careers are made, and that early struggle is what the song is about.”
What have you learned as a band from watching bands like Nirvana and how the industry affected them?
“I think there’s an interesting parallel between what MTV did for Nirvana’s career and the way social media works today. When you’re trying to be the sound of the subculture, it’s appropriate to hate major media. But Cobain still threw himself into building that relationship with MTV, because he knew what they could do for his career. The same thing exists today with apps like TikTok. I dread making those witty little 30-second videos, but it’s quick and easy promotion. It’s that dichotomy of wanting to be the biggest star in the world and resenting the industry in the same breath. That’s Nirvana.”
Three singles out, what next in terms of new music and future plans?
“There’s more new music to come. We had a hectic time getting this new collection of songs recorded and created with the pandemic stopping things midway and never knew what might end up happening with some of these tracks. We’re thrilled to have finally got some wheels moving on that next full release and can’t wait to share even more with everyone.”
If we were to follow this conversation up in twelve months’ time, how would you hope 2022 has been for the band?
“Hopefully by this point in time we’ve seen some smiling faces across the U.S., maybe even further across the globe. We’re itching to get back to what we used to do before the pandemic hit and are excited to be making some new music with us.”
Thanks for your time and have a great year ahead. Over to you to wrap this up…
“Thank you! We really enjoyed these questions. Let’s talk again when the record drops.”