It was just about a month or so ago when I realized that 2019 was the 10 year anniversary of Goes Cube’s first album, Another Day Has Passed. I have no idea what made me think of it. I’d just been standing there in my kitchen when it hit me.
Goes Cube was my band. And this was the record that put us on the year-end list for Decibel, and had us in the pages of other glossies like Revolver and Kerrang! and Spin, not to mention the subject of so many blog posts. It was the record we had worked so hard for. The record that was going to change everything for us.
I was stunned to think I’d almost missed the milestone, considering all that record was. And wasn’t.
The lie they tell you is that if you work hard enough, struggle long enough, and pay enough dues, you get rewarded in the end. I’m 40 years old now, and while I know that to be bullshit on a universal level, I still believe it for myself.
I don’t mean that I’m exempt from the lie. I’m saying that I suffer from a severe case of idealism. I have always believed that if I just try hard enough, it’ll happen.
In 2008, my girlfriend (now wife) and I were having dinner with another couple who I’d known for a long while. I told them how Goes Cube was offered a record deal. A real-life, no-shit, actual record deal. One of them responded: “When are you going to finally admit that you’ve failed?”
That was not a very good dinner.
Goes Cube formed in 2003 amidst circumstances that are infinitely interesting and meaningful to me and perhaps the three other people who were in the band, but no one else. The important thing is that we formed, and it was in 2003.
So if you’re doing the math, it took us five years to get that real-life, no-shit, actual record deal. That sounds like the blink of an eye to me now, as my son is eight, my daughter’s nearly six, and I’m, let’s face it, middle-aged. These days, most of a year can go by before you realize it and wonder where the hell it all went.
But back then, five years was an eternity. A person who wanted to be a musician could do a lot with five years, especially in the mid-aughts. I mean, five months was plenty, considering all you needed to make it was two or three songs and a write-up in Pitchfork.
That sounds bitter, and it is, but it’s also the truth. I personally knew a few bands who got all of one song written about in Pitchfork, and who then got record deals and booking agents without even having enough songs for an album. They were not necessarily bad people or bad musicians, and I was genuinely happy for some of them. But, also, if I’m being honest about it, some of them were not nice people, nor were they good musicians. They were entitled poseurs, and they got way more than they deserved.
There it is again: the notion that if you work hard and long enough for something, it’ll actually matter.
Goes Cube worked very hard. We played a ton of local gigs (actually, far too many), and we practiced a lot (three to four times per week, 15-20 hours per week). But the real toil came in the form of touring. We started doing regional tours in 2004, and by early 2007, we were self-booking cross-country tours that lasted over a month. We got better and tighter and wrote more songs and found our sound.
And yet, it’s difficult for me to accurately portray just how awful Goes Cube tours were. I don’t mean they weren’t fun. We certainly had fun. For one thing, we were close friends. For another, we went bowling every single day. But if you look at it in terms of the actual purpose of touring (playing for people and selling them your music and merch, just generally getting people to like you), our tours were dismal failures.
We played many, many shows for zero people. We rarely ever played for more than ten, and I’m including the sound person, members of the other bands, barbacks, etc. We spent a lot on gas, earned next to nothing on our shows. Our only time ever playing outside of the US was in Toronto. There, we opened for a Pantera cover band comprised of high schoolers. As those kids and their parents watched us, none of them were impressed. We also opened for a Rage Against The Machine cover band in Syracuse. Those were the kinds of shows we would drive eight hours to play. And the sad truth of it is that neither of those shows even approached being among the worst.
And as for paying dues, we did. I personally plunged myself into many, many thousands of dollars worth of debt for Goes Cube. Tour expenses and practice space rent and gear and merch and the occasional studio session so we could record three or four songs. And I wasn’t shouldering these costs on my own. We all were.
So it was only a matter of time before one of us decided that they’d had enough. That person was bass player and co-founder, Matthew Frey.
Matthew (who I should note had never as much as picked up a bass before Goes Cube, and whose lifelong dreams never included being a professional, touring musician) didn’t quit. He simply suggested — quite reasonably — that we stop self-booking tours, hemorrhaging money, and playing too many local shows.
The prevailing wisdom went (and probably still goes) like this: To get a record deal, we needed to keep touring. Touring was the key. Touring was good. Not touring was bad. In fact, not touring was very bad because if we stopped touring, we would essentially kill our chances of ever getting a record deal, and that would render useless all those years and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of expenses. So, really, we had to keep touring to justify all the tours we’d done in the past.
And as much as we shared his frustration, Kenny (drums) and I had another one: We were five years and about 80 songs into our tenure as a band, and we still had no full-length album, which is something we desperately wanted.
It seemed we were in a deadlock.
But then, like some kind of deus ex machina, the established indie-metal label, The End Records (who, at that time, had put out Ulver, Voivod, Agalloch and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum among many others), offered us a multi-album record deal with a modest advance. A real-life, no-shit, actual record deal.
The thing about life is that your beliefs color your perceptions. So it was easy for me to see this record deal as not only a validation of our band, but also as vindication. It was our reward for our hard work, for all the dues we’d paid.
The advance from The End Records nearly covered our studio fees. So all we had to go out of pocket on were a couple extra days and the mastering costs. Our producer, Dean Baltulonis, helped us save some dough by recording almost all of the vocals in our practice space instead of the actual recording studio. I think I might have also sold a guitar, too. I’ve done that a lot over the years.
We delivered the album, which we called Another Day Has Passed, to The End Records, and the reaction was immediately enthusiastic. First, they explained, they were hiring a great PR firm to do publicity for our record. This sounded good but meant very little to us, as we had no idea what a PR firm had to do with anything. (A lot, it turns out.)
And then the discussion turned to touring. Specifically, how were we coming along on booking our record release tour? Would we do one really long one or a number of shorter ones in different regions? They were doing a lot on their end to help the record be a success. They certainly hoped we’d do the same.
“You could be the next Mastodon,” someone told us.
The next Mastodon. We all loved that band, but we weren’t exactly going for that level of stardom. We’d have settled for being the next Slint.
Sure, sure, whatever. The important thing was this: Get out there and support the record on tour.
I can remember feeling torn between being cooperative with the label and being a good friend to Matthew. So I made vague assurances while being careful to not commit to anything. When we left the meeting, it was obvious that we needed to make some difficult decisions.
It was also obvious that this whole goal of “getting signed” wasn’t a reward for all of our struggles. It was simply a commitment to do more of it.
We practiced in Room 33 of Flood Music Studios on 94 9th Street in Brooklyn, pretty much right on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. It’s where we’d practiced since 2004, and then in 2009, it’s where we fired Matthew Frey.
We didn’t begrudge Matt for not sharing our dream of being a career musician, or for not wanting to go on yet one more awful tour. And Matt couldn’t blame us for agreeing to do what the label and our manager wanted us to do. He couldn’t blame us for wanting that record to be a success.
So, we were at an impasse, and with the majority of the band voting to support the record with tours, that meant Matt would need to step aside. He told us he couldn’t bring himself to quit. He loved the band too much. And, hell, he was one of the people who had started it. So he told us we’d have to fire him instead.
And so we did. And then we all cried like hell and hugged each other.
Matt’s last show with us was the album release at Webster Hall in May, 2009. The next night, we played in DC with a different Matthew on bass: Matthew Tyson, who had been good friends of all of ours and who’d come on the road with us in 2007 on a five-week tour across the country, during which time he filmed footage for a documentary that never came to be.
By the time we left for DC the next day with Matt Tyson on bass, Another Day Has Passed was already raking in the press. Correction: the public relations firm that The End Records had hired for our album was the one raking in the press.
Even though that record release tour was just as dismal (in terms of attendance and merch sales) as every single other tour we’d done before, it still felt like it was all going to change for us. Like when we got word that Kerrang! Magazine was going to do a big feature on us and even do a photoshoot.
But with this renewed sense of optimism and hope, there was guilt. Decibel Magazine had raved about our record. Matt Frey’s favorite magazine was Decibel. And even if he wasn’t a Kerrang! reader, he still would have loved being the subject of a big feature, of having his photo taken in a bowling alley that the magazine rented out just for us for the shoot.
I called up my bandmates for this essay. I asked Kenny about how he felt on that tour, about getting the press and Matt Frey missing it all. “I do remember feeling a little awkward about it,” he told me. “Mainly I was hoping he wasn’t resentful. I was hoping there was a kind of collective understanding and accord about what happened and why it happened…I didn’t want him to be mad at us. I just wanted him to understand.”
I’d wanted him to understand, too. And so back then on that tour, I’d forwarded him every review in hopes that he’d felt proud for the recognition. But I had also texted him almost every night about how atrocious the shows were. This was my way of letting him know that he wasn’t missing anything. That we’d all made the right decision.
“I do [remember that],” Matt Frey told me. “That was a tough adjustment period… It’s kind of akin to breaking up a really long-term relationship.”
Complicated feelings for Matt Tyson, too. “I was good friends with him…[and] we remained friends… I felt bad for him that he was missing it and that I had taken his place at the same time. Of course, I was [also] having a blast.”
The idea was that we were sending Matt Frey off on a high note. The big record release show, and then a river of positive reviews. But it wasn’t so simple for Matt. “That was not easy. That was something that, in a certain sense, should have felt like a victorious moment. But it didn’t necessarily because it was like, OK, see ya guys. Have a good tour’.”
But that tour wasn’t good. Neither was the next one, or the one after, and so on. As for the press, I was surprised to discover that when I looked back on it, it wasn’t as quite as impressive as I had remembered. There were, indeed, a few places that raved about the album. But in terms of most big publications, the reviews were mildly positive at best.
“I don’t remember any reviews there were 10 out of 10 or five stars. It was all, like, B-plus,” Matt Tyson told me. He went on to say that it wasn’t so much the strength of the reviews, but that we were being written about at all.
“That’s the thing. When you’re in it, you see seven out of 10 from Revolver, you’re like, Fuck yeah! And then this blogger dude said this was the greatest record he’s heard in his entire life. So put the two together: We’re fucking awesome. We’re in NME, we’re in Revolver. We’re in Spin… By the time we got that Kerrang! thing, it was like, OK, this makes sense. Some region like the UK is actually going to get us and we’ll be big there.”
But as I mentioned, our only show out of the US was in Toronto, opening for some high school kids’ Pantera cover band. So, suffice it to say, we didn’t get big in the UK. Or anywhere. And by the time the summer of 2009 rolled around, the PR company moved on to other projects.
Goes Cube went back into the studio (with a significantly smaller advance from the label) later in 2009 and recorded our next album, In Tides And Drifts, which I personally think is an improvement over Another Day Has Passed.
That album was released in 2010, and if memory serves it sold a full 82 copies in the first week of its release. I’d go on about what happened next, but that’s a different story, and anyway, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that we never became the next Mastodon. Or Slint.
“When are you finally going to admit you’ve failed?”
It would seem this essay in an admission of just that, but it’s not. Goes Cube kept going, and we even put out a third album. I went on and formed two other bands who put out records, too. I guess, failure (like success) is all about how you define it. And the way I define it, I haven’t failed until I’ve given up. I haven’t failed until I’ve sold all my guitars, until I’ve ceased writing music.
As for Another Day Has Passed, even though hardly anyone ever bought the thing and a record label lost some hard-earned money on it, and we weren’t the next Mastodon and we weren’t the next Slint, it was important. Maybe to you it wasn’t. Maybe to everyone you’ve ever met it wasn’t. But for four people, two of whom were named Matt, it was.
So, no, this essay isn’t an admission of failure. Rather, it’s a celebration of an album that came out, years ago. More than 10 because it’s 2020, and another year has passed.
Way it feels, it might as well have just been a day.