We arrived late at night into St. John’s, where we’re about to play the last show of our three-and-a-half month, 78-date tour supporting the release of Revival Beach. Our wonderful friends Jud and Krista of Mightypop picked us up at the airport and took us to the Celtic Hearth, the only place open in the wee hours downtown, where we ate poutine and drank Guinness and listened to The Doors’ Greatest Hits over the tinny, squawking restaurant speakers.
The Lizard King sang:
“This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end”
I reflected on the mystery of Jim Morrison, dead for decades, reaching out through the ether to sing just for us, all about The End of our long tour and The End of another album cycle. The End. All the shows, all the songs, all the people. The End. And then he sang:
“Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane, all the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah”
And I started wondering if maybe the song wasn’t about our tour after all. In any case, the poutine was great.
But it IS the end, still, and it’s been a weird and wonderful time. We’ve returned to well-worn haunts and discovered so many new and incredible places—Palermo, Banska Stiavnica, Knoydart, Hebden Bridge, to name just a few of the best—and everywhere we’ve gone we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of the people we’ve met, the new and old friends, and the outstanding bands we’ve played with.
Many people have remarked over the years that we seem to enjoy going on long and gruelling tours to far-flung and unusual places, and have wondered why we do it. Most bands stick to shorter tours of the big cities that “make sense” in terms of their “career.”
In case the scare-quotes didn’t give it away, I am skeptical at best of thinking of music as something one does as a conventional profession, with all the trappings that come with such an idea—calculated choices about “target markets,” playing for “exposure,” pleading social media campaigns, crafting songs that will appeal to the widest audience, desperate pitches for licensing deals, and so on. Music offers us an alternative to that kind of life, close as it may inevitably be to the grasping cult of microcapitalism we call entrepreneurship. Yes, we do have to pay the bills, and no, music shouldn’t be free, at least in a world where nothing else is. But music is, at its best, a different way of participating in society, connecting with each other over a shared love of sounds, art, and words. With apologies to Sean Combs, it isn’t all about the Benjamins.
We write and perform and tour because we want to connect with as many people in as many ways and places as possible, because we can be brought to tears by a room full of strangers in Sicily singing along with Darren to “Via del Campo,” because we enjoy the beautiful challenge of communicating across languages and cultures, because of the unforgettable kindness and warmth we find in the most unlikely corners, and mostly because one small, perfect moment of reaching someone through a song is worth a thousand industry showcases, festival lanyards, Spotify plays, or “likes.”
There is more than one way to “do” music. We will keep doing it our way, because you have shown us how. But for now, this is The End. All the children are insane.