For a while there, I Was Totally Destroying It was living up to its band name.
This indie powerpop quintet from Chapel Hill seemed to be doing everything right in its journey to become The Next Big Thing. When they formed in 2007, they went on to drop a couple of self-released EPs and do shows around the country. They were getting acclaim from local press. (They were part of the N&Os Great 8 collection of up-and-coming music acts in 2008.) They signed with Portlands Greyday Records in 2009, releasing albums like Horror Vacui. Man, they even have their own Wikipedia page!
But after the release of their latest album, the very aptly-titled Vexations, last August, the band began to reevaluate their long-term goals. Weve been through some changes, says drummer James Hepler.
Sitting outside Deep South the Bar, Booker and Hepler discuss how the band has evolved this past year or devolved, if you will. It all started three years ago, when Booker, Hepler and the other members (singer/keyboardist Rachel Hirsh, guitarist Curtis Armstead and bassist Joe Mazzitelli) quit their day jobs to focus more on the band. Back when we made the decision to pursue the band full-time, we had given ourselves sort of a deadline, says Hepler. By the end of 2012-ish, we would have a better idea of where things stood in terms of our ability to do it full-time.
They would go on to record and release Vexations, which led to subsequent, cross-country touring. It wasnt terrible, notes Hepler. But we just didnt quite get to the point where we were making a living doing it, so we stuck to our original decision and decided that we would just pursue it more locally and not bother touring too much.
Booker describes I Was Totally Destroying It now as a hobbyist band, only getting together to do gigs within the Triangle, forgoing touring and even recording. This Thursday, theyll be doing a free, 4th of July, post-fireworks show at Deep South, where Booker now works booking shows. We just cant tour anymore, says Booker. Thats the biggest difference.
Age is another reason why I Was Totally Destroying It is staying off the road. Since these veteran musicians are not getting any younger (the 40-year-old Hepler is practically an elder statesman in this scene), choosing job security and jamming in your own backyard over unpredictable road gigs seemed like the obvious thing to do. For some of us, weve been doing this for twenty years or so, says Booker. Its time to change direction.
So, are there any regrets that they didnt become the A-list rockers they wanted to be? I had many conversations with people about how I didnt know how I was gonna overcome that feeling that the one thing I wanted in my life didnt get to where I wanted it to be, says Hepler, who now works for Organic Transit in Durham. It was something I really struggled with for a really long time, and I got lucky that I found a job that Im equally if not more passionate about, you know, and having a tremendous amount of fun doing and challenging myself every day.
I had to tell people I had to quit touring with a rock band to feel like a rock star, he says.