By Joel Oliphint
In last week’s issue, Trains Across the Sea’s Andy Gallagher wrote a guest column about how Columbus should stop ignoring its local bands.
He made quite a few points with which I agree. It’s true, there are some immensely talented Columbus bands that go unnoticed nationally and even in our own hometown. I’ve used plenty of ink to express similar sentiments in these pages. And yes, in an ideal world, I’d love to see a larger contingent of Columbus support its bands.
But here’s one of the inherent, assumed-but-rarely-stated flaws in the thinking of Mr. Gallagher and other like-minded musicians. He says, in effect: “People should pay me to make music so I can make my living playing music.”
Traditionally, the idea of playing music as a career is an anomaly. Sure, there have always been composers commissioned by wealthy benefactors and such, but normally, playing music has been something for the in-between times—after work, before work, on weekends. It’s a social thing, a familial thing, a community thing that’s there for your own enjoyment and occasionally the enjoyment of the people immediately around you.
In that way, playing to just your friends at a mostly empty bar is natural and, in one sense, the way it should be.
Join or form a band to play music and have fun. Work hard at it, sure, but go into it knowing that the end goal is not to play music for a living. If that happens, awesome, but don’t get caught up in “making it.”
Be OK with not breaking out of Columbus. Be OK with playing for a handful of friends. Be OK with the majority of a city ignoring you. You’re not doing it for them or their money. You’re doing it because you’ve got to get it out of your system somehow.
Gallagher is getting it out of his system with Trains Across the Sea’s new EP, Thanks for Coming Out Tonight. It’s a step up from the band’s previous EP, both in terms of recording quality and songwriting quality. I’d still rather see Trains go nuts onstage than listen to them with ear buds, but there are some good moments here.
Gallagher is at his best when using his casual baritone and tossing off phrases in a John Darnielle manner (see the first half of “Galileo”). Also nice is “I Just Wanna Get Paid,” a live cut that provides an endearing window into Trains Across the Sea’s theatrical stage show, with Gallagher playing the ironic snake-oil salesman.
There’s an overload of songs about writing songs and/or being an itinerant musician. The short title track, which wraps up the EP, fits into that category. But the piano-and-vocal number also is a nice switch-up sonically from the acoustic-guitar folk sounds that dominate the disc.
So take heart, Andy. Trains Across the Sea’s folk-rock is steadily improving. Whether people hear it or not.