we should be dead: what's your commitment level?


[Untitled. Ink on cardboard, business-card size etc.]

Alpine, Texas.

I’m always on the lookout for new things that inspire me; it’s part of my job. Here’s one to add to the list:

It was last March or so, just after I had gotten back home from SXSW Interactive ’09 in Austin.

I was drinking a beer at The Railroad Blues, like I often do. Instead of the usual Blues, Country and “American Roots” bands they were used to having, the band playing that night was a young Indie/Powerpop/Alternative group from Limerick, Ireland, called “We Should Be Dead”. Female lead singer, female lead guitar, male drummer and bass. Average age, I’d say, was around 24.

Now, Celtic Indie/Powerpop/Alternative is not exactly the kind of music I’m into (Imagine “The Cranberries meet The Go-Go’s” etc). But man, I was so impressed with these kids. They sang and played their hearts out. Not to mention, there were a lot of cowboys and shitkickers in the crowd that evening- not a crowd you want to piss off. Everyone- including the cowboys and shitkickers- were impressed by how gutsy and fearless these kids were.

The lead sin­ger, a tiny, skinny girl around five-foot-two, would get off the stage in the middle of a num­ber and walk around the crowd, sin­ging into her mike, with these broad-shouldered cow­boys, wea­ring hand­le­bar mus­taches, ten gallon hats and boots, TOWERING above her. Like I said, fear­less. So even if the music was a bit alien to what peo­ple were nor­mally used to, they still got a lot of peo­ple whoo­pin’ and a’hollerin’ that night. It was a great show. Months later and people are still talking about it.

I got talking to their manager- a stocky, Irish dude in his forties. It turns out, though they were now on tour, they hadn’t planned it that way. They had only come over for SXSW originally, and were planning to return to Ireland right after.

Then somehow while in Austin, the manager made some connections, and the next thing you know, the band were headed West to California, ready and willing to play in every dive bar and dance hall along the way that would let them. Hiring a van, throwing their instruments and amplifiers in the back, living on a few bucks a day plus gas money, sleeping rough if they had to.

And they were going to keep on doing it, till they had spent their last nickel, till they had burned their last drop of gas. Only then, and not before,  would they fly back home.

Sure, they could have gone back to Ireland instead, and continue being a fixture around the local pub n’ club circuit. No, they wanted to bust out of that routine- and here was their chance. Not a huge chance, but a chance nonetheless. And they were going for it, no questions asked. Like the equally tiny-skinny lead guitarist told me in her cute little Limerick accent, “We don’t want to go home. We want to keep doing this forever.”

Would you be willing to put in that kind of effort and commitment, to make your business a success? How willing to “sleep rough” are you? Are you that brave? Am I?

God Bless ’em…

[UPDATE: You can follow the kids over on Twitter at @weshouldbedead. Looks like they’re now based in L.A. Looks like their EVIL PLAN worked! Rock on…]

[BONUS LINK: Video Diary- We Should Be Dead in L.A.]

[Backs­tory: About Hugh. E-mail Hugh. Work with Hugh. Twit­ter. Cartoon Archive. News­let­ter. Book. Inter­view One. Inter­view Two. EVIL PLANS. Limi­ted Edi­tion Prints. Essen­tial Rea­ding:Everything You Always Wan­ted To Know About ‘Cube Gre­na­des’ But Were Afraid To Ask.”]


  1. Most people aren’t that committed. I’m around them all the time and frankly, it’s making me ill. I like what I do but I am working on changing things in my own life that will hopefully counter the negative, mediocre existence these folks try to rub off on me.

  2. It’s so incredibly true though, isn’t it? Indeed, I’d much rather look back on life and go “Hmm, I probably shouldn’t have done that.” than look back and go, “I wish I’d at least tried.”

  3. Absolutely!! (and like Thomas I like Indie/Powerpop/Alt…)

    Those kids can be fearless because they are absolutely clear about what they feel from the soul level. Musicians probably have to be, to be the artists they are.

    Most of us are not and get insanely distracted by all the noise and expectation around us.

    Great Post – Thanks!

  4. Still celebrating a couple of this year’s ‘Hmm I probably shouldn’t have done that’ moments. Which means I should be looking for more …

  5. This gave me goosebumps. Awesome. I did pay $11 to write a post at the FedEx store last night because my computer is currently being reformatted.

  6. We aren’t going anywhere as a species. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are the new cockroaches of the universe.” That said, massive casualties are inevitable and there’s nothing we can do about it. Those who wake to the realities of accelerating change and make plans to address them, will likely survive. Those who don’t will be fertilizer. http://www.realisticsanctuary.com

  7. I fricken love this story. I wrote a similar story about the emergence of Nerdcore hip-hop genre with MC Frontalot. I will not put the link in here because I feel like a cheese dick when I do.

    I love stories of roughing it.

    I was a paratrooper captain in the 82nd Airborne Division and I always tell people that the biggest lesson I learned was how to handle misery.

    It has served me well in business.

    Love the story, went visual on the Irish chick-I’m a fan and I respect them for “pushing through the dip” as Uncle Seth would say.

  8. And then there are those folks who reach their goal and then that’s it. No thoughts as to what to do after.

    Go to college, get a job, have a family. Done by 30.

    So then they live through their kids showing up at my kids’ teams wrecking havoc on the rest of us

    Most people in my family think there’s not much point to doing what you’re passionate about (I define that as something creative because that’s where I’m at). Because the first question they always have is “can you make any money doing that?” and if it’s not readily apparent that you can then why bother? But to me (and this took awhile for me to admit) there’s not much point in doing something you not passionate about. Anybody can do that.

  9. Hey there!
    My band just recorded our own song!!!

    Check it out, we’ve learnt a lot from your blog! :)

  10. @Jeff Schwartz

    Have you ever read Fractal Time by Greg Braden? It seems like you hit the nail on the head there with what you were talking about. If not, I think you should check it out sometime. It’s a great read.

    Great post by the way. Chilling!