Many old projects came back to the light while I was putting together the forthcoming book Six Years Later: Midnight Musings of an Overactive Mind. One of them was the feature titled “Putting Humanity Back into Arts” that I launched in 2008. The objective was to have conversations with various artists who were trying to reflect the spiritual nature man rather than for mere fame and profit. I talked to Tami, I talked to MJ, then, a few years later, I talked to Lorraine and I remember thinking I should start this feature again, and then… That was about it.
After meeting a few authors over the last year, I felt inspired to start an Author Spotlight feature on my blog in September. I wanted to do the same for music but didn’t feel inspired to do so—until I reviewed Dust on the Radio’s EP, Halfway to the Stars. I was intrigued by the cheerful, upbeat, yet honest and almost raw critique of Hollywood vanity and the superficial, empty, and cold culture it has morphed into, as well as the emptiness anyone might feel in their day to day lives.
I was able to ask the band a few questions about the topics their EP touches upon, and am grateful for their thoughtful answers.
On Fame, Fortune, and the Emptiness of Modern Life, by Dust on the Radio
In “The Camera Loves You” the band touches on the fact that many in North America are in some ways selling their souls to be on camera, be it only for their fifteen minutes of fame. Where does the band’s inspiration comes from? And how is the band readying itself to not fall into the same trap as they gain increasing popularity?
We live near Hollywood, so it’s inevitable that we know people with aspirations and varying degrees of success in the entertainment world. “The Camera Loves You” is a fictionalized account of what I’ve seen in some of my friends. A jolt of success can lift you above the grounding of genuine relationships that everyone needs. Sometimes the demands of success separate you from family and old friends and force you into a more guarded place. I’ve had a few personal encounters with successful celebrities. You can feel the conflict between the need for real human contact and protecting their fragile fame.
I hope the band has to worry about this problem!
In “Underemployed”, the band touches upon the concept of one’s brain not being used enough, and having to be basically shut off during one’s work shift. Do the members of the band feel like they were underemployed in such a way? Have they seen this phenomena in their lives or in the lives of those around them? How do the members of Dust on the Radio see this challenge being addressed at the level of North American society?
Many people, myself included, have fallen into the trap of thinking that their job should define them and satisfy many of their social an intellectual needs. The fact is, there are more people with the needs than jobs to fulfill them. We all have pretty demanding day gigs—Morgan is close to getting her PhD! Still, there are parts of our jobs that are boring and unfulfilling. Living in L.A., there are so many people who are waiting tables or working at Starbucks while they pursue their real dream job. “Underemployed” is about someone who is trying to rationalize that he’s totally fine with his boring job. Of course, there’s the nagging feeling that he should have a more awesome prestigious job. This issue is being addressed in society by the crowdsourcing. A lot of young people now have several gigs and are finding ways to be scrappy survivors in the new economy, and are finding new ways of establishing their identity, especially online.
Songs about heavy topics such those chosen by the band are often approached with either an edge of anger or the heavy weight of despair. Why did Dust on the Radio choose to approach it with a certain upbeat cheerfulness?
The characters in these songs are not fighting the power, they are adapting, accepting and rationalizing new ways of living in a rapidly changing economy and society. It seems that part of the American character is to want to tell everyone that things are going great, even if there are underlying anxieties and reasons for concern. The upbeat attitude is actually therapeutic. Convince yourself that you are happy and the chances are better that you will be. I am inspired by dark music, like Joy Division, but I don’t want to go there. That did not end well.
How does the band hope their listeners will be affected by their music?
I hope that the album conveys that our anxieties and frustrations with modern life are shared, and there is an antidote. Music can be such a liberating force, evoking elation and common understanding. These are the feelings I get from music I love; I hope can give those back when people listen to Dust on the Radio.