The DIY music scene has evolved a lot on this side of the millennium. Social media has changed how bands promote themselves, and starting a band today is very different from how it was in the 90s or early 2000s.
Standing out from the crowd takes three things:
Emilio Menze has all three of those things – and with the experience Emilio has as both a guitarist and the frontman of Dark Ride, he has quite a bit of knowledge to share.
Listen now to learn what Emilio has discovered during his 15+ years as a musician, from playing in a small niche to starting a new band during the pandemic!
What you’ll learn:
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#69: Why Spotify Is NOT the Problem
– “Rabbits Are Roadkill on Rt. 37”
AFI fan club: The Despair Faction
Welcome to Episode 110 of the Bandhive Podcast.
It is time for the episode of the Bandhive podcast. My name is James Cross. I'm not here with Matt Hoos of Alive in Barcelona, but I do have a very special guest, Emilio Menze of Dark Ride.
How are you doing today, Emilio, I'm doing well, so happy to be here. Thanks for having me. That's great to hear. It's my pleasure man. It's been a while. The last time we saw each other was five years ago when you were playing with a band called Stellar Corpses. One of my favorite bands from that time period, like Dead Stars Driving an album you did in like 2012 I think sometime around there was like one of my favorites throughout college. So it was really cool to see that you're working on a new project and have been for about two years called the Dark Ride in a very similar vein.
It's like, I don't know, it just, it has the same vibe for me. So, can you tell us a little bit about Dark Ride and what got you to start that new band and what got you into music in the first place back in the day. I mean, I always enjoyed music as a kid. Just like listening to the radio and stuff when I was real young, but I didn't really get into bands until I stumbled into my older brothers like Cd collection. My brother passed when I was a kid.
So I was looking through his old collection years later and saw the Misfits cd and I loved the skull and I've always loved Halloween and horror movies, Just anything spooky. So I put it on just, I thought it looked cool and like upon first listen, I didn't like, it didn't click with me. And then I heard like skulls and I turned into a martian and then their later stuff like digging for bones and was blown away by the melodies that contrast between the melodic courses and the heavy music was just really cool to me.
I was hooked from then on. Then I heard like Ramones and Af I af I Ramones and Misfits or what got me into like the whole music game pretty much. And with dark ride, I was in Stellar Corpses for 14 years. So the entire time I was in that band, I only wrote songs for Stellar, no matter what I wrote, I was always crafting it for stellar. So I had about two or three tracks that were like halfway through finished. But then we all quit Stellar Corpses and uh, I just finished the songs and use them for my own band, Dark Ride.
I'd always been like a bass player or a guitarist and bands and just kind of like a team player. I've never really been a front man. So I always wanted to, I thought, why not? Yeah. So on that note, that was one of the questions I had for later is how was that shift going from playing guitar and doing backing vocals to being the frontman of the band? So unfortunately all of this has happened during COVID, so I haven't been able to play a show yet, but that's going to be rectified at the end of February.
So I haven't actually played a show yet as a front man for my own band. I was in a misfits cover band called Plan nine for a couple of years, so I got to be a front man there. But it was, it was covers, it's a whole different thing with my own band. But as far as, like in the studio, it's nerve wracking when you're just recording lead vocals because you're, you're very vulnerable and it's very embarrassing and it took a while to get over, like being afraid of looking or sounding stupid or having my voice crack or like being way off pitch and now I'm just like, I just do it and don't even think about it.
Well, that's great that you were able to make that shift essentially. Like obviously there's that element of stage fright, even in the studio where, you know, no one's ever going to hear the bad takes, like, if there's a bad take, they're not going to hear it, but there's still that feeling of like, but I'll know, so I can definitely understand that I'm not a singer at all, like, but playing guitar or other stuff, I I can understand that feeling to an extent, and the pressure must be so much higher when you're, you know, the leader of the band.
So with Dark Ride, you put out an ep self titled at the end of last year, you've released two videos as well, including one just a month or two ago, how have things been going so far? How has the reception been from the fan base? You know, like you said, it's all in the pandemic, so you haven't been able to play live, but how has the reception been? Yeah, it was kind of a funny thing once the record was done, I was asking a lot of my friends and other musicians, like, how should I go about releasing this?
Because normally you do a release and then you tour with it or play shows to promote it, promote the music, but that wasn't an option. So, some of my friends were saying, well just wait till the pandemic blows over Or just release it now and there's all everybody has a different opinion. And I just thought if I wait for the pandemic to be over, it could be years and years and I just kind of thought like, people really need new music now and things to look forward to now because these, you know, tumultuous times right now and especially, you know, back in 2020.
So it was really a blessing for me to release it when I did because I think it got more attention than it would have and I think it's spread faster on social media and the reception has been so great. It's been better than I thought better than I could have asked for and like all the fans from stellar have been so good to me and supportive. A lot of people say, yeah, it sounds like stellar and I couldn't be happier. Bottom line James. I just made songs that I would like as a fan.
I was happy with it. The fact that other people like it is just icing on the cake and I'm just having a blast. That's the most important part. I'm just having fun. Yeah, that's great. I think that's two key things there, first of all, having fun, that means you're being genuine and you're doing what you want to do rather than forcing yourself into a box that maybe you don't enjoy. But the other thing that you said is making music your fans would enjoy. I see so many artists kind of lose touch of what their fans want and there's almost like a struggle between what you want to do and what the fans want.
So I think it's really cool that what you want to do is also what the fans want, because I think that's really one of the recipes for success. Like you could make amazing music that you love and if the fans don't want it, it doesn't really matter. Which sucks because it's amazing music, but when you have that overlap, that's the secret ingredient right there. I agree. I agree. I think what helps to is my songs are, it's a simple formula. I just try to make the chorus as big and as catchy as possible because all my favorite punk rock songs, especially af I like their choruses are epic and you can sing along with them immediately.
So I just try to kind of emulate that because that's just what I like. And I mean that's This is drifting totally away from the topic we're here to talk about, but that's like what makes a community for a band is like when you're looking around and there's like 500 people singing every single word along with you. Like that's what builds a community. That's really what it is. And so I totally can understand why you want to get out there and and play those shows. Yeah, I just think it's magic when it happens like that, when everybody's singing along, it's powerful.
Yeah, absolutely. People put their differences aside and they're all there for one thing in that moment and like any problems they have just fade away and they're like, this is happening right now. This is the moment. We're going to enjoy it and that's that like, it's incredible. You mentioned that you were in Stellar Corpses for 14 years. So you've been a musician for at least 16 years now that the 14 with Stellar Corpses into in dark ride Over that time, the music industry has changed so drastically. You know, 16 years ago, iTunes was a thing.
Spotify wasn't even a word that people knew it was still physical media or illegal downloads or paying for downloads and now pretty much everything is streaming when it comes to the non musical skill set of being in a band. What kind of changes have you seen over that time? So in my opinion, like social media and these sites like Band camp and Spotify, Apple music and Youtube to like they were making music and songs more way more accessible to people. Like it's easy to listen to any song you want instantly.
And in my opinion for the artist, it's kind of a double bladed sword because like your music is gonna get out to more people, but you're not going to really get paid much for it for these streams and stuff, but it's so much easier for people to hear it and more kids will hear it, which in my opinion will lead to more people coming to my shows and buying merchandise or ordering merchandise online. So I'm still going to be making some money from my art, which is great.
Yeah, I think that's a great way to look at it. I mean, Spotify as a whole topic that I could vent about for hours, but I think that what you touched on there is saying it's a marketing tool is the right way to look at it. Like, yeah, it doesn't pay much depending on I built a whole calculator for this. So if anyone wants to check it out, you can go to Bandhive dot Rocks slash calculator and put in like the actual numbers for your physical release.
So like, how many songs are on it, how much it costs to have it produced and how much you're selling it for, and it'll calculate how many streams it takes to break even compared to one sale of that album. Oh my God, A lot of times those numbers are like, you need 200 streams of every song on the album to break even on Spotify, it's like, okay, so you could basically break even on like, one super fan and 10 casual fans, like 100 streams from the super fan and 10 people who stream it 10 times each if I'm doing that math right in my head, and it's like, that's a lot of streams, but you don't have the upfront costs, thankfully, all that stuff, it just adds up and what you're saying about it being so accessible, I think is so true.
There are so many artists that I've personally discovered because of Spotify or given a chance, even if I already knew them because of Spotify and then went and checked them out. So is that something you're already seeing with your fan base as you're growing things that people are discovering your music on streaming and then coming to buy merch from you? Yeah, absolutely. That's amazing that right, there could be a case study to show that it's working and also like getting added to people's playlists and stuff. All that stuff helps. Yeah.
And that's the other thing, it's like, you know, back in the day we had mix tapes or mixed cds and you could share it with one person or you'd have to make multiple copies now. It's like, oh, here's all my favorite songs, my top 50 have fun. Like listen to it. I think that's so cool. It is cool. I mean, I just think anything that makes music more accessible and easier to get to is a good thing overall, but I definitely understand how artists are angry about not getting paid more for streams and I think it still needs to be tweaked, but in my opinion, it's still pretty new and getting worked out.
Yeah, personally the way I see it is Spotify needs to double the price because they pay out 70% of their revenue. So that's before taxes, before income, just 70% goes out the door to rights holders. So if they double their price to $20 a month, Then automatically every artist will be earning twice as much per stream, which would still be like . 8 cents per stream. That's not a lot, but that's twice as much as before. It helps. And then the other thing is canceled. The ad supported plan because that does not pay nearly as well as a paid subscriber.
I agree. That's a good point. And I mean if you look at Apple's numbers, They have that $10 price point without the free plan and they're paying about 150% of what Spotify does per stream on average. But anyway, I shouldn't get into that rabbit hole too much as you've seen these changes in the industry. What has the most difficult thing to adapt to been for you? In my opinion, there's a lot of pressure on musicians and artists, especially independent musicians, to have this really strong social media presence and I think sometimes some of the musicians take it too far and post every day multiple times a day and it turns into fluff and it looks like spam.
Whereas a fan of said Van, like I just want the kind of meat and potatoes, I want like the real news or real updates. I don't need just fluff or spam and when it, when it happens like that, I stopped paying attention to it. I think fans, I think it's important to have a social media presence, especially on instagram, but do it creatively. Me and my producer called the sledgehammer effect where whatever I post has like meaning and it has impact. It's not just posting to post something, if that makes sense.
Yeah, So don't create content for the sake of content. Rather put something out there that, you know, the fans will care about something that's gonna kick acid, either be creative or meaningful. Yeah, I think that's just my opinion. Yeah. Which I'm pulling up your instagram right now because it looks like from what I was seeing when I was researching this episode, you had plenty of great content, like valuable content to share. You're still posting at least a couple of times a week, You have to find the content that people want and it seems like you've found that whereas a lot of artists are like, here's the latte I had for lunch today, it's like, okay, like yeah, exactly, that stuff kills me in it.
I think, I think it devalues the brand. I tried to be really creative with it. Like one of the photo shoots I did, I made it look like I was on the local news and I'm attacking the two news broadcasters, like who let the psychopath on tv, it was kind of what I was going for and it was just funny James because it was one of those things that in my head, I was like, okay, that will either go over really well and be successful or it'll be a total flop.
But I think the good ideas are kind of like that, like, and I don't know, I just always tell my friends and artists like, keep a memo pad or notepad open in your phone and write down every idea you have, and then just slowly go through them and make them work in terms of social media content. Yeah, I think that's great. Like, otherwise you have the amazing idea and then it's gone five minutes later, because you got distracted by the next thing that seemed like a good idea.
So when you're creating content, do you have like, a schedule that you try to stick to? Or it's literally just when there's something important, that's when we post exactly when there's something important, and I just try to do it early in the morning, California time, it seems like I have better results and more get more attention from it if I post in the morning opposed to like, afternoon or night time, which makes sense because people, they're either like waiting to clock in or they're just waking up if they're sleeping late, that kind of stuff.
So then people have the whole day to see it before it gets pushed out by, like, the flood of posts, when everyone gets off work at least, that's how I would look at it. So, kind of, staying on this thread. What do you think d I y artists need to do to stay relevant going forward, because social media is such a it's essentially a competition, which is such a sad thing to say. But the algorithm is always trying to prioritize people who post a lot because they want people to stay there, and then that doesn't always get you the results you want.
Like, you're saying sometimes people they're not really interested in the music, they're just interested in the content versus when you post about the music, that's then, okay, like, these followers are interested in the music. It's tough because you're right, like, the more you post, the more the algorithm is gonna pick it up and put it in people's faces. But I just think the problem with it, like I said, is it just looks like spam to me when it's over and over again. It's like if I get emails every day from the same company, it's like, I'm going to unsubscribe from that because it looks like spam and then it sucks James because, like, it might be something cool that I might be interested in, but I'm not even going to really look at it because it's just always in my face is like, junk mail, like you get in the actual physical mail, um independent bands.
To stay relevant on social media. That was the question, right. I mean, off the top of my head. I think it's really important just for any band to invest in their artwork and their designs and their aesthetic that they use for merchandise and just their logo. I think it's the Kiss of Death when bands go the super cheaper out and just go like, oh, that's good enough though, That will serve its purpose. Put some some money and some pride behind it to make it like, kick as much gas as possible.
So when you do post it is more eye catching, but it all comes down to the songs have to be good. Even if you just have a new release out, the next thing I feel like you should be doing is already working on the next one and the next one and just always have song ideas in your head. Gosh, besides that, I mean, of course, playing if you can, but the pandemic has changed that kind of game plan. Yeah, for sure. But it sounds like basically that answer is have a good consistent brand, because that applies to your graphics, that applies to your music.
Like, if you have good music, you can make your image fit that music and be cohesive. And then that can extend to like, your brand being the artist who's always working and people can see that and you're always putting out the next release are always working on it. Just keeping the I guess the treadmill going, like you don't have a treadmill and you always got to be pumping out content attention spans are so short. Absolutely. I also think it's really important to make it rewarding to be a fan of a band.
Like, if you're really into a band, like, I feel like you should be like, oh man, I'm so glad I stuck with this band, like, I'm so glad I, like, pay attention to what they're doing, you want to make it so like, yeah, the fan feels like it's round to be a part of this and not feel like gypped by it, or like, like you cheap out on them or you're letting them down, stuff like that. I'm thinking of one band right now, you're probably thinking the same band af I and the despair faction, right?
Exactly. I've learned so much from AFI through the years in so many different ways. I think they're one of the best examples to look at from like the late 90s to the mid-2000s of what they did, right? It's absolutely amazing, and they've been a band for 30 years. Like, clearly they did something right? And their fans are just are rabid, like AFI fans are so passionate and so, I mean, myself included, like, the first time I saw AFI was at the warped tour in like, oh one lucky.
Yeah, man, I think it was right, when, because days of the phoenix was like, they're single on the radio, and I just remember thinking their fans, I mean, I thought they tore it up but their fans were just out of this world and singing along, especially in like total immortal, Like all the fans were singing along with that chorus and washing and it was it was special to me as a kid. Yeah, that that must have been amazing. Like, I've seen videos from back then and that looks really cool, so I'm jealous of you there. Yeah.
Thanks man. Just side tracking here a little bit. How many times have you seen AFI over the years being from, you know, California, That's probably a lot. So the first time was a warped tour. I saw them right before december underground came out at slims and they played rabbits a roadkill. So that was really cool. I saw them on the december underground tour again in santa cruz, saw them twice for Crash Love, and then for something else in santa cruz to answer your question, I think eight times.
That's so sick and rabbits. That's such a good song too. And off of like a Myspace compilation of all things. Yeah, I love his lyrics. Yeah. Anyway, we could probably do an entire episode or three about AFI so I'm gonna steer us away from that because I will totally go down the rabbit hole and I know you'd follow right along with me talking about one of our favorite bands getting back to dark ride and the music that you make when you started the band, what was your goal?
Well a couple of things like at the end of the day, no matter what I am a musician period, I can't change it. I wouldn't want to, it's who I am. It's brought me everything good in my life and it makes me happy. It's, it's my livelihood. That's also how I express myself and it's, it's therapy, especially on stage, it's all those things. Um, but also when we left stellar, I was really upset and confused and had a lot of anger and like a big kind of chip on my shoulder.
So that kind of helped me. Um, just kind of heal from that experience because I mean it was just like a breakup, you know, it was like any other breakup with a girlfriend. Like it's really tough in your whole like kind of world changes, breakups are always really hard for me. So it really helped heal and kind of like feel like myself again. So that was kind of the goal And also I just wanted to see if I could do it because I've never been in charge of like the whole ep or a whole band and had like I was always in a band.
Whereas a democracy and that's part of the reason why I quit Stellar Corpses because it was no longer going to be a democracy. All I needed was 1/5 vote. I was always a team player anyway. So yeah, with dark ride, I completely um in charge of it and I just, I wanted to see if I could do it. So it's just kind of a fun challenge. And the thing is James, it intimidated me. It scared me and I knew that was the right move then. Yeah, I gotta get outside your comfort zone a little bit. Exactly. Yeah.
And so it sounds like that goal hasn't changed. It's just like that's what you live and breathe and that's what you're going to continue to do. Yeah. And like this upcoming um, two week run in february, I'm like right in the middle of booking it and it definitely makes me nervous and it's a little scary. That's how I know it's the right thing to do. Yeah. And so Happy New Year. Everyone. This episode is the first episode in 2022. Where are you going to go so far that people who are listening can look out and find your tour dates and go to a show.
So as of right now, I mean, things could change a store right in the middle of booking, but I'm going to start in Fresno on february 26th and then, um, I'm either gonna play in L. A. Or san Diego make my way through Arizona and new Mexico On the way to Texas. So March five. I'm playing in austin texas at this big festival called the Nosferatu fest. It's celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the film Nosferatu. So the whole tour is booked to tour out to that gig and tour back.
So it'll be like California, Arizona and Mexico and texas. All the towns that don't play on the way there, I'll try to play on the way back. So yeah, that's, that's pretty much it and I'm going to end in santa Cruz, which is my hometown. That sounds amazing. I have never been to santa cruz but from everything I've heard it's like this little bubble of horror themed stuff. Is that true? Or is that just my view is an outsider? So it definitely is a small bubble. I call it a fish bowl.
It's more so like marijuana and hippies than horror. Okay, so basically a mini san Francisco. Yeah. Yeah. Gotcha. I would say that. What's cool about santa cruz is the redwood forest next to the ocean and that's very special and the weather's killer. But there's a lot of kombucha. I'll put it that way. I know what you're saying, I was up in Eureka for like six months and I totally get what you're saying, Probably a little cooler up there temperature wise, but similar situation anyway with being in such a small niche.
What do you find works best for marketing in your community because it's really the genre you're in. Seems more of like a community where everybody knows everyone. It's not like a pop band where it's like, hey, you can target pretty much everyone. It's like, no, your fans are the people you already know because you're all part of this tight knit community. How does that work for you? So it's cool in the sense that since this is such a small genre and niche, that word spreads really fast, especially if the band is good and there's a ton of support right away.
And like the fans for that genre are pretty rapid. But my personal opinion has always been that it could expand and be a little more like, I guess respected and a little less like people kind of frowned upon like horror punk and horror rock or like, I think it's a kind of a joke or like people, you know, with their faces painted like a skull and that they think like, oh, like that's so embarrassing and it can be, but I want to, I want to take the whole genre and elevate it and give it some more credibility because I look at like a band like the misfits and the legacy of the misfits and everybody's owned a misfit shirt at one point in time.
It's very like accepted and they're so high up and there's no other horror band that's kind of close to that and punk rock and I just think, why not? They're totally can be. Yeah, especially since it's been such a long time since really their peak, like they came back into the reunion a few years ago, but there hasn't been any artist to really fill that gap. Like that's there's room there for growth. I agree. I've always felt that way and I was trying to do that with stellar to and uh, it's a work in progress.
But I just think, I think there's so much like you said room for growth and potential, if I'm wrong, all that matters is that I'm having a blast along the way and I'm trying Yeah. Alright, that's the main thing. Like as much as we advocate with Bandhive for people to go out and run their band as a business. Like yeah, you can run it as a business, but if you're not having fun then it's not worth running as a business. So the main thing is have fun.
Like that's, that's how we look at it is just have fun and then make it a business from there and then you will have fun while running a business. Like that's the best of both worlds. Yeah, I've always been aware of and grateful for the fact that what musicians do, makes people happy and put smiles on faces, so to speak, it makes people's days easier and it makes life more fun to have good songs, a good soundtrack to your life and I've always thought that was really neat and been um really grateful to be a small part of that.
I think of that too. I think that's a really great way to look at it. Like it's probably like this with any kind of art form, you're having an impact that sometimes you can see it if people tell you about it, but other times you never know about the impact you might have had on some random Spotify listener in like it was Becky istan or somewhere, but your music changed their life for the better. I think that's the power of music is so cool. I completely agree.
Kind of continuing down the path of dark ride and you started during the pandemic, what would you suggest to artists who are just starting now during the pandemic? Like what did you do differently with Dark ride that you would not have done? Were it not for the pandemic? I mean off the top of my head, I did put more like creative thought into how I could put out unique content for social media, especially instagram like, okay, how can I make just a picture that's creative. That's cool.
Since I can't play gigs. I mean, I spent a lot of time in the studio with my engineer and my producer making the songs as powerful as possible. I mean we'd be in a tiny recording studio with masks and it wasn't necessarily comfortable. Probably ridiculously hot and humid in there too. Oh yeah, good old studios. Yeah, I just, especially with the songs, I we never settled, we just tried to get all the best takes and sometimes it took a really long time, especially for vocals because I was very inexperienced with recording lead vocals and record backups a million times.
But and also, I mean use the time to your advantage in terms of making the creative designs, creative merchandise and stuff like that. Yeah. So basically just going back to the branding that you were talking about earlier. Yeah. You betcha. Okay, that's amazing. Well, hey Emilio, this has been so helpful. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today. We'll have to do another episode at some point. Just the two of us where we can learn out about AFI I'll have to start a podcast just for that.
I would love that. Well, nerd out about AFI another time. Okay, but before I let you go, where should people go to find more about dark ride? And is there anything else you want to tell folks about dark rides on every social media platform? It's on every streaming site on instagram. It's at dark ride sc same with facebook and yeah, I'm just super grateful for anyone that likes what I'm doing and keeps listening. I super appreciate it and thank you for having me. This is really fun.
I hope I helped. Yeah, I think this is gonna be really useful, especially for artists who feel like they're kind of in a genre that isn't popular, you know, even with more mainstream things like pop punk, it's becoming more and more Fringe. I think it's gonna be helpful for artists who are just kind of feeling like they haven't found their audience yet. And you show that there's hope for that because you are in a relatively small niche, but you're making it work, you're able to do your your music that you love and put it out there.
So yeah, man, it was a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us. All your links that you mentioned will be in the show notes at Bandhive dot Rocks slash 110. So if anyone wants to go follow, like, subscribe all that stuff, they'll be in there. I'll drop in like your Spotify and your Youtube links as well so people can go check your music out on whatever platform they prefer. So, Emilio, thank you so much. This has been a blast. Thank you. It's great to do it.
And the great to hear your voice buddy. It's been too long. Yeah, you too. We'll get you out east here at some point soon. Sounds good. Thanks man. Thank you brother. Mhm. That does it for this episode of the Bandhive podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in and listening and of course, big thanks to Emilio Menze for joining us on the show. I've known Emilio for gotta be close to a decade now. Super friendly and of course, as you could hear, we both learned out about AFI so really cool speaking with him about what he's doing musically now and the changes that he's seen in the industry as a D. I. Y artist over the last decade and a half.
So this was really cool conversation. I hope you learned something from it and that you're able to use this information for your own band. And I haven't asked for you. Before we go, just shoot me an email James at Bandhive dot Rocks with any suggestions you have for topics or guess that you would want to see on the podcast? Who can talk about something related to being in the business of a small band. I would love to hear from you. Any suggestions or feedback you have again, that's James at Bandhive dot Rocks.
We'll be back right here in your favorite podcast app next Tuesday at six a.m. Eastern time. Until then, I hope you have a great week, Stay safe. And of course, as always, keep rocking
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