Life in the Service Industry

Lushes

Brooklyn rock outfit Lushes, led by James Ardery and Joel Myers, released their second album, Service Industry, late last year on Felte. Below, they reflect on their experience as musicians with vocational sidelines.

Lushes

Six or seven years ago we both quit our jobs. We both had what most people would think are pretty legit, full-time “adult” gigs, with James working at a financial reporting firm, and Joel working at a law firm. Now James works four days a week as a server at a restaurant in Brooklyn and plays guitar, vocals and synth in Lushes, and Joel does freelance web design and plays drums and a sampler in Lushes.

Usually people have the opposite trajectory–they take a stab at creative life in their teens and twenties, just to give it up and switch to a more stable and lucrative lifestyle as they get a little older. So why did we end up going the other way?

A lot of people who say they want to be creative can have unrealistic expectations about how the whole thing works. The internet is flooded with articles about highly respected musicians, from Grizzly Bear to JD Samson of Le Tigre, who still struggle financially and have very little security.  Artists starting out with nowhere near that level of success may make some paintings or even an album or a book or two and. when the world doesn’t immediately stop, they get jaded and turn away to something that pays.

For us, we’ve found the switch to this alternative lifestyle to be tough but fulfilling. When you let go of the pressure you internalize by requiring the world to stop and love your art immediately, it can be much more rewarding. We know our albums aren’t going to be the biggest thing in the world, but we get to create something we really love.

We also get to work hard and collaborate with some incredible people. Drinking beer in Sonic Youth engineer Aaron Mullan’s basement while mixing our last record was a gratifying way to spend a cold, shitty NYC winter. Touring Europe for five weeks with Kurt Vile and Raketkanon and seeing new cities, countries, and cultures was an experience few straight jobs could ever provide.

Service Industry jobs are considered taboo and they shouldn’t be. The fact that these jobs are looked down on in some ways highlights a lot of the problems in our country today.

Sometimes people get too wrapped up in payoffs that are quantifiable or stable, like a paycheck or a job title. But for us, we really feel that the payoff of being in a band is just being in a band, getting to play our music and hang with some really amazing, hilarious, talented people.

Being in a band and working very hard in a collaborative and creative environment has opened our eyes to appreciating certain experiences that often go overlooked. The subject matter of our music is a reflection of this. We focus on things that many people pass over in their day-to-day lives, and we expose them for what they are, “good and bad,” instead of focusing too much on traditional notions of success.

There are parallels to the “straight” world. Sometimes there’s too much pressure to get a promotion or have some nice fancy job with a fancy title. But you can let go in the straight world and just be a lawyer who doesn’t make partner. Or you can just decide you want to be a waiter and enjoy your life, instead of getting caught up in a big rat race. Service Industry jobs are considered taboo and they shouldn’t be. The fact that these jobs are looked down on in some ways highlights a lot of the problems in our country today. In other words, it’s just as admirable as being a lawyer.

The process of letting go is vital to our development as individuals. The instability of art and making music has made life in the straight world that much clearer. We don’t regret a thing.

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