The New Medications Record Is Awesome. So Why Can’t the Band Book a Tour?
In the coming weeks and months, Devin Ocampo is counting on people repeating a sentence I've been hearing fairly regularly for some months now: "You've got to listen to the new Medications record."
Completely Removed, the Dischord group's second album and first in five years, drops Monday in Europe and stateside on April 20. Highlighting the band several months ago on Arts Desk, Aaron Leitko wrote that the album is as ambitious as Medications' first, but far catchier. "Here, guitarist/vocalist Devin Ocampo eschews post-hardcore intensity in favor of sweeter melodies and concise, if complex, song structures," Leitko wrote. "It’s taken five-plus years, but all of those riffs seem to have finally softened into hooks." In other words, he got pumped. So, Ocampo hopes, will a lot of people.
But for the time being, Medications is facing one crippling problem: It's been having trouble booking a tour.
Medications' members—Ocampo, Chad Molter, and Mark Cisneros—recently began contacting small- and medium-sized venues across the country, but hit a wall. "We’ve never had a booking agent, we’ve always booked our own tours," Ocampo says. "I guess it’s getting more and more difficult to do that in this day."
"We've been having trouble getting clubs to call us back," he says.
On Twitter, Medications put out something of a plea: "We are so not hooked up. If you have influence over anything, e-mail us."
The band's friend Chad Clark, who plays in Beauty Pill with Ocampo and Molter, went to bat for Medications through his own Twitter account, announcing that the band was in search of a booking agent: "They are an electrifying, room-leveling rock trio. But it’s difficult for bands of this nature to tour without representation and strategy."
Ocampo, a prolific producer and engineer, last toured with Medications in 2009, when the band toured to and back from South by Southwest with Edie Sedgewick. But he hasn't booked a full-fledged trek in several years. (Before Medications, Ocampo and Molter played in Faraquet.)
So he was surprised to learn how essential agents now are to touring and coming back with cash to spare. "We’re working guys," he says. "It’s just trying to find the right economical situation, where we can leave and play shows and not come back poor. And that involves booking agents for the amount of money you can request for guarantees." Not that the group doesn't love DIY spaces, he says. "Can you afford to go play in a café just because you can? Ten kids will show up, and that’s fine," he says. "But I just can't afford to do that."
(Another problem, Ocampo says, is that increasingly agents package their bands on tours, leaving no room for local openers. So it's hard for Medications to play a show with another touring band it knows in, say, Chicago when both are passing through.)
He's somewhat agnostic about the increasingly complex infrastructure of professional indie rock—the booking agents, the licensing, the PR. "It’s just not something we’re good at," he says. "We’re musicians. We’re not particularly connected." He stresses that the band is happy with Dischord, which in Clark's words is "non-interventionist by nature." "Dischord has completely supported us, and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them for," Ocampo says. "They’re not connected the way we’re not connected. I see them more as an art-supporting entity than a business, and that’s been their way the whole time, and that’s why we work with them."
At the same time, the band is "very open to having an agent," Ocampo says, but will tour and record (he says the next Medications record won't take five years to make) no matter what. When people hear Completely Removed, he says, "hopefully the organic explosion from the bottom will happen."
A disclosure almost as long as this one: Mark Cisneros used to work here, and City Paper's operations director, Jeff Boswell, played in Faraquet. And Edie Sedgewick's alter-ego is Justin Moyer, who is a contributing writer.