Only a select few of you may be aware of this story, but it marks a significantly strange point in the life of Champagne Sunday. At the time, we were cautious of sharing potentially good news (wisely so, as it turns out) for fear that it would be a lot of build up to nothing. However, as much as we’d chalked the whole ordeal up as a colossal failure and moved on, in retrospect we actually feel that some good came out of it.
Toward the end of 2010, we were contacted by a fan that said he had a hook up for us; an industry guy down in Florida, named Jason Frost, that was interested in our music and could get us somewhere. After a bit of back and forth with the guy, he said that he wanted a single track of ours to put on a compilation to be sent out to record labels. According to Frost, he’d had some success with this tactic in the past and felt that he would be able to achieve similar success with our song. The only catch was that he wanted us to rerecord it with a few of his changes in mind, and he gave us the first of 2011 as a deadline.
That song was “Blue Skies” off Random Acts of Blindness.
Several people over the years have tried to step in with suggestions on how to improve us like “you should be called ‘Jessi and the Cooltones'”, or “you should wear more glitter and eye make up”, or the dreaded “learn some more dance tunes” all of which were, for better or worse, shot down or dismissed as bad ideas from well-intentioned outsiders. But this was uncharted territory for us: A guy that we’d never met, touting himself as a “professional”, that seems to be able to help us by forcing us to compromise our craft, all the while telling us that he’s going to be mailing us some contracts to look over. Among the changes that he recommended was changing the lyrics in the choruses from “blue skies are gonna come” to “blue skies are coming soon” then “blue skies are everywhere” then on the last one “blue skies for everyone”. His position was not open to debate.
We’ve been criticized in the past for sticking to our guns too stubbornly, but in the midst of 2010’s momentum going nowhere, we were in a place of self-doubt. We’d heard the stories of artists that wanted things a certain way, but then altered their music slightly to “fit in” a little better at the behest of a “professional” and suddenly, they’re huge. “Maybe that could be us,” we thought, and foolishly gave this man the benefit of the doubt. Desperation does funny things to people.
We contacted our trusted friend and “North” producer Marc Doten and told him what we wanted to do, drove to Pasadena, and spent $300 of our own money to re-recorded Blue Skies to Frost’s exact specifications. It was finished, mixed, and ready to go a month ahead of the deadline.
After listening back to it, NONE of us were happy with it. While it was more atmospheric, kinda cool, and recorded better than the original version (Marc did a beautiful job), we all felt it was too long, too lethargic, the lyric changes blew, and if you listened carefully, you could hear the sound of our souls dying.
Back to Pasadena we went, where we spent another $300 to re-re-record the track. This time, we kept the original lyrics, cut a verse and chorus, picked up the tempo a bit, tore open our chests, and let out all the rage that we’d ever even considered this douchebag’s advice. It was mixed and in his hands way ahead of the deadline.
We heard nothing back. We received no contracts. We kept calling. He was nowhere to be found. Worse than him stealing the song and doing something with it, nothing happened. Our friend that put us in contact with him apologized profusely and said that Frost had dropped off the map and wasn’t returning anyone’s calls. Not an opportunity, just another windmill, Quixote.
We came out of the scenario a bit wiser, a lot colder, and far less trusting of others. Took us awhile to get back into the swing of things, but since then we’ve been able to come to terms with the reality of a huge majority the industry.
On the upside, however, we learned what we were capable of under pressure, and we got to see a real progression of the song and our performance abilities. Not only that, we were also able to capture the Jessi, Jared, Tony Shibumi, and Matt Gay combination of the band. Below are the first session (with Frost’s) suggestions and the second (our way). They are the only studio sessions with longest-lasting combination of members in Champagne Sunday’s history: