He stood outside, remaining hopeful as the informational cards in his hand remained abandoned by the passersby. Not surprising really, what with everything going on, they likely already had plans, and they were here to be entertained, not solicited.
The throngs trolled the Austin, Texas, streets toward a plethora of destinations – bars, restaurants, churches – but not seemingly the Velveeta Room, a comedy club transformed along with the rest of the city by the opening night of the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival. Indiana State junior David Goodier stood just steps from where his band, the Terre Haute-based folk group Yearbook Committee, was scheduled to play in a few minutes, and he hoped for an audience – any audience.
This wasn’t the way band members were hoping it’d start. After all, this was their second year at SXSW, and they had been accepted outright. There had been no standby, no last-minute cancellations opening a spot to perform at one of the more than 90 venues with concerts occurring simultaneously.
Then again, they hadn’t scheduled their band to open just as Fiona Apple played and Bruce Springsteen delivered a keynote speech at different parts of the festival. Sometimes, these things just happen.
Yearbook Committee members first got to know each other in a group for singer-songwriters formed by Terre Haute musician Travis Dillon. About half-dozen songwriters would meet in the group to write, though eventually a few members stopped attending as a few others started to regularly attend.
“It started feeling like we should record some of these songs that we were writing, and Jon DaCosta was recording in his garage, and so we all started hanging out there,” Yearbook Committee band member and 2008 ISU graduate music education major Brad Lone said. “Before we knew it, the songwriter circle dissolved and Yearbook Committee was formed. Instead of meeting at Travis’s house, we’re meeting at John’s house and recording in the garage, and that’s the first album.”
The band consists of DaCosta, Dillon, Goodier, Lone, Christina Blust and Rachel Rasley, who graduated from ISU in 2007. The unusual way they created the band forged the manner in which they operate: there is no lead singer, they each play a variety of instruments including French horn to sheet metal and their albums include songs written by each band member.
They developed strong chemistry together, even though they each have their separate musical interests aside from Yearbook Committee. Several members play in other local bands, and even record and perform solo work.
“It’s a lot of … the Wabash Valley music scene,” Goodier said of bands represented in Yearbook Committee. “We’re all just really interconnected and really good friends, and it just happened. Quite naturally, too.”
Their first album, “Sing Till You Die,” was released in March 2011. The 18-track album includes tracks that were recorded in DaCosta’s garage and The Verve Nightclub in Terre Haute.
In fact, The Verve also has another significant tie to Yearbook Committee history: it was the location of the band’s first paid show. Band members received word that another group canceled their performance for the night, and so, with about half an hour before the show was slated to start, the available band members hurriedly packed their instruments and rushed to the club, where they played a combination of the few originals they had along with some unrehearsed songs.
“Everyone just pulled all of the covers that they knew out of the bag, and we all just filled in behind it,” Lone said.
“They weren’t tight,” Goodier added as he laughed. “They were not solid songs.”
Still, they had at least rehearsed the Yearbook Committee originals, several of which were played publicly for the first time.
Goodier remained standing outside, hoping to attract the attention of at least a handful of people wanting to enjoy a concert. Yet the masses shuffling past him simply walked on, undeterred from their plans.
Instruments had already been plugged into amplifiers and tested, the walkthroughs already walked through. Several band members remained in the Velveeta Room, waiting for the show to start, waiting for an audience, which explains why Goodier stood outside, hoping to attract people’s attention.
“Hey man, want some free downloads?” Goodier asked a guy strolling by. He extended his hand out to show the informational card that included how to download Yearbook Committee’s music off the Internet for free.
The potential audience member had already looked past Goodier in hopes of ignoring the musician.
“Nah, thanks,” he muttered strolling by.
Yearbook Committee members enjoy playing live and have performed at a host of venues and events, including Indiana State, Cincinnati, Little Rock, Ark., Dallas, Austin, Texas, and “all the small festivals that central Indiana and Illinois has to offer,” Lone said.
Each Yearbook Committee member also has an unofficial role in taking care of the band’s logistics. DaCosta and Blust schedule concerts and edit the group’s website content, while Lone manages the group’s social media presence. Dillon and Goodier focus on the group’s sound engineering during performances, while Rasley is the group’s “merchandise queen,” Lone said.
“Once in a while you might have to get on somebody, but not really. We’re all of a single mind,” he added.
After the band’s first album, group members received “the” call. They had applied to play in the 2011 South by Southwest festival, but had received notice that they were on standby, and would be informed if a spot in the international music shindig opened.
A month and a half before SXSW was to open, they received word. A spot to perform at Esther’s Follies comedy club had opened up.
“We had six singer-songwriters with no sole lead singer, and we switch around, and we have these interesting folk instruments. Because of that, we had something different to bring to the table, and that got us in,” Goodier said.
“The first year, we got in because some bands canceled. The second year, we got in for real.”
In 2012, the band received word early that they had been accepted outright to play SXSW. That left time to plan the 1,000-some mile trek to the Texas state capital. Since they already had gone a year before, they didn’t bother to do much differently.
“It was a little nerve wracking, but it was really cool,” Lone said of Yearbook Committee playing SXSW. “Being accepted to that stature of a festival twice, it’s not something that we took lightly.”
They jammed their instruments – from guitars and drums to accordions and even sheet metal – into a 15-passenger van and began their journey. During their first trek to Austin, they fished the web and, thanks to couchsurfing.org, found a place to crash in Little Rock, Ark. They had such a good experience that earlier this year the person they had met through the website agreed to open her house to the Terre Haute sextet, and even helped them find a show to play while in town. They performed at an “alternative” art gallery, where they opened a concert that included a half-dozen heavy metal bands.
“That was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever played,” Lone said, “but those kids did not care about what we were doing.”
The next night, they played at a bar in Dallas, which turned into more “like a listening party for some other South by Southwest bands,” Lone said, as the bar was pretty empty save for the nearly half-dozen other festival groups that performed on that Tuesday night, one evening before the 2012 SXSW kickoff in Austin.
They would be able to enjoy some festivities, as artists performing at SXSW receive wristbands granting them access to the rest of South by Southwest. First, though, they had to open the event.
“Every bar has some kind of something, and not just bars, like restaurants and stuff, have something going on,” Goodier said of SXSW, “and it’s total overload.”
Goodier remained outside holding out the informational cards about Yearbook Committee, standing in vain as throngs passed by, uninterested in his presence. He knew he’d have to head into the venue shortly. Audience or not, the band still needed to perform at the scheduled time.
Suddenly, the man who had just declined downloading the band’s music for free came running back to Goodier. “Wait, are you guys Yearbook Committee?” he asked.
Goodier nodded yes, and the passerby grinned excitedly. “We’re going to see you guys right now,” he exclaimed, motioning to the group with him. While Yearbook Committee members hoped to find festivalgoers to sit in and be part of their crowd, the band already had an audience on its way.
“Oh, thank God,” Goodier thought. The band’s music had already gotten out, and SXSW attendees from Montana, California and elsewhere were seeking out the folk band that, for several days, was an Official Showcase Artist of SXSW.
“For like two days we were splashed all the way across the main South by Southwest website, which was pretty sweet,” Lone said. “That definitely pulled in some people. We had a little bit of buzz going in this year, which was just unbelievably cool.”
The SXSW concert continued the momentum created back in the Wabash Valley. Before leaving for Texas, the band had performed at The Verve to commemorate the release of its second full-length album, “This is the Winter.” The concert capped an effort that began with an impressive response on Kickstarter, a website where people can solicit funding for independent projects and initiatives that gives a timeline needed to receive financial commitments in all-or-nothing endeavors. Yearbook Committee started an account with the hopes of garnering $1,000 to help with the costs of putting out its second album.
The goal was reached in about a day. Ultimately, the group received $2,500 from 59 supporters with commitments ranging from $5 to $500.
“The album was fully funded by Kickstarter and people here in the community, and around the country as well,” Lone said. “The majority, I’d say 90 percent of it, was from people that we knew, but man, that 10 percent, it was just so cool to see someone like from Arizona randomly donate money to your Kickstarter fund, which I think is pretty neat.”
While they have performed across the country, for now their biggest and most supportive crowds are in Terre Haute. Band members attribute the popularity they gained in the city with helping them to be able to perform at festivals such as SXSW.
“The last show we did was just recently at the Verve, it was on a Wednesday, and the whole place was packed out and everybody was singing our songs and screaming and going nuts,” Goodier said. “You just have to tip your cap to the community on that.”
The band still continues to perform, though there is never a fixed schedule arranged. DaCosta recently moved to Nashville, Tenn., while another band member recently accepted a contract to work on a cruise ship, leaving band members Yearbook Committee members more spread out than before.
Though they might not be able to perform concerts as a group, technological advances allow for them to continue writing songs together. DaCosta and Lone have already been co-writing from afar.
“We’ve been bouncing song ideas off each other through the Garage Band app just on our phones actually, recording little melodies and sending them back and forth and flushing things out that way,” Lone said. “It’s pretty cool, actually, that we can be hundreds of miles apart and still be writing collectively as a unit.”
“I think that’s the big thing,” Goodier said, “is just to keep playing.”
Austin Arceo is the assistant director of media relations.