By Olivia Wirta
Special to the Voice
AYER — Luke Condon is a member of the band Town Meeting which was formed in Ayer along with his brothers, father-in-law and friends. He tells us about what his life is like being in a band and some of the experiences him and the band have gone through.
Q: How did the band form?
A: Well three of us are brothers, so we’ve kind of grown up just singing silly songs together, listening to the same kind of music. I learned guitar, my brother was a drummer. We all kind of learned guitar a little bit and then me and my brother Russell, who plays the cajon, we started playing out together just me and him and then slowly everyone kind of trickled onto the band I guess. So we started off just playing coffee shops for fun, and then we got an opportunity to get paid to play at this place in Fitchburg called Chaibo, a little coffee shop that serves alcohol. It was $75 to play for three hours and we were so excited and so nervous and that was our first official show as Town Meeting, it was me and him (Russell) and we asked a guy to just play guitar with us. We had so much fun we decided we wanted to keep doing it, so we got asked back there and a couple times a month we would do that and then we started getting chances to play elsewhere. We brought on my other brother and my father-in-law and then eventually my friend Tim who plays bass and mandolin and really anything you put in his hands he can play.
Q: Is this full-time for all of you?
A: Yeah, so that’s our goal. Our goal is to make this a full-time thing but right now we all have other jobs but we are working toward that in every way we can. We’re trying to save up money from shows, we’re trying to really push online sales and online other stuff. We are going to start a Town Meeting podcast. Our goal is to do this full-time but right now we all have other jobs.
Q: Why is the band called Town Meeting?
A: I’ll give you the short answer: None of us were ever very political at all really, but I think we like the idea of community, of people helping each other out you know. Our parents were very neighborly growing up and my dad would go mow my neighbor’s lawn and then they would come shovel for us and I just love that small community atmosphere. It probably means a bunch of different things but originally it was kind of that small town feel. It’s also a nice way to trick people into coming to our shows because if they see Town Meeting on a sign, they feel they have to show up and vote. We have some very disappointed elderly people! No, I’m just kidding.
Q: Have you always wanted to pursue music?
A: Yeah, probably. I’ve always wanted to do anything where I get to create something and show people what I’m creating. I know that sounds super hipster-y, but since I was a kid I’ve always liked writing stories and writing songs and I know my brothers would say the same thing. I know Dean, the eldest of the band, he is 67 this year (It’s a bunch of 20/30 year olds and then Dean), but Dean grew up playing music. He played with Jonathan Edwards, the Allman Brothers, Tom Rush, he played with Springsteen at one point, so he has that background in songwriting and playing.
Q: Who are your musical influences?
A: I’m super tempted to list all these really cool bands, but my very first musical influence was Weird Al Yankovic. I loved Weird Al since I first heard “Bad Hair Day” and then I went and bought all his previous albums. So Weird Al was my first, but as far as song writing goes, I love Dawes. They are probably my favorite band of all time. Dawes, the Avett Brothers, and probably Neil Young, Crosby Stills Nash. I love them, and obviously the Beatles and Dylan and I know that’s what everyone says but it’s true.
Q: Who writes your songs?
A: That is a good question! Originally, it was just me and my brother Russell. We would get together and write songs together or we would write them on our own and show each other and form it as a band. More recently, we’ve all written together and it’s been a really wonderful process. The last album we did was “If I Die” and most of those were exclusively written by one person but the more popular tunes were written by everyone. “Phoenix” is a song we did. My youngest brother brought that to the table very timidly. He was super nervous and then he showed it to us and we were like “Hey this is one of the best songs we’ve ever heard.” His name is Brandon but we call him Babe and so he said “Can you add something here” and me and Russell both helped him write “I Wrote a Bridge” and he wrote a verse and the song “Diggin” we did and so all our newer songs, actually I would say 75% of our newer songs were written as a band where someone comes up with a simple lyric or melody line or something and we all kind of sit down together, we’ll write it, we’ll go home with it, we’ll bring it back, play the stuff. So, more recently they’ve been more collaborative efforts.
Q: What was the inspiration for “If I Die”?
A: That was probably one of the first tunes the three of us wrote. My brother Russell came up with the idea and then my brother Brendan wrote the second verse and I wrote the third verse and I think if you listen to “If I Die” as an album you can really see that there is a lot of scenes of death, and how to deal with death and how to accept it and different takes on it.
The song “Time” is all about a true story about how we saw a person get killed in a hit and run and “Verge” had a lot of things about that. “If I Die” kind of kicks that off like it’s the beginning of us thinking about death, trying to process death, the concepts of it, what happens after you die and also we wanted it to be a comforting song for people who think about the same thing or for people who have lost someone. One of the biggest compliments we have gotten is people who say “I’ve just lost somebody and we listen to that song “If I Die” and it brought us comfort in that time of grieving. A really cool story about that is when the lead singer of the band Dispatch, Chad Stokes, emailed us and my brother had just gone to see him at a show, he didn’t know who we were but we gave him one of our CDs. He had lost his cousin and he got in his car, and they were going to do some Grateful Dead song at the funeral, but he got in his car and our CD was playing and he said it brought him a lot of comfort in a really tough time, and he ended up playing that song at his cousin’s funeral which was really cool to hear. They’re an influence on us those guys for sure so it made me happy that song brought him a little bit of comfort.
Q: What’s the best part about being in a band?
A: Everything. I love writing songs, it’s my favorite thing in the world. I’ve been doing it since I was eleven. I used to be terrified of performing and now it’s one of the things I look forward to the most. Connecting with fans, seeing people who you’ve never met sing along to your songs is way cooler of a feeling than I ever thought it would be. I love going out and spending time with other musicians, some that you have looked up to for forever and some you just met. Everyone has so many cool stories about being on the road or just about writing or about trying to work and play music at the same time. I love everything about it and I think all the guys would say the same thing.
Q: What challenges do you face being a part of a band?
A: Financially it can be a struggle if you don’t work that stuff out ahead of time, how to split money from shows or from album sales, that can be an issue. We’re a young band and we’re not mainstream by any stretch of the imagination but you still get shows where you have a lot of money coming in. So, that can be a struggle, but we always talk about that stuff ahead of time and we’ve never really had an issue with that. I think the biggest struggle is being so close to people for long sessions of time, it’s difficult no matter what you do. We have a festival we’re playing in Florida next weekend and part of me looks forward to that and spending time with these guys and another part of me knows I have to mentally prepare myself to spend 22 hours each way in a van with sweaty, gross guys. It’s just one of those things.
Q: How do you typically promote your band and your shows?
A: Social media is the way of the future. Whenever we have a show, we put it on everything we can. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, anything you can find on our website. If it’s a big show, sometimes we’ll pay to promote it online, you can pay for Facebook ads and stuff like that. That’s really the most effective way we’ve found. These days, posters are good but they don’t really do it anymore so social media is the big thing.
Q: What are the long-term goals for the band?
A: To make enough money that we can all go to Universal Studios and live in the Harry Potter world full time…no the goal right now is just to make enough money from shows and album sales and media to do it full-time. That’s the goal right now and you know obviously to make music that touches people and to get it to as many ears as possible. Financially, our goal is to make this full-time so we can achieve our main goal which is to bring people music that makes them feel something.