The Ballad of Treadmill Trackstar: Music for Music's Sake

When it comes artists, true artists regardless of media, there's a sort of compulsion that leads them to create. It's not about money or fame or anything other than the love the making their art that makes them continue... art for art's sake. There's a lot of musicians that fall into that category of artist, but the mainstream hasn't always been receptive of their work in the past. Luckily with the Internet that has changed in many ways and now anyone can make their music available to whoever wants it. That opens the door for people to make music, purely for the love of doing so... not just art for art's sake, but music for music's sake.

And it's that idea that brings me to this writing today... well actually it's been a long time coming. Well over a year ago I was contacted by a member of a band that had recently been reformed with the express purpose of making music for music's sake. I really liked that idea and had planned on writing something far sooner, but... well, sometimes unfortunate things happen.

Still, when you're making music for music's sake you've got to be persistent and dedicated, and sure enough the person who contacted me, kept in contact all that time and finally here we are.

Heidi Carey holds the title of rock and roll cellist... not a title given out all that often... and she also is one patient and persistent individual. She's been gently reminding me about her band, Treadmill Trackstar, for a year plus now... and for good reason too. Their story is truly unique amongst rock bands.

Treadmill Trackstar with their unique instrumentation of guitar, drums, bass and cello, first broke onto the scene back in the mid 90s as part of the more rootsy follow up to the initial alternative movement. I'll admit, I don't think I remember hearing much of anything about this band back in the day, but I've really enjoyed checking out their catalog since Heidi first contacted me. A little folksy, also a little heavy, but very melodic and often quite hypnotic... moody with tinges of darker more gothic stylings... their music is rich and engrossing. Although the band toured tirelessly in the 90s and released what many, myself included, think is a great debut album, interest unfortunately wained and by 1998 they had decided to call it quits and go their own way.

A one off reunion show almost a decade later would prove a turning point though and the band would decide to get back together to make new music, not for money or fame, but for themselves and for their fans.

What's really interesting about this band though, is that they're taking it one step further beyond just making the music they love. They declare quite proudly on their site that:

“Treadmill Trackstar is interested in music for music’s sake. No band member receives any money from concerts, merchandise or anything else. All funds go toward recording the next project. Our hope is that we can keep making records in this way for years to come”

They put all the money they earn into making more music, and nothing else. This is a fascinating idea... a non-for profit band? Or as they refer to it: a “musical co-op” In a world overrun by record labels griping about lost album sales and piracy, this sounds like either lunacy or pure artistic genius. Personally I think it's great to see talented artists just making music because they love it. That's not something you see everyday in our modern capitalist society, let alone in the cutthroat music business. Yet Treadmill Trackstar has been able to get together enough funds to record two albums since getting back together with funds already being raised for a third.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't expect bands everywhere to suddenly go non-profit... I understand that this type of business model isn't necessarily going to work for every band. That said, I do think what Treadmill Trackstar has dedicated themselves to... this idea of music for music's sake... and what they have accomplished so far is fantastic. The sheer fact that a band can create professional sounding, compelling music with this kind of business model is inspiring... even more proof that in these modern times artists don't have to operate within the system to reach their audience.

But what about the music? Well as I said, I've really enjoyed digging into the Treadmill Trackstar catalog recently and I think their most recent albums not only fit in well with their earlier works, but are some of their most compelling. The band is sounding strong as ever and like they're really enjoying the music their making. Many bands add strings to their songs for specific textures on specific songs, to mixed success. With this band though, it often feels perfectly natural though. The blend between a rootsy, earthy base... sometimes acoustic, sometimes not... and the haunting more classically tinged textures of the strings is something quite unique and complex. There's certainly more to their music than just their instrumentation though. Rich melody and lyrics round everything out and make for some great listening.

Overall I think Treadmill Trackstar... the musical co-op... is definitely worth checking out, especially if you're into bands modern bands like Wilco, the Decemberists and possibly My Morning Jacket. These are just vague comparisons that don't really do the music justice, but these are bands that I feel could easily share a stage with these guys and have it seem perfectly normal.

Oh and did I mention that they've made a good portion of their catalog, including their two most recent releases, available online not only to listen to, but for download... for free? Yep sure is, so go check it out.

So to Heidi Carey, thank you for your persistence over all this time... I apologize for taking so long. And to Treadmill Trackstar as a whole... keep up the good work. Here's hoping you're able to keep making music for music's sake for many many years to come.

For more information on Treadmill Trackstar, including the opportunity to listen to their music, check out the band's website: http://treadmilltrackstar.com/

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