Bill Barbot, Co-Founder & President at Threespot

Bill Barbot, Co-Founder & President at Threespot

In the ‘90s, Bill Barbot was part of the alternative rock band Jawbox. On the road over 200 days a year and signed to a major record label, they spent almost a decade fighting to make a difference through their music. When Jawbox broke up in 1997, Bill went on to play in other bands and eventually co-founded Threespot, a successful digital agency focused on helping companies who help others.

Fast forward 25 years and the previous members of Jawbox approach Bill about getting back together. He’s got a full-time job running Threespot and is busy as a dedicated dad and husband in a growing family. So he did the only thing he could. He said yes to the reunion. Bill joins us to talk about his decision and the importance of putting your passion into everything you do.

 
 

Show Notes

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Be sure and check out tour dates for Jawbox: jawbox.band/shows.


Carl Smith: Welcome back friends of mine to the Bureau of Briefing. 

Today we have somebody who I think must be superhuman on the show. I truly don't understand. He's a friend that I don't get to spend any time with, yet I feel really close to. Somebody whose been around the Bureau for a long, long time. He is a member of the band [Jawbox 00:00:23]. He is a co-founder and president of an amazing betterment agency called Three Spot. He's a dad and a husband. He's Bill Barbot.

How's it going, Bill?

Bill Barbot: I am hanging in there Carl.

Carl Smith: What are you doing? Your life is just a mystery to me.

Bill Barbot: You know, it's a mystery to me too. I sometime ... So I decided a couple of years ago, despite what all the self help books say about being the CEO of your time and learning how to say no, I decided to go exact opposite direction and just start saying yes to everything. Judiciously, but when big, somewhat frightening opportunities are presented to me, ... and I did this very much so with the encouragement and imperforate of okay from my wife, decided to start saying yes to stuff.

And it comes with its own set of risks, of course, to say yes to big, hairy things, but it's just like ... I've reached a time in my life, I'm 51 now, where the horizon of my imminent demise is not pressing upon me just yet, but it's out there. You see it when you hit 50. And you're just like, "You know what? I kinda want to go out big. I want to go out swinging. I don't want to go down just like, oh you know, I've hit 50, it's time for me to buy a Lexus and retire to some cushy condo in Florida."

Hey, wait a minute, do you live in a condo in Florida? [inaudible 00:02:12] Am I describing your life?

Carl Smith: I live in a 1970s ranch house, but a condo sounds lovely.

Bill Barbot: Yeah, right! Right. You know, it's like, who needs a yard after you're 50? 

But yeah, so I've got ... I have a young family. I have an old family. I have a 17 year old son who's going to college next year. I've got a one year old and a five year old now.

Carl Smith: Oh my goodness!

Bill Barbot: So I said yes to that stuff. I said yes to growing my family. And I was ... I played music professionally, before I started an agency, throughout my 20s. And I kinda hung up my hat on playing music professionally until this most recent Jawbox tour opportunity came up and it was another one of those yes moments for me. And I had a million reasons to say no.

I'm trying to run my agency, I'm trying to age gracefully and not throw my neck out like I did routinely when I was in my 20s, I'm trying to be a good husband, I'm trying to be a stable influence, and being on the road and playing a bunch of punk rock shows is not necessarily in line with that MO.

But I also realized music is, and always has been, very close to my identity. And very close to my heart. And leaving it behind forever was something I didn't think I was gonna do when I stopped playing professionally in the late 90s, right around the time that I started Threespot.

So, opportunity knocked and I opened the door and not only said hello, but I basically ushered it and all of the party that it brought along with it into the room. And now I'm just living that ... living the consequences of that decision.

Carl Smith: Well good for you! You deserve everything you get, sir. [crosstalk 00:04:03]

My tone is wrong. Good for you. You deserve everything you get Bill.

Bill Barbot: [crosstalk 00:04:08] You deserve what's coming to you, buddy!

Carl Smith: It's coming. So I'm 51 and I remember when I turned 50 I was like, "Oh okay." And then when I turned 51 I was like, "Well that was rude." I mean, you just hit me with 50. Give me a break! 

I have a 17 year old daughter getting ready to go to college. I don't have the one and two year old ... or the younger kids. But here's the thing to me, so when I first met you at owner camp it was brought to my attention that you're a singer and a guitarist for Jawbox. And I didn't know the band, but I knew it was a big deal, right? Because some of the people in the room were like, "Oh my God!," right? 

And so then I got to know you as a person and I was like, "Bill is just awesome." And Threespot does amazing work. Then I'm on Twitter not too long ago and I see Jawbox reunion blah, blah, blah, and it's from Rolling Stone!

Bill Barbot: Yeah.

Carl Smith: Rolling Stone is bringing up that you're going on tour and I was like, "I've gotta listen to this music! I'm not a good friend. I have to understand."

And then I started thinking about how do you do this? I mean, are there just different Bill Barbot's? Not like clones, but mentally? Actually it's not a bad idea, but do you just get in different mindsets? I mean, how do you go about being the singer/guitarist versus the president/co-founder versus part of a family?

Bill Barbot: Well I think that there's ... It's all the same guy. I think very early on in my career, both as a musician and as "professional person" running an agency, that I'm very comfortable putting on different personas depending upon the audience that I'm in front of. 

And it's something that when I was younger I was like, "Oh no! You gotta be true to who you are, no matter who you're in front of!" But it's like I never really bought that. That was kind of a punk rock thing. And it was like, "Hey, punk rocks man! You're punk rock no matter what you're doing." And you get tattoos to prove that you're punk rock, and I never got a tattoo. To this day I still don't have tattoos.

And everyone's just like, "But, but what kind of punk rocker doesn't have tattoos? Or doesn't have a crazy haircut? Or doesn't wear chains and a leather jacket all of the time?"

Carl Smith: That's true rebellion right there!

Bill Barbot: I just, I was ... That was not my persona, right? That was not me. That didn't feel authentic to me. The music felt authentic to me, but that aspect of like the badge of honor or the character mask that you had to put on to show who you were just didn't feel natural to me.

And so as I result I was like, "You know what, I'm comfortable speaking to a professional audience about communication strategies for non-profits. And I'm also comfortable talking to an audience of music founds about the music that I play." And put me on a stage and I'll pretty much have something to say to whoever's out there.

But I feel like there is a thread that connects it all. That makes sense to me, but from the outside it's probably a little bit difficult for people to say, "What's your story dude? What's the glue that holds all of this family man, business guy, rock musician stuff together?"

Carl Smith: I thought you were gonna say legend for a second. I thought you were going for that!

Bill Barbot: No I would never call myself a legend! No. Absolutely not. 

No. I've always tried to be pretty self depreciating about my career as "rock star," because I think that is the shorthand that everybody's like, "Oh man, you're a rock star! Cool." And I'm just like, "No actually, I'm not a rock star. Mick Jagger is a rock star." My definition of rock star is there are very, very few people who have reached that echelon. I am somebody who loves music and I really enjoy playing music and there are people out there who are fans of my band, which is cool, but rock star is nothing I would ever used. Or legend, God forbid.

I gotta be dead to be a legend, man. 

Carl Smith: So do you know Martin [Atkins 00:08:19]? Or know of Martin Atkins?

Bill Barbot: Oh yeah, yeah. Of course.

Carl Smith: Yeah, so I met Martin a couple of times and he used to do this thing when he gave a talk where he said, "Oh you're trying to hire rock stars? You want rock stars?-

Bill Barbot: Right.

Carl Smith: ... What a rock star is is somebody who probably shits and throws up on himself every night, is late everywhere he goes, and somehow stumbles through life. If that's who you want on your team, that's great! But I'm not hiring you."

Bill Barbot: Yeah. Right?

Carl Smith: That is the people you are bringing in.

Bill Barbot: Right, yeah. I got real resentful around the time ... I guess it was probably ... It might have been as early as when we started Threespot back in 1999, everybody was trying to hire "rock stars," right? That was what you advertised for. You want some rock star developers man!

And I was like, "You don't want rock star developers." So I totally hear where he's coming from. You have no idea what you're getting when you get a rock star. You get a bad attitude, you get somebody whose got a substance abuse problem, and you've got somebody who has a very, very inflated self opinion.

Carl Smith: But we kept hiring ninjas, but there were dead bodies everywhere! We didn't know what was going on. It was so weird! So we thought maybe we'll go rock star.

Bill Barbot: And we never heard anything! [crosstalk 00:09:27] It's incredibly quiet around the office, but people just kept showing up dead.

Carl Smith: We missed deadlines, but nobody cared 'cause they were all dead.

So Jawbox in it's original incarnation ran about 10 years, is that right?

Bill Barbot: Eight or nine, yeah sure. Between 1989 and we decided to break up in 1997. So yeah, about [crosstalk 00:09:46] years.

Carl Smith: Okay. And then you say Threespot starts in '99?

Bill Barbot: Yeah.

Carl Smith: What is that transition from playing music, having a record deal, all that sort of stuff, touring all over the place, to starting a shop? How did that transition happen?

Bill Barbot: Well I think it's important to understand that the culture that we grew up in as a band in D.C. was very much DIY, right? D.C. was not a music town. D.C. was a government town. It was a government and related industries town. And so if you wanted to be a young kid in a band in D.C., you pretty much had to figure out how to do everything on your own. Because New York and L.A. were music towns and D.C. was not a music town.

Nevertheless, we grew up ... Like literally, I'm a local. So we grew up in the metaphorical shadow of the capital building and the White House. And so we always had a very close relationship with what was going on nationally and internationally with politics and social justice and all of the things that stir a young persons ire. To shake their tiny fists at the man.

And so there was a lot of desire to make music that expressed that feeling of being ... Marginalized is a bit of an overused term these days and for a white guy to say that he's marginalized is kind of ... it feels like I'm appropriating something from communities that are actually marginalized. But as a young person, as a 17 year old in the 80s, I felt like what was going on in this country in the Reagan Era and what the world ... the kind of the world I wanted to see, was completely at odds with one another. And it really inspired you to become part of a community.

So the community, the D.C. punk rock community, was very much about, "Hey! You don't know how to do something? Figure it out. We'll help you." Right? So it was a very supportive community. It was very much like, "Want to learn how to put out a record? Okay. Here I'll give you three numbers you can call. Oh you want to take your band on tour? All right. I've got a book of numbers that you can call to figure out how to play a show in Jacksonville and figure out how to play a show in Kansas City and figure out how to play a show in Sacramento. And so it was all about building this community that started locally, but really branched out nationwide of booking your own life.

And that sense, that was really deeply ingrained in me, starting in high school and on up through the music community that we became a part of. So even though, ultimately, Jawbox ended up signing to a major label for our last two records, we did so on terms that were very much aligned with those values.

It was, we are going to do our own artwork for the album. We're going to approve every use of our image anywhere. You want to do fricking cardboard cut outs of us to put on an end cap at Wal Mart? We got to see what that looks like, and no. 

So ... And to an extent that actually worked against us, right? 'Cause major label ... To be a successful major label band by and large, with very few exceptions, you have to be willing to play the game, right?

Carl Smith: Right.

Bill Barbot: You have to be willing to do the stuff that doesn't feel like, "This is not why I'm playing music," you know? And we did a couple of those things. I was in Details Magazine, which is like the stupidest thing you can possibly imagine! But Details, a men's fashion magazine-

Carl Smith: What?

Bill Barbot: ... did ... Yeah, Dave LaChapelle, who is a very famous New York photographer, very famous fashion photographer, was enlisted by our label to do a photo shoot of us, which was incredibly humiliating. It's a long story-

Carl Smith: Oh I'm [inaudible 00:13:30] that! Oh I know what our image for this episode is.

Bill Barbot: ... But anyway, it's like you have to do things that are somewhat compromising to what you may feel is the thing that lends integrity to your creative pursuits, right?

Carl Smith: Right.

Bill Barbot: And we didn't do that. So that really disserved our career as musicians, but it very much informed where we ended up going with Threespot. 'Cause my co-founder, William Colgrove and I, both came out of that music scene and we were all about like, "You know what, we don't have to play the game of [cowtowing 00:14:06] to a big holding company to scoop us up and to show us how to do things. And to take care of all of the yucky bits of business."

The accounting and finance and the bookkeeping and the HR and all of that stuff. We were just like, "We're going to figure this out. We're going to write our own employee manual. We're going to figure out how to run our own accounting software."

Literally, when we started the company, we were in the front room of my house. There were three of us in the room and our "network" was me running around passing the DSL-

Carl Smith: Sneaker net! The old sneaker net!

Bill Barbot: ... the DSL cable back and forth from computer to computer so we could take turns sending emails. And it's like, it was not glamorous and it was not sexy, but it was very much bootstrapped. And it was very much like, "We don't know how to do this. We don't want to do this the traditional. Let's get a bunch of funding and have some investors that we have to answer to."

It was like, "We're gonna do this on our own terms. We're gonna figure out how to run an agency our own way." And that's what we've done for the past 20 years.

Carl Smith: And so the philosophy and the spirit and the heart, your heart, in Jawbox; the way you were just expressing it that way. And then you come over to Threespot and it's just a different expression of the same beliefs?

Bill Barbot: It is. But to be honest, it took us a while to get there. Because even though we were very bootstrappy and very DIY from day one, we had certain beliefs about life and business that took us a while to work out.

Specifically we felt that there was this bifurcation, this separation, between what you do that's your personal passion; the value stuff that you do. And then what you do to make money. And we felt, to an extent, at the beginning that Threespot was our vehicle to make money. It was a way for us to have families and buy houses and try to have a normal life. 

And then what we really be doing was doing crazy art projects and making music. But we knew that we ... And to be honest with you, also, doing pro-bono work to support the causes we actually cared about.

Carl Smith: Right.

Bill Barbot: 'Cause we were just like, "Well, you know, the good causes don't have any money, so we have to do that work for free. So we'll just do this corporate work over here so that we can make enough on the corporate jobs to be able to fund the pro-bono work that we're really passionate about."

And so that split mentality was just something that we believed to be true. And that was a way the world works that we just had to live with and deal with. And it wasn't until, really probably, almost a decade into it we were just like, "You know what, we're really starting to build a really strong portfolio of work for clients that we actually feel really values aligned with."

And we were just like, "We don't need this other ... We don't need these other jobs. We can do without trying to be all things to all people and we can really focus on the clients that we actually care about." And that, when we decided to do that move, that was when we really started to feel like, "Oh all right, now we're kind of coming into our own and being who we really want to be."

Which is funny, because if you think about a punk rock band it's like you start up a punk rock band in your basement and you're just like, "Nobody's listening to us and we don't care 'cause we're making music and it's cool!" And then you grow your influence and you gain an audience and then the corporate interests start to pay attention to you. So you're trajectory is "upwards" towards grater notoriety and more of a outside influence over who you are as an artist.

We took kind of the opposite path because we came out of a big agency. Threespot came out of ... The three founders, we all worked together at another agency called Magnet.

Carl Smith: Oh, okay. I didn't know that.

Bill Barbot: And so we worked at Magnet Interactive and we were the Kellogg's cereal team. So I ran the Kellogg's cereal account and William, my business partner now, was the designer; the lead designer for Kellogg. And our third partner, David, was a copywriter and creative director for Kellogg.

So the three of us were like, we were pretty much as corporate as you can get in terms of the kinds of caliber of clients that we were working with.

Carl Smith: Right.

Bill Barbot: And so we were just like, "Well this is how business is done. We have to work for these big brands who have these crazy big budgets that will enable us to make our rent." 

And then ultimately we ended up kind of going the opposite direction with Threespot as we began to weed out those more corporate, less values aligned clients, and really focus in on the clients that we really feel passionate about in terms of the kinds of influence and work that they're doing in the world. Being aligned with our own values to see positive social change coming out of our hands and our brains.

Carl Smith: So Threespot is about 20 years old?

Bill Barbot: It is 20 years old in three months.

Carl Smith: In three months; 20 years old in three months. So now Jawbox comes back, Threespot is established, you've become Jim Carrey, and the yes man, right?

Bill Barbot: Right. Right.

Carl Smith: And this opportunity shows up, how do you talk with your team at Threespot? How do they take this news? Did everybody know about Jawbox? Was that a thing? Or what ... Just paint that picture for me.

Bill Barbot: I think that over the past 20 years we've had varying degrees of people who knew about Jawbox. And knew about William's and my pedigree as being musicians and coming from this underground music scene.

It wasn't anything that we really hyped or marketed to the staff. First of all, because it felt a little pretentious. Like, "Come work with us! We're actual freaking rock stars." It was like, that's not something you want to open with in an interview.

And so ... And second, we also got kind of big for a while. In the middle of the late atus, early teens, we were a pretty big agency. We were over 70 people. 

Carl Smith: Yeah!

Bill Barbot: And so when you're in the midst of hiring and growing and building your agency, if that's not the thing that you open with and it's not something that you necessarily advertise on your website, there's a lot of people who have no idea.

Carl Smith: It's not gonna show up.

Bill Barbot: Yeah. Jawbox enjoys a certain amount of notoriety among a very, very small subset of humans in the world. We're like a big deal to a lot of people, but to the rest of the country we're just like, "Who's that? Never heard of them." And so most people have never heard of my band, and that's cool. I'm not gonna be like, "No, have you heard of me? I'm kind of a big deal." I'm not going to do that in an interview. It's just like, that's not who I am and that's not what I want to use to attract people to come work for us.

But [crosstalk 00:20:57]-

Carl Smith: It must blindside some people though, right? They're like, "Whoa! Bill's doing what? Rolling Stone, what?"

Bill Barbot: ... Yeah I think that ... Well I think that ... And where I was going with this is as we intentionally shrank the agency, we intentionally became smaller by design. We said, "You know what, neither one of us likes running a big agency. There's too much feeding a machine that's going on. There's too much temptation to take on jobs that aren't aligned with our values. So let's be small and let's be intentional about all of the work that we're doing." Like every last gig, we want to be intentional about that.

And so in order to do that we had to be willing to say, "All right, we're gonna be a smaller agency and that's cool." As we became smaller, more and more people were attracted to us because they kinda knew who we were and they kinda knew what that background was.

So when ... I guess it was January we officially went public with the news that we were touring again. I don't know if there was a single person on my staff who was like, "I had no idea!" They kind of clued in by the fact that they worked for us at that point. Of course, it's a really small office and everybody knows me personally.

And I'm also in another band that I should mention too. The reason that I had a good running start to get back into Jawbox is that a couple of years ago my good friend, Jim Spellman, who used to play in a band called Velocity Girl back in the 90s too, they were a sub-pop band and was on the Clueless soundtrack, so that was one of their things [inaudible 00:22:26]-

Carl Smith: Oh, okay!

Bill Barbot: ... So he was the drummer in Velocity Girl. He came to me and he was like, "Hey man, do you want to be the lead singer for my band?" And I was like, "What?" I hadn't played music in ages and I was never a lead singer! I sing in Jawbox, but I'm primarily backing vocalist. He was like, "You want to be the lead singer in my band?"

And I went to [Erin 00:22:43], my wife and was like, "I don't know. I'm so rusty! It's like I haven't done this for ages." And she was like, "Just shut up and do it." She was like, "You love music. [crosstalk 00:22:51]-

Carl Smith: As soon as you go to tell her you don't want to do it, she knows you want to do it.

Bill Barbot: ... [inaudible 00:22:55]." Yeah and she was like ... She knew that I wanted to say yes, but I couldn't bring myself to say yes. And she was like, "Just do it. You know you want to do this. You know that you feel the burning need to play music again. Do it."

So I joined Foxhall Stacks and we actually have a record coming out this September too. So we made a record over the course of the past couple of years 'cause we're all real busy and it took us forever to do it. But anyway, so-

Carl Smith: So you're in two bands?

Bill Barbot: ... I'm in two bands, yeah. So that was like my gateway to getting back into Jawbox. Because I was playing again, I was loving playing music, I was loving being in the studio, but we weren't playing ... Foxhall Stacks is not doing a lot of live gigs because our drummer is the ... he's the drum tech for Kelly Clarkson. So he's always on the road with Kelly Clarkson.

Carl Smith: That's a busy time right there.

Bill Barbot: Base player is a well renowned punk rock musician named Brian Baker, who's on the road with Bad Religion and his own band, Dag Nasty, all of the time. And then Jim is a reporter and I'm running an agency. So between the four of us it was like, "Are we ever going to play a show again? I don't know, but let's make a record anyway and just put it out there."

So we made this record and we put it out there, but that was my on ramp to having Jawbox come to me mid year last year, like around May or so last year, and say, "Hey you know what? We're not getting any younger. I think the shelf life of people being interested in seeing us playing a reunion dates is limited. What do you say?" And at that point I was just like, "You know what, sure. Let's do it. Yes. I will do this. I want to do this. I'm gonna throw myself into it headlong."

And it comes at a cost, like all things. I work seven days a week and have for several months now. 'Cause our drummer still lives in Brooklyn. The rest of us live here in the D.C. and Baltimore area, so he has to drive down only on weekends to rehearse with us. And that means that's time that I'm not spending with my family, so my wife is raising the children alone on the weekends. Which, God bless her, she is a saint. And I'm very appreciative of everything that she's had to sacrifice to make this happen for me. But you know what? I'm loving it!

I'm loving doing it again. I'm loving straddling my worlds in many ways, bringing them together. Because it's like it really ... it feels like there's a connection that was missing between the work I'm doing to build an agency and to represent and really support the clients that we're choosing to align with. And the work that I've done as a musician to feel like I'm into this for the social justice. I'm into this for the power of creativity and music to bring people together. And to get them aligned around, "Hey man, if we don't make this world on our own, somebody's going to make it for us! So let's do it."

Carl Smith: So when Jawbox is making this decision, they're gonna need a website right?

Bill Barbot: Yeah.

Carl Smith: I mean, like what ... Do the streams get crossed at some point or do you purposefully keep things separated? How does that work?

Bill Barbot: One of the great aspects of this is that I have really brought more of my business hat to this than I have my creative hat.

Carl Smith: Interesting. 

Bill Barbot: Because our drummer [Zach 00:26:23] ... Our drummer [Zach 00:26:24] know his ways around building websites himself. And so he actually did the Jawbox [inaudible 00:26:29] Band website for us. So he's been handling all of our social media for us too.

I go in and respond to comments, but he's the one that's been on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and doing the website and putting all that stuff together. So I've been mostly like ... I wrote our operating agreement because when you're an [inaudible 00:26:47] ... When you're a band, before you go on the floor you've gotta form an LLC, so it's like I'm managing all of the accounting and finance. I'm managing all of the legal stuff to get us to be legit.

So I was just like, "You know what, we all have different skills and different lanes that we can bring to this endeavor to make it successful. So let's try and sort out where we can each be most effective and recognize that we've got other lives and other stuff going on that is going to compromise our ability to be all in, all the time like we were back in the 90s."

Carl Smith: So what you just said is really powerful, right? Back when you were doing it before you were all in. Now it doesn't feel like you're not all in, but it's just a different mentality. So what is the biggest difference when you get together with the band now versus when you were together before?

Bill Barbot: It seems like a bit of a Pat characterization, but I always go back to the fact that when we were young people doing this, this was our full time job. We had nothing else going on, except to be in a band and to try to be as successful on our own terms as humanly possible. To make the best music we could possibly make. To make awesome records to put on incredible live shows to build a following. And to feel like we were really giving all of the space and all of the energy that we could to what we consider to be our art. There was a ton of vitality to just feeling like we're artists and this is about getting the art out there.

And financially that meant, well somehow we gotta make those dots connect too. So it ... We were like, "We're not going to write a hit record because that's not the kind of band we are. But wouldn't it be nice if ...," right? 

Carl Smith: Yeah.

Bill Barbot: Like, "Wouldn't it be nice if ..." MTV, actually ... The single took off on MTV and all of a sudden people were buying our records. We never wanted to be Nirvana, but Nirvana in many ways held out this little bit of a carrot for us because they were definitely an underground band, right? They were noisy, they were not playing by the rules traditionally. They were show people, right? They were smashing their instruments up and doing rock star stuff.

But they weren't trying to polish their sound. They ... After Nevermind came out, remember they put out In Utero. And In Utero was like the record company hated that record! Hated it! They were like, "We can't market this. There's no single on this. What are we gonna do?" 

And so we look at that and we're just like, "You know what, there's a band who's like they're in it to make the music. And if people like it and they make a million dollars, then awesome. But if they don't, they're still making the music."

Carl Smith: Yeah.

Bill Barbot: But that pressure, when you're in the studio and you're writing songs and you're down in the rehearsal space and feel like, "You know what, wouldn't be cool if?" And again, we didn't sit down and say, "Let's write Hit Signals. Singles lets us become a robotic factory." It just wasn't us to do that.

But that vibe, kind of, it's like this little cloud that kind of hung over us all of the time and it made it difficult to feel like, "Let's just be as anti-commercial as possible," because we didn't really want to be anti-commercial. We wanted to grow our audience. So there was this struggle internally like, "How popular is popular enough? How much of a living can we make?"

You know, my tax returns at that time? I made $19,000 a year. And we made a go of it. We lived in group houses and we were on the road 200 days a year. So, it was like ... but I had the energy to do that at that time. So that was like, that was then and now we are ... It's 30 ... 25 years later, really. 25, 30 years later, I'm not in my 20s anymore. I'm in my 50s. We've got a very different perspective on life from having lived 25 years of different kinds of experiences. We all have other things going on that aren't, "We better make it. This band better make it or we're done," because we have other businesses. We have other endeavors. We have other pursuits. We have family's. We have lives. We have different friendships. We have different circles that we operate in.

So that pressure to be like, "Let's write a hit single," is totally out the window. Despite our best intentions we are not actually writing any new material right now. We're just working through the back catalog for this reunion tour. And so really our intention now is like, "Let's just ... Let's play these songs with the best we have in us right now. Let's perform the hell out of this material. Let's get give our fans ... let's give the people who were our fans but never had the opportunity to see us, let's let them come to the shows and really experience what it's like to see people playing with passion and intention."

And we're putting some spins on the old materials. Slightly different arrangements and different tweaks, but it's like it's really enjoyable now in a way that it was kind of like a job before. And now we're doing it because it's enjoyable.

Jay, our singer, was over yesterday at my house just to do vocal and guitar session. And we were just singing together in the basement, no mics, no nothing, just working on harmonies and stuff. And I was like, "I love singing! This is [inaudible 00:32:33] to sing. It's fun to sing!" And it's fun to sing with him because he's a great performer and a great vocalist. And that joy is something that is really palpable and really ... The perspective of being in your 50s and really just appreciating making art for the sake of making art and not having that, "Well it better be good or people aren't going to like your band!" Or, "They're not going  come to the next tour, next time you're on tour." "They're not going come to the show." Or, "They're not going to buy your record."

All that stuff is out the window. All that care is gone and it's all just about doing this because it's going to be fun. And doing this because it's going to feel good.

Carl Smith: Aw man. Well I'm happy for you, Bill. In all of your many and varied endeavors, I am very happy for you.

Bill Barbot: Oh thanks, Carl!

Carl Smith: Are the dates out?

Bill Barbot: Yes.

Carl Smith: Are the tour dates out?

Bill Barbot: Yes the dates are out. So we have all of the dates posted on our website, jawbox.band. Which is weird. I didn't even know that TLD existed up until Zach started up our website and he's like, "We're Jawbox ..." I guess somebody has Jawbox.com 

Carl Smith: There you go.

Bill Barbot: So I think there's actually a gin distillery in Scotland, I think, or Ireland somewhere called Jawbox Gin. Which I think has absolutely nothing to do with our band, they just happened to choose the same name a few years later. [crosstalk 00:33:47]

Carl Smith: If I send a photo from there, I'll explain apologetically, "I thought I was coming to the show, but I'm at this distillery. I don't know what happened, but I'm happy. Don't worry about me."

Bill Barbot: Yeah, right. Right. Yeah, so I think jawbox.com is taken by the gin, but jawbox.band is our website and that's where all the tour dates are. And it's a limited selection. We're ... Because of all the other stuff we have going on, it's a weekends situation this summer. 

So we're flying out west for a week, but the rest of it is out and back. We're doing Chicago and Minneapolis out and back. We're doing Boston out and back. We're doing New York and Philly out and back. And then we're ... In November we're coming down your way. 

So we're playing The Fests, which is a big festival in Gainesville-

Carl Smith: Yeah!

Bill Barbot: .. early November.

Carl Smith: I've been to The Fest before, man!

Bill Barbot: Oh, no kidding!

Carl Smith: And Gainesville's only 79 miles from me.

Bill Barbot: I know! Right on!

Carl Smith: Yeah. I know 79 because I go to Gainesville all the time. It's where I went to school, so. All right, well there you go! I will see you there. I've gotta figure out the dates.

Bill Barbot: Yeah. When you figure out what day you're coming, or if you're going to come for all four of them, let me know and I will definitely hook you up 'cause I would love to see some friendly faces in the audience.

Carl Smith: Oh man.

Well Bill, again thank you so much! I mean, it's just great when you hear a story like this with somebody that you know. And it, as corny as it sounds, it's inspirational. Especially for somebody also in their 50s that you can still say yes to stuff!

Bill Barbot: Well all right! 

Carl Smith: There you go.

Bill Barbot: Kick ass! Thank you.

Carl Smith: For everybody listening, thanks so much! And we'll talk to you again soon. All the best.

Bill Barbot: Thanks Carl!

Carl Smith: You got it. Thanks, Bill!

Image via Jawbox


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