The Reason isn't a storybook rock and roll success story.
Yes, the Hamilton band has played to tens of thousands of people at festivals across the world. They've worked with Juno-winning producers, and the band's song The Longest Highway Home has been a staple on rock radio and has received hundreds of thousands of plays on YouTube.
But none of that equals automatic success, says singer/guitarist Adam White.
"The music industry has changed so much and we're always struggling," White told CBC Hamilton. "No one really knows that."
This summer the band will be playing with big names like The Tragically Hip and City and Colour. But they'll be doing it loaded down with around $100,000 in debt.
'In the end it was so cool — and everyone had a story to tell us.' —Adam White, The Reason
The money came from guitarist James "Cubby" Nelan's parents. The band used it to fund van purchases and tours — and though they've whittled away at the debt load, they just can't seem to get out from underneath it.
Cubby's father just had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass, and is trying to retire. "But they can't because of this money," White said. "It's a bit of a nightmare."
"All we did for ten years was try to make a name for ourselves — and all we did was go into debt. I don't think people get how difficult it is."
The people that approach White at his bartending day job definitely don't get it, he says. People ask him, "Hey, aren't you the guy from the Reason? Why are you here?"
"I'm doing a character study for my next record. It's a concept record about working in a bar," he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek.
"Why do you think I'm here?"
Fanbase support strong
Though the band might be in rough shape financially, there is still no shortage of support from its fan base. On June 10, they launched a crowdfunding campaign for a tenth anniversary DVD. Much of the footage was already shot, but they needed someone to professionally edit it.
White put the campaign online that morning before heading out for breakfast. An hour later, they were almost 40 per cent of the way to their $15,000 goal. "We were totally surprised," White said. "It instilled a lot of confidence that we can actually do it."
The DVD's premise is an interesting one. Harkening back to rock and roll's blues roots, the band crisscrossed the country by train — but in a decidedly less old-school approach, they only played house parties in fans' homes.
"It was humbling in a way," White said. "When you end up in someone's home you've never met before, you can't be a dick and hang out in the bathroom all night."
"In the end it was so cool — and everyone had a story to tell us."
In Alberta, the group ended up playing in a gigantic home owned by a fan who owns a construction company — which was pretty far removed from a group who cut their teeth sleeping on top of their van in Mexican restaurant parking lots, White says.
In Winnipeg they played for a bunch of 25-year-old military guys and their girlfriends. "They were dancing around and breaking tables, not even paying attention."
The band was understandably disenfranchised. So how do you win over a crowd who is pretending you don't exist?
Ignition by R. Kelly, they quickly learned.
"They all went nuts," White laughed. "So we stayed and partied with these guys for like three hours after the show ended."
How to get involved
Like many crowdfunding campaigns, the band is offering incentives to people who donate to their DVD project. The options run from the usual (like a handwritten lyric sheet for $40) to the substantial (a signed Epiphone guitar for $500) to the weird (shave Cubby's beard for $250).
Then there's the biggest prize — an executive producer credit on the DVD itself for a $2,500 pledge. "If somebody really gets behind this thing and has $2,500 lying around, we'll throw your name right on there," White says.
As of June 21, the band is 62 per cent of the way to their goal with 52 days left to get in on the project.
"We can't wait to share this thing with people," White said.
To get involved, head over to The Reason's Pledge Music page.