STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of “The Great Gatsby” and other classics of early 20th century American literature, wrote in notes for an unfinished novel that “there are no second acts in American lives.”
Scholars have debated Fitzgerald’s meaning, but the phrase has stuck, and many Americans have clung to it as justification for their own failure to follow through on the things they most want to do, particularly when Jeopardy is on.
Pennsylvania indie rock band The Long Afternoon are setting out to prove that Fitzgerald was a lying bastard by creating a second act for themselves, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
For a band that saw limited success in the 1980s to take a twenty-year hiatus before returning the music world strikes some as an exercise in futility. The Long Afternoon believes those people – perhaps like Fitzgerald – define the meaning of success in terms that don’t match the band’s agenda.
“We’re uninterested in becoming stars,” says Eston Martz, the group’s guitarist and chief songwriter. “That’s not what this is about.”
The group’s new album, “Signifying Nothing,” was recently released on the band’s own Problematic Audio label. It’s available on disk from Amazon.com, TheLongAfternoon.com, cdbaby.com, and others, and available for download from iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, emusic.com and most other online music services.
The band is even offering free downloads of the entire album as 128 kps mp3 files for those who might be curious, but, having been burned before by albums full of filler, hesitate to purchase an entire collection of songs without hearing them first.
“Our chief goal is to give people the ability to hear what we’ve created,” Martz says.
“We’re confident that those who really like what we’re doing will be willing to support it, either by downloading it at a higher resolution for a fee, or purchasing a CD, or just helping us underwrite our costs of production by donating what they can afford.”
The Long Afternoon has always comprised Martz and other musicians who have come in and out of the group’s orbit. On this album, as on 2006’s “The Luxury Problem,” the group is Martz, bassist Jeff Edmunds, and drummer Greg Elliott.
The title “Signifying Nothing” references a line in Macbeth, but the band—as usual—leaves their intentions open to multiple interpretations. “The title song questions whether abstract ideals are worth dying for, especially if the ideas themselves are based on lies,” Martz says. “So in one sense, the Shakespeare reference is rather literal.
“But the title also answers those who think it’s foolish for people our age to make records,” he says. “They ask, ‘Why bother? It’s not like you’re going to be make money off it.’ Well, that was never the goal—so if that’s your yardstick, fine, this record won’t signify anything to you.
“But the record still exists, so maybe your yardstick needs to be checked.”
Even The Long Afternoon’s name is open to multiple interpretations, which is why Martz selected it 20 years ago. “The name refers to a Brian Aldiss novel,” he says, “but we liked it because you can project whatever you want onto it. The name didn’t predefine what the group could be, or what you might get out of it.
“When we starting out, our parents used to call our practices ‘the long afternoon,’ and that was a good joke. Girlfriends thought we named the band after time we spent with them. Fans who were into drugs thought the name referred to tripping, and that’s a good joke, too. Whatever they think about it is right for them.”
Even for the band’s members, the meaning of the moniker has evolved over time. “Now that we’re as old as we are, ‘The Long Afternoon’ can refer to middle age, too. Some of us never thought we’d be alive this long, so that’s the best joke of all. ‘Gimme geezer indie.’”
Asked what the group’s long-term goals are, Martz says they just plan to issue recorded statements as situations demand, and may engage in live performances when required. “Now that we’ve revived this effort,” he says, “we’ll keep going. Kids can call it geezer indie, but there’s no reason to stop.”
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