Onstage, the five-piece local metal-core act Conflict of Interest is passionate, providing the audience with an emotional experience. Songs such as the devastating riff monster “Let It Burn”—with lyrics of a ruined relationship—say volumes about the heart’s vulnerability.
Before and after the gig, however, the guys sound like they might as well be wearing suits. They’re relentlessly professional, sewn-up and hesitant to say anything crazy.
There’s a good reason for the, well, conflicted personality. Since the band’s birth in 2003, Conflict of Interest has worked as its own manager, booking agent, merch bitch and legal adviser.
“We’ve been trying to make this band a legitimate business,” says guitarist/co-founder Ryan Puskarich. “Now we’re learning about Web design and music distribution in an effort to try to establish ourselves.”
Indeed, weekend warriors take note: A lot of work goes into making your band support itself. Doing it all yourself makes it harder, but Puskarich has few complaints, even when so many people ask him why—in an era of online music piracy and depressed concert ticket sales—should any rock musician strive to go pro?
“Because we’ve done pretty well so far,” he insists. (COI won a 2009 battle of the bands contest at Diablo’s, netting the band a $10,000 check.) “There’s always money to be made, and nothing worth doing is easy. Music is like any business. It’s about working hard. Our merch line is expanding, because we work hard at what we do.”
Refreshingly, Puskarich doesn’t give a shit about being called a commercial sellout. When his band—singer Mike Stanley, rhythm guitarist Justin Adler, bassist Luke Golson, drummer Andrew Stork—flew to Boston in May to record a new four-track EP, The Takeover, they did it with their own money and no record label support. COI is DIY, and doesn’t have to answer to anyone … except its growing fanbase who packed House of Blues in November for their CD-release party.
This week the band is doing an all-ages show at Feelgoods. Most pros view playing for non-drinking kids as a step down. Not COI.
“Whenever we do an all-ages show, kids come up to us afterward, telling us our music changed their lives, how they want a [COI] poster on their walls. It’s a huge feeling to know people care about our music, that it has an impact. It gives us confidence to take the music further.”