Breaking Through with Cas One & Figure

  I’m a storyteller by trade, so when Don’t Quit Your Daydream told me they were going to start doing articles and asked me to contribute, the first thing I thought was ‘what is the story?’ At first I didn’t really have any idea. Cas One, and Figure’s  talent and success make them standout in relation to most of the musicians here, so that seemed like something defining in our tale, but listing off their accomplishments seemed shallow and lacking the sort of depth that makes an article compelling rather than a glorified fact sheet. But as I began talking to friends and co-workers about the article, one of the things that struck me was how few people actually knew who they were or cared a great deal.

        This sort of apathy seems a habitual limiting belief in the culture of this city. With a lot of people taking on a general stance of not believing they could be that good because they live here. Even I fell into this. When I found out about Figure’s over 190,000 Facebook followers, selling out Red Rocks and First Bank Center in Colorado (both of which are roughly ten thousand seat venues), touring the world with shows across Europe and Australia and all across America, playing at Summer Camp this may, working with Tommy Lee, Diplo, Deltron 3030, RJD2, being signed on Skrillex’s label, having a song on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, working with Universal Studio’s (even having his own halloween attraction), not to mention fourteen (14!) full length EP’s and an album... I couldn’t help but ask why does he live here?

        Or take a look at Cas One who toured with Eyedea, worked with Del the Funky Homosapien, has been featured on everything from bmx videos to card trick montages (this one in particular with almost 800K views), has a song with over 230k listens on spotify, has distributors from Germany and other countries hitting him up, sold over ten thousand albums (keyword there being selling, which is way harder in these days of free streaming services), and getting signed to Strange Famous, and ask if this sounds like a rap sheet for someone living inside the eight-one-two.

        Still most people in the city don’t know about either of these guys, and I’d wager almost no one’s parents are telling their kids that they can make their dreams come true because they did/are. But what if we were? What if we as a community spent more time celebrating our success stories (and how about we throw Lilly King in here too for some girl power) instead of trying to expel them as outliers?

        To understand how important celebrating that success is let’s backtrack for a second first and have a little history lesson. In the original ancient Greek olympics, runners trained for years to try and conquer the four minute mile. But none of their runners ever accomplished the herculean feat despite their intense repertoire of bizarre training methods (like releasing lions to chase them). As the years passed and promising athlete after athlete failed, the outlook on the challenge came to be that it was literally impossible. So when the Romans read through all the Greek texts and found their dismal recordings of the countless failed attempts and the many confident speculations that it were in fact physically impossible, the challenge was abandoned and the limiting belief accepted as truth for thousands of years to come.

        Now fast forward a few millennia to Roger Bannister (along with the other runners of his generation), who decide to take the challenge upon themselves once more. This new generation of runners found a momentum, and trained harder than thought healthy or possible, both on the track, and inside of their own psyches. Bannister in particular famously meditated daily, visualizing himself crossing the finish line in time. The meditation and visualization were his way of forging a belief in his own capability, a way to develop confidence in the face of hundreds of articles in magazines and papers across the country by various medical professionals explaining in scientific detail exactly why it was impossible.

        Yet somehow in the face of thousand’s of years of accumulated doubt, in the face of his contemporaries doubt, and in the face of his own doubts, on May 6th 1984, after many failed attempts, Roger Bannister shocked the world by breaking the four minute mile with a 3:59.4 time.

        But the most important part of the story isn’t actually Bannister. In the year following Bannister’s record breaking run, thirty-seven other runners also accomplished the feat. Consider for a moment, that for thousands of years no one accomplished this, to the point where it was considered medically impossible. And that in the years before Bannister’s run, every single one of those thirty-seven had attempted and failed the run several times. However once the plague of doubt had been expelled, and they knew it was possible, all of them found it within them to achieve their great goal. It’s as if Bannister’s run opened a previously locked door, which now open and pouring light into the once dark, allowed the others to pass through with ease.

        This is breaking through. And before we get back to our hometown heroes, let’s do a few more quick examples of other breakthroughs.

        Banksy’s massive popularity and success (along with Shepard Fairey and a skew of others) paved the way for street art to be taken seriously as a medium, and developed a market for other street artists like Kef!, Kaws, Hopare, Inti, Rubin 415, and Yok to be able to earn a living through their art. As well as inspiring a whole new generation of young vandals just now beginning their journey.

        Napoleon Hill’s classic self-development book “Think and Grow Rich” (Published 1937 with over one-hundred-million copies sold today), along with Dale Carnegie's “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (1936) sparked the beginning of modern self-development culture that lead to the success of speakers such as Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, and many others.

        And J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Ring’s” trilogy popularized, and revitalized fantasy as a genre. Elevating the genre to a widely respected form of literature as well as inspiring and creating space for the success of George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series as well as J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” franchise (both of which have achieved their own breakthrough status, and will be major influences for the new generation of writers).

        Now some of you may be shaking your head thinking something like oh god is he really going to compare Cas One and Figure to Lord of the fricking rings? No, I’m not going to try to argue that. Although there’s no reason why either couldn’t be one of your favorite musicians.

Let’s imagine a scenario instead: You’re a college freshman. You want to make music, and have big dreams of traveling the world, collabing with incredible artists, and all the cool jazz that would make everyone who doubts you have to admit you’re a baller. But you live in Evansville, Indiana. An Evansville with a struggling music scene, and a severe lack of support for local artists. And you don’t have the money, or resources to help you move somewhere better. Because of the internet, you logically understand you still can make it. But everybody you know in real life has tried and failed before you. Maybe even friends who have been playing much longer, and you consider much more talented. And so forced with the overbearing odds, and no role models except mega stars, who inevitably seem to have been playing music since two years old or lived down the street from the studio and got to listen in after spit shining some asshole’s shoes or used to buy drugs from A$AP or whatever the hell, you start to lose hope. A veritable mountain of reasons why you can’t do it pile on and start to choke you out. The game’s rigged. There is no point. You were born in the wrong place, the wrong time, the wrong race. You’re a victim. You feel doomed, trapped, cursed. You’re depressed. All your friends want you to come drink instead of practice and why should you want to work so hard anyway, it’s not like anything you post on soundcloud is getting more than a couple likes. You fall deeper and deeper into this vicious negative cycle that makes it seem so impossible, and the more impossible it seems the less motivation and energy you have to overcome it, which makes it feel all the more impossible, etc, etc. Until one day you just give up, and try to forget the whole thing. Or even worse, live under the pride of that song you made six years ago, holding it up like a shield every time you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask what the hell happened to me?

        But now let’s imagine what happens if that same kid starts listening to the Don’t Quit Your Daydream podcast after one of his friends shared it on Facebook. Episode 52 (or episode 18 maybe) comes out; Figure and Cas One. You listen and something clicks. The door’s not open, but there’s a small beam of light shining out from the crack, and you start to believe you will find your way out of the dark. This kid who felt like they had no way out, caught in a vicious cycle of doubt and disempowerment that spells the end of almost every daydreamer out there, see’s a lane form ahead of them. And finally realizes…

        It’s possible.

        Suddenly you find a whole new tank of energy that you never knew you had. Everything’s brighter. The colors seem to have turned on, maybe for the first time. Where before you couldn’t manage to work on any songs after an eight hour day, now you can’t wait to get home and get to work. Maybe you even message one of them and they answer. You feel more motivated than you ever have, and begin to make stuff that you’re actually proud of. Your confidence starts to soar. People start hitting you up to collaborate. You listen to their songs when you’re struggling. You go see them live (maybe at Lamasco’s April 27th), and get to talk to them and realize they are just regular people. Maybe you even become friends. You listen to them, and for the first time in your life really truly believe that someone from here, someone just like you, can make beautiful music. Then with all this faith that it’s possible, that you can do it, you work for years on your craft, eventually surpassing your original heroes to quite literally make your dreams come true. And remembering how dark it was in that room before they came along and showed you the crack in the door, you come back home to help the next generation find the light.

        This is why local support is important. Yes we all know that any of us could make it (whatever your definition may be), but with no one local to point to, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When we don’t support our success stories, we are locking the new generation in the dark.  Breakthroughs are matter most not for the achievement in itself, but for for the space it creates for others. And I for one, am incredibly excited to see what the next generation of Evansville musicians will do with all the space that these two have provided.

        

        Thank you Cas One, and Figure. Thank you Don’t Quit Your Daydream. And thank you my dear reader. Support local art! Much love.