Russell Mofsky isn't asking much out of you. Just $15,000.
Even if you're not a local music freak, you might know Mofsky's act, Gold Dust Lounge. For folks into the art scene, it's the trio that has performed outside the Harold Golen Gallery in Miami on countless occasions. Fans of the tiki subculture, who spend their evenings at Fort Lauderdale's Mai Kai and pencil in the annual Hukilau celebration on their calendar months in advance, will recognize Mofsky's music in the forthcoming documentary on the resurgence of the tiki culture entitled Plastic Paradise, out this spring.
But for all of the recognition, Gold Dust Lounge's reverb-washed, warm blend of surf-rock, spy-movie soundtracks, and punk-rock sensibilities hasn't reached the masses with a well-promoted, hard-copy album. And that's where your fifteen Gs come in. Not just you, of course. Mofsky has started a Kickstarter campaign, which debuted Sept. 1, and the $15,000 is his goal.
"It is [a lot of money], and it isn't," Mofsky says. "It is in the sense that it's ambitious and the biggest part of that is to promote it. We're doing records, CDs, and the publicity. I've been told to budget $3,000 a month for three months just for publicity."
Although this is his first Kickstarter, Mofsky has done his research and can talk at length about all the strategies involved. "If you make 20 percent of your goal, your chances go up," Mofsky says. "There's a certain amount of snowball action. But 20 percent seems like a critical amount to get to. When you get there, it seems more viable."
The Kickstarter went live on midnight of Sept. 1. Just 10 hours later, it had 28 backers for a total of $2,891, almost exactly 20 percent of the $15,000 total, with 29 days to go.
Suddenly, $15,000 seems like a legitimate goal, not a wad that would require an angel investor.
"I'm feeling pretty optimistic about it, though I've never done a Kickstarter," Mofsky says. "Initially, I thought I would go for $7,000 to $10,000, but I don't think we can accomplish what we want to with that money."
With the $15,000, Mofsky plans to promote the album as well as print CDs and LPs. The actual creation of the album, Lost Sunset, has more or less been completed, but for the mastering. "It's grown in concept. We wanted to add some players after the fact, and we knew I was gonna do some solo pieces," Mofsky says. "We did six songs, and a couple weeks after that, I did some solo recordings, and then after that we added Juan Turros from Suenalo.
"And before that, Femi Kuti was playing at Grand Central, and we had a version of a song that we knew we wanted some percussion on. Well, Laura and Jim Quinlan [of Rhythm Foundation, the group that booked Nigerian artist Femi Kuti] are old friends from when I used to work concessions at the Cameo in the late '80s, and they booked the theater. So, they hooked me up and we got there for the soundcheck. I played the song for the road manager and we got their drummer and percussionist to play on the song. And then Juan played on two tracks and then we mixed it all and got to a point where it felt like it wasn't balanced enough. I wrote a couple more songs... It's been a long process. But it's all felt very cohesive to me in its development. Sometimes you record an album and it feels like it's taking forever, but this hasn't felt that way."
Of course, it's not all about Mofsky. It's also about you, the investor. As with all Kickstarter campaign, investors get kickbacks if the project gets off the ground. For Gold Dust Lounge's album, these range from a low of $1, which lands you a personal email from Mofsky thanking you for your buck, all the way up to $5,000, which gets you a performance by Gold Dust Lounge anywhere in South Florida, plus your name in the liner notes, plus two tickets to a Gold Dust Lounge show of your choice, plus everything in the $250 package, which includes a CD, an LP, a T-shirt, a digital download, a sticker, a handwritten thank you note, two tickets to a Lost Sunset listening party, and a giclee print created by New York-based artist Q. Cassetti.
No takers yet on the $5,000 level, but several have bitten at the $250 range. At this rate, Mofsky should reach his goal just three or four days into the 30-day Kickstarter. Of course, the musician is a bit more realistic than that.
"One thing I learned is that you have to go to every city you've ever lived in and find your co-pilots there. Each week of your campaign, target different areas, activate different people," Mofsky says. "I've lived in Boston and New York, and I've got good friends throughout the country who are gonna chime in and help out. You have to do that to avoid that moment in the middle of the campaign, when the initial excitement is gone but the last-minute fence-sitters haven't hopped on yet."
Still, there is hope and excitement in Mofsky's voice, especially because this album is, to him, a special one. "This is a really articulate recording of the group, and I'm really proud of it," he says. I told Aaron [Fishbein, the album's producer] at one point, 'if I died on the way home tonight, I would be at rest knowing I made this.'"
To help Gold Dust Lounge meet its goal, visit their Kickstarter page.
-- Dan Sweeney