Dustin Sendejas spent his formative years touring the United States, leading and fortifying a variety of bands. He also has a solo project under the moniker Little Ghost and is currently playing guitar for Triple Crown Records artist Adjy.
Music For All: Why do you think so many musicians were unwilling to stand up for live performance free of restrictions over the past couple years?
Dustin Sendejas: Ultimately I think it's because it's the fashionable opinion, and musicians tend to be fashionable. The association with "the tyrant Drumpf" sealed this deal. Red America is seen as yokels: backwards, stupid, uncouth, and so once anti-lockdown/mandate was branded as the Trump view (accuracy of this notwithstanding) musicians could not abide it. They won't until NPR, or NYT, or whatever podcast they listen to gives them permission.
I do think fashionable opinion is beginning to fracture though. The aforementioned sources are increasingly dorky, out of touch, and clowned on the internet by communities that are more fresh and interesting. I guess over the next 10-15 years we'll see whether or not the cool opinion is to love dear leader.
Are there any like-minded performance venues or musicians you'd like to share?
Not many. I think most contrarians are less vocal. As far as venues I haven't commenced a rigorous search here in Nashville, but I can say that The Underdog (small bar on Gallatin) doesn't require anything. At least not when I was there last. Sadly all the venues I used to frequent - Exit/In, The End, Cannery Row, The 5 Spot, East Room, The Basement/Basement East - all went along. Though if this no longer applies to any of them I apologize.
With bands I think it's a "silence is the new secret handshake" situation. If you don't see them virtue-signaling on social media, then there's at least a chance they're like-minded. It's a fine line though. What we want is liberty-oriented people making good art, not artists being preachy. Even if correct, preachy art/entertainment is always lame. This is why SNL and late night shows feel like youth group skits.
It can sometimes be difficult to exist in the music industry if you're not 100% ideologically aligned. Has this ever created problems for you working in music?
Only once that I can think of, I voiced in a tour van that I didn't know enough about a topic to maintain an opinion, and my reluctance to go along with the orthodoxy made one person legitimately uncomfortable. Enough that there was a discussion about it later if you can believe it. But I get it. I didn't think any less of the dude. Scene-culture and fads are powerful. Usually though I don't bring up political matters because I feel like a bully. Not because I have a bunch of argumentative haymakers in my back pocket, but folks are pretty conflict-averse, and more likely to change the subject or placate you. Plus, most in music are speaking from a place of sentiment, so discussion doesn't tend to be fruitful or fun. However, when a charitable, friendly discussion can happen though that's always nice
In my opinion, it seems like far too many anarcho-punks are now proud statists — I often wonder how we got here. Do you think there is a correlation between the rise of emo, punk & hardcore into popular culture in the 90's & early 2000's and the end of anti-establishment music?
Huh, interesting. You're saying that fringe styles being adopted into the mainstream turned their opinions mainstream, whereas they were once rebellious? I think that's probably true. When you're seeing "punk rock" on FUSE and MTV, and buying their albums at Hot Topic it's a little silly to maintain a rebellious disposition. So now you have the Dead Kennedys retweeting the FBI haha (for real, this happened). It's funny because being offensive/rebellious used to be the point of punk. Not just one aspect, but the purpose. Now the point of punk is specifically to be accommodating and homogenous. Instead of fights at punk shows there are pamphlets and vegan chili. Not that that's objectively bad, but it's wild that the orientation of punk has completely flipped. But I think it has to do with the aforementioned matter of fashion. Those in the arts are more attuned to aesthetics and fashion, so they adopt fashionable opinion, which at the moment is to lionize bureaucrats (oddly enough). Anti-establishment sentiment is more likely to come from your curmudgeonly grandpa, or angry moms at school board meetings.
This interview is part of a series discussing mandates, restrictions and censorship with musicians and music fans —read more of these interviews here.
Thank you for reading! Listen to the latest from Little Ghost "Hold on to Anyone". For fans of Owen, Sufjan Stevens, Damien Jurado, Blitzen Trapper.