Thursday, September 25, 2008

Conference Calling with Chris Walla

I've got a little story to tell, but before I get into it, I've got to explain a few things. In case it got past you, I'm a college kid. I'm also a journalist and I write for my university's paper, in fact, I'm Assistant Online Editor. That said, I woke up this morning half reluctantly because I didn't have class until 2:00 but somehow sleeping in on a week day feels wrong. Most of the time I can't afford to given my workload. Today was no exception. 9:15 I was up and sitting at my computer in my pajamas tweaking some things on the web site. 10:00 I was reading an email from my editor marked "time sensitive" that contained the words "conference call," "11:00," and "Death Cab for Cutie." Oh man, I thought I was dreaming. So, I emailed her back immediately and got the whole scoop.

Death Cab is involved with a voter registration drive called Ultimate College Bowl which is a contest awarding a Death Cab concert to the school with the highest number of registered students and given the ranking of my school percentage wise, we got in on this call.

That's when the flurry began. 10:08 I was on the phone with one of the organizers asking the golden question, "so, is this something we're just listening in to or can we ask questions?" All of a sudden what had started off as a little write up of maybe some recorded DCFC message turned into an hour-long press type conference call with Chris Walla.

After getting off the phone I realized I couldn't do it from my cell phone and I had no idea if my room phone would work. 10:22 I threw on some jeans and went sprinting down the hall and down five flights of stairs, trying to think of questions and praying that the Residence Director was at the desk because I couldn't find my freaking Res. Life manual. Well, I guess one of us got to sleep in because she wasn't there I went racing back up said five flights of stairs, without answers and without a single question to ask.

Luckily I found buried on the school's website that 800 numbers are free, no calling cards required. That left me about twenty minutes to regain my cool and get my head around the situation.

On a side note, I like to keep TMI as professional as possible-- no fan girl crap, no free passes, no gushing-- just honest, opinion and the desire to post well written, mature entries on anything music related. That's my norm. This is different.

The journalist portion of my brain was thinking that this is a rare opportunity. Talking to someone like Chris Walla only comes with a job at Rolling Stone or something. I can really turn this into a great piece.

The Death Cab fan portion of my brain is still in utter disbelief. One degree to Chris Walla. They're my favorite contemporary band, coming in 2nd to the Beatles in the "all time" category. Had I known Tuesday night, I would not have slept. I feel slightly ridiculous about how hyped I was but at the same time, if you can't get stoked about talking to someone from one of your favorite bands in the world, what can you get excited about? You're probably a major wet blanket...or a robot. I'm not too cool to be proportionately expressive.

Okay, 10:57 I had my pens lined up, my laptop open to various helpful websites, my notebook open, and my phones ready in case something went screwy. I called in, punched in the code, and joined a buttload of other college journalists. We all introduced ourselves and a few minutes later Chris Walla was on the line.

It was great. A whole hour of listening to a really nice, incredibly articulate guy field questions without the tiniest bit of annoyance or arrogance. He talked about why DCFC got involved, what voting means to him, why they think it's important for young people to vote, and whatever else we threw at him. I even asked him a question midway through. The idea of not saying anything was not an option. I'd never forgive myself.

Some reporters got off topic really fast, some really had no idea who exactly he was. One called him "Ben" (as in Gibbard, the lead singer). I just asked how they got involved in the first place, which I thought was a fairly important and obvious detail. It was a fantastic experience. All through he was very humble and genuine. It was refreshing and he even extended the call by about ten minutes.

It was over by 12:00 and in all the rush, I barely have had time to process it. When I tell my friends I get an eye bulge, jaw drop, and "how did this happen?!" as a typical reaction. I'm glad they think it's as cool as I do. I suppose part of my excitement has been that this is one more really cool thing I get to do as a journalist and the prospect of a career as unpredictable and random as it has been so far keeps me up at night with a shameless grin on my face. One day I'm talking to the Director of Residential Life, the next it's Chris Walla. Or, I go from reviewing an album to talking to someone who makes them.

My article is due before the weekend but I hope to have it finished by tomorrow night. I've got to do some serious organizing work, but I can't wait to write it.

Well, that's all I've got folks. It's been quite the day and I now plan on sleeping until my alarm goes off at 7:00 tomorrow morning and I drag my butt to class. I think I will never complain again. Life is pretty great.


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