Today we’d like to introduce you to Benjamin Muniz.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Adam, Enrique, and I have all known each other since we were in the third grade. Adam and I started playing music together in fourth grade. We’d been in several bands, more often the same ones, but they never seemed to work. Then in 2015, I texted Adam to come over and work on a new project I had in mind. We cranked out a few demos and put them on YouTube, and within a few hours had agreed upon the name 3 Exits to Hattiesburg. We practiced a lot and had Enrique take photos and run social media.
Eventually, we had our first show and Adam was unable to perform. Unwilling to start our career with a cancellation, I had made the tough decision to book a different drummer for the night. The show was just the drummer and I, until the final song, when we unveiled Enrique as the bassist. We played three more shows with that drummer until ultimately bringing Adam back for our first show at Super Happy Fun Land. The summer of 2016 saw the evolution of 3 Exits to Hattiesburg. We played various venues in the Houston area, unveiled more original songs, and began to make a name for ourselves. Starting in September of that year I began to organize the first 3 Exits Fest, which stood as an opportunity to both raise money for our album and to have our own show since so many venues are unwilling to book bands with members under 18. The festival was an amazing opportunity for us to develop a greater fan base, create relationships with other musicians, and begin marketing our product beyond the realm of performances and YouTube.
We created t-shirts, advertised on various platforms, sold concessions at the show, and within two weeks ended up in the studio to record our first album: Closer Than They Appear. We spent so many weekends in the studio recording 14 songs, spanning from December 2016 to June 2017. We would alternate weekends: one weekend the entire band would go into the studio and lay down instrumental tracks for anywhere from one to four songs, then the next weekend I would go by myself and record vocals. The process itself was difficult because often times we would have to play the songs over five times, making it easy to spend a big portion of the day recording. We also had to balance recording while still playing shows, which meant some weekends we would have to choose whether we should rehearse or record, and other times where I might slightly strain my voice before a show from recording vocals.
Though it was very difficult, the greatest feeling was our final recording session, when just Adam and I went to the studio. He laid down some drum tracks while I did vocals and then we listened to the entire album, and the excitement spread over us. We ultimately released the album on July 14, 2017, when we traveled to Austin for our first show out of Houston. We made a long trip out of that show, leaving fairly early in the morning and driving to Salt Lick Barbecue, after which we went to Mayfield Park and Zilker Park. That show also saw our first encore, which was extremely exciting, though none of us knew what to play.
Around that time I had received a message on Facebook about a performance at White Oak Music Hall. That was a huge milestone for us; we had never performed at a venue like that before, and so we had to make some accommodations. The show was on August 13, 2017, at which time Enrique and I, along with my parents, would be in Key West, Florida. During that time Adam was pretty much living at my house to take care of our pets. Still, on the idea that we could not cancel a show, we scheduled the trip so we would be back just in time for the show. Running on little to no sleep, we rehearsed some the day of the show and performed at White Oak, which we consider one of our best shows to date. The week of that show was actually our final week in Houston before each of us started our first year of college, and thus it was a busy week with packing and performing. The Monday after our White Oak show we had a two-hour performance and interview on Reach Down Radio, which was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to reach an even broader fan base.
That Thursday was our final show of the summer, which was an emotional experience, to say the least. At the conclusion of the show, we all realized this was a reality, as it had not yet hit any of us, and so we agreed to continue as a band through college. In September, all the way from New York, I began preparations for the second 3 Exits Fest, which will take place on January 6, 2018, at the White Swan. We also have a show scheduled for January 4 at Acadia Bar and Grill.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Starting out as just something to do, we never expected to be in a band to be difficult. The first issue we really faced was discovering that almost no one responds to emails, and it is even more difficult to get a response if you are under eighteen. When I first started contacting venues, I discovered so many required a website, so I set aside some money to develop 3exitstohattiesburg.com. Finally, we were scheduled to perform at BFE Rock Club on December 26, 2015, which found our next struggle. Adam was unable to perform, which caused a brief period of animosity between the two of us, and led me to enlist another drummer for the next six months.
The hardest part of that, looking back upon that period, is that the band turned into more of a chore and a meaningless business. I have always loved performing, but I remember a point during one show when I was just completely bored: it wasn’t fun like it used to be. He was a great drummer, but a band rides on the chemistry between the bandmates, and it just wasn’t there. Though Enrique and I somewhat knew the band wouldn’t completely work in that state, things needed to come full circle for us to fully understand that. We had scheduled a show at Super Happy Fun Land and our current drummer was unable to make it, so I reached out to Adam. After that performance we had so many people tell us it was our best show yet, and having felt that same energy we made Adam a full-time member once again. We still faced the struggle of finding shows, as so many venues ignored our emails and phone calls. We found more shows as time progressed, but our difficulty finding shows pushed us to develop our own festival. We also struggled a bit to get our album completed but hammered out track after track to ensure we could make the best of our resources.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with 3 Exits to Hattiesburg – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Though we started out as just a band in a middle-class bedroom, over the course of the past two years we have become so much more than that. We are self-employed, and I think the aspect of our careers that still affects us all is that this is a career, and we are professional musicians. I am the songwriter, guitarist, singer, manager, promoter, and producer of 3 Exits to Hattiesburg. I contact the venues and am in charge of organizing our events. I also advertise our events and merchandise, as well as schedule rehearsals or recording sessions. Along with this I write the original music and typically our setlist for each show. I personally feel that 3 Exits to Hattiesburg is unique because it means so much to all of us. It is a band, it is a business, and it is a family. We make music and that is our primary business, but as we see more success we have more responsibilities.
For the festival, we found the most cost-effective way to push our brand beyond the boundaries of music. Enrique spent months designing our shirts, after which point we spent two full days in my kitchen printing that design onto each shirt by hand. After the album was done I spent days holed up in my room designing the album art and ordering the CDs to be printed. I think what sets us apart aside from this is that we manage all our own bookings, and actually organized our own festival. I think looking at 3 Exits to Hattiesburg from a business standpoint provides a really interesting perspective, where one can see a devotion to the music at heart, while also to the increasing fanbase. At the end of the day, 3 Exits to Hattiesburg is a few friends who get together to do something they love. We started this project at 16, and now we are all going on 19, amazed that we have gotten as far as we have.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
With all the members of 3 Exits to Hattiesburg in different universities in different parts of the country, it is a little tough to determine where the road ahead leads. What we do know is that we are along for the ride no matter what. If I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self that this is where I would be right now with my music, I know he wouldn’t believe it at all. Every step is a journey in our eyes and we are eager for the next one. We plan on getting together over breaks, and eventually, we hope to get to work on our follow-up album. No matter what happens in the future: Adam, Enrique, and I have been friends for ten years and there is no sign of that coming to an end.
- 3 Exits to Hattiesburg T-Shirt – $10
- Closer Than They Appear CD – $10
- 3 Exits Fest 2018 Ticket – $10
- Website: http://www.3exitstohattiesburg.com/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/3exitstohattiesburg/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/3exitstohattiesburg/
- Other: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7txoMt9OlGaC1eb5BLyDcx
Victoria Reyes, Fidencio Dapretta, Donald Lee