Art punk band Pere Ubu turn visa delays into subversive marketing campaign


Abstract Project. Conceptual Art Punks. Leaders of the post-apocalyptic ice cream social. Whatever you call them, Pere Ubu has challenged music conventions for nearly 40 years with dissonance, chaos, and humor.

They just did the same thing with self-promotion.

In advance of their upcoming tour, Ubu ran into a hurdle. Though London-based leader David Thomas (no, not the Wendy's guy) is American, two bandmates are British. The delayed visa process means two Brits will be staying home.

In a press release, Thomas vents his frustration at the US Customs & Immigration Service, and the American Federation of Musicians, a union that helps facilitate the visa process--for a fee.

The AMF's site says: "United States Immigration rules require an advisory from the union on the status of musicians entering the country on various kinds of visas." This comes in the form of "letter of no objection." Basically AMF provides an "okay by us," thing, for a three hundred dollar processing fee. Thomas describes it as a "consultation fee." The interesting thing is, you don't need to go through the AMF at all. From the press release:

"The Pere Ubu visa petition was submitted in late May. One of the two British musicians involved has previously been granted a visa as a member of Pere Ubu without an AFM consultation."

At first I was upset. How dare MY government and some moth-eaten union choose what kind of music can come in to MY country unless palms are greased! And then I read Thomas' press release a second time.

Strip away the outrage at what was essentially the band waiting till the last minute (in government time anyway) to file for visa applications, we learn Pere Ubu has been around for thirty-eight years, are critically acclaimed, have twenty-three albums out, on a lot of well-known labels including Rough Trade, Mercury, Geffen and Universal.

Despite the assertion that "musicians in a band like Pere Ubu are not interchangeable - when someone new comes in we have to re-compose the entire repertoire," only a week from their press release, Ubu already rejiggered the tour lineup.

That's when it hit me. Nice piece of self-promo, guys. No one will ever accuse you of failing to follow through on a concept.

If you are unfamiliar with Pere Ubu, their 1978 album Modern Dance is a masterpiece, and their newest piece of awesome is Lady From Shanghai.

about the author

kidsleepy 17 year copywriter, now CD, who has worked in many cities including Pittsburgh, New York, Atlanta, Montreal and currently Los Angeles. I snark because I care. I ain't complainin' I'm just tellin' it like it is.

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