Scale The Summit's parting with bassist Mark Michell and drummer J.C. Bryant has been anything but clean. The band initially made the announcement that Michell and Bryant were leaving due to financial disputes, and then hell broke loose with allegations flying left and right. In a lengthy comment made by Bryant to Heavy Blog Is Heavy, he explains that the band's debt isn't so much Chris Letchford's problem as it is the rest of the band's
All of the headlines on news sites regarding Mark [Michell] and I leaving Scale the Summit are borderline disparaging. Chris [Letchford] made a more concrete statement, even though Mark and I didn’t provide much context, so I guess the fans are going with what they’re being given. I don’t really know what to say without making it too personal. That’s why Mark and I decided to take the high road to begin with. I’m also trying to avoid writing a novel. I really want to make it quick and to the point, but that’s not going to happen.
It’s annoying the way he’s painted the picture. The fact of the matter is that his budget for musicians is literally zero. Asking for anything more than that is “asking too much.” We started working on the new record and Chris asked us how much we would charge to write, record, transcribe, and make playthrough videos. We both gave him a more than reasonable number, which he said he couldn’t afford and told us not to be offended if he had to find people who are willing to do the record for free, leveraging our job security against another attempt to get us to work for no pay. It’s always like this. There’s always an excuse why he can’t pay us.
I came in and saved the day with V. I didn’t make a dime. This next album will sell at least as well as V. Now, as an independent band, 3,500 copies at $10 each is $35,000. That does not include merch bundles and accessories people buy when a record comes out. We’re feasibly looking at $45,000-$50,000 in first week sales alone, excluding overhead costs like shipping and printing. The assertion that he “can’t afford to pay us” is asinine.
He manipulates the band’s debt in such a way that he always comes out ahead. He uses the band to subsidize haphazard spending, then uses the debt he creates—which is money the band owes him personally—as reason why we can’t be paid. There’s always old debt Chris uses to hold over his band members’ heads.
The problem comes down to the fact that the debt is characterized as something that we were all collectively responsible for and was always the reason we couldn’t be paid. Chris constantly made haphazard financial decisions without conferring with his bandmates—who would later be responsible for these very decisions.
We all made it clear before the Intronaut tour that, while there was debt that needed to be paid off, none of us wanted to tour for free. The problem is the band’s business model. For 10 years, the band has operated under the “split what’s leftover at the end of the tour” model. All the money made from the online store sits in a bank account. On tour, the plan was for the members to split whatever was left over at the end of tour, but it never quite worked out this way. There was always an excuse about debt or about an upcoming expense that meant the band couldn’t pay out to its members. Mark and Travis [LeVrier] would be better candidates to speak out on this, since they were in the band longer than I.
It was from this that the “employee model” was born. It’s clear that Chris is the primary decision-maker for Scale the Summit. All we wanted was for him to take responsibility for his decisions, rather than making them on his own and expecting his bandmates to foot the bill by working for free so he could take home thousands in “personal income” at the end of a tour. It’s a well-oiled machine that he’s been honing for 10 years—it’s no surprise the “employee model” didn’t sit well with him. Myself, Mark, and Travis never asked for anything beyond the band’s means. We honestly never even asked for a set pay for touring. We just wanted to know we weren’t enduring all the stresses of being on the road to once again come home with nothing. Mark and Travis can attest to this same scenario on previous tours.
It sucks dealing with this just to have all these websites seemingly take his side. I guess that’s what me and Mark get for making vague, high-ground posts. All the industry people know what the deal is, but readers should know that a whole band doesn’t leave within the same album cycle for no reason. I just hate the way this is being spun. Just look at the headlines. Now there’s nothing myself or Mark can even do without it appearing as though we’re slinging shit. The headlines make us look like assholes.
Furthermore, the duo explain to RockFeed (below) that while the whole thing has turned into a bit of a circus, there's some good news! The duo will be carrying on with its old band, Tetrafusion. You can check out Tetrafusion's final-ish EP below, which is an extremely well-written progressive rock piece.