Elizabeth Jancewicz and Eric Stevenson on HOW TO COMPLETELY LOSE YOUR MIND

HOW TO COMPLETELY LOSE YOUR MIND by Elizabeth Jancewicz and Eric Stevenson, a graphic novel memoir about indie band's tour across the United States

Tell me a bit about yourselves. You’re a married couple who collaborate on all your creative work. How did you start working together? What is your creative collaboration like?

ERIC: We started working together shortly after we started dating, actually.  We were friends for a while, and then that became a relationship, and then I was going to go on a tour under the name “Pocket Vinyl” but we still wanted to hang out, so Elizabeth decided to come along and paint on stage.

We’d auction off the paintings after the shows, and we found we actually made money doing this.  We got married a year later, and started touring full time, having a modest yet rewarding income.

We usually don’t collaborate directly, but rather next to each other. For instance, in our live show, I will play piano and sing while Elizabeth paints next to me.  We perform together, but are also doing our own thing.

Elizabeth Jancewicz and Eric Stevenson of Pocket Vinyl at a show

When writing our graphic novel, it was similar.  First, we tried to remember everything we could about the tour the book is about together. Then I went off and wrote the script. After that, Elizabeth took it and started illustrating. She still continually refined the story as she drew it, though.

On October 10, 2023 you launched your graphic novel, HOW TO COMPLETELY LOSE YOUR MIND – congrats!!! Tell me about the book. Where did the idea come from? What’s it about? What are some of your favorite things about it?

ERIC: The book is about a 2019 tour we did where we tried to break the world record for “Fastest to play a concert in every state in the USA”.  The record was 50 shows/states in 50 days, and for whatever reason, we both thought it was super beatable.

We did that, had a TON of adventures, and completely destroyed our mental health in the process.  Once we regained our composure and leveled off a bit, we realized the entire thing would make a great story.

Personally, my favorite thing about the book is the pacing. I feel we really nailed it, and told a story that is evenly spaced throughout its length in a satisfying way.

interior spread from HOW TO COMPLETELY LOSE YOUR MIND by Elizabeth Jancewicz and Eric Stevenson, a graphic novel memoir about indie band's tour across the United States

Often in graphic novels, it can hard to get the pacing right. Action sequences can happen too fast, or drama doesn’t land quite exactly, but Elizabeth nailed it all on fronts when it came with the art in that regard.  The entire thing flows very easily, and I’m really proud of that.

I love the fact that you intersperse some “how to” information in this graphic memoir: tips for other indie musicians and creative people. What are some examples of that?

ERIC: We felt it was a good opportunity to show a bit behind the scenes of how it all works being in a band on tour, and even pass on some simple tricks that go a long way.

One of my favorites is “How to pack clothes efficiently”.  We have this great folding style really saves time and space, and it was nice to spell that out step by step.  We’ve already heard from a few people that they’ve started doing it too!

"how to pack clothes efficiently" from HOW TO COMPLETELY LOSE YOUR MIND by Elizabeth Jancewicz and Eric Stevenson, a graphic novel memoir about indie band's tour across the United States

One thing I’ve heard you say before is that you’ve always supported yourselves 100% through your creative work. That is really unusual. How have you been able to do it?

I don’t know! One day at a time, I guess!  I think it all comes down to what you’re willing to sacrifice. For some people, sleeping in the car on tour is not something they want to sacrifice (understandably!), but for us, we’ve probably saved several thousand dollars in hotel bills over the years because we were willing to do that.

You find all sorts of things like that to pinch pennies and save up.  It can require a lot of willpower, and convincing yourself not to buy stuff, but if you can stay on top of that, you can save a lot.

How do you balance work and art with personal life and staying mentally healthy?

Oh, I have no idea. I don’t know if I agree with the assumption of the question that we have stayed mentally healthy!

But I think taking time to rest, read a book, play a video game, go for a walk, and do things that aren’t work become more of a priority as we go. You need to let your mind rest, and when the time for work comes, you’re better prepared to handle it.

Also friends. Hang out with people.  I find that always helps.

interior panels from HOW TO COMPLETELY LOSE YOUR MIND by Elizabeth Jancewicz and Eric Stevenson, a graphic novel memoir about indie band's tour across the United States

Are there any things you wish you had known when you first started your creative careers?

That you’ll fail far more than you succeed, but that’s all part of the adventure.

Are there any anecdotes or themes from HOW TO COMPLETELY LOSE YOUR MIND that you found yourselves understanding in a different way, once you’d created the book? (I ask because it seems that often the act of writing/drawing helps us “process” our experiences in a deeper way.)

It was a good lesson in “just go do it.”  We didn’t get any trophy, no acknowledgement outside of our fanbase, or any kinds of accolades once we did it. We did it because we thought it’d be fun, and it was!

It destroyed our mental health… but was also an indescribable and great experience. It was both good and bad, and it’s OK for those things to exist at the same time.  It also made us realize we’re a lot more capable in achieving things than we first thought. Sometimes being pushed to the brink of sanity teaches you just how far you can go, and while I don’t want to do it again, I know that I could, and that’s a comforting feeling.

Does that make sense?

It totally does!

The process of getting this book made was almost as dramatic as the story you tell in the book. Can you say something about the ups and downs of the publishing process?

Where to start?!

Well, there were many times we thought various publishers would take it, only to say no.

Then the publisher that bought the book got bought out and we got dropped.

Then the publisher that picked us up printed 2000 copies of the book with a missing page, which we decided to buy from them so they wouldn’t go to market that way.

It was an adventure for sure.

As to what it taught us? I have no idea. I guess that you can’t really assume anything until the book is actually out. We just try to keep our head down and keep marching forward.  There’s always a way forward, even if it’s a hard way, but it’s always there.

You’re about to embark on a really cool book tour to promote this book. What’s the plan? Where can people find out more about it?

The plan is to play in book shops, libraries, bars, and living rooms all across the country to promote this new book, and if anyone would like to come see us, check out pocketvinyl.com/tour-dates or you can find the dates on our Spotify page and pocketvinyl.bandcamp.com.

Where can people connect with you?

www.pocketvinyl.com is the best place, or you can search “Pocket Vinyl” in any search bar on the internet and I guarantee we’ll come up.  We’re easily found.