JoCo Cruise: The Cruise for Geeks

Reading Time: 11 minutes

JoCoCruise-FeaturedJoCo Cruise 2017 is now open for booking. For those not in the know, it is a whole cruise ship full of nerd music, comedy, gaming, food, and more. It is the Cruise for geeks of all stripes.

This will be the seventh annual JoCo cruise and for the first time, the entire ship belongs to JoCo Cruise! This year’s cruise will depart Saturday, March 4th from San Diego, CA for seven nights along the Sea of Cortez. The stops include Cabo San Lucas, Pichilinque, and Loreto. The latter two ports of call were specifically chosen to be less touristy and more inviting for geeks!

JoCoCruise-Guests
2016 Guests. Photo by Michael Bain.

The cruise is full of all sorts of hanging out, gaming, music, and comedy in addition to a Gaming Track (free-play, tournaments, playtesting, etc.) and a Writing Track (panels and hangouts with great geek writers). Although specific guests have not yet been announced. past guests have run the gamut from Michael Ian Black to Imogen Heap to Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick to Steve Jackson and Mike Selinker. JoCo Cruise really is like a small, intimate con on a big boat!

If you want more information about JoCo Cruise or to book now, head over to their site!

Jonathan Coulton and Paul & Storm were awesome enough to give me a little time for a quick interview at Emerald City Comicon where we talked about geeky parenting, doing your dream job, and JoCo Cruise.

GeekDad:
What were your day jobs before you switched to this and what was the impetus for actually deciding to finally quit your day jobs and do you have any advice for people who have a shitty day job that they don’t like (computer software for example) and want to make the change?
JoCo:
I also worked in software for about nine years. It was something that accidentally became a career. It was a thing I was interested in. It was a fun job. I liked the people I worked with, but it was definitely not the thing I wanted to do. I always wanted to be a musician. For me, the thing that changed was that I became a dad. In 2005, my daughter was born. I was home for a few weeks, and when it was time to go back to work, I was like, “Wait a minute. This cannot possibly be how it goes.”

A few things happened. I was suddenly aware of my own mortality in a way that I hadn’t been before. My limited time became very apparent suddenly. I also started to think about looking at myself through this kid’s eyes as she was growing up and the choices I was making being an example to her about the kind of person that she should be. I wanted to make the choice that I would want her to make in my situation. So I quit the job and started putting music on the internet with the hopes that it would somehow become a career. I’m fortunate enough that it’s worked out that way.

The advice I would give is that there are ways to pursue your passion while you still have a day job. I did. I did a lot of writing and performing and recording for years and years when I was working full-time. You can work on that craft, and you can get a foothold in the thing you are interested in doing before you quit your job. You shouldn’t quit your job with nothing, with no skills, and no practice, but you should definitely quit your job.

Storm:
I was a business and financial analyst for a major telecommunications firm which happened by accident like most things in life. Then the story of quitting is the same as Paul’s. We were in an a capella band (DaVinci’s Notebook) that was kind of a hobby group. We were doing the thing and we just started getting a lot more gigs and a lot more press. It became clear we had to choose because we had reached a tipping point where we were going to be out so much. At the time, we were young enough and it was like if we don’t try this, for the rest of our lives we’ll be kicking ourselves for it. It became apparent it was time. My advice, I couldn’t add anything to what Jonathan said so to sum it up, “Do the thing. Don’t wait to do the thing.”
Paul:
I was doing tech support and graphics for a law firm, and Storm already told the story where we sort of evolved. Suddenly we had two full-time jobs, so we were kind of lucky in that we didn’t have to take some massive…
Storm:
It was a short leap.
Paul:
Yeah, it was a short leap for us. I would just echo what everyone else has said. There’s obviously trade-offs. It’s not like it’s all about money, and it is ok to switch to something that you are passionate about and to be making less money at it because if it is a thing that is making you happier, genuinely happier, with your overall life that can be as valuable or more valuable than a particular salary. That said, don’t be stupid about it. Have some degree of responsibility. When we made the switch to being full-time musicians–Storm and I–I had a child and I was lucky enough that I had a spouse that was working. But also at the same time, it’s no longer just about me. I was no longer a 22-year-old who can take the kind of financial and life risks that that person could. Be smart about doing it. Absolutely you can follow your passion, but be smart about it.
GeekDad:
So when IKEA calls you, say yes? (Jonathan shared an anecdote about being asked to play his song “IKEA”‘ for an IKEA grand opening at the show the night before.)
JoCo:
Exactly right.
Storm:
Everyone has their price.
GeekDad:
How have your kids influenced your work? Have you done anything you wouldn’t have done otherwise or not done something that you maybe would have wanted to do?
JoCo:
I’ve written a couple of songs about my kids and about being a parent. I wrote a song for an album of family music that was called “The Princess Who Saved Herself.” I was sort of thinking about my daughter who is just sort of a kick-ass little kid. Or was. Now she’s older. He begins to weep, you can put in there.

One of the ways they’ve influenced me more than creatively is just in the decisions I make and about work. Certainly in getting me to feel like I should quit that job and start doing this in part because I wanted a more flexible schedule. I wanted to be able to be around them more than a nine-to-five job would allow.

But that said, I still need to take great efforts to carve out time. The way this business works, if you’re not on the road doing shows, you’re not making money. What you have to do is say no to money in order to have time to be at home with your family. It can get a little crazy. The traveling can get a little crazy. A weekend here, a weekend there. You’re in, you’re out. For me, it’s been a big part of how I’ve constructed this career so that I’m not on the road for six weeks at a time. So that I have a bunch of different things that I’m doing. It’s not all just being a road dog because family life doesn’t really support that. Or it wouldn’t support that in a way that I would like.

Paul:
For me, a lot of the same stuff so just put what he said. Also, my kids help keep me relevant. If that’s not a stupid thing for a 45-year-old dude to say. They say that your music tastes tend to freeze between 20 and 25.
JoCo:
I was going to say 14.
Paul:
If not younger. But that’s the point at which you’ll stop listening to whatever’s new and all the new stuff that’s coming out, suddenly it’s all crap! They don’t make it like they used to. I stopped listening to the radio right around the time I had kids. Then once they got to a certain age of sentience, it would sort of remind me, just because they were listening to it, you know what, people are still putting out music and maybe I should pay attention to what pop music is these days. It keeps me open to a lot of really great music out there, especially currently. Storm and I have been talking over the past year or so..
Storm:
I merely forced myself.
Paul:
Obviously there’s always a lot of crap music, it doesn’t matter what the era, but there is a lot of really interesting songwriting happening even in pop and top 40 radio these days. I’m glad that they kind of forced me, if for no other reason than whenever we get into the car they turn the radio to that station, that I get to listen to it. Or other media. I never watched Adventure Time or Rick and Morty until my daughter told me I should be watching it and keeping me open to those sorts of things and helping inform me as a cultural human.
GeekDad:
Related to that, is there anything that you’re really geeky about that you’re glad that your kids inherited? And is there anything you’ve picked up from your kids? I know there are a couple of shows, like The Octonauts, that my son loves. It’s awesome but I never would have watched it if he hadn’t been into it first. Or like you mentioned Adventure Time.
Paul:
In my house, there’s a very specific tradition in my house of when we’re all driving in the car and singing along with the original concept album of Jesus Christ Superstar. Full voice. We’re very glad that both of our kids inherited enjoying that because we’re going to inflict it on them either way, but it’s nice that they enjoy it. Although now that it has actually migrated generally to Hamilton the original cast recording which I believe is the Jesus Christ Superstar for a new generation at this point.
JoCo:
My kids can do the first ten minutes of Hamilton without prompt.
Paul:
It’s one of those things where if somebody says a line, you have to finish the song. So that’s been nice to share that geeking out over musicals.
JoCo:
My daughter can solve a Rubik’s cube. He said very proudly.
GeekDad:
What would you say is the thing you’re the geekiest about?
JoCo:
Honestly? Music theory. I really love chords and chord progressions. I’ve always loved figuring out the mechanics of how a song works and how music works. I was a music major in college and I’m a professional songwriter so, obviously, it’s there. I don’t know. I really love thinking about it. And even more broadly than that, just the craft of songwriting and lyrics and fitting lyrics into a form and the form of a song, the use of metaphors and poetry. I really love it. I really geek out about songwriting.
Storm:
It’s my mindset, more than any particular thing, but I will enjoy over-analyzing everything. I will not take anything for granted, like this artifact here on the table (pointing to a postcard), how is it printed? These inks? Was it always printed with these inks? The people who printed it? Just on and on. But other than that, science fiction.
Paul:
Movies and TV in general, kind of all genres. I grew up watching maybe six to eight hours of TV a day. Not because my parents were terrible, but because my parents let me. I just love consuming media like that. What am I going to do this week? Oh, I know, watch every Stanley Kubrick movie in order! Not all at once necessarily. Oh, I never watched seasons two and four of Parks and Rec, I gotta go fill that blank. It’s a beast. You can never finish feeding that beast I suppose because there’s always more media, but I love consuming that type of media.
GeekDad:
I do have some cruise questions. It’s billed as family-friendly, but obviously depending on your kids “all ages” mileage may vary. What would you say are actual good ages for the cruise, and is there actually kid content?
Storm:
That’s going to depend on how many kids we have and how much specific content we might build out. The nice thing is that a lot of the acts do kids’ stuff. I would say the sweet spot age is probably about 8-12 because they are old enough to be able to, nerd kids you can throw them in, they can be involved with all the stuff and the shows and they’ll get enough of the jokes–or most–or sometimes all of them. From observation of course.
Paul:
If a kid is old enough to sit through a show and enjoy it or sit and play a game with adults and enjoy that. Not that they have to be playing Axis and Allies or anything like that, but beyond the age of fidgety is better. Which is not to say you can’t enjoy the cruise with a toddler or kids like that…
JoCo:
Although, can you really enjoy anything with a toddler?
Paul:
Yeah, exactly.
JoCo:
I also think that’s a nice age range too because my daughter is ten. She loves nothing more than to take the keycard and go to the soda machine and get a soda by herself and come back with a soda. It’s a pretty safe environment for kids to walk around in. Once you’ve been there for a while everyone knows where everything is and it’s kind of exciting for them to be able to do that.
Storm:
My parents took me on my first cruise when I was ten and it left such an impression. The sense of adventure unlike anything you can experience anywhere else.
GeekDad:
I know that all of the programming is to be determined, but is there anything you can share yet?
JoCo:
We’re still working on the list and we’ll make it available when we have some percentage of people booked. It’s a bit far out right now, and it’s hard for people to commit this far in advance to a week at sea with us. That said, I think if people who have been on the cruise before or people look at the performers who have come back a few times, there is definitely a stable of performers who we sort of cycle through.
Storm:
And you can extrapolate from that who we might ask.
JoCo:
Definitely this year because we are doing a full ship we are thinking about and talking to a couple of big name acts that…
Storm:
Elvis Presley, ok?! We’re inviting Elvis Presley.
JoCo:
Because we do like to inject some new blood into it every year.
Storm:
And diversity. Trying to always broaden across every dimension.
JoCo:
So it’s not just nerd acts. It’s all across the board.
Paul:
It’s nice that we’ve established a track record at this point having done it for six years that the people that have been on the cruise will trust us that even if they’re not sure who’s coming that we’re going to bring them a lineup that they’re going to enjoy. So there’s pressure with that but it’s also kind of freeing to know that there’s not just demand for NERD NERD NERD!
JoCo:
It’s very gratifying to take something that we know is great, put it in front of this group of people, and they also think it’s great, and they respond. We had Sarah and Sean Watkins on a couple of years ago and everybody just loved them and, you know, they’re modern bluegrass. It’s not necessarily a thing that this group of people would gravitate toward, but it’s great and people love it.
Storm:
And they’re certainly our people. When hanging out it would be apparent, “oh yeah, we’re of the same tribe.”
GeekDad:
Related to that, I know a lot of the people you get to perform you already know or you’re friends with, but is there anybody that you would say was your favorite “get”?
JoCo:
Last year we got Imogen Heap. Which I cannot believe. I’m a huge fan of her. I think she’s just brilliant. We know her through another musician who had been on the ship before, Zoë Keating, who is also fantastic. She was a very big get for us.
Paul:
There have been a few people like that. Just people that we’d been fans of and to be able to approach them and have them actually come on our dumb little cruise. Two years ago Aimee Mann and Ted Leo, who we love. We could not believe when they said yes.
JoCo:
(whispering) They’re famous people!
Paul:
They’re actually famous!
JoCo:
And they said yes to us! Real famous!
Paul:
Like MTV, when they used to play videos, they had videos ON MTV!
JoCo:
It is crazy because we are fans of these people in addition to being professional cruise-runners, which always makes me laugh when I think about that, but it gives us the cover to actually go up to these famous people that we are actual fans of, and, if we can stop the fanboy thing for long enough, we can convince them that it’s a real thing, and that they should do it. They come, and they have a great time, and then we become friends with them. It’s nice work if you can get it.
GeekDad:
One last quick question. I read that there’s a little bit of cosplay on the cruise?
JoCo:
I wouldn’t say as elaborate as you see at a land con just because we don’t have the staging room for it, but there are a couple of formal nights and people interpret formal in different ways. Sometimes there will be a little bit of steampunk flavor to the formal.
Paul:
There is a lot of Starfleet formal.
JoCo:
There are a lot of fezzes. It’s a very crafty community so people make their own clothing. It’s a pretty eclectic bunch.
Storm:
Yeah, it’s scaled to the fact that you don’t have quite the same access to your wardrobe as you would on land, but it’s definitely an element.
GeekDad:
Thanks, guys, I really appreciate it.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!