So far, we’ve talked about a lot of random things about what it takes to be a half-decent bandmate. As the week has gone on, I hope this has been helpful on some level and entertaining, too. Hopefully it hasn’t been coming off like I am bitching about it because this learning process was a heck of a lot of fun, too.
My buddy, Steve, reminded me of meeting him the first time in the comments on Monday. That day really was an eye-opening day for me. Here were four dudes around my age jamming out in his bedroom. I wanted that, and in many ways, still do. Being in a band is great fun, but it is also work and a commitment, and work and sometimes exasperating.
One of the things I have been alluding to but not really mentioned yet is taking the time to figure out what the goal of your band is. I can remember during the early days of Religious Skid, which was my first band if you are new to this blog, that I had expectations that were not realistic. I also had no idea of how the music business, even at the severely stunted level were at, actually worked.
For one thing, I had no idea how to get a show when we were ready. Looking back, it seems so strange to not know these things, but it was such a mystery to me. It was also a very different world in those days where you had to go talk to someone in person or get on the phone and call them. Now you can just send an email and a link to your Facebook page.
It is something you have to learn and also have to be ready for, most importantly. In Religious Skid, we were ready to play when we did. At first it was a few parties and then we did a few shows at clubs, but we worked our asses off to get there.
We went through a fair number of members, too. In my time with the Skid, as we called ourselves, we had five drummers from 1987 to 1990. We had four or five guitar players, too, and we jammed with this one dude who brought over a full stack and was killer and then called us and said, “Hey, I’m headed to LA. I’ve got your tape, though, and these songs are mine now” or something like that. Fuckin’ asshole.
Tom and I were the only members who didn’t leave or flake out. Sometimes the guys who left came back. It was a revolving door. Tom and I were the true believers, though, and that’s why he still my big brother to this day.
We just didn’t know what the fuck we were going except having fun.
I’ve harped on this already, but unless it is paying your bills, a band should and must be fun. When it is not fun, it feels like work and that’s bullshit. Don’t go to work unless you are getting paid. If you feel like your band is work, you are doing it wrong.
But wait, Mr. Expert, didn’t you just say that you “worked your asses off” to be ready to play? Are you a Republican now? When you say something and then say the opposite and expect people not to listen or call you on it, you must be a Republican. (Paid for by no one but endorsed by me. Political commentary is still free and all mine here at Ergonomic Mischief)
Yes, I did write that. We did a lot of work in that practice room on Mulberry in Phoenix. We also had a lot of fun and laughed, too. We honed the songs until we were ready to get up there and do them in front of whoever would show up at a party to see us. We played those songs over and over and I re-worked lyrics constantly. Practice is a good thing.
When you are a young band, please take that hour or two or three or four and give it your all. Eventually you will get to a place where you can go down to wherever you play and knock out your set and be done in less than an hour, but if you’re starting out, you have to go for it. Play the songs over and over and over and then again.
If you aren’t the singer, don’t be afraid to ask, “What does this song mean” or “Why are you singing/shouting/rapping/mumbling that” if you don’t know. I didn’t realize this as a young singer, but lyrics represent the whole band, not just the vocalist. Everybody in the band should be able to say, “Hey, I don’t dig that” or “I can’t get behind that idea” if they need to do so.
If you are the singer, well, you need to be humble about that stuff, too. Be ready to explain, even if it is just a matter of you liking how the words you have strung together sound. I don’t always know if there is a deeper meaning to my words. Sometimes I just like the way they sound when they come out of my mouth to the soundtrack we are making at the time.
Usually, I spend a lot of time making sure the words are just right but sometimes they just sort of happen. It’s like a gift. It’s the same with riffs, too. Sometimes you have to coax them out of their warren before you slaughter them like an unsuspecting rabbit (too graphic?) and sometimes they just happen. That’s part of where the work in practice is so important.
On that note, if you are working on a song and it is not fun to play, ditch it. If one of the members of the band hates a song or a lyric, get rid of it. Put it on the pile for the next band to work on or come back to it later. When you don’t have buy in from all, it’s best to just let it go. It is hard sometimes, sure. You will want to fight for your songs and that’s a good thing, but also know when to move on. If it is a good riff or a catchy lyric, you will put it to good use.
Practice is important.
See you tomorrow.
This is when I wanted to be in a band so bad I could fake it.