I have a friend that likes to remind people, usually students, that practice does not make you perfect. “Only perfect practice makes you perfect.” Vince Lombardi, who was either the great NFL coach of the Green Bay Packers or a shoe salesman from Buffalo said this. I can never keep those guys straight.
He has a point, though. Yesterday, I was writing about practice a lot and there is more to say.
Here is some advice for you. Don’t go to practice to get fucked up. Sure, if you’ve been reading this, you’ve heard about how I enjoyed a frosty beverage or two at Pinky practices. Every band I’ve ever been in, except for The Father Figures, has experienced me being too buzzed to practice well. That was not a way for me to be respectful of my bandmates time and I’m bummed I did it.
Come to think of it, I may have even quaffed a few too many beers at a Father Figures practice to
remember good things that we did towards the end. Occasionally we have a few barley pops at practice, well, Bobby and I, but very rarely do we ever get a buzz. Our songs are way too intricate to play when fucked up and I learned that the hard way by having a few too many heavy beers at Hollywood Alley once. I think I might have tried playing our songs stoned once, too, and decided that marijuana and post-skate punk do not mix.
Every other band I ever did, though, was subject to my intoxication at practice. As a teenager, it was nothing for me to drink a lot of beer at Religious Skid rehearsals. One of our best guitar players, Dave, was totally sober in those days and it was disrespectful of me to waste his time like that. I think I might have even dropped acid before a practice one time and severely regretted that.
Mainly because someone had sucker punched my brother Tom that weekend and he had the worst black eyes I had ever seen. This was completely exaggerated by the hallucinogens, I’m sure, but it sticks out in my memory. While that taught me a lesson about psychedelics and musical performance (and yes, it was only a practice), it didn’t convince me that sober practicing was the best way.
I ask you again, young jedi, what it is you really want from being in a band? If it is to party, you can do that, but unless you are extremely (and by extremely, please look up the definition because I mean it) talented or lucky, getting fucked up at practice very rarely results in being good live, getting a record deal, or being respected for your art. It just doesn’t work. I’m not a puritan and I don’t expect that you are either, but the more seriously you take your prep work, the better you will be when it is time to unveil your band to the public.
When we first started Hillbilly in 1992, I was completely sober, and it helped me so much. I would never have been able to learn how to play bass, which I was doing, and sing if I had been using. It just would not have happened. I needed to be able to focus completely. I highly advise those of you who want to go down this road to heed my advice here: Get fucked up after practice.
I’m all for having fun with bandmates. It’s part of the gig. You should like hanging out with these folks because you are going to spend a lot of time with them. I’m sure straightedge bands even need to figure out a way to blow off steam together, so it’s not just about drinking or drugging. Blow off that steam, but when it is “go time” be ready to go.
My friend, Dolly, made a comment about part 1 of this on Monday and she used the word “Resentment.” This will kill a band quickly if you don’t have a way to talk about things when it starts to build. Even in the best of situations, resentment will build.
Musicians often have fragile egos. We want to shine. We want people to like what we do and even fawn over us occasionally (or regularly). We like it. Some of us are humble, sure, and pretend not to like a little extra attention but we do want at least a little of it. We want people to care about the time and effort we have put in to put on a good show or make a good record or whatever it is we are doing but hopefully the most important part for us is that the audience has a good fucking time. People who are having fun are prone to compliments. It's just a fact.
Resentment can sneak in and build and grow in a lot of ways, especially when you feel like someone in the band is not putting in as much effort as you. I talked about the band room rent thing. That’s a clear path to resentment. Getting too fucked up to play is another clear path, especially at practice. Being unprepared is another and maybe worse is acting like you don’t give a shit about what you are doing.
Many bands have one principal song writer and this is another slippery slope to resentment land. Hard question time…
Do you think you are that person? Can you write a good song?
If you answer is “no” to either of those questions, then you will want to find someone to be in a band with who can write a good song. You will also have so suck it up and not resent them for having this talent. Not everyone is a good songwriter and that’s okay. Good songwriters need good collaborators to help bring their songs to life. That’s a fact. If you don’t have the skillset needed to be the songwriting leader of band that is okay, and you can still have fun playing music with people. You either suck it up or you join a cover band. Both are fine options. What won’t be a fun option is to be an asshole because you resent that someone in your band is better than you at something.
I have been in a lot of bands with people who were way better than me at something and I have mostly used that as a challenge to get better at things myself. Have I been a jealous, for example, here and there because of someone being better or getting more attention, sure, but I feel like I have grown over the years to realize that it is okay to not be the best person at everything in your band. As I mentioned earlier, I like being a team player and like some (probably) sporty asshole once said, “there is no I in team.”
See you tomorrow.
We were doing this shortlived band called Guannudestumpf. Steve was the drummer.