Someone asked me for advice about being in a band the other day. I'm currently gearing up to record my current (hardcore) band's first full length, and start touring my desolate, godforsaken country again, so I thought I'd compile my essay-length response into a list for you, because I love you all. This one's for you, Sput. List is just random albums I love that came on shuffle.
An Age Among Them
Being in a band is like chilling with some of your best friends, and being simultaneously involved in the same number of equally destructive toxic marriages. Emotions are going to run hot.
One Nation Under a Groove
Don't let that scare you off though. Being in a band is an experience unlike any other.
The Many Faces of Oliver Hart
You should learn to simultaneously give the band your all, while not taking yourself or it too seriously. Not putting the effort in to play properly or show up to practice or write means you won't have a functional band. But a functional band is meaningless if you don't enjoy or get something out of it.
If your band don't have the same goals as you, find new members, or quit.
If your band don't have the same work ethic as you, find new members, or quit.
If you don't enjoy your band or music, find new members, or quit. Don't waste time on something you don't want to do or enjoy. You could be doing more valuable stuff with your time.
When you're just starting out, don't sink too much / much at all money into printing merch. Nobody is going to want it until they know who you are.
Instead, spend that money on finding a decent engineer and getting some recordings up on bandcamp, stat. They'll help with shows, they'll help with getting you out there, and it looks professional. Building a fanbase purely on shows these days is pretty hard. Use the internet. It's your friend.
|9||Hail Mary Mallon|
On that note, don't be afraid to ask for shows / supports from bands you admire. Do, however, be prepared to back that up with a good show, lots of gratitude and humility, and/or work for it.
Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
Pay to play is a fucking scam. Everyone has their own opinions, but don't buy into it if you can help it.
If you're lucky, however, your city or town will have a few DIY venues / safe spaces, whether they be warehouses, art spaces, record stores or what. DO be courteous and respectful to the people who own and organise these places, and touring bands. Both put their necks out and fight through financial losses / legal red tape so you and your buddies can have a good time.
A Saucerful of Secrets
Be courteous to the sound guy (if applicable). His job is more tedious than you realise, and you want to be the easy ones to work with, not the fifth prima donna D-Beat band of the day.
|13||Steve Von Till|
A Grave Is a Grim Horse
Never play a set over 20 minutes unless you're the headliner.
The Inalienable Dreamless
Never play a set that contains material you aren't 100% ready to play.
Never show up to band practice expecting to practice your parts there. Band practice is for locking in as a band, and ironing out songwriting issues (if applicable).
|16||The Angelic Process|
Your OWN time is when you should be focusing on memorising / practicing / being able to play your individual parts. Don't let the rest of the band down and refuse to practice if you need it.
Wear EARPLUGS. Always. Especially if you're a vocalist. Aside from preventing hearing loss, they'll help filter out outside noise and let you hear your pitching better.
Boys Don't Cry
Confidence is 80% of a live show. Learn to roll with your mistakes and keep playing anyway. Stopping and starting a song every time you mess up at practice is a surefire way to look like a fuckwit when you mess up at a show (it will happen), look all panicked, and take eight bars to come back in.
Every time you or someone else in the band plays a part incorrectly, it'll take about five correct runs for the neural pathways in your brain to override the muscle memory. You haven't learned a song until your band can play it five times through without fucking up.
Presence. You don't have to be diving into the crowd at every opportunity, but learn to at least hold yourself well during a live performance. Different genres and subcultures will have different conventions to suit the music, but it's a general rule that again, you've got to be confident.
Il n'y a pas de orchestre
Guitarists/bassists: Playing low might look cool, but it'll give you carpal tunnel, and it's a much more awkward angle for your wrist to fret. Play high or die.
The Fame Monster
Vocalists: If you don't have a PA or a mic at prac, don't try to pull a JR Hayes and sing or scream over the band. I blew my voice out so many times as a teenager doing that in my high school deathcore band, and I'll never be able to ~sing as well as I could because of that.
Always carry spare sticks / picks / strings / leads. Something will fuck up.
If you're a vocalist, learn how to hold / sing into a mic properly. Some sound dudes are going to get really pissy if you cup the mic when it's gain levelled for singing.
|25||Stars of the Lid|
The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid
Respect the backline. If its communal (like any good hardcore show is), offer to bring one or two items unless you're travelling intercity and it's a space issue. Treat any equipment (especially the sound guy's mics and stands, and amps you've borrowed) like your own.
Make sure you have the backline organised AT LEAST one day before a show, by the by.
Spirit of Eden
If you're a vocalist, learn another instrument (preferably guitar or piano) and some basic theory. It'll allow you to communicate your ideas better, participate in the writing process, and see where your bandmates are coming from compositionally.
Swallow your ego. Not every part of a song needs you on it. Listen to where the song breathes and flows, and pull back if it needs it. Especially for vocalists: sometimes instrumental sections are more powerful if you're not blabbering over them.
Good onstage banter is a plus. Bad onstage banter will get you booted off future lineups for being a sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist bigot.
|30||Blood Has Been Shed|
If you see something untoward happening in the crowd, call it out. There is still a huge problem with women being objectified and/or sleazed on at shows, especially in underground music, where an especially disgusting breed of dudebro alternately fetishises and/or seeks to invalidate a woman based on what music she happens to enjoy. Plenty of women I know have stopped coming to shows – not because they're scared (although in some scenes this is still a DEFINITE problem), but because they can't be fucking bothered dealing with that sort of bullshit. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Don't forget to have fun. : )))