What does it take to make a band work?
Posted on April 14, 2008
On so many occasions I’ve talked with friends about the trials and tribulations of being in a band. Why does it at times seem so hard for a group to stay together?
The idea of being in a band is fascinating to me. From an outsiders perspective it seems as though a band is like a relationship, a love affair, or a marriage...but with more then one person! If that’s the case things are starting to make much more sense being that something like 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce now a days!?
So what’s the magical ingredient? What makes a band successful? What makes a band stay together? I hear countless stories about bands getting together to "jam". (I guess using the word "jam" sounds a lot cooler then simply calling it band practice...especially since the term band practice makes me think of when I used to play flute in high school symphonic band. Nerdy right)? I often wonder what goes on in these "jam sessions"? To me "jamming" sounds like you’re not going to practice at all. It’s basically a get together, a time to show off your pretty instruments, go with the flow, see what happens, allow the creative juices to pour, see if you can channel the Music Gods through your body! (That last one was a bit overboard). Mostly what I hear about is by the time everyone had a beer and got everything plugged in for ready set go it was time for home?
My mind gets transported back to when I was young after hearing about stuff like this disappointing jam/play date session. This sounds a lot like when I was a little girl playing Barbie’s with friends (bear with me here). All I ever remember doing was dressing them up, undressing them and then dressing them back up again!? Then I would hear my mom calling for dinner and play time was over. During this play time...I could rarely find a friend able to come up with a more extravagant storyline other than the classic Ken and Barbie are on a date...and then they make out scenario. (Probably should have kept that little tidbit to myself but please...if you’re a girl I know you did that with your Barbie’s and if you didn’t you were probably one of those girls who played with their mini tea sets till they were like 16....Weirdo)! Moving on, what I’m trying to say/ask is ...Are these "Jam sessions" just young adults/grown men and women playing dress up? Is this just an opportunity for make-belief? Ya know play a couple of cover songs while wearing your sunglasses at night, jump off an amp, throw in a rocker high kick and call it a night. If this description is freakishly familiar to your sort of jam night....well...actually...that sounds like fun! But if you’re a band trying to make it and not just make out with Barbie and Ken...this type of jam is gonna get old real quick! I think if this sounds like your regular session and you’re dissatisfied...then it’s pretty clear that you haven’t yet found the right creative team. You need to keep looking for that friend who will make "playing Barbie’s" seem like you’re creating a new and fantastic world with a story line so thick you can always keep repeating it. If you can find a group of people that you can not only play/work with but can also create with then obviously you’re onto something. (At least here you’ll have room to grow once those Corey Hart acid washed jeans don’t fit you anymore).
I think like successful relationships a band has to be able to communicate, respect each other and laugh together (who do I think I am Dr. Phil. or somethin’...yikes)! Most importantly, what band mates need to do in order to stick together in the long run is (yes as cheesy as it sounds) love each other. Plus the sex has to be amazing! Just Joshin’ (well at least in regards to the band sex). In all seriousness I think there has to be a chemistry that lives between band mates and that cannot be fabricated or forced. Chemistry is there or it isn’t and audiences can sense that...they feed off of it.
After many a discussion about the do’s and don’t’s in band etiquette and the differing attitudes between keeping it or calling it quits...I’ve come to a few conclusions (aside from the other things already mentioned).
1. Never Steal your bassist’s pizza...bass players really like pizza and that’s a mean thing to do. Why would you do that?
2. Make sure your drummer can keep a steady beat and steer your band to higher ground. If he/she can’t...make sure your lead singer can showboat around him/her as to distract the audience from the debacle about to take place.
3. Remember that 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce and your guitarist will want a solo in 1 out of every 3 songs your band plays or he/she will quit then take you for all you’ve got including the summer house in The Hamptons!
4. You shouldn’t settle into a marriage so you shouldn’t settle into a band. Instead settle only for the best!
5.a) If you were in a band and it broke up the first time...chances are that a second time around it’s still not gonna work out! Never go backwards in life!
b) That being said I’m a sucker for second chances. If you do decide to have a go at it again keep that old saying in mind...the one that goes not so lightly like, "do me badly once shame on you...do me badly twice shame on me". Sad but true. (I’d like to thank, Sex and the City for that roughly-regurgitated quote...it’s one of my fav’s).
So what’s the magical ingredient? I’d love to hear what you have to say so I can tell all my friends and make them into rich rock stars...If not rich just happily together. What makes a band work? I don’t know? You tell me? Why is the sky blue? There is a reason...it’s just complicated.
P.S. Imagine if U2's secret for longevity was band sex!?
P.P.S. Anyone wanna have a tea party/jam session tonight? I have a Glockenspiel!!!
This is super old!!! U2's take on survival and such.
- shawna coulthard