So you are in a band...now what?? You know that all you have to do is pick up a guitar, fill out a form at the music store, and in 6-8 short weeks, 'they' send you a shiny new tour bus, a Ferrari, a posse, and all the strippers you can shake a twenty at. You get to tour the world, playing only the biggest venues, eat the freshest lobster, and wake up next to supermodels. OK, let's all wake up and smell the shinola. Life doesn't really come with an instruction manual, and either does being in a band. That's where I can help. The purpose of this column will be to help you along in your musical quest, whatever that may be, and push you in directions that will (hopefully) get you a little closer to your dreams. I may ramble from time-to-time, and jump in with an old 'sit down here sonny and let me tell you how it used to be' story, but as sure as a blonde by the backstage door or a 9AM housekeeping knock, my words are from the heart.
OK, so you've rounded up a couple of people from school and decided to become the next Blink-182. You are at point A. Blink is at point C. How do we from point A to point C? Lots and lots of point B. Unless you are from Orlando and have phat dance moves and wear headset mikes, your destiny is undecided. The choices are yours (for now) as to what you want to be.
So how do you decide? Look at everybody's commitment level, age, and playing level. There are so many different ways to go about playing with other musicians, it's really all up to you. If you want to get a record deal and be famous, then do it. If you are all in high school and just want to jam weekends and at parties, then do just that. If you want to tour and play cover tunes, well, that's cool, too. You just need to decide on a direction, then focus. GM won't roll out a new car without a plan, so why should you fumble around trying to figure out what kind of band yours will be?
The direction of a band is important to its future for several reasons. We started out as a cover band, then wanted to become an original band. (Here comes a grandpa story). We were a great cover band, but only had 5 songs of our own. All of a sudden, we decided we weren't a cover band, and were mad at the fans for asking for "Brown-Eyed Girl" (again). The problem is that so many people had seen us play cover songs, and that is what they expected. We didn't make up our minds early enough to be our own bakery of creativity, and that our cookies could sell just as well as the next band. We fell back on the covers over and over until we had some decent tunes of our own, then slowly started taking covers off the set list and adding songs of our own.
Before I go on, let me say that there is NO shame in playing cover tunes. It helps a new band learn how to play together, and the cash is so much better than playing your own songs. Some bands are together for the sole purpose of playing weddings and birthday parties, play the shit out of "Brick House", and get paid a tidy sum for a few hours of work. If that's where you want to go, then go there. Nobody will fault you for getting paid, and if they do, they are jealous.
You have a goal, so what do we call the band? Who cares, really? If a band called Limp Bizkit or Nashville Pussy can get a record deal, it doesn't matter one bit what you are called. Really. You can call yourself "Assfaced Monkey Bombers", and nobody will bat an eyelash (except your mother). If it means that much to you, don't sweat it. It'll come to you. You'll be sitting in traffic yelling at some drunk who just swerved in front of you and called you a 'Tool', and it will be right in front of you. See how easy that is?
So now you have a cool name, and realize that you want to be a superstar playing your own tunes. So what kind of tunes are you going to do? Are you going to sound like everybody else in your genre? Are you going to finally make that polka-rap band happen? I hear bagpipes are getting pretty popular, as well, so throw those in, too. The point is that the musical world is yours for the taking as well. Music is such an amazing canvas for you to use. The Police took a slice of rock and some reggae bread and made one hell of a sandwich. The Beastie Boys reinvent their sound with every record. *NSYNC, well, nevermind.....Just play what makes you feel good, and use that brain of yours to find a sound that's all yours.
I realize that you just bought your guitar, and probably don't know how to play it, but that's OK, we'll get to the music part, too. For now, stand in front of the mirror with your new guitar and ask yourself how far you want to go. The first answer to come to mind will be the correct one. Now call your buddies over get to work. Don't worry, I'll be here to help.