|"You have to go through a pile of bruised fruit to get to |
any good ones, if there's any unbruised at all."
Am I lucky or star-crossed when it comes to musicians? I've recorded with amazing musicians, from the unknown to the famous. I've had a number one record on college radio without touring or promotion. But the one thing I've never had was a real band where each member is every other member's fan. As a singer I've always wanted to know what it would feel like to have true believers eager for me to do my thing once they hit that first chord. But I've never been able to find that band. Yet I have musical accomplishments and experiences I'm proud of. So for anybody stuck without their dream band, here are a few things I've learned.
If you're a musician you know how difficult it is to get a band together and how much harder it is to keep a band together. Personal issues like jobs and relationships, family and otherwise, or the lack there of, can be fractures in the foundation that create big problems down the road.
I've been lucky to have some wonderful old school music biz mentors even though I've always avoided the music biz. Once when I complained to Nitebob about band drama his succinct reply in his great New York accent was: "Bruised fruit." You have to go through a pile of bruised fruit to get to any good ones, if there's any unbruised at all.
The first rule of my musician strategy is to keep my mouth shut and let potential musical partners reveal what they're really made of. They always do. Despite all the writing about and by me online, and all the music I have online, well over a hundred songs and videos, I have an advantage, because people still walk into my house and treat me like a dipshit.
Dare to be passive and quiet. That invites bullies and acting out, and you want to see that now before you waste too much time. Never try to force the band to work. Don't dangle rewards, or try to cure or otherwise heal your musicians, don't force them by dominating them, or stunning them with your virtuoso brilliance. Success won't make it better, it will make it worse. Chill out. The good ones will chill out with you, and rapport will be revealed.
Your band is not your family. Don't romanticize your band. You are neither a tribe of hunter gatherers nor a sports team. If your family experience was unsupportive or repressive you're all the more likely to try to have deep bromances with your musicians. I think that kind of thing worked when bands of boys traveled the world banging underage fans, doing all the drugs in town, and getting paid in cash by managers carrying guns, yes I'm talking to you Led Zeppelin. But these days? Are you a musician or a Civil War re-enactor? You can have all the joy of making music together without the dysfunctional enmeshment if you try. That way you can stay focused on the music, instead of getting tripped up in drama.
We live in the digital age. For some musicians band trouble leads to a complete retreat into one man band complex. While the mad scientist approach can be very productive playing with other musicians can open whole new worlds so don't give up on playing with other musicians. Make digital work for you. Record every rehearsal, every jam, somebody you play with only a few times or once may come up with a perfect riff or hook that you can sample. Be sure to credit them. Acknowledge that magical band moment the music granted you.
Despite all this, somewhere out there right now the miraculous chemistry of a great band is happening to people in different genres of music all over the world. Some might even survive long enough for us to hear them.
Tamra Spivey is an occasional contributor to the Bigfoot Diaries and a full time member of Lucid Nation, an L.A. based rock/punk band which has featured artists who have been a part of L7, Hole, Lucious Jackson, and Blondie.
From Rolling Stone Magazine: "If Spivey sounds spacey, she's not. Her songs range from aggressive, screaming punk to beautifully melodic rhythm and blues, the very definition of garage-rock. Like Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill -- Lucid Nation has opened for both -- her band's music is raw, poetic, sloppy and infectious, and Tacoma Ballet is simply a bare-bones, kick-ass rock and roll record."
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