A few months ago, I posted the following comment on a friend's MySpace page:
Hey, when can my metal band get a nice, big write-up in one of the magazines you write for? We don't have a label yet, but we're working on it. We haven't played a show yet, but we have some offers. As a matter of fact, we don't have any songs just yet. Oh yeah, we don't have a name yet or any band members. We have a manager though! That said, how can this be cooked up in a couple of months? :-)
I wrote this after hearing about a few bands that formed more like the Backstreet Boys than a garage band. The comment was meant to be a joke, but ever since I wrote this, I've read about more bands that form this way. It's not an across-the-board epidemic, but I'm baffled by how bands form this way. Is this really a band at all?
Be it Panic! At the Disco, Cute is What We Aim For or Boys Like Girls, these bands come together and cut a record just a little after the conception period. It's like they form, cut a record and then start playing shows. Thanks to management ties or booking agents, these bands get on big bills and essentially piggy-back with the other bands. Now, not to sound like a certain green-colored fellow who lives in a trashcan on Sesame Street, but that's not the way I'd ever want to start a band at that age.
I do know of bands that cut a record before playing a show and they're spectacular. The deal is, Centro-matic and The Crash That Took Me are not made up of recent high school graduates hoping to get a nice timeslot on the Warped Tour. If anything, these bands started out way more casually. Becoming a full-fledged touring band with a record deal was not the main goal. It was something fun to do on the side. It was not a race to escape college life and become a rock star.
Some sage advice Ian MacKaye told me a few years ago rings very true in this case: "I don't think that people should make a record and then start playing shows. I think they should play shows and try to figure out if their songs are any fuckin' good before they make a record. Think about what the word 'record' means. It's if you record something, you save it for posterity. Are you making something to sell with someone or are they making something to document? And if you're making a document and you're just making a record before you haven't even played a show yet, then what kind of document is that?"
The reason why this stuff bugs me is that this is a misleading way to do a band. I'm not surprised when I read about how half-formed bands with half-formed songs really struggle in the studio hoping to cut some fully-formed, glossy record. But I just hope that teenagers see right through this nonsense and do it another way.