Thursday, July 26, 2007

Like You Were Never There

There's no shortage of columns, books, podcasts, movies, or songs about breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. Yet the kinds of break-ups I've experienced more than any other -- aside from drifting apart from close friends -- is being kicked out of a band.

I've often heard being in a band is like being married to two, three or four people. I agree. Most people can only handle being with one person; so trying to juggle more than one is rather difficult. It can be difficult to start/join a band playing the kind of music you like with people you like. But when you find the right vibe and the vibe lasts, it's pretty cool.

I've enjoyed every band I've played in, but it's been difficult to get over the two times I was laid off/dumped/fired/replaced. Two seems like such a small number, but there were more than two emotions I went through in the partings of ways. Here's a summary:

Band #1: A five-piece in a nearby town had a demo I heard through a friend at the campus radio station. I really liked what I heard: rather dark, Samiam/Pop Unknown style of emo-ish post-hardcore. Turns out, they needed a drummer. I contacted them and set up an audition. I passed my audition, got along great with everybody and became pretty close friends with the lead guitarist.

Length of stay: Only a couple of months.

Number of shows played: Other than playing one song at the Ridglea Theater to an audience of three people (soundman included), none.

Story behind being let go: Mere days after I received a phone call from the lead guitarist saying I was now the permanent drummer, I get a call from the singer. I never received a phone call from the singer before and I got a little nervous. Turns out, they wanted to go on tour for a couple of weeks that summer -- the same summer I was going to live in Austin while I did an internship. Even though I was returning to town the following fall semester, they wanted to move on without me. I felt weird about it, but I really wanted to do this internship in Austin.

Aftermath: Because I liked the music and the band as a whole, I invited them for a interview on my radio show later that fall. The interview went alright despite some awkward moments. It would be the last time I spoke to them for quite a while. If memory serves me correctly, I made a few attempts to stay friends with the lead guitarist. Numerous phone messages were left, but he never called back.


Band #2: College friends of mine had a rotating drummer position and I offered to fill-in with them until they could find a permanent drummer. I liked the music and the people and I had the time to help out, so it was a perfect fit.

Length of stay: One year. Much longer than normal fill-in situations.

Number of shows played: At least a dozen. Also did two radio appearances and sat in on an interview for a local paper.

Story behind being let go: These guys wanted to "make it" in the music business. They wanted to go on tour and play music that actually said something intelligent. I do not fault them for this. They knew that I couldn't drop everything and go on tour if they got an offer from a label or a booking agent. No offers were coming in, but they hoped it could happen soon.

Due to scheduling conflicts with my work, they opted to record an EP with another drummer. Before they recorded this, I was told to my face that I was loved by them and I was their drummer. Only a few weeks later, I was having a hard time getting ahold of the guitarist, my main contact with the band and also one of my best friends. This was odd because he was always very swift in returning my phonecalls.

Receiving a call from the singer -- like Band #1, the one member I rarely talked to outside of the band -- he told me the band decided it was a good time to find a new drummer.

Aftermath: I was actually pretty relieved. I wanted to start playing with some new people, but didn't want to leave my friends hanging. But the sour grapes came in when my attempts to maintain a friendly relationship with the guitarist resulted in numerous unanswered phone messages. Things didn't help when I heard the EP they recorded: the drum parts I wrote were completely reworked. It was almost like I was never in the band.


The experiences I have with being kicked out still haunt me. I never want to let the team down, so I have a hard time telling bandmates whenever I have a scheduling conflict with a gig or recording date. I worked hard for where I'm at job-wise. I've never considered taking shit jobs in hopes I could quit them and do music full-time. I love playing music, but when playing with a band is greatly overshadowed by the business of the band, it becomes an unhealthy environment.

This said, these experiences help me have a better perspective with the bands I'm in now. I choose to speak up and convey my feelings about stuff, but it can be a little difficult at times. I don't really want to go through similar situations with future bands, but if it happens, it happens. That's a part of the growing process.

1 comment:

steve said...

well, you obviously had the last laugh. Number 2 continues to talk a big game, but you might try giving that guitarist a call again.