Six People to Avoid When Starting a Band
All illustrations by Dave Watt
As anyone who's been through a few bands can tell you, meeting a self-proclaimed "musician" should instill about as much enthusiasm in you as meeting someone who is going to college for a career in law enforcement. You're either about to talk to a caring, compassionate, intelligent person or a psychotic, self-serving demon. By the analogy, you can probably guess which is more common.
Despite the intense joy we all take in watching a singer refuse to take the stage until the drummer changes his silk Western-style shirt, there comes a time we must rise up and take a stand. So furrow your brow and focus as we save your sanity by providing six people to avoid when forming a band.
6. Attractive Tattoo Asshole We all know this person -- the charismatic, almost accidentally fashionable and uncompromising artist who poetically suffers by refusing to adapt to society. And has a shitload of tattoos, for some reason.
Truth be told, Attractive Tattoo Asshole is a great social companion. His or her flashy appearance and gregarious nature makes for a constant spectacle. If you've ever wanted to get into a hundred conversations with a hundred people you'll never want to see again, Attractive Tattoo Asshole is your greatest ally.
Unfortunately, the narcissism this person cultivates to protect their fragile egos usually leads to some sort of nuclear friendship fallout as you learn he or she is the kind of person who will ditch you at the bar to go have sex with one of your friends. In your bed. Eventually, you'll start to wonder how such a struggling artist managed to get thousands of dollars of ink all over his or her body. That's when you notice you're missing some of your guitar pedals.
5. Americana Reject I could write a long and articulate passage on the problem with the Americana Reject, but I'm just going to stick to the initial notes I penned when writing up the first draft of this article:
"Boring coffee-drinking ass, hang out in your artisan cocktail bar. Can't even play the accordion. Fedoras suck."
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4. Too Punk Everyone loves to have a good time. Unfortunately, those who suffer from being Too Punk have a tendency to do it by getting hammered and breaking things without worrying about any consequences. Which, I'll admit, is awesome, but good luck getting booked anywhere.
Unless you're cool with your band only lasting about a year -- which, come to think of it, is about how long we estimate most bands should last anyway -- avoid the one-man mosh pit and his fingerless gloves of terror.
3. Art School Know-It-All You know who has an opinion on absolutely everything related to music? It's the person who spent $40,000 on a degree as useful as majoring in music journalism.
The Art School Know-It-All either has too much money to create substantive and meaningful art, or boldly puts it all on the line, delusional enough to believe there's some sort of lucrative career waiting. Regardless of which one it is, you're guaranteed hours of conversation on why your favorite band sucks because of the sound of the kick-drum on one of their albums.
In the interest of fairness, not everyone who goes to one of these schools fits this archetype. The major exception to the rule is the willfully bankrupt freak who never intended to pay his or her student loans back anyway -- just don't expect them any practice-space rent.
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2. Happy Hipster Everything's always okay with the Happy Hipster. Armed with a supportive family and wide circle of well-wishing friends, he or she is perpetually upbeat and encouraging. And it sucks the life out of you. There's something about this person's lack of misery that diffuses into the rest of the band, like some sort of psychic vampire that thrives as it excretes negativity all over you.
If you don't go insane as he or she supports every single bad idea proposed by your other bandmates, you'll have to contend with a dire inability to pick up on social cues. Have you ever been really pissed off and then suddenly a song like "Barbie Girl" by Aqua comes on and causes you to punch out your windshield?
Maybe not. But understand that having the Happy Hipster in your band puts you eternally an inch away from that exact sort of accidental antagonism.
1. The Truly Talented While this person may not be the only technically skilled member of the band, he or she does possess some sort of supernatural powers, as he or she is tapped into music on a different level from the rest of us. And it's obvious to everyone.
Typically humble, driven and naturally gifted, his or her blessings will be this person's undoing as he or she attracts more attention and in turn, more opportunities. Susceptible to getting spread too thin, he or she walks the tightrope of juggling too many projects at once. Success only means running the risk of becoming wildly successful egomaniacs, playfully bouncing around and doing whatever this person wants.
And if this person takes on more than he or she can handle and buckles under the pressure, you're likely never to see him or her again unless you drive out to whatever suburban void he or she has plummeted down into. Unfortunately, oftentimes the Truly Talented musician is mandatory for making a good band -- so if you find yourself in a band with one of them, do your part to protect him or her from themselves.
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