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Talkingship – Video Games, Movies, Music & Laughs | April 25, 2019

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Muses of a Musician: #1 Establishing a Vision

My band, Critical Havoc, playing at a dance party

So you’ve chosen to chase your lifelong goal by starting your very own band, eh? I commend you, I really do. Being in a band myself, I usually try my best to pass on what knowledge I have of the music scene to friends that want to rock out on stage. So here it is: the first of my advice series, “Muses of a Musician”.

Deciding what you want for your band is tough, and for good reasons. Before you even begin to do anything else for your future music group, I would recommend some heavy brainstorming. Skipping this process will only frustrate you and your members down the road. When it comes to vision, there are two essential aspects: genre and direction.

Genre
I’ve seen too many bands crumble because each member wanted to take the vessel in a different direction. Discussion for improvement as well as contrasting ideas are great for variety and progression, but if your members don’t share your vision (or at the very least, something pretty similar), everything you do will just become more difficult and abrasive.

This being said, before you even begin to search for your fellow members, establish a vision for your band. First and foremost, decide what you want to play. Something acoustic and soft? Something frantic with an upbeat vibe?

This has probably been determined by you, taunting you with day-dreams of playing on the big stage. Yeah, I’ve been there. However, you would be surprised to see how many people start a band knowing nothing past wanting to play music. Make sure you’re positive on what kind it will be. There’s a huge difference between punk and metal, as there is between rap and hip-hop, indie and folk, blues and bluegrass.

A good thing to note is the popularity of the genre in your area. If your county is flooded with dozens and dozens of punk bands, maybe starting another replaceable band of the same genre isn’t the smartest idea. For me, I knew I wanted to start a ska band and nothing else, the decision being made without me knowing that there were virtually no other prominent ska bands within my area. After my band played a few small shows, we started to blow up (well, blow up as much as a very small, young, and local band could). People were coming up to us and gushing, explaining how much they enjoyed the show, telling us their favorite part in our set, asking when our next gig was, and offering us new shows.

I feel like a good amount of our popularity is due to our genre: we’re something new. Hearing the same bands play similar sets at all the shows you go to can get really tedious, and being a more unique band did that for us. When it’s really broken down, we played alongside bands that only played hardcore, punk, and metal. Sure, we really felt out of place sometimes, but that’s what drew some people in. It was unexpected, and people liked what they heard. People were skanking with goofy grins across their faces when they were expecting to throw down and mosh.

This method isn’t always successful. Two summers ago, we had a New York band play for us that described themselves as ‘hardcore NY jazz’. I personally thought it was interesting, but most people in the room had blank stares or disgusted facial expressions. Being a unique band isn’t the key to success and popularity. It can help or it can hurt, remember that! More importantly it can only do so much for you. You’ve got to have some talent to back up your band’s touted genre tag. Nobody wants to watch a bad acoustic gypsy hip-hop band, they want to see a good one. Not only that, but even the good ones won’t appeal to 100% of the public.

Another shot of Critial Havoc in action.

Direction
Think about what you want to accomplish together and especially about what you’re playing for. Do you want to be a casual type of band that practices a couple times before birthday/barbeque gigs and then take a break until you’re offered another? Or the type of band that starts their own shows, puts up flyers, and sends applications to bigger venues? Know how you want your band to act like it’s the back of your hand. It’ll save you time and prevent major stress down the road.

When doing this, consider the amount of time you have to spare, as well as the amount of effort you’re willing to invest. Having a strong, efficient, and focused band requires a surprisingly large amount of time.

When your vision is instituted, make it well known to every potential member. It will save you lots of time in the long run, trust me. We’ve shuffled through a lot of band members who were just too passive about the group. People expect different things out of the same band, and unfortunately that’s not the way things can work. If you want a serious band, make sure you have serious members. Get everyone on the same page so you don’t have to scramble looking for replacements. More on finding members of a band later on!

Remember: A wise man should never go searching while he’s still blind.

Good luck, my friends!

If you’d like to get any personal advice, please feel free to email me at jarrett@talkingship.com