Rok Doc – Tips for staying sane in a band

Chris Cheney (vocals, guitar) of The Living End

Dealing with homesickness on the road

Travelling is a double-edged sword. It’s the best and worst part of being in a band. Living out of a suitcase and being away from home for months on end is something I have to mentally prepare for.
Keeping in touch is easy these days thanks to cell phones, iChat, video conferencing and, of course, e-mail, but the way I deal with homesickness is to just focus on the job at hand and remember to have fun at the same time. A music career can last a year, or more if you’re lucky, so you’ve gotta give it all you can. If you’re the kind of person that needs friends and family within close proximity, then this probably isn’t the job for you. Simple pleasures like hitting the pub for a cold beer with your mates or going to mum’s for a roast aren’t doable when you’re halway to San Antonio. But, really, how many people get to do what I do? Not that money. And lets face it. San Antonio is a pretty nice place for a cold beer.

Omar Zehery (guitar) of Hit The Lights

Maintaining friendship at home while on the road

 

One of the main reasons we started our band was to get out of the middle of the Ohio cornfield where we lived. You can only hang at the parking lot outside T.J.’s Pizza so many times before you wonder what’s going on outside country limits. If you’re lucky enough to go on tour, it can be a shock to your friends’ systems – and you’ve got to remember that your real friends are the ones back in that parking lot. Make sure you’re the same person you were before you left home. Your real friends won’t give a shit about what you’ve been doing, eating or seeing in L.A. if you come back thinking you’re the bee’s knees. And always stay in touch with the kids who know you the best because what goes up (like hype and popularity) must eventually come down. You never know when your bassist is going to want to go back to school or when when your drummer is going to knock up Charlene. And those things put your ass back in the factory faster than you can say, “third shift”.

William Murderface (bass) of Dethklok from Metalocalypse
Why you need to play metal (or die)

Why play metal? “Look around. Even your salad is dead. For you. You might as well stick your fork from the salad in your waiter’s neck and let it bleed everywhere. Would that really change anything in this world? To me, that’s metal.”
Where should kids learn about metal? “Do they still have the Internet?”
What about kids in pop-punk bands?
“If the music is really nasty and can really hurt something, I’ll give them a giggle. I guess it’s all for the kids, right? They’re the future, right? Gross.”
How do you settle band conflicts?
“Hard fists. If you’re in a sissy, fancy band, you might wanna just have body punches.”
So practice and bulk up?
“Or get more sinister. Learn about poisons and ruining credit; passive-aggressive behaviour. In my band, I just give in. They’ll just mix the bass out because frankly, I’m just not a good musician. If you’re not a good musician. If you’re not a physically intimidating person, give the main songwriter diarrhea. You might win the argument.”

Chris Sorenson (bass) of Saosin
Catching your favourite TV shows on the road

Being on tour can be amazing, but it hinders something you might take for granted – watching your favourite TV shows. Our band have figured out the best ways to catch every episode of our favourite show – Lost. Typically, we go straight to iTunes to download episodes after they air and transfer them to Apple TV (www.apple.com/appletv) so we can watch them on our television. Some days, we resort to the iRecord System (www.irecord.com) which records live audio/video feeds directly onto an iPod. However, we have internet access on our bus, so we don’t face the disadvantages that Lost (or The Office or Survivor) fans touring in vans might face. Unless you have a reliable friend at home record new episodes onto VHS tapes or DVD-R discs and send them to you before the next episode airs, you’ll be forced to be more creative. Sometimes you’ll have cable backstage, but that’s a crapshoot. You might have to approach your TV show the same way you approach getting a bed for the night – by asking the audience if anyone has TiVo and an open couch.

Phil Sgrosso (guitar) of As I Lay Dying
Not to take station rejections too personally

If a radio station rejects your band, just keep in mind that radio isn’t the only way to get your band’s name out there. I’m sure back in the ‘50s, if your song was played on the radio, that meant you were gonna be huge (like in the movie That Thing You Do), and if it wasn’t, you couldn’t get anywhere. But now that there are MySpace, PureVolume and iTunes, your music can always be just a click away. There are many reasons why radio won’t play your song, and most of them have nothing to do with how good your band is. It’s an industry, after all, and there are bottom lines to take care of. So if you keep hearing “no”, keep trying and continue using everything else – like the Internet. If radio is your absolute goal, make sure the songs you submit have something catchy or memorable – tracks like that have a higher chance of making it since listeners have something to latch onto. More than anything, your CD quality definitely can’t suck.

Dave Yoha (guitar) of Set Your Goals
Maintaining a semblance of hygiene on the road

Touring is dirty. You live in a manner of disrepair you would never consider acceptable at home. Get yourself a toiletries bag and stock it with every travel-sized product you can find. Always have the following: deodorant, wet-naps (in a pinch, these can perform nominal cleansing of any trouble spot) and talcum powder. Shower as often as possible – you may not know when the next one is coming and those jerks in your band will snake your spot in the shower line. Often showers aren’t an option, though. Change your socks and underwear every day (other clothes can go dirty for longer but these shouldn’t be allowed to simmer). The “wear and toss” technique is a slightly more expensive but liberating option. Just buy a new pack of socks or underwear once a week. Once a pair has been worn, throw them out and move along. If you sweat a lot on stage, consider having a stage “uniform” that you can change out of every night to spare your normal clothes. Follow these rules and you’ll punish the crowd with your annihilating riffs – not your annihilating stench.

David Mawane (vocals) of Big D And The Kids Table
When one member gets all the attention

Not long ago, Big D were just a rag-tag group of whelps, united by a hunger to make music run fluidly though our bodies. As of late, however, it seems people have been asking solely for me, be it for autographs, photos or interviews. I have found many subtle ways to instill in our fans my belief that every member of Big D deserves a smile, nice words and a gandshake. I started by making sure to mention everyone’s name at least once each night onstage – this way my bandmates can hear the crowd cheer especially for them. During interviews, I began ask band members what they think or tell interviewers that other members are experts on certain subjects. With fan photos, I’ve begun grabbing bandmates’ shoulders and pulling them into the photos. All of these are great ways to show your band and fans the importance of everyone. Oh, and a one-on-one compliment and a “thank you” over a nice, could beer never hurts, either.

Stacy Dupree (vocals/keyboards) of Eisley
Celebrating holidays on tour

My band (who also happen to be my family) are big holiday people. We never skip being home for Christmas – that’s a huge no-no. But we’ve been on tour during birthdays and less-important holidays and we always make sure that it’s a special day for each person – even if it means buying tons of cheap crap from a gas station or an inordinate amount of Starbucks for the day. A lot of the time (for holidays and just for no reason), my mom sends huge packages of candy and cookies to whatever venue we’re about to play, and it always makes the other bands on the bill jealous. But we share (for the most part)! It’s really important to stay connected and keep up with your life back home when you’re on the road – especially with holidays. We always call home to make sure everyone is being taken care of and having fun and to hear all the juicy gossip we’d otherwise miss out on. We even make sure we talk to our dog, Cleo (she’s usually the one who lets most of the gossip slip, anyway).

Shannon Burns (bass/vocals) of The Forecast
Holding your own as a female on the road

Boys, boys, boys. On any given tour, 15 to 30 guys surround me every day. Sometimes I think of it as being in high school and I was somehow mistakenly placed in the boys’ gym class. You might think, “How can I succeed in a class in which everyone can run faster, jump higher and lift more than I can?” The answer? I’m still trying to figure that out. What I do know, ladies, is that if you think you’re not as good as the boys are, then shut up and start practicing. Be yourself. If you feel like wearing a pretty dress, do it. If you wake up at 6 a.m. in a hotel room full of smelly dudes and you don’t really feel like doing your hair and makeup, don’t. You’re on tour! This isn’t America’s Next Top Model. This is about believing in something that you’re willing to give up everything at home for. At the end of the day, just be ready to shotgun a beer. Otherwise, guess who they’re gonna call a “girl”?

Matt Watts (guitar) of The Starting Line
Keeping the business up front and the parties in back

No matter how dedicated you are to your music and the peripheral party that surrounds playing in a band, eventually your band have to focus on the business side of things. Running a band can be overwhelming at times. That’s why the best way to keep everything in small doses is to have different people in the band take on different roles. For instance, have one person handle the booking, have another handle the merch and have another take care of all the MySpace and Internet stuff. This will give you each a hand in your success, but not to the point that one member feels like a manager. Just make sure that everyone in the band is well aware of everything going on with your particular area of responsibility. Communication is a must on all levels when you’re in a band. And if you’re going to be in a successful band, every member must constantly be working toward the same goal. This takes time to fully achieve – sometimes years – along with patience and a true love and dedication for it. But if you do it right, plan on leaving home for a long time, eating shitty food and having the time of your life.

Corey Warning (vocals) of The Graduate
Overcoming writer’s block

While writing our first album Anhedonia, we had around a dozen songs before pre-production and I was falling behind on lyrics with a case of writer’s block. One of the first things I do when I’m stuck is take a step back and look at what’s already in front of me. If I could toss something out without much regret, I usually get rid of it. If that doesn’t work, chance the subject. Before we wrapped up the album, I had about five versions of “The City That Reads” piled up with separate lyrics, all about different things. Don’t forece yourself to write about something if you’re just not feeling it. Changing up vocal melodies can spark new ideas, too. If you normally write lyrics before music, try switching it up. If you’re still stuck, take a break. Chances are, you’ve been spending too much time at the drawing board and need recharched. Go see a movie, sit in a park, read a book or listen to one of your favourite albums – get yourself inspired and motivated again. Finally, one of the best things you can do while writing is to letgo of inhibitions. Don’t hold back – sometimes all it takes is a little spark to lead to a major breakthrough.

Danny Stevens (Vocals) of The Audition
How to get rest on the road

 

“Getting sleep on the road is important, especially if you’re a singer. (Trying to hit notes after zero rest is a no-go.) If you’re like most bands, you’ll be touring in a van and need to get your etiquette down. In our van (an 11-seater), everyone as a set place they like to sleep. Bring your own pillow, but earplugs or an iPod are necessities to drown drunken snores and late-night band feuds. It’s pretty much impossible to get comfortable in a van, so just find your own zone. When you do get to crash somewhere where you can actually sleep horizontally, make the most of it. Try to avoid staying up all night raging. Just remember, it’s all part of the rite of passage.”

SOURCE: Alternative Press magazine

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