Let’s Stay Together
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
You don’t have to squint too hard to see the ways that being in love is a lot like being in a band. Both take patience and dedication. Both require open channels of communication. And both have the potential to yield either beautiful music or dissonant clamor. With that in mind, we asked 23 bands to share their secrets for staying together. Take them to heart, and happiness is sure to follow.
Lenny Kaye, The Patti Smith Group
It's all about work-in-progress. If shared differences highlight a band's reason for becoming, they can also potentially cleave and separate. For us, a strong leader and sense of communal vision helps the decision-making process. Any group can encompass the widest range of style and personal taste listening to each other instead of oneself. Respect the music you make together as a family.
Alex Naidus, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
A short, half-to-three-quarters-serious list of staying together-related things: inside jokes, forward momentum, state-of-the-band-union talks (but not too often), crossword puzzles, headphones, touring-in-moderation, nostalgia, continental breakfast, Japan.
For us, at least on tour, we have a strict morning routine that we do daily before heading to the next town. It consists of a 6 a.m. wake-up call leading into a brisk morning stroll, where the four of us walk single file for two miles, followed by 30 minutes of individual meditation, into a 15-minute group meditation where the four of us sit in a circle with our eyes closed,... chanting, with our left hand placed on the person to our left's right shoulder, while our right hand holds the person on our right's genitals. The after a light breakfast of birdseeds and eucalyptus leaves, we all smoke da herb and pray to Jah for good travels. Then we head out to the next show. It's really the only way we keep from losing our shit.more »
How does a band like ours stay together? It's not always easy and as fun as it looks to play in a group. We need to find day jobs when we're not on tour in order to pay the rent, and we're always trying to keep costs down (or jam econo, as the Minutemen said). That aside, our intentions are good, and if we keep those in check, financial problems tend to... fade away. Traveling the world and playing our songs is an amazing privilege, and we try to remember that. We don't take ourselves too seriously and we laugh a lot. If we feel down, we watch Team America. Everything is worth it when we finally get to play.more »
The relationship between us is complex. It's like being family, friends and colleagues all at the same time. For a large part of the year, we live within seven inches of each other on a tour bus, so things can get heated. It is very important to know how to give yourself and those around you space. Our advice is to get out of that bus/van/studio and get some air. Go visit... a gallery or a zoo. It's all about respecting each other, and it's easy to forget that if you spend too much time together.more »
Al Spx, Cold Specks
Slow it all down. Sing a duet. Ride Bikes. Make ice cream. Make whoopie. Nobody's perfect so just start loving the imperfections and things might just start getting perfect!
Zak Stevens, Savatage and Circle II Circle
What's really been working for us over the past few years is having open and clear communication at all times about everything going on with the band. We don't assume the guys will hear news items from each other. We send announcements to everyone via e-mail. With six guys in the band, this is something that helps us avoid unnecessary frustration and it keeps everyone in the loop.
Mike V., The Everymen
Wanna stay together? Simple. Just adhere to the two simple rules The Everymen follow. 1. Don't practice — that's usually when bands break up. 2. Do whatever I say and never question my authority, or you're out of the fucking band.
Alyse Lamb, EULA
Staying together is not about love, honesty or respect — those are all givens. The true secret to staying together is tact — knowing when to soothe, knowing when to vex. Give a compliment when someone's feeling shitty, and keep your fucking mouth shut when someone misses a chord on stage.
Sinosa Loa, Fol Chen
When you've been with your band for a while, you have to make an effort to keep it fresh and exciting. So we like to mix it up a bit. For instance, sometimes we'll practice in public, like in a park or a movie theater. Sometimes we'll practice blindfolded, or with the curtains open. Our favorite is to surprise each other with a spontaneous 3 a.m. practice — whatever keeps the spark... alive!more »
Gretta, My Gold Mask
Jack and I are pretty intense people at times and have really strong personalities, but I've found that for us it's easy: good beer and a sense of humor. Throw in some dark chocolate, and I'm not going anywhere.
Max Henry, Suuns
There's something to be said for keeping "that old feeling" alive in the band. In my experience, it's really no different from an authentic interpersonal ("persons" — that's what you call those pink, fleshy things that aren't synthesizers, right?) relationship.more »
Like you would any "significant other," never forget to be amazed by your bandmates. I'm lucky to be playing with exceptionally talented and capable musicians. It's not a written rule, but when Joe's... solo melts my face off (which is often), I let him know.
Cultivate your sense of self — read a book, write a journal entry. Leave your poor bandmates alone for a second. On tour, don't hold each other's hands. Not every meal has to be a hang. Don't be that guy that talks all the time. If you're annoying yourself, you're probably annoying others too.
Don't let the band become your sole purpose. If the band is your only raison d'etre it will consume you. Like a new love, play it cool. The glass is already broken.
On a similar note, don't ask for anything from the band; focus on what satiates you as a creative person. Take a page out of Chekov's book (or Williams's or Kafka's or Eliot's or Stevens's): Get a job. Ideally, one that you like. It will afford you the flexibility to make what you want without compromise. With little exception, the only full-time rock musicians are professional children of rich moms and dads.
Look, I could be way off here. These are as much reminders to myself as anything else. Of course, don't be a ding-dong — help load in and out, show up on time (I'm great at that), etc. Love them, love yourself, love what you do, and you should be alright.
Nick Krill, Spinto Band
Be friends and family, and then be understanding and rational. We have been playing music together for 15 years now, with all original band members intact. Being friends or family can sometimes be a volatile mix in a band, but i think as long as everyone remains understanding of one another's points of view, and rational when it comes to decisions, being best friends and family before you are a band is... a good foundation to build on.more »
Kemble Walters, Aeges, Juliette & The Licks, The Rise
The best way for bands to stay together is to be honest and up front. As much as a band is fun and a way to shake off the day job it, in turn, is also a job that should be taken seriously if you wanna succeed. If there's a "problem-child" in the band who's not pulling their weight, let it be known and get it out in the open so they... can shape up or ship out before they become a dead anchor.more »
Wooden Indian Burial Ground
Drink lots of El Jimador. Tour in tiny station wagons. Play shows instead of practicing. Don't eat more than once a day on tour. Make sure that one thing you eat is a salad lifted from Whole Foods. Do jumping jacks, pushups or jump rope every time you stop at a rest area, even when drunk on El Jimador. Forget about having full time "jobs" or that stuff called "money" These things... only get in the way of fun and art.more »
I find sobbing uncontrollably while screaming, "DON'T YOU EVER LEAVE ME!" before and after practice is helpful. Also, little things, like warming up the neck of the bass guitar with my sweet, sweet breath and gently crying on the drum sticks, add a much-needed personal touch.
Vin, Caged Animals
Woo the band with your songwriting skills, sex and promises of eventual pop stardom. Book a West Coast tour. Hop in the sedan and romance them from Olympia to Los Angeles. Book a tour of Europe and romance them from Brussels to Berlin. Make a couple albums then ask them to marry you.
Form a basketball team within your band and find a court to play in every city/town you're touring. The way each member plays on the court will inform your chemistry and band dynamic.