Bandmates require time, attention, patience, forgiveness, stimulation, trust, and a general sense of commitment, same as a partner, and I believe that band relationships are just as important as any romantic relationship. They’ll become a part of your life, good or bad, and if you’re going to stay together all these things need to be addressed. That’s what this column is here for: to discuss why bands fight, why bands work or don’t work, why bands succeed, and why bands break up. In almost every way this is kind of a relationship column, to examine the fragile relationships that you have with your bandmates.
I have a running list of topics and issues that bands face that I choose to talk about each month, and it’s nice to take a few weeks to reflect on it and try to really formulate an opinion. Examine my own personal experiences, listen to other’s experiences, consider the opposite side and try to consider how each member involved felt and what they went through. I get to feel healthy and centered when doing this, but something that I tend to forget about is that feeling of being blindsided and having to process everything on the fly. I’m writing this in my room at 12:49 a.m. now that I’m home from band practice, during which we lost a band member. I walked into the studio tonight literally only ten minutes late and one of our guitarists was absent. There was a tense feeling in the room and everyone just kind of fell into a song without talking.
An hour later when we took a break they told me that our guitarist “Rachel” wasn’t in the band anymore. I literally chuckled and sipped my beer, totally brushing it off. Our guitarist “Neil” reiterated that she was gone and that was it. I didn’t even process it. Of course she’s not gone. I was ten minutes late, there is no way a decision like that could be reached in ten minutes. Neil hadn’t been happy with her for a while apparently, but she’s only been in the band for about a year so she’s still finding her voice. She herself has also been frustrated apparently because she doesn’t feel like she’s made much progress in finding her footing as well. Regardless, parting ways is a huge decision with five band members involved, and there’s no way we can objectively make huge decisions in one night, let alone ten minutes. Once the others started weighing in and I heard their sides and opinions it started to take shape and become real. Still, I wasn’t going to agree to this in one night, and I was confident in that.
The more we talked and started to put pieces together I could see that this was much bigger and longer than one evening, and I started to feel the cold sweat of considering the fact that she may no longer be a part of this band. When I think back, it’s true. She hadn’t been happy, both with our process and with her own clashing with that. She’s hard on herself, and I’ve seen that a lot. I understand, and I’ve always tried to downplay that struggle because I want to be the factor that reiterates that the positive outweighs the struggle and she’s totally worth it. This is her first time playing our genre of music, and we’re admittedly horrible at communicating what’s happening, let alone being effective teachers in any sense of the word. Neil knows exactly what he wants but has never been very good at communicating it, using body language and conflicted vibes in lieu of words. We know the genre really well because we all grew up with it, so we can pick up on what band’s influence he’s channeling and follow him from there. She’s brand new to this, so she’s treading water in an ocean of material without any of us being an effective life preserver. On the other hand, she does admittedly have a lot on her plate with work and outside projects, plus recently getting out of a big relationship doesn’t leave a lot of emotional room to struggle every week and essentially fall behind from the rest of us. We go on tour next month and I know she’s been stressing about that as well, so it very well could be too much too fast with horrible timing. By the end of the night I was starting to consider what I wasn’t at all willing to put on the table: what if she’s honestly just not the right fit at this point in everyone’s life?
Fuck, that’s hard to consider. She gels with us really well on a personal level, and her instincts musically being so different from ours was really inspiring and I felt like she was breathing new life into the band. The problem was that it wasn’t consistent, and every time she was flying blind without a parachute hoping that she’ll land on something cleanly that will benefit us as a whole. But the adrenaline and uncertainty didn’t leave her any room to retain any of what she was doing so she couldn’t find a groove to replicate it. If we had time, and we were better at communicating, we could commit to that time to address her struggles and help her through it. But we’ve been a band for ten years and we have a shorthand that’s hard to clearly draw out. Honestly if someone wants to join our family they’re going to need a lot of time and patience to push themselves to figure us all out. If she’s at a point in her life that she doesn’t have that to give, than maybe it’s time to part ways. I absolutely hate that feeling and it completely breaks my heart, but just because we’re open to finding another member to add to what we’re making doesn’t mean we can assign that role out of convenience. I want to assume that I’ve encountered enough shit to be able to apply scars to any situation, but honestly things like this transcend logic. It’s not something that you decide with your head. It’s not worth it to fight the current if the goal is to convince the ocean otherwise, and sometimes the first instinct is worth giving the lead to. At these times you don’t even have to follow the lead, you can just float and let the current make the right decisions. Damn it, that makes me so sad to to write it out and acknowledge it, but I guess it feels a little better to therapeutically write it out and make it real. I don’t know if there’s necessarily any advice in there, expect that sometimes the best option is the only option, and sometimes letting someone go is best for everyone, but fuck I’m really going to miss her. Guess I’m all grown up now.
Each month BAND DRAMA will either be reviewing a universal issue that all bands face, or I’ll be reviewing one of your band’s issues. I feel like it might be even easier now that Maximum will transition to being fully online, so the connection will be even quicker and easier. We ain’t dead yet, and we’ll get each other through this just like we do everything else. So if you’d like a fresh perspective, advice, or just to vent in general (anonymously or not) reach out to banddramamrr@gmail. com. I’ve been in a lot of bands for the past sixteen years, which means that I’ve been in a lot of bands that have ended or failed. I’d like to think that I’ve grown from each, learned from each, and taken the time to reflect on each failure or success. I’m also still learning and experiencing and I always will be. So I want to share what I’ve learned, as well as learn from all y’all punks in bands too.