Sunday, March 1, 2009

Musical Etiquette: Quitting The Band

Playing in a band is an exciting adventure at times. You can see the backs of a thousand shitty dives up and down the coast, learn more about the inner working of cargo vans than you ever thought possible and find out just how long you can go without a shower. You'll learn new meanings for the word "drama", find out just how much money can be sunk into studio time and equipment you don't need. There's playing music sometimes, and that's nice.

Being in a band is like having an intimate relationship with a whole group of people at the same time. There's passion and heartbreak, fights and passive-aggressive notes being left, smiles and laughing and sometimes things just fall apart completely. Breaking up with someone you're seeing is hard but breaking up with your band is harder, you have to split up with a whole bunch of people at the same time.

Bands fall apart for all kinds of reasons, these are just a few:

Clashing styles:
  • You're a tango accordion player in a mathy hardcore band.
  • The drummer is convinced that 7/3/16 is the only tempo for dance music.
  • You wanted to play in a punk band and you find yourself covering the Lord Of The Rings score on modified Gameboys.

Pure boredom:
  • It's 2009 and the lead guitarist thinks that Oasis covers are still your best material.
  • You've been practicing regularly for three years and you've almost finished your first song.
  • The set list you wrote up in high school is still taped to your pedalboard because it's never been updated. You're now 47 years old.

Personality Conflicts:
  • You're a conservative Christian in a Satanic black metal band.
  • No matter what you say about lyrics, you're always wrong.
  • You've been shot at, more than once, during arguments with the bass player.

Crazy Motherfuckers:
  • Your drummer recently changed his name to "Sir Pants" and has taken to carving his initials on people in the band with flatware.
  • Animal sacrifice has become a regular part of the practice routine in your pop act.
  • There are three dogs that have been added as "Band Managers" to your lineup. You've never seen these dogs before.
Drug use:
  • The needles littering the practice space are so thick you need armored boots to walk through it. So do the dogs.
  • Your band mates are injecting Drano into their veins. Drug use is one thing, but come on people. That's not even a drug.
  • Every piece of equipment you own has been freebased by the rest of the band.

As you can see, it's time to quit the band. There are good and bad ways to quit a band. You can force the issue and get kicked out! It's a bad way to get out of the situation but if you never want to speak to these people ever again it can be very effective. Now I don't recommend it, but punching everyone in the face will generally see you out the door of the practice space with a minimum of discussion. Other ways to get booted include stabbing a band member in the head, pawning all the gear, deleting the bands Myspace page, getting drunk and burning down the practice space or having sex with every single member's beau in a giant orgy.

Less extreme ways of quitting, but still bad include quitting by Myspace, Facebook, text message, phone or e-mail. Honestly, it's a dick move and it will leave a lot of bad feelings behind. It's far better to be face to face and be honest with the other folks in the group. I recommend inviting everyone to a dinner, a bar or your house to discuss the issues. Be calm and honest, tell everyone exactly why you need to go and please, don't cry. If you're unsure of your reasons or you're not completely convinced that you need to leave then you need to rethink why you're here in the first place. Don't use leaving the band as an attention getting mechanism or as the only way you can talk about tough issues that arise.

Yelling at your band mates won't help the situation at all. Give them your reasons for leaving and be very clear about what led you to this decision. If there is commonly owned equipment or financial issues to be resolved, leave that for a later time. It's a tough situation and it requires dealing with some very angry emotions but if you ever want to patch it up later or interact with these musicians on a social level on it's best not to leave them standing in a pile of shitty feelings and broken equipment.

Thanks for listening!
Eriq Nelson

Questions about Musical Etiquette? Send me your quandaries at


Ben Meyercord said...

So True.

I tried punching every member of my band in the face, but they just punched me back. It was just like Fight Club. We are so bonded now.

Amber Dawn said...

This is a great post. Thanks for sharing!

Adam Steinfink said...

hahaha. I quit!!

Eriq Nelson said...

I like to quit bands before the first practice. It's saved me a hell of a lot of time.