Monday, April 27, 2009

Musical Etiquette: No, You Can't Join the Band.

Dear Musical Etiquette:
So, we've been looking for a new drummer for a while. We posted on Craigslist that we were looking and I'm starting to think it might have been a mistake. Every no talent assclown has shown up at our practice space looking to "get their break". This one dude in particular keeps responding with new email addresses and showing up with his half ass Wal-mart drum kit and refusing to leave. I can't take it anymore. What am I supposed to do about this?


I often caution about being a dick. In general it's a bad practice. It can leave you with a bad reputation and generally screw your life up before you even notice. This particular specimen, however, deserves being yelled at. If you've told him no repeatedly and he continues to show up, he's not being persistent, he's being a douche. The fact is, he's wasting your time and keeping you guys from being able to get back to what you're supposed to be doing. Which is playing music. Not dealing with douches.

Be Clear
Now I don't know the particulars of what you said to your terrible tryout but if there's one thing I know it's that clear communication can resolve a great number of problems before they even mature. If you're trying out a new drummer and he can't play what you need him to, tell him clearly. Let's look at some examples.

  • "You're just not what we're looking for." This is weak language. There's no reason to spare people's feelings. If they can't cut it, they can't cut it. Be direct, be honest and try not to be mean.
  • "Look, honestly man. Your bongo skills are very little use to our speed metal band." Better! Direct! Remember to be specific about the reasoning behind your decisions.
  • "I just don't think you'll work out." No. That's too vague. Be SPECIFIC.
  • "You've been playing drums for two weeks. I don't think you can keep up with us guy." Good, good. It's harsh but honest.
  • "Uhhhh, you haven't been able to keep any beat all night. I think we're gonna pass." Perfect.

So you can see it's a good idea to be forthright with these people. If a drummer can't keep a rhythm, what are they doing there? Which leads me to my next point.

Record Everything
In almost every situation it's a good idea to record every practice. Those random plastered moments playing reggae covers of TV on the Radio songs might lead to some serious inspiration. You never know....
This is especially true when you're trying out new folks in the band as you can listen to the session afterwords and make a well informed decision. In the case of someone who really doesn't fit the sound at all or just can't hack what you're trying to play you can play it back for them and give them examples of what you're talking about.

Now, there's a real difference between someone who doesn't fit the style and someone who just plain sucks. It's about substance and style.

  • A guitarist shows up with his nylon guitar to your thrash lead tryouts
  • Mr. 1980's synth player wants to be in your retro-folk trio
  • Bongo Bob wants in on your electro-pop project.
  • The Prog-Metal Prodigy thinks he can play country.

  • The Noodler, a guitarist who can't resist soloing at inappropriate times.
  • This bass player who doesn't own a bass.... ?
  • A singer with really flat pipes. Flat like Florida. Flat like a table
  • Bad rappers. Just really awful rappers. Oh gods, people can suck so bad at rap and not know it.

Differences always arise and the decision is yours to make. It's your band and if you don't want to play with someone it's your prerogative. I think as long as you're clear with people than you can't really be faulted for saying no. Some people just don't get though.

Leave Now Guy
I always see these parallels between dating and bands. This holds true when you're rejecting people. Some of them have been around for a while and take it all in stride. Some people will cry and whine and be extremely pathetic. Some people just get obsessed and keep signing up for new Hotmail addresses like some kind of V1A6ra spammer and won't leave you the fuck alone. Show up at your house without calling. Leave dead things on your doorstep. Don't let this turn into a news story. Nip it in the bud.

If they just don't get it you can always;

  • File a restraining order: It might not be the rock and roll thing to do, but if it works for crazy ass exes, it'll work for these people.
  • Yell: If it worked for your alcoholic stepfather, it'll work for you.
  • Threaten them with some large blunt object: I always find that people respond well to the threat of immediate bodily harm. Sometimes the threat is all that's needed.
  • Break an instrument over their heads: Of course, if they call your bluff; be prepared to cash that check you just wrote. A little time in lockup might stain your criminal history, but hey, one problem at a time.
  • Hire Ninjas: You'd be surprised how many problems can be solved with the judicious application of these stealthy warriors.
  • Hire Vikings: Not as subtle as the ninjas but just as effective. You may want to keep some gold on hand to pay them, though rare furs will do in a pinch.
  • Punch Them In The Dick: Enough said.

Violence and yelling aren't often the solution to your problems, but in this instance I'd say a little measured aggression won't serve you wrong. Honestly, without using peoples genitals as punching bags or hiring ancient assassins to get the job done, being direct and honest with people will get the message across and hopefully spare you a recurring douche bag problem. If all else fails you, there's always a legal option. Or if you're me, you'll summon Demon Ninjas from Beyond to harass them at all times.

Legal Notice: Crappy Indie Music absolves itself of all responsibility for the use of this article up to and including the accidental punching of dicks, demonic possessions or hurt feelings.

Till next time!
Eriq Nelson

Musical quandaries? Awkward situations? Keep sending me those problems folks!

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