Do you ever wonder how a band behaves when not on a stage? A lot of you probably wouldn’t even notice them in the street without their normal buckets of eye shadow plastered on their faces. Maybe the sight of someone pushing a flight case covered in ACDC stickers into the rear of a taxi cab would make some of you more eagle-eyed observers believe that you’d spotted a member of a rock band? Chances are that you have a social life and don’t actually invest time in thinking about what a band does the day before a big music festival or a debut gig? For me it’s a full time job to look after musicians before they do anything spectacular or even embarrassing in public.
Working every week for a company that provides a Rehearsal Room service for bands of all ages, types and genres is one way of becoming more familiar with the culture and everyday lives of modern day active musicians. It’s the port of call before every stage dive and, in some cases, an unpleasant memory of someone’s failed audition for joining a band. The practice room serves as a musical airport-like crossroads where people of different backgrounds converge together to share a small area of space and plan their audio stamp on the world. What they do in the confines of a Rehearsal Room is down to them alone, it can be their spiritual home for escapism, creatively and harmony or be the catalyst for an awkward realisation of a group’s, sometimes inevitable, downward spiral towards the scrapheap. If, like myself, you are a musician then you can learn a lot about the music industry just by looking at what others do within it. I ain’t exactly a fly on the wall or even a spider poised in a web but like a good worker ant I serve a hierarchy and as I do so I study what’s happening around me.
I first started working for a music complex called Base Studios in 2008 and, as a result, have met more bands than perhaps Ron Jeremy has opened bottles of lubricant. There are different reasons for needing a band practice, touring and rehearsing for shows are the common ones but for many it’s a weekly retreat from their nagging, dream-crushing, unsupportive families. This however is not always the case for those who I refer to as “Dad Bands”, if your father carries all your music equipment into your band practice, stays there shouting advice during the entire session, pays for everything and then transports you home whilst planning what your group is doing next then I’m afraid you are in a “Dad Band”. It’s quite cute to begin with, it becomes scarier if there are multiple dads involved as within time the young faces of the band start to resemble those of a worn out kids Sunday soccer team controlled by a horde of pouting fathers all desperate to re-live their boyhood fantasies via their offspring. It gets weird when you discover these kids organising secret band practices away from their dads just so that they can play the songs they like and even have conversations without fear of interference.
There are many different genres and types of bands, originals, signed and unsigned, tribute and covers, containing everyone from teenage runaways to geriatric businessmen and all of them eager to share music theory with one another in the most logical way possible by locking themselves inside a square room and blasting high and low frequency sound at each other using amplification so powerful that it’s as if a competition is being held to hunt down or become the world’s most deafest man or woman. Sometimes I hear laughter in-between songs, occasionally you spot a musician storming out after having a tantrum, some bands squabble so much that they don’t even last long enough to play their first show despite spending months practicing for it. As a rule the majority of musicians that I meet are quite pleasant to talk to.
I’m a witness to an important part of the music industry that is overlooked by many, the stage is where you watch a star perform but heroes of music are born in the Rehearsal Room and there is a lot more to tell you about this world.
Nick J.Townsend is the vocalist and guitarist for British band WEAK13. An experienced underground musician, music promoter and zine columnist. He is also a TV supporting Actor and has appeared in shows such as Shameless (ch4), Hustle (bbc) and Young Dracula (bbc).