Some people describe being in a band like being in a family, but I think it is more like being in a relationship. There are many components I have noticed about band relationships that mirror romantic relationships. Some of the similarities are in the stages of band development and some are in the qualities you must possess to have successful relationships. This could be why musicians often end up dating within bands and also why some bands stay together longer than a lot of marriages. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.
Dating: Finding new band mates
Putting together a band can feel too much like trying to find a significant other. You try meeting people through friends, school, work, etc.. Your friends can try and “hook you up” with people, but they don’t always get what kind of a musician you need and you may end up pity playing with a mediocre musician, or play with a brilliant musician with a terrible attitude or personality. Sometimes you meet someone who you have a lot of fun with, but then when it gets down to business they under perform. And then there’s looking online. Lordy do you meet some interesting characters through Craigslist. I once put up an add looking for a bass player who could also sing bgs, and I got a recording from a girl of her and her friend “singing in harmony” to an ACAPELLA METAL BALLAD that they wrote. It was really something…..not exactly what I had in mind. But it’s not all bad because sometimes your friends actually do get what you need and hook you up with someone fabulous, and occasionally you find an absolute gem from your personals add… I mean craigslist post and magic happens.
Chemistry: Playing Together
Musicians talk about chemistry between band mates just as much as people do when dating. With music there are just different ways that the chemistry needs to work. You need to have personal chemistry so you can get along for a long time, as well as musical chemistry, so that your styles can mesh well and not clash. If you don’t have good chemistry the music struggles to come together. You can work around lack of chemistry but it’s more work and someone just ends up out of their comfort zone and they end up having to fake it. This can get more complicated as you add new members. If you have 7 people in a group and things are running smoothly, you should always be grateful.
Infatuation: New Band Buzz
When you find those special people who made it through the chemistry tests you just want to play and play and perform and play some more. When you’re not around your band you get mentionitis, much like you would in a new relationship. You find ways to fit the band into conversation so you can talk about it some more. You can’t wait for the next rehearsal or show because playing with them is so invigorating and fills you with a high that lasts even when you’re apart. When you see other bands playing you just find yourself thinking about how much you love playing with your band.
Responsibility: Know Your Part
A key aspect of a good relationship/band is knowing the part you play in the relationship and being responsible about it. In a relationship it can be things like one person makes dinner and the other does dishes. In the band it is being responsible for your musical part in each song. Different musical experiences in a band are fine as long as everyone works hard and nails their part. If a person has to be reminded of their part every rehearsal, that band will get sick of you. Much like if your partner never does the dishes even though you cook every day, you start to get pretty pissy. If your lack of responsibility has you missing rehearsals or blowing songs in performance you will not last in the relationship.
Ego: Just Jam it Out
In the band this can be applicable to writing and arranging. When I write a song I often have a basic idea of how I want it to go. I don’t know all the instruments though so I leave a lot up to my band. Sometimes I don’t even tell them much about what I envision and I just let them go for it. I trust their instincts and abilities. If you are open and trusting it’s amazing what it will do for your music. It will change it in ways you could have never imagined, but this will only happen if you can let go of some control and let the people you are willing to share you experience with contribute parts of themselves. There have been times where I have had a very specific idea and have tried to hammer it out, but it just wasn’t working. Eventually I let go and follow a band mates suggestion and voila, it works.
Trust: The Show Will Go On
If everyone knows their parts and have proven themselves to be responsible then there is no reason not to trust them. And likewise, if you give your trust people will try to live up to it. When it comes to the live show this is vital. If you don’t trust your band mates you will find yourself listening too much to their parts and you’ll lose focus on your own. This can result is some serious flubs on your part. Trust that they know what they are doing and put your energy into your contribution and it will be incredible.
Influencing each other and growing together: You are the Bass to my Treble
“You complete me”, and so do you, and so do you…..When you are in a long term relationship you may find that you and your partner start to change due to influence from the other. This will happen with your music with every new band mate. This is part of why chemistry, trust and all the other junk is so important. Everyone brings unique styles and experiences to the table. There may only be subtle differences but they can really affect the music. I have seen this already after only a few weeks of having a full band. The way we are playing my songs is veeeery different than the demos I had originally recorded, and you know what? I am happy about that. I liked my demos, but holy moly, I love what my band mates have contributed and am very excited to see what else we will create together. I am happy to change if it means making more beautiful things with my partners. Also, on a stranger note, sometimes you start looking like your band mates, like dressing similarly or similar hair styles, or in the case of me and one of my band mates, you just might have almost the same face and people will think you’re related.
Up until now I have been talking about all the wonderful things in a relationship that relate to being in a band, but it’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. The not so great parts of relationships can also creep in, and the more band members you have, the more likely these things can become issues.
Jealousy: Great Musicians Are in High Demand
You know when you meet a great person and you assume they are taken because how could someone so wonderful not be? The same logic applies to great musicians. The price you pay for having wonderful players in your band is being willing to share them with other projects. Most of my band mates are in other projects, myself included, which can make scheduling awfully difficult. Sometimes this can make you frustrated because you just want to play with your friends, but it’s not actually such a bad thing. Yes it can be jealousy inducing when they are off doing cool things with other cool people, but it can also be very good for you. It’s like when your partner is off with his/her friends and you wish they were at home with you, but as the relationship progresses you become friends with their friends and then you’re pumped because you wouldn’t have known these people otherwise.
And in relation to this point…….
Support Each Other: Harmonize to the Melody
If you have your jealousy in check, supporting your band mates can be wonderful. If you are not competitive with the other groups you can discover other amazing local acts and sometimes play shows with them and it can actually be a great networking tool. I love watching my band mates play in different kinds of bands. It’s really great to see what else they can do, and it is always nice when our band mates from other projects support us when we have shows. Support is also essential within the group. Some examples are: helping each other out when one member is struggling with a part, working out parts in a new song, covering someone else’s mistake, etc. In band dynamics there are constant musical support scenarios popping up. You often become so close with your band mates that you end up lending support in personal matters as well which just further illustrates how being in a band is like being in a relationship.
And then there’s the worst part of relationships/bands…
Breaking up: Too Much Dissonance
Sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes it’s a personality clash, or a band mate is too busy, or they just aren’t keeping up with the band. Whatever the reason, break ups suck. A band break up can feel a lot like a relationship ending and can be dramatic depending on how it’s handled. But it will come with hurt feelings and awkward encounters afterwards regardless. You can try to be friends but often it takes space to heal first. Once you have replaced the person it can get hella awkward if you are on a shared bill or see the ex at a show.
So now you see, why being in a band is great training for being in polyamorous relationships. Band life teaches you how to be a good partner but with lots of people at once. If you fail at the core values of a relationship, your band will crumble. I haven’t actually tried this out to see if it works with polyamory, but hey, I’m still young 😉
What do you think? Am I on to something? Can you think of other similarities between your band life and love life?
Edit: All references to polygamy have been replaced with the word polyamory. As I have learned more about the differences between these lifestyles I realized I was using the wrong word.