|A Fragile Tomorrow, dressed like they're in the SAME band!|
We are just finishing up a run of southern dates with A Fragile Tomorrow. For those of you unfamiliar with AFT, they are a band of brothers who are young, talented and clearly eager as hell to crack the code on how to be a successful indie band.
The thing about indie artists, or artists in general, is that most of us don't realize we are successful…ish. I can't even type the word successful without adding a dot, dot, dot ish. We are so busy trying to achieve the next level of success that we forget to notice the grass we are standing on is exceptionally green…ish.
And while my bandmates and I drive hundreds of miles a day in our tour van talking about how so and so got such and such and why didn't we get such and such? I remind myself on a daily basis that there may actually be a tour van traveling the interstate wondering how the hell Antigone Rising got such and such? I find momentary comfort in this, until I remember that so and so AND so and so BOTH got such and such.
While eating dinner on the last night of our run of dates together, Sean and Dominic from AFT started "picking my brain." Suddenly I wasn't the frustrated, stuck, stalled indie artist who drove up the highway from Charleston, SC to Durham, NC to open for The Breaking Bad series finale. Seriously. We opened for a TV show. That happened. Just a few days ago.
Instead, I was a fount of knowledge for two kids who really just wanted to know what we did to be as successful (...ish) as we are. Actually, they were picking my brain about guitar techs, but let us not allow specifics to ruin the inspiration for me to blog again...
Right, that sneaky little thing called perspective! Thank you god or universe or Sean and Dominic for sending me that message to get out of my own way and be amazed and grateful for all that I have (a guitar tech, the handsome and wonderful @anthonysrecords) and all that I have achieved.
So here's some advice. Some of it extremely specific, some of it a bit more broad, all of it coming from someone who has traveled thousands of miles in a van with a band who has seriously done a lot of cool things, and has also been fed a ton of bull shit, sometimes simultaneously.
The number one most important thing is to WRITE GREAT SONGS. Whatever it is you do, make sure your songs do not suck. Songwriting is equal parts god given and learned. So if you're naturally already an ok songwriter, you can probably get better by taking a class or co writing with other artists whose songs you like. I understand that Rob Thomas or Johnny Goo Goo or the Train guy may not be in your rolodex or available for a co-write, but maybe there's a local band whose songs you like. Maybe you have a music teacher who writes songs. Collaborating makes you better. And teaches you to be open. If you're a blocked songwriter, well, that's oxy-moronish. So be open, take criticism, and write, write, write.
I am a firm believer that if your friends want you to sing at the party, you might be on to something. Even friends don't want to hear crappy music. Especially at a party. It's your job, however, to not get lazy and think that every room you walk into will think you're as amazing as the people on your next door neighbor's deck think you are. So write great songs, and keep 'em coming. You should also hit some open mics in your area. Because singing through a P.A. is a whole different animal than strumming and singing into the air without amplification. But that's a whole different shpiel.
So that's some practical broad 101 type advice.
Here's some real nitty gritty advice specifically for bands. Consider this from the syllabus of the course Bands 333.
Look like you're in the same band, people. Do not wear your white Nike sneakers with your lady jeans on stage while your bass player has a friggin' nose ring and purple hair. When Antigone Rising files into a restaurant anywhere in the country, the host always knows we're together. Always. If one of us straggles in 10 minutes later, the host just points to our table. Every. Single. Time. It is one of our proudest band accomplishments.
Granted, we were asked once in a hotel lobby if we were a soccer team…
In the next segment, I will give you my two cents on traveling together to gigs. But you will have to wait to read my thought provoking words on that topic.
Until we meet again, be sure to check out A Fragile Tomorrow, write great songs, and dress like your bandmates.
This band may sound fantastic. They may also want to call a truce on their obvious image war...