Monday, September 25, 2006

Wanna be in a band?

Back when my musical endeavors were limited to annoying dorm neighbors with my repeated mistakes on my bass (live and don't learn, that's me), I had certain misconceptions about being in a band. I thought bands lived an existence of never-ending parties, piles of makeout girls and all the free snacks you could gobble. Oh, and I imagined there were bouts of playing music as well.

I never imagined hassles such as expensive amp tubes, weirdo soundguys, amnesiac promoters or press kits. Now most of those things don’t bother me that much, but I will never, ever enjoy compiling press kits. They are easily the most odious band chore, and this includes carrying speaker cabs up multiple flights of stairs.

I hate them for several reasons, and if you’ve ever been in a band, you’ll probably agree. The first is that I firmly believe that everything included in a press kit (photo, bio, clippings, occasional promotional item, oh and music sampler) except the CD gets thrown in the trash.*
I hate having to mail all that crap to someone, because it costs money, and it usually amounts to nothing. There is more value in giving money to a homeless guy than producing and mailing a press kit, because at least giving money to a homeless guy means that someone will get drunk later. Paying to make and mail press kits is tantamount to wiping my ass with five dollar bills.

Press kits also lie. Since they are basically a band resume, they are rife with exaggerations (DV's is no exception to this), and I presume that they are universally similar for every local band. For example, at some point in their career, a local band that is any good will get to open for a national band, providing them for a possible half-truth to include in their bio or press clippings. I know of a band around here that gets to play the Ernie Ball stage at the Warped Tour every year because they have a well-connected manager. Their bio alleges that they have shared the stage with bands such as Bad Religion, Dropkick Murphys, Rancid and all the other mainstage headliners. This is a white lie, but it's a lie nevertheless. They are playing the same event, but the Ernie Ball stage is pretty far away from where the headliners are. They weren’t sharing the stage with anyone other than the same people they’ve shared the stage with in Flower Mound, Addison or various roller rinks.

Then there’s the universal press kit fib about packing all the local clubs. Sometimes this is technically true, but it's almost always subjective. We packed Headhunters in Austin. This is totally true. But it was the patio, which is tiny. Not that I'm complaining about this; I thought it was pretty rad, and I think the club did too. But I hate having to gently fabricate the size of out of town crowds for the sake of maybe (read: probably not) opening for Pepper or Slightly Stoopid. I feel like it's for a good cause, and if it's fudging just a little, I guess it's okay, but it would be great if I could just tell the truth: “yes we have big crowds at home. Yes we have big crowds in a couple other places. Give us a chance to make a big crowd at your club. It will probably take a few shows though, just so you know.”

As if their potential for disposal, wasteful cost and inherent stretching of the truth weren’t enough to make them a total beating, unwritten press kit law states that you are supposed to include a band photo. Why a photo is important is beyond me, but I know this booking guy around here who passed me the following insider tip:

“You can say you played with whoever, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s much more valuable to
have a professional, 8X10 black-and-white.”

You’d think that a CD would be a better indication of what a band might do for your club, but nope, apparently it’s a headshot.

Our press picture is three years old anyway, so last Friday, we took some new pictures. We used a professional photographer (our friend Kerrie, friendship thereby making her affordable) and took them at our friend Ira’s house, because he has a rad backyard with two homemade bars. This seemed like the most natural setting for us, but it really doesn’t matter how they turn out, because they will still be an opportunity for mockery. See, this website called Rock and Roll Confidential has a section called The Hall of Douchebags,” which is a huge archive full of the terrible press photos of presumably awful local bands. RaRC merely points out the obvious, that local band press photos are intrinsically hilarious. As such, press kit photos are pretty much a landmine that you, as a band, willingly bury, arm and step on. If you go to that site (be prepared to waste a good hour or so), you’ll find that the person who rips on all these pics is generally right on the money. Press kit photos all look pretty tired. Their settings are usually some laughably stereotypical locale (brick wall, alley formed by brick walls, chain-link fences, train tracks, or a combination of all of these), and when they aren’t, their situation is totally removed from anything that has to do with the band, or for that matter, anything that has to do with reality. This is why Kerrie shot us standing on top of the Grampus, because standing up there was actively ridiculous. We have no reason whatsoever to be on top of the van. We would never play a show from atop the van, nor would we ever just hang out up there. But we did it anyway, at my behest. Anyway, I was drunk. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Unless a band is comprised of strippers or aliens, no one should really give a flying crippled crap what it looks like. Well, unless it’s a rockabilly band, I suppose. Image seems to be pretty important to rockabilly people. But it’s not like you’d use our mugs to sell tickets anyway. We’re a fat guy, a slightly less fat guy and a short guy. If anything, our press kit photo might be detrimental to getting out of town shows. And as proof to this point, some of the bands on the Hall of Douchebags might be worth listening to (this is completely for the sake of argument), but you can bet I’d never book them. If we show up there (and you can bet I’ll submit our picture), I’ll be sure to let you know.

In the meantime, we will put these things together, stick them in the mailbox and hope for the best. It can’t be any worse than wishing for winning lottery tickets.

Or giving money to the homeless.

--The Robo-Pirate
*if you’re lucky.

This is my favorite one.

And for those from Fort Worth, here's Pimpadelic, being terrible.


ANDREW M. said...

i've wasted many hi-larious hours on that site...

jen said...

I once joined a band and there were no piles of make-out girls, but there were some snacks.

Then again, I was in the second grade and I played the ka-zoo.

PS - we were usually served animal crackers and punch.

Liz said...

It doesn’t sound that cool the way you say it. haha I think the truth behind the head shots is that for good or bad people judge things by the way they look, and it is only getting worse. Seems it just used to be the ladies that received the pressure, but slowly by surly guys are expected to have rock hard abs too. I loved the site. I do HOPE that some of those guys were from a long ago decade. Good luck making the cut ;)

Eric Grubbs said...

I don't know if you've ever checked out Monsters of MySpace, but I think you'll get a good laugh:

alibean said...

i just had coffee come out of my nose.