For ten years I played in bands. Some of them were more metal than rock or more punk than folk or other times just real loud and someone’s mom would scream from upstairs and say, “MY GONE WITH THE WIND COMMEMORATIVE PLATES JUST FELL OFF THE SHELF!!”
From 14 years old -24 years old, mostly what I did with my time, was write music on my guitar, practice that music with guys I was in a band with, go into the recording studio and spend all my lawn mowing money on recording that music, and maybe twice a month, play a show at the local dive bar, VFW hall, back yard party when someone’s parents were out of town. It was a great period of my life … but I haven’t picked up the guitar in a long time and I don’t miss playing in bands that much, now I write novels and short stories, and poems, with my disposable time.
My second novel, F250 is all about playing in a noise band, getting in a ton of car crashes, falling in weird love, and trying to survive through some tough times. Writing about playing in bands made me look back and realize why I don’t play in bands anymore.
Here’s why being a writer beats playing in a band.
You Can Do It Alone
Now, when I want to make something, I just sit down and make it. Back in the day, if there were four guys in the band, we’d be sitting there waiting for the drummer to show up but he’d be late (and this was before cellphones, so you just had to sit there and wonder “Think he got killed in a car crash?”). When the drummer showed up, the bass player would have to get going, he had work in an hour. The singer wouldn’t show up sometimes for years. You’d just sit there and wait and wait and wait. And when everyone was finally in a room together, you’d show the missing person a new song the three of you had come up with while they were ‘on their way for a decade’ and they’d say, “I don’t like that at all.” You’d just sit there, looking at each other, hating each other. Then you’d go get high instead of playing, because ‘fuck this.’
Promoting stuff you make sucks. It’s a disgusting feeling. When my second novel, F250 came out, I didn’t really feel like doing a zillion things to promote it. I put some links on Twitter, I wrote about the novel a little bit on my blog, mentioned the book a few times on facebook. That’s kinda lame for something I worked on for a long time, put all my effort into … but at least it was JUST me sucking at promoting the novel, it’s not a group effort at sucking.
When I was in bands, there would be four of us, at least and none of us would be doing anything to promote our albums or shows. Making something and getting anyone else to care about it was rough. We’d get to a show and there would be six people there to see us play. At least, as a writer, if it’s just me failing all by myself, without four other people’s collective efforts, it doesn’t feel like as bad a kick in the head.
(Speaking of promotion … you can win a free copy of F250 at the site Goodreads, just by clicking a button. I’m giving away ten copies. Giveaway ends on July 7th)
Nothing Heavy to Carry
I do most of my writing on my iphone. When I’m not writing on the iphone, I write in a notebook or on some scraps of paper that are lying around. Last year I took a flight from NJ to California and wrote some sections of F250 for six hours on a plane on the backs of barf bags.
No kidding, barf bags. I even ripped them open and wrote on the inside of the barf bags when the outsides were full with chicken scratch.
I have nothing heavy to carry anymore. I’m not lugging full stack amplifiers up staircases. I’m not carrying drum sets down alleys to get into the back of a club. Truth be told, I don’t even own a laptop. So, those writers you see in coffee shops, pecking at keyboards and sipping expensive cofffee, that’s not me either. I’m sitting in my car in a parking lot behind a strip mall and I’m writing my novel on my cellphone. Or if the cellphone dies, probably napkins from Dunkin’ Donuts.
No Bright Hot Lights
It’s hot on stage, and I’ve never even made it to a big stage. The bright lights at the local dive bar were bad enough for me. Standing there sweating my ass off wasn’t the best. Now, when I go and do a reading from one of my books, it’s usually at an air conditioned bookstore or at a bar that doesn’t shine bright ass lights on you. I have two release parties coming up for F250, I’m sure I won’t look like I just jumped in a swimming pool with my clothes on when the readings are over.
You Most Likely Won’t Break Up with Yourself
I played in a band one time that wrote and rehearsed songs for a year. When it was finally time to go out and record the songs, the band broke up and the material that we worked on for a year vanished into the wind. When you’re a writer, chances are, you aren’t going to break up with yourself and scrap a project that you really care about. You might abandon the thing for a long time, but I bet you one day, you’ll pick it back up.
Slowly Going Deaf
There’s no crying in baseball and there’s no ear plugs in a punk band. Also, you don’t go deaf from sitting in your car behind a Chipotle and writing a short story on your iPhone 5 that your wife gave you when her company got her a new phone.
Okay, so you have a drummer for your band and you have a bass player and of course you play guitar because everyone on Earth plays guitar, but now you’ve got to find a singer. It’s 1998 and there’s no dependable internet yet, no Soundcloud or Facebook or Twitter, so you print out some flyers and take them to the local music store and hang them on the bulletin board. The flyer says: SINGER WANTED. On this bulletin board, there are seventy five other flyers all of them say some version of SINGER WANTED or DRUMMER WANTED.
A few days after you hang the flyer up a person calls and says they want to try out. You drop off a cassette demo tape of your bands instrumental ‘songs’ and the person takes a couple days to listen to the tape and come up with something to sing.
At the practice the singer seems like an okay enough person. You all talk to him for a little bit and he seems like you all could drink beers together and it’d be fine. So you start the first song up … the guitars start it and then the drums and bass come in kind of quiet before big drum roll and then bam everyone is supposed to come in together on a big cymbal crash—guitar, drums, bass and vocal.
The singer screams, “SAY IT TO MY FACE YOU FUCKING FAGGGGOTTT!!!!!”
And everyone stops playing and you all look at the singer kid.
And he says, “What?”
The band says, “Yeah, this isn’t going to work out.”