Split Split de­fin­i­tive de­fin­i­tive

It’s the old story. You and your mates form a band. You’re con­vinced in­ter­na­tional star­dom is im­mi­nent. Six months later it all im­plodes. Tony Clay­ton-Lea has the grue­some de­tails of the clas­sic band split

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

And tto think your first demo sounded so good! There you were – you and your mates, in your re­hearsal space, in your sewn-on jeans and your late teenage sweat, lis­ten­ing back to the not-re­ally-bril­liant record­ing of a few of your early at­tempts at song­writ­ing.

You can hear the flaws in the tunes, and at least one of your band mates mut­ters swear words above the sound of the mu­sic, but the sense you all get from this first play­back is that the abil­ity to pluck the elu­sive “magic” out of the air and dis­play it for all to hear, is in your col­lec­tive grasp. You have yet to ac­knowl­edge the ex­is­tence of the phrase “cre­ative dif­fer­ences” be­cause you and your mates are life­long friends. You are blood broth­ers and sis­ters. You are the five mus­ke­teers or the riot gr­rls you don’t want to mess with that. You are one and you are the same – yes, even the per­cus­sion­ist you don’t know very well and whom you asked to join the band be­cause she knew what a coax­ial ca­ble looked like.

Con­sider yourself lucky if you’re in a band that ac­tu­ally man­ages to get out of the garage – most bands don’t get that far. Af­ter a few at­tempts at try­ing to ac­quire some level of mu­si­cian­ship and song­writ­ing know-how, many bands re­alise that the lo­gis­tics of ac­tu­ally get­ting time to re­hearse can be mind-bog­gling. That pesky thing your par­ents un­fairly – like, re­ally un­fairly – term “real life” of­ten kicks it right out of the play­ing field.

In­ter­est­ingly, how­ever, you start to un­der­stand some­thing your par­ents have been fa­mil­iar with for quite some time: self-sac­ri­fice. You don’t mind trav­el­ling long dis­tances, bus-hop­ping, for vir­tu­ally no fi­nan­cial gain. And you don’t mind be­ing stuck in a room with the other people, be­cause they’re dream­ing the same dream as you. So what if the drum­mer is a full-time med­i­cal stu­dent? So what if the gui­tarist works part-time as as­sis­tant man­ager at Dorothy Perkins? So what if the bass player smokes more jazz Wood­bines than you’d ideally like? And so what if your good self – the band’s rather slim, good-look­ing lead singer – is mar­ried and is the par­ent of two kids un­der the age of five?

You make it out of the garage; you over­come the nitty-gritty of time pres­sure and per­sonal com­mit­ments, and you start writ­ing songs that you even­tu­ally play to your friends and fam­ily. The re­sponses are en­cour­ag­ing – even from your un­cle with the ridicu­lous pony­tail (he likes the “vibe” of the tunes, which makes you feel a bit queasy). The very early gigs go rea­son­ably well, al­though at each sub­se­quent show your guest list for friends and fam­ily mem­bers de­creases. Yet you are pro­gress­ing nicely, grad­u­ally. You get re­views from a few en­thu­si­as­tic blog­gers, and a week later, at your next gig, you see more people pay­ing in than are on the guest list.

You no­tice, how­ever, that the gui­tarist likes to di­rect the col­lec­tive song­writ­ing style (well, it’s sup­posed to be col­lec­tive) more to her own taste than to any­one else’s. You no­tice that the bass player likes to re­ally show off on stage. You no­tice that the drum­mer is re­quest­ing more fills and breaks so that, as he says, “I can ex­press my­self bet­ter”. You also no­tice that the per­cus­sion player’s boyfriend is ex­tremely hand­some. But you bite your tongue and you zip your lip. Fo­cus. Fo­cus. Fo­cus.

Within a year, you sign a small record deal with a solid in­die la­bel. You re­lease your de­but sin­gle, and have a batch of about 20 new songs that you all reckon you can whit­tle down to 13 for your de­but al­bum.

Sadly, how­ever, the record­ing of your de­but al­bum never hap­pens. Why? Well, the good ship goes down in a man­ner some­thing like the fol­low­ing: the gui­tarist feels the new tracks sounds dated and wants to write all sub­se­quent ma­te­rial on her own. The bass player (who you al­ways thought was a bit dodge) has up­set his drug-deal­ing friends and ends up with two bro­ken arms. The drum­mer wants to bring a pair of bon­gos on stage, but is ve­toed, so he walks. The per­cus­sion player finds out about you and her boyfriend’s weekend away in Car­ling­ford, and tries (al­most suc­cess­fully) to ram her mini xy­lo­phone down your throat.

Which means that for the next few weeks you will not be able to sing. You come to the con­clu­sion that re­al­ity is in­deed a bum­mer. And that first demo? It doesn’t sound so good now. The “vibe” just wasn’t right, was it?

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