I’ve a lot playing in bands over the years to have some wisdom to pass on. I see bands pass rudeness off as normal behavior and hope I can make the world a better place by helping prevent this. I don’t know everything, if I did I would be writing this from a tour bus and not my apartment. If you disagree with my views I encourage you to share your own. If you have another way of doing things which brings more success I’d love to hear it.
As I’m sure some of you know, I was in a band called Bastard Friendly. Since that band dissolved I’ve been looking for a new band. I love playing in bands; it’s a lot of fun, a great way to express myself artistically and a great way to meet new people.
Unfortunately, most of the people you meet replying to craigslist adds are not the types of people you really want to meet. The first guy I met didn’t seem to know anything about rock music. He liked Nickelback and had an apartment that reeked of pot smoke. I don’t think we’re a good fit. I jammed with a Christian band about a month ago, but I wasn’t quite Christian enough for them.
The last person I met was the worst. We did the prerequisite emailing and I listened to some demos. They were really bad demos; recorded on a boom box tape deck. They sounded awful, but the songs were pretty good and the type I would love to play.
Then I met the person putting the group together.
I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. You might meet someone on a bad day. Just because a person rubs you the wrong way on the first phone call or first meeting doesn’t mean they’re an immature, loudmouth, drifter. There were a few red flags: The ad said ‘punk band getting back together,’ which was completely untrue. She was starting a completely new band in Northeast Ohio but using the same name and songs as a band formed years ago in Austin, Texas. A moot point, but something that bothers me.
I also wondered why there was so much moving and bouncing around from Los Angeles to Colorado to Kansas City to Canton, but I never did get an answer. It was hard to get a word in edgewise. She was quite boisterous and loud.
But, in spite of singing so loudly in the restaurant I manage to feel a twinge of embarrassment (something quite difficult to do, but obviously not impossible. (Also something I thought may have been a sign of a good front woman.)), name dropping all sorts of celebrities, brushing aside any ideas I may have had for the bandand generally coming off as a total flake, I was still interested in jamming.
I’m getting pretty desperate for a band and the guitar player seemed like a cool guy. I even checked out his other project and found them pretty good.
My first reaction is to think people are joking. That’s usually what I do. But something about the way the word ‘dumb ass’ was stretched out for nearly two lines told me this was a serious message.
I wanted to respond, but found myself speechless. Was my offhand comment saying “Hey, that’s the Ramones” when “I Wanna Be Sedated” came on the jukebox that big of an insult? I hadn’t thought so, but apparently it was. And I hadn’t meant to come off as negative. I like to think of myself as a realist. I’ve played a few shows and have learned a few things over the years. I don’t expect the world handed to me on a silver platter and know I have to work for it.
I also think I’ve already accomplished a few good things in my life. I’m very proud of that Bastard Friendly EP. I’m also very proud of this blog.
This is the first time I’ve ever had a ‘bitch you don’t know me so don’t be telling me how to raise my kid’ moment, but I’ve thought about it and realize I’m just glad my daughter isn’t being raised by someone who’ll get so upset by an offhand comment that they’ll get drunk and text someone at 3:30 in the morning.
At first I felt a little angry, but the more I thought about it my feelings turned to pity. I hope she gets her shit together and grows up a little. And I have ways of dealing with this stuff. I may write a song using that text as lyrics. And of course, you’re reading another big way I deal with this kind of negativity.
I have to agree with her though, attitude is everything. Make sure yours is good.
More Shitty Advice:
I’ve learned enough playing in bands over the years to have some wisdom to pass on. I see a lot of awful things bands pass off as normal behavior and hope I can make the world a better place by helping prevent this. I don’t know everything about ‘how to make it in the music biz.’ If I did I would be writing this from a tour bus and not my apartment. If you disagree with my views I encourage you to share your own. If you have another way of doing things which brings more success I’d love to hear it.
The Covers Debate
You probably don’t know this, but there is a war going on in your local scene. Bands aren’t fighting over the best venues, genres or turf; they’re just badmouthing each other based on the type of material they play.
You see, cover bands hate original bands because they think they’re too untalented and lazy to learn to play other peoples’ music and original bands hate cover bands because they think they’re too untalented and lazy to write their own music.
So who’s right? They both are, silly. I’ve always wanted to be in a band that was 50% covers and 50% originals, but I always come across assholes who agree 100% with the above paragraph.
Of course, if I have to pick a side I’d go with the cover bands. I’ve heard criticism that it doesn’t take any talent to learn someone else’s music, but I’m pretty sure it takes just as much talent as picking up an instrument and playing your own awful racket. Plus, cover band usually play good songs. Songs that people know and love. I like to think I’m a decent songwriter, but the best tune I’ve ever written was called “Our Band Sucks.” And that little ditty is nowhere near as good as some of the crap written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney or George Harrison. Although it may be somewhere close to some of Ringo Starr’s crap.
Hell, even Dave Grohl who is for all intents and purposes a very,very talented and successful songwriter (even if you don’t like the music you have to admit that he’s had a very prolific and profitable career) took a back seat in Nirvana because he felt that Kurt Cobain was a better song-smith. If it was good enough for Dave Grohl, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles and even Nirvana to play covers I don’t think there’s any person anywhere who is too good for it.
Elvis never even wrote his own songs. Elton John can’t write lyrics for shit. Neither can Meat Loaf. The difference between all of these great artists and every shitty original local band is that they admit they can’t write music. I’m all for artistic expression, but I don’t like hearing local bands playing crap because they think they’re too good to play a Ramones song.
The secret is that while it is very, very easy to play the main riff to “Smoke on the Water” it is nearly impossible to write something as catchy, simple and timeless. And most people in original bands are too lazy and self involved to learn other peoples’ music.
Now that things have settled down in the Ockym’s Razyr camp and everything is getting back to normal, I thought it was time to sit down for a one-on-one chat with the man of the hour: bassist Matt Vance.
The Audible Stew: So the last time I saw you was as you were leaving the intervention. Did you head straight up to rehab from there?
Matt Vance: No. Actually, I left the intervention in a blind rage and went out and got drunk.
AS: Really? They just let you leave?
MV: No, I had to sneak out a window. But then I went to the bar and got hammered. Just falling down, pissing-on-myself drunk. Then I ran into a mailbox… or was it a telephone pole? I think I ran over a mailbox and then a telephone pole.
AS: Wow. So was that what convinced you to enter treatment?
MV: Actually it was the judge that convinced me to enter treatment. When your choice is a year in jail or two months in treatment it’s pretty much a no brainer. Plus, my dad had already paid for rehab.
AS: You were only sentenced to two months up there? But you stayed for about a year.
MV: Yeah, things were going pretty well. I took a long hard look at where my life was heading while I was down here and decided that it was really going nowhere. So I decided to stay up there and try to be useful for a while.
AS: So what was life like?
MV: It was pretty cool. You start out on lock down and not really able to go anywhere, but after the first two months when you go all the way through the program you’re allowed free rein. I managed to get a job and a…
AS: Wait. What? Did you just say you got a job?
MV: Yeah, man. I got a job and a…
AS: Where did you get a job? You haven’t worked in the entire time I’ve known you.
MV: I worked at a Wendy’s up there. I made my way up to assistant manager in only 6 months. Plus I had a…
AS: Hold on (pause). I’m just going to need a minute to let that sink in. OK. I’m back. Well, it sounds like you were doing pretty well up there. What made you move back?
MV: Things just started going south. My girlfriend broke up with me…
AS: WHAT!? Holy crap! You had a girlfriend too?
MV: Yeah, that’s what I was trying to tell you. I had a girlfriend and a job. Things were going pretty well.
AS: What was wrong with her? Was she an amputee? No, that couldn’t be it. I’ve known plenty of attractive amputees…
MV: She was a recovering heroin addict.
AS: OK. Now it makes sense. I’m still not sure anyone else is going to believe this. Have you told any of the other guys?
MV: Yeah, they had a hard time believing it too. They weren’t as big of dicks as you though. I don’t see what the big deal is. I met this girl up there, I got a good job, I got sober.
AS: So how long have you been sober?
MV: Going on 13 months.
AS: Cool. Congratulations. It’s like a whole new you. Are you feeling good?
MV: Yeah, I talked to the guys about getting the band going again and I think I’m ready. I was in a pretty dark place before I came down here. Lindsay dumped me for some other guy. I was passed over for a promotion. It just seemed like the time was ripe for change.
AS: Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this interview Matt. It feels like I’m talking to a different person than I met all those years ago. I wish you luck in your future endeavors.
MV: Thanks man. I’m feeling strong and I’m confident I’m going to stay sober for a long time.
Top Posts of Ockym’s Razyr
Part 11 The Christmas Party
Part 3 The Road Trip
Part 2 The Jam Room
Part 10 The Other Interview
It’s been over a year since I’ve written about the Ockym’s Razyr. Things were always bad with the band. They were always volatile. I think Don Henley said in an Eagles documentary that any great band is always five minutes from breaking up and they were no different.
It was a little surprising what did it though.
The last time bassist Matt Vance departed the band (Part 6) he was replaced. With someone. I can’t remember who, but it was someone. This time that didn’t happen and the band dissolved.
The intervention wasn’t a pretty sight. Most of the band members showed up at his parents house to tell him it was time to get his life straightened out.
“We’re worried about you Matthew,” his dad said. “Your mother and I found a powder on the bathroom sink so we know you’ve been snorting drugs.”
“But that was just Vicodin. It’s nothing. I got them from Mom.”
“Well, when I gave them to you I thought you would take them orally like a normal person. Not nasally like a… like a… like a drug addict!” His mother broke down in tears.
“Is that all you’re worried about? I’m sorry. I’ll stop snorting the pills.”
“Your behavior at practice has gotten a little erratic,” singer Adam Gillis said.
“I thought you guys liked that. I thought that was my role in the band… to be the kooky alcoholic guy.”
“Well, we like that. But we’re just worried about what you’re doing to yourself.”
“But you guys drink too. I think I saw you pass out and piss yourself last week, Eric.”
“Hey, I’m not on trial here.” guitarist Eric Shawn defended himself.
“We all just want what’s best for you, son.”
“But I have to drink. It’s the only thing about me anyone likes. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a girlfriend. My only talent is that I can play the intro to ‘N.I.B’ really well.”
“I don’t know about all that, Matt.” Gillis’ girlfriend Kelly opined during a brief lull in texting.
“Well, I can play ‘Blister in the Sun’ really well.”
“That’s not a talent son,” his father said. “Everyone can do that. Your mother can do that.”
Mrs. Vance continued crying
“Dude,” Adam said. “I saw the post on Facebook about trying to score some dog antibiotics.”
“That was a joke… I wasn’t really going to take them.”
“Why the hell would you take dog antibiotics?” Eric wondered aloud. “Will those get you high?”
“That’s what I’ve heard.”
Mrs. Vance cried louder.
“OK. So what do you suggest I do?”
“We’ve booked you a room at a very nice treatment facility in Cleveland.”
“Ohmygod,” Matt said. “This is really happening.”
“Don’t worry about the band,” Gillis said. “We’ll still be here when you get back.”
But in all actuality, Ockym’s Razyr wasn’t around when Vance returned last month. After searching for a new bass player for a month, the band decided to venture on without a bass player for a while, but the sound wasn’t right.
So when Matt Vance called up Adam Gillis to see about practicing, it began a whole new chapter in the drama of America’s least favorite pretend band.
*Author’s note* Dog Antibiotics will not get you high. At least I don’t think they will. Please consult a veterinarian before using/abusing any prescription medication designed for animal use.
Top Posts of Ockym’s Razyr
Part 11 The Christmas Party
Part 3 The Road Trip
Part 2 The Jam Room
Part 10 The Other Interview
The Agora Ballroom. Cleveland OH
Reverend Morbid, Dr. Dreadful, The Witch is Dead, Die So Fluid, Eyes Set To Kill, Wednesday 13
I was wholeheartedly expecting the Agora to be nicer than Peabody’s. I haven’t been there since Ministry’s C-U-La Tour in 2008, but I had fond memories of the place and remember is being a nice, clean and well-kept venue.
But then I flooded a urinal within my first two minutes. I guess someplace had to fill the void left by Peabody’s.
Luckily the music was better than the plumbing. I really dug the first band. They reminded me of Motorhead, but cleaner (that isn’t saying much, I’ve seen dog turds cleaner than Motorhead) and with horror punk lyrics. they had some awesome riffage and ever managed to play through an awful microphone malfunction that would have felled lesser bands.
My only trouble with them came when I found out their name is Reverend Morbid. Don’t get me wrong; that’s a bad name or anything. But I imagine them looking at Dr. Dreadful and saying “Shit.” It made me wonder if the next band would be called Captain Corpse, Bishop Bloodyface or Governor Gruesome. with one band it comes of pretty cool, but when you see two bands with the same type of name something’s off.
I enjoyed Dr. Dreadful‘s female-fronted, Misfit’s-style punk again. I believe the first time I saw them was the last Wednesday 13 show I attended, but I’ve seen them a few times in the interim. It’s nice watching a band grow and change. I’ve been itching to hear some new music from them, but the changes in guitar tone managed to keep me entertained… for now.
Die So Fluid is an interesting band from England. They had a lot of the elements of progressive rock like spacey guitars, unconventional song structures and odd time signatures, but there was none of the virtuoso shredding of most prog metal bands. I can’t say I minded that though, I’ve never been a fan of John Petrucci so I found them quite interesting.
I read a short piece in Revolver magazine at the Eyes Set To Kill merch booth that both impressed and disenchanted me. I was impressed that they were covered in Revolver, but article referred to them as Screamo, which let me to expect guttural growls and nasal, whiny singing. Still, I was interested enough to check them out and pleasantly surprised. Their songs are filled with great riffs and soaring vocal melodies. It put me more in mind of Kittie than… what’s a popular Screamo band? Sure there’s the gimmick of two sisters playing in a band together and wearing skimpy outfits, but they have some great harmonies and serious chops. I was impressed enough to buy their new album.
I was a little disappointed that after seeing him twice before and buying the EP Spook & Destroy I didn’t recognize more of Wednesday 13‘s set. It definitely wasn’t the same set I saw a year and a half ago. The band has added a keyboardist and the set was heavier. It’s not like they were ever a bubblegum pop band, but there was a lot more aggression, speed and drop-tuned bar chords. And a little less singing along.
Still, it was a helluva good time.
So You Wanna Start A Band? Part 7
I’ve learned enough playing in bands over the years to have some wisdom to pass on. I notice a lot of awful things bands pass off as normal behavior and hope I can make the world a better place by helping prevent this. I don’t know everything about ‘how to make it in the music biz.’ If I did I would be writing this from a tour bus and not my apartment. If you disagree with my views I encourage you to share your own. If you have another way of doing things which brings more success I’d love to hear it.
Part 7: Take Advice
I think it’s important in any venture to find someone who knows more than you and learn from them. I know a few people who adamantly refuse to take advice or suggestions from anyone and only run around in circles chasing their own tails.
All you have to do is keep your eyes open and see what others are doing to learn from them. Unfortunately, all I’ve seen lately is advice on what not to do. If you feel like a few chuckles, head on down the rabbit hole with me…
I’m sure there’s advice out there for good things to do, but I don’t have any of that bookmarked.
The point of this lesson is to keep your eyes open and see what makes others successful. If someone is having better shows than you, find out why and incorporate that into your shows. And if someone is having worse shows than you, find out why and avoid that.
Remember, you can take advice from both of these types. But sometimes the advice is what not to do.
More Shitty Advice:
Recently I’ve seen a blog post making it’s rounds on Facebook explaining the problem with local music. I won’t blame you if you only read the first few paragraphs here, it’s pretty long winded. Really, all of it can be summed up in the opening of the second paragraph: “One of the main things we need in order to get a better music scene is for people to get off their asses, stop complaining, and go to a show. That’s it, it really is that simple.”
I agree with this statement, but I disagree with the way of thinking. Sure, the main thing needed to have a vibrant local scene is an audience, but it is wrong to place all the blame of a scenes failure on the inability of anyone to come to shows. If people aren’t coming to shows there’s probably a reason…
We’re given a few examples: laziness, Netflix, cheapness… probably a few more. Like I said, it wasn’t an extremely interesting post. I’m assuming that most people don’t show up to see the bands because they’re boring. I’m not surprised this post has gained traction among my friends in local bands because it does something they’ve been doing for years; blaming others for their failures.
I find that a lot of my friends in local bands are extremely opposed to constructive criticism. All they want is for people to blow smoke up their asses and tell them they make great music. I’ve heard a lot of excuses for why people don’t come to shows (many of them the same ones features in the No One Likes Your Band Post), and why people will drive 90 miles to see Mushroomhead but not 30 miles to see their band.
But you all miss the point… the problem is that your band isn’t that good. People do pay $200 to see major acts like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles because they write damn good songs that connect with people. And I have seen a few local bands that connect with people pull in some impressive crowds. They don’t go to see your band for $10 because your band sucks. People go to see Mushroomhead, Dax Riggs, Katy Perry, One Direction or whoever because they enjoy seeing this band and find them worth their time and money.
If no one is coming to see your band it’s because no one feels you’re worth their time or money.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand how these guys feel. My last band, Bastard Friendly, didn’t achieve the success I hoped we would. But unlike a lot of my peers I don’t blame my audience. I appreciate the people that gave us some time and listened to us. I just wish we could have continued to grow, write and develop so that we could have become the type of band people would spent $10 and an evening with. Because when we went on hiatus, we weren’t.
The sad fact of the matter is that watching Arrested Development on Netflix is a lot more fun than going to see most local bands. And that’s not the fault of Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Ron Howard, Mitchell Hurwitz or some Netflix fat-cat, but the fault of all these local bands that don’t work hard to create great music and just want to coast to super stardom.
You get out of it what you put into it.
I don’t write about local bands often because most local bands suck. And most of the ones that don’t suck aren’t very good. So instead of having them go jihad on my Facebook for pointing out why they’re playing to 20 people at the Foundry in Lakewood instead of 18,200 at Madison Square Garden, I’ll just point out the best.
Against All Odds – I still haven’t gotten around to checking out these guys’ album, but if it’s anything like their live show it contains a lot of really fun, high energy, well written punk rock. And maybe a guy in a grass skirt and coconut bra.
Minimal Concern – These guys are more of a hardcore act than I usually go for. Maybe I like them because even though there’s a lot of screamed, unintelligible vocals, they still have a lot of melody in them.
Decepticon Theory – Usually I don’t get into metalcore at all. I find the genre boring and devoid of feeling. Decepticon Theory liven things up by playing ‘Nintendo-core’ and mixing in video game samples and singing about Pokemon. That’s just enough humor to bring me into the fold.
Faceplant Junkies – I used to be in a band with the singer that was a thrash-punk hybrid. I think I like this straight punk version of some of those old songs better.
My first thought about the Basement Boys was that they’re a folkier version of their fellow Philadelphian’s the Dead Milkmen. “Tupac” has a gonzo-surf-punk vibe, but mellowed out with a bit of Bob Dylan.
The reality thought is that I find these guys a little bit harder to pigeonhole. Which is saying something. One of my biggest pet peeves when people say ‘We don’t really know who we sound like,’ because nearly without fail I can listen to them for 10 seconds and pin the genre down. But with these guys… well, it just ain’t working.
“The River” is an interesting slow dance. I love the the silliness of “milknarf (Interlude 1).” Somehow it’s possible to hear them telling jokes with the guitar licks. On “Untitled” I nearly recognize the opening guitar lick from some classic rock song, but then it’s mixed with banjo and harmonica and the song takes on a life of it’s own. “Honestly, Again?” is a perfect combination of doo-wop, early rock and roll and surf guitar. I love the laid back blues infused “Not Today.” “1234” continues songs in the Dead Milkmen vein and “Five” is a great closer with long guitar note bends.
The closest comparison I guess could be made would be to the Eagles. After all, both bands mix rock and roll with country or folk, but that’s like comparing Faith No More with Primus just because they’re both weird.