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When and Why It's Crucial That You Form a Band

If you messed up that guitar solo you've been working on or you busted your ass on some decrepit stage only to receive a payment of a burger and two drink tickets, remember; you have had the opportunity to 'hang out' with good friends and hopefully, dare I say it, have a fun. Days move fast, changes happen quick and in no time you will be at a job, shirt tucked in your freshly pressed khakis.

If you are between the ages of 14-18, form a band now.

In my opinion, and through my experience, this is the ideal age to form your first band. At this age you are frustrated, in love, angry, energetic, lost or happy. Many of us will remember, that as a teenager, you tend to experience all these emotions before 10 am. Like Alice Cooper said "Don't always know what I'm talkin' about feels like I'm livin' in the middle of doubt. 'Cause I'm eighteen I get confused every day."

Hence, this is the ideal time to form a band.

I don't care what style or genre you are planning on playing. Country, Rock, Hip Hop, or Folk. I don't care what tools you use to create your songs: guitar, bass, drums, piano, turntables or a computer program. I don't care how many members you want to have in your group; go out and create a collective like Broken Social Scene, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes or form a duo like Beach House or the White Stripes. I really don't care what your level of musicianship is, because if you start with a passion and desire to get your emotions out in sonic form you will overcome any technical elements (see: The Sex Pistols). I don't care if your goal is to play four tunes at next month's church dance or to one day fill Madison Square Garden; it doesn't matter. What does matter is right now you have the chance to form a band of like-minded, people that you want to spend some quality time with, and truth be told; this chance may not come again.

Just do it. Form a band now.

Some kids want to grow up way too fast. I just stood beside two 12 year old students discussing their respective phone plans like they were a pair of middle-aged co-workers chatting through a cubicle wall. They don't realize that this concern for such a mundane, first-world dilemma will, later in life, be the cobwebs that gradually form on your happiness and creativity. Everyday factors such as: bills, mortgages, groceries and phone plans will become part of your life soon enough kids; there is no need to rush into that wonderful aspect of adulthood.

Don't' get me wrong; being an adult is a wonderful thing. There are no words that can describe life experiences such as your wedding, travelling the world or creating and raising a child. With age and experience comes knowledge and reflection. Adulthood is not some grey, bleak, soul-less world where all your hopes, aspirations and creativity shrivel up and die; that's called Walmart.

So form a band. Now.

First-find a location to jam; your friends garage, an unfinished basement, rent a practice space or jam in a backyard. Wherever you choose, embrace it, because this location will become your laboratory. You and your fellow members will fill this space with scratches, sweat and screams. This location will be the nursery that your riffs, drum fills and epic choruses will be born into.

Next, get your gang together and fill this location with your collective energy, your teenage angst and your desire to create something that didn't exist ten minutes ago. Practice and play as much as you can. The world needs more of you. We need to hear that thick distorted solo being fed through a Fuzz Buster pedal you got for the local thrift shop. We need to hear your off key screams that reflect a teenager, angry at the world; but they're not quite sure why. We need to have more kids experience why forming a band can become the most emotionally rewarding experience you may be part of in your entire life.

You need this too. You need to vent your frustrations. You need an outlet. You need to woodshed with other musicians. You need to share songs. You need to swap stories. You need to experience the feeling of connecting musically with other people. You need a parent, commitment and rule-free zone where your Lord of the Flies gang mentality can overcome the stresses and tribulations of teenage life; sucks to your asthma Piggy!

My first experiences of being in a band started with three great friends (Announcer please -- On lead guitar, Mr. Adam Phipps, on bass, Mikey Simoes and pounding away on the skins, Mr. Scott Duffy.) As I stood behind the mic on rhythm guitar, we would gather in Duffy's parents garage which was separate from the house, which instantly made it a plus for Mrs. Duffy and a strong negative for their neighbours. Once we finished shuffling about plugging in our chords, flipping on crackling amps, tightening snares and checking the mic (with a nod to Wayne's World -- sibilance, sibilance) we were ready to rock. At that moment, you cannot help feeling like a rock star. Because at that moment you already feel like you've won. Standing there, guitar hanging in front with this spectacular view of three jam-hungry band mates who were as stoked as you to see what kind of noise you were going to make.

And noise it was.

We were lucky enough to be the generation that had grunge as their high school soundtrack. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were heard blaring out of our parents Ford Tempos as we would cruise the main drag or the off key vocals of Hunger Strike could be heard around our backyard campfires. Like culinary chefs whose signature dishes were unconsciously influenced by their geographical region, we were amateur rockers raised on a healthy diet of power chords and distorted feedback that became the ingredients of our garage rock anthems.

Being in a band makes it an experience for all those involved. Your circle of friends become integral parts of your bands success. They will be your promotions team, spreading the word about your show on Facebook, Twitter etc. They will be your box office -- stamping hands at the door, taking cover charges, telling the masses to enjoy the show. They will be your transportation -- loading and unloading your gear, coming along for the road trip to some dodgy venue in the middle of nowhere just to be part of the action. But most importantly, they will be the foundation of your fan base. From the first gig you ever play, your friends will fuel your passion and encourage you with their attendance, applause, and lifelong support.

Friends support friends. We want those we love to succeed and we usually are in awe of people when they take risks, showcase their talents or create something original. Your family members will also become your biggest fans. They will be found loading up your gear with you and wearing your band shirt at gigs (even if it doesn't fit and looks a little funny). They will do their best to ignore the pounding, chaotic noises that pulsate from their basement as you and your band mates hone your skills and they will be the first ones to congratulate you when you come off that stage; because they are proud of you.

Note to parents: If your kid wants to take an instrument (guitar, drums, voice, whatever), practice with his/her friends, write original tunes, organize a place where they can practice, find a venue that they can host a gig, stand up in front of a faceless crowd and perform those tunes; then support the hell out of them. Do not ask your sons or daughters if their getting paid. Yes, it's nice to be paid for your services, but just playing live is the real reward and too many parents don't get that. It is the experience that makes the neck hairs stand up and gives you an electric jolt that makes you want to do that again. Face it, even if your four piece band got paid $200 for your a one-hour set, would that cover your incidentals: guitar strings, rentals, posters, gas money? Treat it like a business from the start and you will not even want to begin.

So parents, recognize that unlike organized sports, there are no coaches of bands. There is no adult supervisor guiding these kids along, helping them with their skills, setting up games/venues for them, organizing transportation .Instead your kids came up with this game plan on their own. That is an act that should be commended. So, let your kids be kids and experience these things. Let them fail at times and let them succeed because of their hard work. Let them problem solve and most of all let them enjoy the journey!

As an adult you will eventually work with others and set goals in a team setting, but not in the vein of a band. A band, without fail, will be the greatest group project you will ever be involved in. Even when it's bad, it's good. You leave with stories and experiences. To this day, I still tell tales of a guitarist I played with who could shred like Eddie Van Halen, yet had all the quirks and nuances of potential candidate for the next Unabomber.

In a band, all members are charting the path. You are all the boss (unless you played with Bruce Springsteen, then he's the Boss... you're just an E-Street member). Unlike later in life, when you will be part of numerous, coma-inducing group projects with co-workers doing make-work activities initiated by your boss, in your jam space you all steer the ship. And unlike these adult assignments you'll be involved in later in life, being in a band when you are young let's you see the fruits of your labour form right before your eyes. There is immediate gratification.

Even when you walk away from a four hour practice without a new song to show for your efforts or the crowd at your gig was sparse and lifeless. If you messed up that guitar solo you've been working on or you busted your ass on some decrepit stage only to receive a payment of a burger and two drink tickets, remember; you have had the opportunity to 'hang out' with good friends and hopefully, dare I say it, have a fun.

Days move fast, changes happen quick and in no time you will be at a job, shirt tucked in your freshly pressed khakis, giving empty smiles to co-workers who's names you never bothered to learn. You will find yourself leaving a staff meeting, exhausted and drained, muttering under your breath ..

"What was the point of all that?"

Looking back, I can say with pride; I never once said that leaving a band practice.


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