Finding the right band to join can be a harrowing experience. Combing through the “Muso’s Wanted” column of the classifieds can be seriously hit and miss and, despite how well-worded that three line advertisement may be, it hardly gives you a very good indication of whether the band will be a good fit not only musically but in their level of ability and more importantly, personality.
Facing the audition can be a little nerve-wracking. You may have had a 15 minute conversation on the phone with one member of the band, who will no doubt have given you the impression that the band you are auditioning for is the next Led Zeppelin and their expectation of what you can bring to the band may seem a little hard to live up to. Then you get to the audition only to find that their ability isn’t quite as stated. Suddenly you’re on the “Why the hell did I bother coming to this” train. Or, musically and level of ability is a good fit and you suddenly find yourself a member of a band only to find out a couple of rehearsals down the track that the other members of your new band are just complete dickheads that you don’t feel comfortable around. It’s a pretty common situation to be in.
On the other side of the coin, auditioning new members for your band can be pretty scary too. I’ve heard some great “horror stories” from bands (and experienced a few of my own) who have had the cascade of calls from people wanting to try out that seem to have crawled out from under the fence of a local asylum. From people who thought they were genuinely something truly special and weren’t, through to those who just smell funny. I’ve seen some very strange folk turn up to auditions over the years. Working behind the counter of a rehearsal studio, I’d say we’ve seen our fair share of auditioners and auditionees. I always know I’m in for a fun shift when a band comes in and tells me they have a few people turning up to try out for them and wonder if I could direct them to their studio when they arrive. The following are a few of my favourites from the cattle calls I’ve seen take place…
The early arriver.
The early arriver turns up well before the band he is auditioning for has actually booked. He felt the need to get in an hour or so in advance to warm up. He will often ask (and usually expect) a separate studio to the one the band will be in to be given to him for this warm up routine. Often, in spite of his lengthy pre-audition preparation, he’ll still freeze when he gets in front of the band. He may well be a competent player but his confidence level really is the thing standing in his way and the band will feel it during the audition and will most likely tell him thanks but no thanks. He will say the word “sorry” at least sixty times within the short duration of his audition.
The nervous nelly
The nervous nelly is pretty much as the name describes. He’s sweating bullets as if the band he is going to play with may actually do him some physical harm if he doesn’t do well with the audition songs. I feel for him. If you’ve given in to fear, you can’t give your best performance and, if you’re taking the whole thing too seriously, you’re also likely to alienate the people who are auditioning you. It ends up being a little uncomfortable for everyone concerned and you know it probably won’t turn out well from the word go. Sure enough he’s going to blow it. What’s worse is he’s going to beat himself up about it later but then do exactly the same thing at the next audition he goes to.
You can smell this guy as he pulls up into the driveway. He has good cases for his gear (unless he’s a singer in which case he won’t have any gear outside of a manila folder with lyrics in it and a pen). He probably already plays in three or more other bands. He knows where the studio is and we’ve probably seen him in there before. He turns up on time, never early, never late. He’s calm, cool and collected and he knows the material that’s expected of him. He’s a dream to audition with and the band will all be smiling during his performance. Unfortunately, he may well be better than the band he’s auditioning for and this can, and often does, end in a slightly awkward moment where the band all vote unanimously to have him join and he ends up having to make an excuse to let them down easy.
Like the pro, you can see this guy coming. He can usually play seriously well but he has done the audition circuit more than he has done any genuine time as being a regular member of a band. He knows that he’s good… maybe a little too much. He’s on a never-ending search for “just the right outfit” for him to play in but he may never find it. Instead he’ll accept a position in the band but never really be a part of it. Sooner or later he’s going to leave and begin his search all over again. He may well play in a lot of bands over his playing life. Probably none of them will hit the big time . He ends up being a fill-in player for a bunch of different cover acts but he’s not necessarily the first one on their list of contacts to call. His first question if and when he gets the call is “how much is it paying?”.
Tall on desire and short on actual ability, the over-reacher is way out of his depth and often doesn’t realise it. He is yet to learn that being a part of a band actually requires some ability on an instrument and that just turning up to auditions, is not how you become a rock star. He doesn’t realise that he doesn’t sound any good and he is confused why the band thank him for his time and say that they will call but never do. You have to admire his tenacity but at the same time you’re likely to grit your teeth through his performance. Often this one will start telling the band that they should “watch their tempo on that song” or something that would be equally as embarrassing if he only knew what the band were actually thinking of his level of ability. The conversation amongst the band members after he leaves is often hilarious.
The livin the lifestyle but no idea of how to play guy
Similar to the over-reacher with the addition of usually being drunk or high on something and often quite proud of the fact. They got the idea of being in a band based on the sex and the drugs part and didn’t really read to the end of the sentence and realise that there was actually a “rock n roll” component. They believe in their ability even though they have really never had any training in their instrument or done any real practice. They feel they are destined for stardom because they have seen a lot of bands and watched “The Doors” movie at least ten times. They usually dress the part… to the point of looking a little ridiculous and embarrassing to the other guys in the band. They are very quick to discuss how they are going to propel the band to stardom. They chew gum constantly. Even while singing.
The gadget man
The gadget man has more gear than ability. They come in different forms but they are all very similar to each other. Guitarists/bassists that have racks of pedals to sculpt their sound but really are struggling to get an open G chord together, drummers who have more cymbals and toms than any one drummer should, singers who bring their own mic and/or some sort of pedal or rack unit that autotunes/delays/harmonises/etc. They hide in their gear and effects and are yet to realise that they are just trying to polish a turd. They haven’t really gotten comfortable with their instrument and their playing and instead think that the next big shift in their musical ability will come from the acquisition of some new piece of kit. They are always too loud, thinking that masses of volume makes everything they do sound even better.
The business man
This one seems very concerned with how the money side of things should be handled. They’re worried that if they write any songs for the band that, when those songs become the hits he feels they are destined to be, they are going to just be cashing in on his talent. He wants to know what slice of gig dollars are going to be making their way into his pocket before he’s actually done the audition. He’ll keep the band waiting while he takes a call on his mobile. He’ll bludge everybody else’s cigarettes and beers and not bring his own. It will just be expected in his mind that they should be supplied for him. His talent level won’t live up to the hype he has created about himself and he’ll probably tell you at the end of the audition that he thinks you guys can probably afford to do a few rehearsals without him in order to “get up to speed” before he comes in. He will want contracts written up and looked over by a lawyer asap.
The name dropper
Even if he does actually know or has played with the people he constantly refers to during his pre-audition chat, (and he probably doesn’t/hasn’t), the name dropper will be likely to piss you off before you finally get him out of the studio. His stories of the people he knows that can propel your band into the ranks of stardom will seldom have any real basis in reality and whether you are sucked in by them or not, you will feel a bit drained by the end of the audition. His ability will be mediocre at best and he will try and make up for that by dazzling you with bullshit about record execs he knows that he can get you in the door with. He will engage the rehearsal studio staff in conversation, big-noting himself and asking them if they know “So-and-so from XYZ studios”. He has a business card that was printed on a bubble jet.
Awkward conversation guy
Totally one of my favourites. (though if I never met another one of these it would be too soon.) The awkward conversation guy will engage anyone they come into contact with with very long anecdotes about their musical experiences. (gigs they’ve played in or seen of bands you may or may not have heard of, records they like, gear that stars they like use, etc, etc.) These stories will have no real point and really only delay their audition. You find yourself looking for things to be busy with whilst they are talking to you so you don’t have to engage. They don’t understand the concept of winding up a conversation and they are incapable of reading the subtle (and not so subtle) signs that you are not interested in what they have to say. It will take most of their audition time just to get to play a single song and they’ll no doubt stop that in the middle to have a long discussion about some minor part of it. You will realise that it’s not worth the effort of having them in the band even if they are really good. Avoid eye contact, it just invites them to drain life from you.
There are a dozen more I could come up with but I think it’d be more fun to hear some of yours. Let us know in the comments about the auditions you’ve held and the types who have turned up.