Thursday, March 12, 2009

Band of brothers

I did not succumb to the madness of U2 one block away from my home yesterday, when the biggest band in the world (by some accounts) played the Somerville Theatre. But I did read Sarah Rodman's wrap-up in today's Globe, and a brilliant little nugget about being in a band was dropped during the band's Q&A session with the audience. And it comes from their drummer, Larry Mullen Jr.
Mullen in particular thoughtfully responded to a question about advice for aspiring bands. He spoke of good songs and even better arguments but stressed democracy "where everybody feels a stake in what they do. The idea of hired hands in bands just doesn't work, it's about respect for the individual."

That is solid advice. And it speaks to an area that I believe our band, thankfully, gets right, and far too many forget about. I've known too many bands, not that I'm calling out anyone in particular, who don't allow "the band" to grow for whatever reason. That's why bands built on friendships or mutual respect in some area (playing ability, charm, etc) are effective and usually longer-lasting than bands that put forth a one-man show with a collection of unimportant backups. It can't be about you -- it's about everyone together (the guys playing the instruments, the audience, etc). Really, we are just lucky enough to be standing in the middle of the madness, taking it all in.

I'm not saying you can't have success as a solo artist, but I think people naturally gravitate toward bands. The chemistry is more attractive than the individual charms. That's why people are excited when Springsteen reunites the E Street Band or when bands like U2 (who have had their close calls with breakups, apparently, over Bono's social/political duties and its priorities alongside the group) stick it out together through thick and thin.

I've said from the beginning of this band, and certainly from the beginning of this blog, it starts with selling the belief in yourself. If all four of you believe that great things can happen, then you're setting yourself up for something -- whether that's the success you seek is up to chance, luck, and fate at some point, but at least you're making an honest go at it. Often, I likened this to the Dallas Mavericks quest for a championship, as I did a few years back.
If you're going to be the primary motivator of a group of people, you need to make sure everyone has the same goal. More importantly, you need them to believe that that goal is rational, even if outsiders doubt it. When Avery Johnson took over the Mavericks with 16 games to go in the season two years ago, he immediately declared the Mavericks could win a championship -- not next year, but now. Everyone ridiculed him. But guess what? They almost did. The next year, they got even closer. And this year, they are nearly every sportswriter's pick for the title. But belief has to come from within before it can be reasonable to those outside. This is something I tried to establish very early on in the band.

Obviously, Avery Johnson is now out, and there has been plenty written about his flawed leadership. But say what you will, he got the Mavs closer than any coach before or since. And the principle of preaching belief in yourself is universal.

Having four guys emotionally invested in the music they are creating is what makes music magical, and it's something you just can't replicate with studio musicians or hired hands. That's how bands collectively find an identity (and again, look at U2, they couldn't even play their instruments when they formed, and together they grew into the massive group). That's how great records are made, and beautiful magical moments are created, and hopefully, caught on tape. That's the true essence and beauty of BANDS, by definition, a collection of individuals. All having their say. All committed to each other. All sharing the glory and the heartache. That is a band.

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Anonymous Matt said...

hey glenn, it was good songs and even better "arrangements" not "arguments". although good arguments can lead to good songs too. but i wouldn't say they go hand-in-hand.
also, this is the first time i've ever commented on this blog. w00t

12 March, 2009 12:39  
Anonymous glenn said...

i didnt write that. sarah rodman did (hence the blockquote), so i'm guessing larry mullen jr said arguments. after all, arguments make things happen. shows passion. recommits you to the work in a more fiery manner. my guess is that sarah got that right.

12 March, 2009 13:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey guys stop.....ARGUING! get it?

or should you start?

12 March, 2009 20:20  

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