“Simplify, simplify” Thoreau teaches us in Walden. It’s something that I think a lot of bands could learn from, that with simplicity we find greater success. This is a bit of a tough one and you are going to need to bear with me. I want to clarify that while punk and hardcore might be the logical extreme of this ‘simplify, simplify’ they are not the only expressions of it. Rather I am asking you to eep in mind the ideas of simplification and how they can help you as a group in order to actualize your full potential and work towards things that are not only more rewarding but also a lot easier. This is going to sound crazy in a lot of ways, but I think when we break down the stripping down of your band then you are going to get why I feel that it might be the only way forward for many groups who find themselves to be stuck in a rut.
In his book Thoreau talks about how it is in fact faster to walk from place to place because when he wrote it, in the mid 19th century it cost about a days wages to travel the distance you could walk in a day via train. He thus felt it made more sense just to walk and save yourself a day of work. This is the sort of mentality that I think a lot of bands should be adopting. Yes, you can pay a bunch of money to open for a legendary band, OR you can play a bunch of shows in order to earn that spot. The bands who don’t spend a ton of money up front on non essentials and who rather than investing in a huge stage show or additional musicians instead just say, “Oh, well we can just get up there and do it” tend to be the ones who go a bit further. Instead of waiting around to pay for a huge producer, do the work yourself. Be the band who deserve getting that producers interest so it makes sense for you to work together.
Simultaneously – having the attitude of simplicity is going to be a lot more effective in DIY show situations. If you can show up and easily be able to cope with whatever situation is handled to you not only are you going to be getting more respect but also your life will be easier. There are bands out there like my boys in Freedom Hawk who are proud that they can play ‘punk rock style’ they can set up and tear down their shit in five minutes and that makes promoters love working with them. Meanwhile a band, especially in the DIY space who take more than ten minutes to get their shit ready are going to rapidly gain a bad reputation. I know it sucks because you have a grandiose vision that involves a drum rack, but guess what – if you can’t express your vision with a stripped down kit that doesn’t annoy the fuck out of everyone out of the show then maybe you don’t deserve to have a drum rack. That’s all I’m trying to say.
Also tied into this idea of simplicity is presentation. While I think it’s good to have multiple facets to your band, you want to have a clear and upfront presentation for whatever you are doing. What I’m saying is, it’s cool if your lyrics reference TS Eliot by way of commentary on the Boer Wars but maybe don’t lead with that? People want to see stuff they can easily connect with and relate too. They want elegant concepts they can relate to their friends at the bar. Think about how someone would describe your band to a friend in a loud bar. They aren’t going to give a detailed exploration of the music, even if they are a super fan. They don’t have time and the bar is loud. They are simply going to say, “Oh Subrosa? They are like esoteric doom with violins and shit” There are multiple other layers to Subrosa (They are, after all, my favorite band) but if I’m trying to communicate what they are about quickly I am going to present the simplest face. Make sure that you have a simple face for people to latch on too easily.
When you strip down your music to basic concepts and let people use those to grow on they are going to be able to relate to you. They are going to be able to say, “Oh, huh, this band seems to really have a clear vision” that’s because with simplicity comes clarity. So often bands get caught up in this that and the other and forget the basic reality of why people play music, to have fun with their friends and to get laid. I know that that’s a little crass, but please try and deny that that’s why you got involved. Your motivations probably evolved, but just appreciate where people are coming from and work within that. No one wants to hear about your totally unknown bands great vision. Let them discover that if they want too, have it readily available to be discovered but don’t force it down peoples throats. Instead show that you can impress on the fundamental first and most simple level. Show you kick ass then people will dig in.
Look at a band like Tool, possibly the most complicated band in the world with the most ridiculously drawn out album release process to potentially ever happen in the world of rock music. Yet they started out very simply with stripped down live shows and an understanding that to get any attention first they had to kick ass. They didn’t spend a fuck ton of money or get caught up in the little details, they just wrote a motherfucker of a record and toured their asses off, nothing more complicated than that. Once things started to grow from there people dug into the complexity already built in. It’s obvious that Tool are a flashy and complicated band, but they impress on that initial primal level and go from there allowing their art to flourish. Think about that when you drop your concept record, chill out and be simple!