Ask anyone who plays in an unsigned, local band and they will tell you how difficult it is. I can’t count how many hours I have spent staring at an empty inbox after sending the same email to twenty different promoters, begging them to let us play yet another clubhouse/youth centre/pub/trendy bar/empty field/small venue show that only five of our close mates are ever going to come to (despite sending out thousands of Facebook invitations and being assured that “yeah man I’m definitely coming down”). I’ve spent days studying Facebook page statistics, racking my brain as to how I can boost our online presence any further than the couple hundred of our friends who only ‘liked’ the page after incessant digital nagging on my part. Then comes the trauma of getting the other three band members into a rehearsal just for us to play the same twelve songs to death until we cannot stand the sound of them. Then comes the cost of it all: instruments, pedals, broken cymbals, rehearsing, getting to shows. Big money.
But ask them why they keep it up and the words will fail. To play live is an overwhelming experience, making all the hardships worth it. To feel in total control of a hungry audience who somehow know the lyrics to songs you wrote in your bedroom is beyond description. With nothing but a guitar and your hand a three best mates in the world stood next to you, you feel incredible. Immortal.
I’ve played in and managed my band The Gillies for two years now, and in this series I’ll chronicle each step we took to get as far as we’ve come. From getting the band together to writing songs to getting gigs, and all the ridiculousness we’ve experienced along the way. This is my comprehensive guide on how to be a functioning small band in Southampton based on my own experiences, the dos and don’ts, and the for the love of God please don’ts.
Words by Lucas Eveleigh