Saturday, 31 May 2014


I think my expectations are way too high, when it comes to this situation...

It's been two months for me, now. 16 practises in total. I sense that this little band I've been playing with lately, will soon no longer be a workable proposition.

Seems they are wholly unwilling to discuss and/or agree together simple things about "Why" they are, "What" they want to do as a band, "Who" "Where" and "How" questions - really basic 101 stuff for any band/group. I mean, EVERY band needs to have this sorted from the start - ask anyone.

They say they want to do things... but they just "don't seem to get around to it". They try something we've agreed together to do, only once - and that's it. No further discussion - positive or negative. There seems like there's no desire at all to talk about any of this sort of stuff together. This sense of  almost-childish passive non-co-operation within themselves is just really.... it's wholly frustrating.

Two of the members are in a relationship together, which adds to some inter-personal tensions, in that - they simply do not know how to communicate with each other when it comes to anything musically, and end up arguing about nonsense. It's extremely stressful for me, as an observer, to sit back and have to experience this at EVERY rehearsal. I mean, we're ADULTS here, aren't we...?!?

Hopefully I'm totally wrong about all this - gawd, I hope so! Again... I think my personal expectations are just too high...

The songs they've been playing have been, quite honestly, really very simple and easy to perform. But somehow, people still seem to keep messing simple things up, time-after time.

But I think the silliest thing they ever decided, as a group of people, was to try and want to perform live, in front of people. They've opened a huge can of worms, that they simply do not want to face nor discuss together at all. They can do it, but I don't think they really want to, basically!

It's very frustrating as a player, first and foremost. I've found my playing skill has come back to pretty good form in rather a short time, which I'm personally very pleased about. (Considering I hadn't picked up a bass in like 2 years previously!)

16 practises, with any other group of people, even with people who have never played before (and I have been in this same situation, quite a few times), would be wielding great positive progress and obvious results. But no, nothing really, here.

They keep telling me they have been playing together for FOUR years! It's very... it's surreal, basically, because, to be honest - I just can't see it.

In all reality, we've only had ONE really good constructive rehearsal together (that we agreed would be an ongoing weekly aim) - and now it feels almost like they want to sit back and think, "Well, that's done now, so let's go back to doing the same-old-same-old..."

The drummer, however, is one of the easiest guys I've ever worked with (as a bass-player) - it's been very easy to slip-in together and create an easy 'groove' (as a 'rhythm section'), plus he's totally down to earth as a person, and just goes with the flow. He's one positive reason why I would stay.

I'm not sure if I want to remain in a band that is, quite simply, feeling like a bit of an "in-joke" between a small clutch of old friends. It's just limping along lethargically, directionless. It lacks passion, it has no "soul" - that's the best way to describe it.

It's like playing alongside little children - they like doing what they do, it's "fun"; but have no idea why or how or what they should do with what they are doing. I mean - we're all ADULTS here, right...?!?

Not very motivating to be involved with. At all.

I sincerely feel it would be best for them, if they just focused on hanging out together each Sunday afternoon, played some friendly music between themselves, as friends (as they have been doing for the past 4 years!), and simply leave it at that.

But they keep saying they want to do MORE...

But, like I said... prove me wrong, guys, prove me wrong. PLEASE!!!

As I said at the start - I think my own personal expectations for what this band is, or claim they want it to be, are simply way too high.

Peas be with ewe 


  1. G'day Mal,

    I gather that most of these people have been practising as a "garage band" for the last 4 years and, other than yourself, have never performed before a live audience (other than maybe friends and family). It requires quite a change of mindset to transition from that perspective of their music ("oh, we're having fun and don't we sound good") to that of a musician who is going to try to keep paying customers entertained for anywhere from one to four 45 minute sets without repeating material.

    When I started out in 1958 as a 15 year old, I must admit I didn't have to worry about the 5 questions. I was simply joining an already established country dance band, the Mississippi River Boys, and my father was in charge. However, in 1971, my father had a heart attack (he lived until 2000). I had to take over managing the band and suddenly became aware of all the decisions that had to be made... things I'd previously taken for granted. Fortunately, I guess I was a fast learner and managed to keep the band going until the mid-80s. The main thing I learned, was even when you reached a consensus with the band members, it always comes down to one person making the final decision and implementing it. What we had going for us was the fact that the core members had worked together for years and were quite willing to talk things over without coming to blows.

    Grateful We're Not Dead evolved from Gord's Music Nights. I knew Gord and Bruce from Public Works Canada and prior to retiring in '98 I decided to go to Music Night. It didn't take long to find out that the three of us liked Country Music and, after the Music Night finished around 11 pm, we'd play until 1 or 2 in the morning. Being the main singer, I picked the material we'd jam with. Usually, at Music Night each month, we'd play 2 or 3 numbers. Next thing we knew, on July 1, 2003 we were asked to entertain at a 40th Wedding Anniversary. After a few more gigs, we agreed that we'd play for free for charities, fund raisers, peace events, senior residences, etc. I then had to commit myself to preparing a playbook complete with lyrics and chords. Gord and Bruce had to make the commitment to be available for weekly practices. The first year was a bit difficult mainly because Gord and Bruce were not familiar with material I was adding to the playbook, Bruce hadn't played in a band since he was a teenager and Gord had never played in a band. However, they managed to adopt the mindset required to be able to sit down and play the same damn song over and over until we got it into a listenable state. Fortunately, we never considered ourselves to be a cover band. We simply did things "our way".

    Even after almost 11 years and the addition of Al as our bass player, we still occasionally hash over the whys and the wherefores of Grateful We're Not Dead. Even though most of our material is relatively simple we still make errors, but our "rule-of-thumb" is lets not all make a mistake at the same time. Individual mistakes usually don't get noticed by the audience in a live performance unless it's something like me blowing the lead or a line in a song.

    I record performances and make the material available on Soundcloud. That way we can do an autopsy and make suggestions on how to change and/or improve something. In order to keep the band progressing and performing we have to communicate and as you mentioned, that's what seems to be lacking with your cohorts. As how to deal with that, I'd suggest trying to start discussions on a regular basis and be prepared to have a lot of patience (which can be really difficult if you can't see any progress being made.) I'd give them a few more months before I did anything rash. At least it's giving you a change to play bass and get your callouses back.

    1. Thank you (as always!), Don. You are right, of course.