The Worst Parts Of Being In A Band

Up until December of last year, I was in a band named Digit Dealer. Over the two years we were together, we recorded two albums, played a bunch of shows for our friends and even managed to pull off an overseas tour. Although it was a fun experience, the band was ephemeral and generally unsuccessful; in other words, it was like the majority of bands throughout human history.

Being typical in that way, Digit Dealer embodied many of the common highs and lows that come with making albums, playing shows and touring. These are some the worst aspects of that ride:

Other Bands


As they’re essentially your competition for imaginary record deals, big ticket concerts and hordes of clawing fans, there aren’t enough awful things that can be said about other bands. Other musicians in general are overrated sellouts and untalented posers, while the ones you meet personally through the circuit of basement shows and dank venues are either egomaniacs or hacks.

Once, after loading in our equipment for a show at Lit Lounge, we got chummy with the bassist of a band from New Jersey named Transistor Radio (or something equally stupid). Although his band was slated to open, his bandmates were nowhere to be found. We comforted him, tried to convince Lit Lounge’s sound guy to have their set delayed and even helped find a parking spot for their van when the rest of the band finally showed up. In exchange, Transistor Radio (or whatever) insisted on playing second — in our slot. They parked their asses at the bar upstairs and simply refused to go on. Eventually, we were forced by the sound guy to go on first, before most of our fans had even arrived. Transistor Radio continued drinking upstairs through our entire set. Assholes.

Recording

Recording is a pain in the ass. There’s hundreds of dollars of equipment and software necessary to pull off even the most D.I.Y. productions, and cutting something exactly the way you want it is time consuming, expensive and, in all probability, impossible.

The first album that Digit Dealer recorded was at a studio where our sound engineer friend Bill worked, just outside of Washington D.C. Because we didn’t have any money to rent out studio time, we had to record the album at night when the place was empty. Compound that by the necessity to catch Bill not only while he was free, but when he had enough energy to work with us through the night, and the fact that we could only be in Maryland for so long before work and school drove us back to New York, and we were left with two consecutive nights to record the entire album. And we did it: for two nights we worked from 11 to some god awful hour of the morning, capping the second night (read: morning) with a five-hour drive back to New York. Thank you, Adderall.

Fans

This may be a really ungrateful thing to say, but screw fans. Yes, they are the only people who listen to your music and show up to your shows, but sometimes they can be really frustrating. They’re late to shows or they don’t show up or they spend the entire event outside smoking cigarettes.

Even when they’re actually present for the performance, you have to overcome Angry Cross-Armed Statue Phenomena (ACASP): Mysteriously, fans will pay good money and spend their time trekking out to see a band they enjoy only to stand motionless during the entire performance, not singing, not dancing, with their arms crossed, appearing to be confused and angry about the background music. I’ve done it and so have you. It must have something to do with the energy necessary to cross that tipping point beyond which everyone is dancing, moshing and losing their minds — but until that point, the crowd suffers from ACASP. And it’s brutal. Sometimes it feels like the equivalent of people coming to your birthday party and, when it’s time to blow out the cake, someone suddenly standing up and shouting: “Whoa, whoa, whoa! What the f-ck is going on here?”

I THOUGHT WE ALL UNDERSTOOD WHY WE WERE HERE.

Touring

This is the most romanticized aspect of being in a band: traveling from one town to another to play songs for adoring fans, seeing the world while being paid to do it and being loved everywhere you go for your art, being showered with gifts of alcohol, drugs and groupies while casting off the drudgery of everyday life — the job, the school, the obligations — for the adventure of the open road.

Sooo not the case. Most small bands tour on their own dime, which means packing into a van, driving across the country, facing the fickle nature of performing in places you’ve never been, sleeping wherever you can, drinking to cope and repeating the process until you finally make it home or snap along the way.

Digit Dealer pulled off one real tour: Nine days spent playing seven shows in five cities in England. We were invited to do it by our friend Aisha, a fan who happened to work for The Agency Group. She booked our shows and secured work visas for us, but we were on our own to cover costs, get from one place to another and find places to sleep.

In bullet points, here’s how it worked out:

  • Despite eating and drinking as cheaply as possible and forgoing any hotel rentals, we spent a ton of money.
  • We could only afford to hire a rental car only when we really needed it, leaving us to haul around our equipment and luggage by hand the rest of the time.
  • We slept on people’s floors and couches, in rental cars, in the VIP section of a dance club, in a hotel so dilapidated that it was free and, once, all together in the same bed.
  • We once played our entire set to two people: members of the opening band who mercifully stuck around.
  • We drank a lot to feel better, which left us hungover — but we had to keep traveling, so we drank more to overcome the hangovers, which gave us even worse hangovers, which we then had to drink even more to overcome. At one point, I was drinking to not throw up.

Bandmates


Your bandmates illicit some of the same ill will in you as rival bands do, but you’re forced to put up with them regularly, so it’s that much more extreme. Plus, you’re typically friends with your bandmates, so your relationships end up being inherently bipolar. You love them for your minor successes and hate them for your crushing failures (an arrangement of circumstance which somehow permanently excludes your own accountability). The cracks, strains and drunken arguments really begin to show on tour.

Like I said, the one tour and coup of Digit Dealer’s run was our trip to England. Austin (guitar, synth, vocal), Sean (drums) and I (bass) spent those nine days together almost constantly. Spending almost 216 consecutive hours with anyone will make you want to kill them; spending almost 216 consecutive hours with anyone while going through the highs and lows of playing shows, the anxiety of being functionally homeless and the soul-crushing effects of a seemingly never ending hangover will make you want to murder them.

Things almost fell apart on the eighth day of our tour, in Nottingham. We had played a decent set to a practically empty room that was part of a club filled with pasty juiced-up bigots. After watching a few fights break out and nearly getting into a few ourselves, we decided to head back to the home of some newly made friends who had offered to put us up for the night. On the way back to the car, the bottom of the entire situation fell out: all I remember is Austin screaming at Sean about affecting an English accent, and Sean apologizing profusely — in an English accent. It was that simple. It was hilarious, really, but we couldn’t see that because we had just had it with each other. It was like arguing with your girlfriend about nothing because you can’t figure out what’s actually bothering you, except in this case your girlfriend keeps affecting an English accent and is yelling at herself about it on a sidewalk in Nottingham while all you want to do is just get back to this random kid’s house to crash on his couch — JESUS CHRIST, WILL YOU TWO JUST SHUT THE HELL UP?!

*Incidentally, the things listed above are also the best parts of being in a band: Other bands are actually your brothers in arms; aside from embarrassing photographs, your recordings end up being the only tender testaments to your band’s existence; fans, whether you know them or not, are really just your most supportive friends; touring is the single best excuse for/ method of seeing the world; and precisely because you can feud with or become estranged from them, your bandmates are your family. TC Mark

image – Arvind Dilawar

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  • Michelle

    Great article! I love the last paragraph. There is good and bad to everything, including being a pseudo rock-star.

  • Peabo Bryson

    Something tells me your band was probably pretty sucky

    • Arvind Dilawar

      Like I said above, we were alright.

  • http://twitter.com/GonzoChicagogo Gonzo Chicago (@GonzoChicagogo)

    You recorded two albums, played a bunch of shows, AND toured overseas and still consider the band unsuccessful? Curious to know what you’re idea of success in a band is.

    • http://twitter.com/ArvSux Arv (@ArvSux)

      I meant the stereotypical rockstar fandom that kids getting into bands tend to envision. You know, like Justin Bieber shit.

  • Carmine Laietta V

    I’m sorry to break this to you dude, and I’m also not the one ever to talk shit in comments, but it just sound like your band…
    A) Wasn’t very good.
    B) Didn’t have the necessary means of internet communication (ie no site, no myspace, no facebook, nothing of any kind for me to check out Digital Dealer with.) Even if the band is broken up, you should still have your stuff up. I’m sure you’ve got more copies of your records laying around for selling…?
    C) Didn’t have the heart/stomach to deal with the realities of what every single band goes through. …and yes, EVERY band goes through it.
    D) Last and certainly not least, none of you in the band loved making music, or were able to appreciate doing so with each other.

    I’ve been in the band Hull for 7 years now, and while we never make money or rarely break even, I can still appreciate that I can make great music that I love, and our loyal fans love no matter how few or many of them there are.

    Again, I’m not one to talk shit on comments, but this fucking article is totally amature hour.

    -=Carmine

    • http://twitter.com/ArvSux Arvind Dilawar

      Hey Carmine,

      Point-by-point response:
      A. Like I mentioned in the article, the band was pretty run of the mill, not groundbreaking but not terrible.
      B. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=digit+dealer
      C. We dealt with the realities of playing shows, recording and touring, and each had its ups and downs, like I mentioned above — in fact, that was what the whole blog post was about.
      D. We actually all loved making music and each other.

      I take you actually didn’t read the last paragraph, and that, my friend, is fucking amateur.

      • Carmine Laietta V

        Ok dude. I’m not the one posting this shitty article on my blog. Read everyone else’s response to it, in addition to mine. I’m not the only one here who can see that you and your buds didn’t love it.

        And yes, I DID read the last paragraph.

        Try again.

      • Jeffrey Hollis

        Dude, if your go-to response for people is, “did you read the last paragraph?” why didn’t you just entitle the article, “The Best and Worst Parts of Being in a Band”? By writing an article about the worst parts of being in a band and then throwing in an obligatory paragraph about how these are all also the best parts of being in a band only serves to negate your entire article, you need to explain why they are the best parts of being in a band. You might as well have just written and article called, “Being in a Band” and then added, “I did it, it didn’t work out”.

    • David Lopan

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh, and he griped about someone RECORDING HIM FOR FREE! I really hope this guy never makes music again, since it’s obviously ass.

      • sucks mule dicks

        I really hope he never makes music again as well, mainly because his band’s music was/is/forever will be fucking terrible. And nine days in 5 cities does not a tour make. Try being packed in a van with five other dudes for 60 days touring across America. I did it and I still don’t have the audacity to pen a bitch fest like you’ve written here. With your outlook, it’s no surprise that digit dealer (worse band name than radio transistor) flopped.

        FUCK ALL YOUR SHOWS

  • http://www.facebook.com/theFunnelHead Christopher Harshfield

    What a horrible article. Why would you spend two years participating in something you find so miserable? Generally other bands are egomaniacs, hacks, sellouts, posers, and your main competition? What a misguided and pathetic statement that probably stems from your own social incompetence and guilt from being these things yourself.

    • Arvind Dilawar

      Did you read the last paragraph?

  • http://Sumbitches Leon

    Seriously, your band is terrible. It’s no wonder nobody wanted to watch you play. I’ve been an active musician longer than anyone involved in this piece has and I’ve done a hell of a lot better because I dealt with a hell of a lot worse and didn’t whine about it. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: if you’re not absolutely in love with the idea of ruining your back sleeping on floors, never getting a good night’s sleep for weeks on end, running out of money, and being unsure whether you’ll ever be able to lead a normal life – Never. Play. Music. The entitlement in this article is disgusting and it’s everything that’s wrong with music at this point. I’m glad your band folded and I hope all of your future endeavors fail as well.

  • wah wah wah

    Every single band that tries to make a go of it goes through this stuff. Sounds like the world is too tough a place for you. Perhaps you should go back to school where things are safe. Go back to your parents so your mommy can tell you how special and talented you are. In the real world you have to EARN things, which means work and suffering.

    • http://twitter.com/ArvSux Arv (@ArvSux)

      Yeah, I realize every band goes through this, which is why joking about it was supposed to be relateable to people in bands. Being in a band is fun as shit and it’s also tough sometimes — but apparently not as tough as writing this blog post.

  • simon

    Maybe if you didn’t spend so much money being an alcoholic because people wouldn’t watch your band you’d “get it” a little more. Holy shit, what ignorance. I can’t believe Thought Catalog considered these thoughts worthy of being put online.

    • Soma

      You’re an idiot. Thought Catalog is hardly a chronicler of serious and provoking thoughts, and if you or anyone else thinks it is, then we are all doomed.

  • Ben

    dude, you are the biggest whiniest baby in the world.

    • Claire

      True story.

  • http://Sumbitches Leon

    And the whole thing about trying to balance out your whiny bullshit with the disclaimer at the end just makes the whole thing more pathetic. If you’re gonna be an entitled dick, at least go all the way with it. Take a stand, even if it’s wrong and stupid.

  • Arvind Dilawar

    Only on the Internet can people click on a blog post called “The Worst Parts of …”, then complain about about the author being whinny. Again:

    I THOUGHT WE ALL UNDERSTOOD WHY WE WERE HERE.

    • Carmine Laietta V

      Just the fact that you have to keep defending yourself to all the comments here, shows that you really didn’t know what you were writing about when you wrote this article.

      • http://twitter.com/ArvSux Arv (@ArvSux)

        Yeah, I guess my jokes about the shitty aspects of being in a band missed their mark.

        I mostly had a fun time playing music and traveling and drinking with my friends, but thought that people in bands could relate to tough times you go through and people who haven’t been in bands could laugh at how much it sucks sometimes. That ended up turning into a series of “WAAAH”s, so I guess none of it came through. My bad.

    • E SOELZ

      Arvind, you should be happy your art fart band never got offered any real tours or studio time. You couldn’t hack it, anyway. For every deserving musician out there grinding it on the road day in and day out, there’s a thousand bitter dudes like you wishing they had what it takes.

      Good luck with your writing career, but do what you didn’t do with your music career: be honest with yourself. Stick to writing about what you know, and fucking listen to “Get in the Van” sometimes for chrissakes.

  • Mark Osborne

    “But guys, the last paragraph negates the fact that I talked shit for the prior 15!”

    Glad your band is broken up, there’s enough bullshit bands touring, we ain’t need no mo.

  • Greta B

    And it’s “ELICIT”, not “illicit”.

  • PITY PARTY FOR ONE WAAAAHHHH

    Somebody call the fucking wahmbulance. Grow up and got get an office job, yuppie.

  • PITY PARTY FOR ONE WAAAAHHHH

    PS: your band sucked

  • a4awesome

    I liked the ending paragraph and you’re welcome for the you know what.

    P.s. these commenters remind me of SC. Just saying.

  • http://didwedosomethingtodeservethis.wordpress.com Jana Pollack

    Arvind! This was a great article. Entertaining and funny and sweet at the end. Solid work!

  • VLV

    WHO? (cares)

  • http://www.eatshityourbandsucked.com tony

    Your band sucked, you’re probably a shitty dude and your band sucked.

  • ERIC WOOD

    SUCK THE DICK OF A CAR

    • ERIC WOOD

      OOPS WRONG ARTICLE MY BAD

  • http://twitter.com/lalavek Brandon LaLaVek (@lalavek)

    i mean was he wrong in what he said? can most ppl in band’s or who were in bands agree that it’s a shit show and sometimes it does suck? all these commenters who are in bands telling him to suck it up are also in unsuccessful bands otherwise they wouldn’t be here commenting on a blog posting that obviously hit a fucking nerve. just. sayin. good work Arv this post was hilarious.

  • tardsmack

    http://board.vivalavinyl.com/thread/view/25574/ you’re getting quite a response from a lot of veteran musicians here, including members of the bands TWO LIGHTS and ANCHORS ANCHORS.

    • http://twitter.com/ArvSux Arv (@ArvSux)

      Haha, thanks for that. The memes are pretty good.

  • Rachel

    I’m glad no one understands sarcasm or implication in writing. You all seem to have a very high opinion of yourselves and all your endeavors to internet scream (the silliest kind of scream) at someone to go home to his mommy and wish him failure. Calm the fuck down and stop thinking about how you can most nastily comment on something when you’re halfway through reading it.

    And “in the real world you have to earn things?” Looks like this band did rough it for a while, and Arvind’s willing to talk about how they tried and failed anyway, which is a perspective I value a lot more highly than all of this rah-rah you can do anything you want if you hope hard enough bullshit. And I appreciated reading it. Because I appreciate reading subtle satire.
    SAH- TIRE.

    I am also glad the guy who said “suck the dick of a car” did not delete his comment, and instead amended it, because I’m going to use that one one day on someone who actually deserves it. Not Arv, though.

    • http://twitter.com/lalavek Brandon LaLaVek (@lalavek)

      how does one suck car dick exactly? how do you know if you car actually has a dick? :)

  • Kevin

    All these “problems” you listed are what make the journey worth it. No one said success comes easy. Too bad you didn’t realize that soon enough and are now left with only memories.

    • http://twitter.com/ArvSux Arv (@ArvSux)

      Yes, you’re right: Those problems are exactly what make it worth it — which is exactly why I wanted to share them, ’cause even if they’re tough memories, they’re good ones.

      • boss-man-dad

        The only good thing about being in a band is that I get to be closer to my dad, who plays bass. I think every band should have a dad in their band, especially one cool enough to be in a punk band <3

      • http://www.isilbert.com doueg

        the only good thing about arv is his hair.

  • http://gravatar.com/johnnykamikaze johnnykamikaze

    IT’S IRONY, PEOPLE.

    • andre

      of course, the catch-all fall back position of hipster posers: it’s just irony, we weren’t really serious, it was all tongue-in-cheek

      pussies.

      • http://gravatar.com/johnnykamikaze johnnykamikaze

        http://art-bin.com/art/omodest.html

        Can you believe that guy wants us to eat our children?!?! What a hipster fuckin pussy! Let’s sting him up!!!!!! Yee haw!

        You, sir, are a yeasty cunt.

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