Bees and bros: What I learned from the band life

ABOUT A BRO - Ralph Mendoza (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2013 - 12:00am

I was part of a band starting October of 2011 until about two weekends ago. It was a good full year spent hanging with the boys and banging the drums — until about December of 2012 when we quietly French-exited the scene and took an extended break. It was no big deal, really, since bands really do take long breaks like that on the fly. The last thing a band needs is pressure to make new music.

Nine months after, priorities had shifted — people went solo, people got jobs — and to cut to the chase, I was told that the band (Bee Eyes) was planning to go on tour without me. I didn’t ask why. I simply accepted it. Because despite that, I knew that my parting was a timely disclaimer for me to focus on work.

It was a late Friday night at the parking lot when it happened — gangsta — but it was in no way a scene from a movie or anything of that nature. In fact, it was pretty much as chill as the hiatus we had just started to surface from. After things were said and bro hugs eased the tension, I drove home that night knowing it was all good. I had closure and I was proud of what I had contributed to the band as a whole. Now I just wish them all the goodness the universe can possibly offer. Like I said, it was a good full year and I know it ain’t the end of the road as a drummer. I still have my sticks and I know I’ll find myself in the studio again soon enough.

I recently thought to wrap it all up with a short list of things I’ve learned since playing in my first band all the way back in ’02. I hope it helps anyone out there who’s trying to understand the band thing a little better.

Simple beats rule.

Growing up a drummer will always entail wanting to impress with the craziest drum solos possible but as you evolve, you realize that there are more important things like keeping the sound glued from start to end. One of my favorite drummers, Stewart Copeland of The Police, once noticed that very few rock drummers do simple beats anymore. You can see how his workshops espouse a solid backbeat. The 4/4 time signature is rudimentary but it’s actually a philosophy drummers need to understand not only to give the band a beat to follow but unite everyone as well.

Practice a set until you think it’s 11 out of 10 so that there’s a good chance your live set will sound like a 9.5 out of 10.

The handicap is always higher when you’re live onstage due to a combination of distractions: amplifiers spilling the nastiest feedback, drunk friends patting you onstage, band mates winking, waiters offering drinks while you’re playing, and so on, so you need to practice to the point where your muscle memory can’t fail you when you’re out there. There were times when everything was just so loud, I had to play based on the vocals alone. So it’s just like sports. Train your reflexes. Train your muscle memory. It’s a brain thing.

Don’t take your T-shirt off onstage and risk getting distracted by your own.

The Meiday and Dope MNL gigs I played with Bee Eyes were some of the best saunas I’ve ever melted in, hence the temptation to get half naked, like a lot of drummers before me. But that only works if you’re fit. I’m definitely not, so I know I’m better off with a T-shirt to make sweat art on. I also just realized an electric fan on the floor would have been a good idea. But that’s a totally unnecessary regret right now. The main takeaway here is if you don’t go to the gym, it’s okay, because you’ll pretty much sweat it out onstage anyway.

There’s no Sulit or Craigslist out there for sourcing band members.

Call it networking if you will, but do it with the best intentions. Some of the people you team up with can lead to bros you’ll want to keep for life, so it’s definitely more than just a collab. They can learn from you as much as you can learn from them and that’s how you level up in the RPG of music.

Don’t underestimate what music can lead to.

Just because we’re in a Third World country doesn’t mean we always have to settle for the underdog status. Thanks to the Internet, the music industry has become an ever-upgrading spaceship waiting to be flown. The tools are more available than ever before and putting your music out there can certainly make ripples in the most obscure areas in the world. But like my friend Eyedress recently tweeted, you should do it not because you want to be discovered. Do it for yourself.


Follow the author at ralphmendo.tumblr.com.


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