Cam Stanley – What It Takes To Make It
In his first guest column for D.I.Wireless Cam Stanley, writer for Take It Back and Regretful zines in Vancouver, talks about the interesting issue of what he has observed as being some of the crucial elements to building success as a punk band – whatever that may be. Thing is he has never even been in a band. Is his opinion irrelevant? Or spot on?
Let me start by stating what each person’s definition of ‘making it’ can vary hugely. But having watched bands strive to get something going for number of years, let’s just say it’s the opportunity to get out of town. It’s the chance to tour places you never thought you could, maybe with some musical heroes, with some sort of consistency and longevity. All while making records that people enjoy and, dare I say, respect. Sounds totally achievable, right?
You can talk all you want about being on the right label, using social media, getting the right supports, knowing the right people. But trust me if a punk band is ticking off the things below with an ounce of honesty and the right attitude, they are going to end up doing pretty fucking well. Eventually. Think of a band you know who is doing well. Got it? Now think about how they are checking all these boxes.
A Goat For The Gods
Shit, yes. It’s the biggest cliche, but you better be ready to sacrifice. I am not talking about ‘Oh, we just spent $6,000 on recording and I am SO broke’. Or ‘I played a show instead of going to my cousins wedding’. I am talking about the kind of sacrifice that in some way or another, you’ll probably live to regret it down the line. Steady relationships, jobs and support? Forget about it. And if you have even one of these you are either extremely lucky, or not doing it right. In the end all these sacrifices won’t matter to you personally because of what you are about to read below. Or it will make for some pretty cool songwriting.
Wherever You Are, That’s The Place To Be
I once read a quote by Tom Gabel, oops I mean Laura Grace, that talked about the type of people in the music industry and she spoke about a ‘Polar Bear’ – someone who is both great at their job and absolute pleasure to be around. This part of our list focuses on the second bit of that equation without completely discounting the first. You have to be someone people want to be around. It means your bandmates won’t get sick of you. Other bands will want to take you on tour again and again. Labels, promoters, producers will want to work with you. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to always be the life of the party, because a good chunk of the time those people are jerks. Although sometimes it doesn’t hurt. Just as importantly you are the person who makes a boring situation bearable, a shitty situation positive, or you are just fun and interesting to be around. Ultimately, “Can you hang?”
This should be the section of the article where we state the obvious. You have to be able to write good songs, and kick arse live. Simple, right? The thing is this is not necessarily the case. It’s possible to be completely average at one or the other. What you have to be able to do is connect with people. It might be through lyrics, hooks and melodies, personality, or a live show that blows them away. Whatever it is your music has to make someone take notice. Get stuck in their head. Do it in some way that it cuts through all the other bullshit clamouring for their attention. Enough for them to stop and say “I’m going to check that out some more…” I guess that means they become a fan.
Eat Like The Little Piggies Eat
This is the type of hungry that no ‘All-you-can-eat’ buffet will remedy. It’s the kind of hungry that after a 10 hour drive, playing in front of no-one, stupid hangover and cold, cramped sleep all you focus on, all you can really think about, is doing it again the next day. It’s the kind of hungry that makes you take that random show offer in a squat, that mini-tour with a metal band, that local college radio interview at 2am. It’s the kind of hungry that after your greatest fuck-up, you still want to get out there and try again. You can group this under many other banners. PMA, the right reasons. It all boils down to doing it because you love it. Not because you pretend to love it. Because you actually love it, for whatever weird and wonderful reason.
The Hail Mary
Let’s close things out with another cliche that we have all heard a million times. Call it what you want. Pure luck? Right place, right time? This is the part of the list that just gives you something a little extra to get your album heard by someone who can help you out, or suddenly playing in front of a person who can do the same. Or it could just mean avoiding a cataclysmic personal event that can completely destroys your band. Some say you make your own luck. I agree to some extent, but not completely. You have to get lucky in some way or another.
So go forth and place your carcass on a pedestal, channel Spicolli, create something that truly connects, over-indulge and throw one from the end zone. Most of all don’t forget to have the time of your life doing it.