Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Birth of a Band 5

By March 9th we were still only managing a single rehearsal per month, although in our defence, our rehearsals were (are) five or six hour marathons in which a lot of work is done, but now with our second drummer in place, we were already two months behind where we had wanted to be originally – ie a gigging band.

The rehearsal with Angus on March 9th went well and we decided it would be good to get another, midweek session in to keep the momentum going. This meant rehearsing without George. After some email and organisational kerfuffle, we found a slot at the West Star rehearsal rooms in High Wycombe on Wednesday 13th March… In the evening, of course. It was still looking as though I would never get rehearsals during weekdays!

The midweek session was good in more ways than one. Yes, it furthered us along the route of getting the songs into our bones, but, for me certainly, more importantly it showed us that we could function as a trio perfectly well. Ever since I was young boy I haven’t played the silver ball, but I have wanted to be in a power trio. A trio is the best rock combo as far as I’m concerned. It gives a freedom to all three players and a simplicity and space to the sound. Once again, I was hit by realisation that Custard Cream could indeed be a force to be reckoned with.

Plans were made for a full rehearsal on March 23rd…

… but George couldn’t make it…

… So we did it as a trio again. It was good.

By this time I had re-recorded all of the guitar, bass and vocals over the top of Angus’ drumming and, combined with the crowd sounds from an open mic night, I thought it sounded as good as can be expected. The recording sessions were short and mistakes were allowed to stay because we were trying to make a live sound, but once I had finished the mix downs, Nige was unhappy with his guitar parts. Of course, we could record them again, but, as I explained to Nige, I was missing out on earning money – over two-months’ worth and counting. We decided to go with what we had and I put together a medley of the best bits.

Despite my moaning, there were signs that we were making progress. We had another full rehearsal booked for April 6th, we had a few songs and a medley produced to tout for work and Angus, it transpired, was a designer and he came up with a flyer that was to become our emblem (see above) – and I came up with the slogan: Blues on the Rocks. A package was evolving.

On top of this, Nige was getting some gigs booked. We were moving into April and we had gigs lined up fairly regularly from the middle of May.

One early gig was booked in and looked to be our first – May 10th at The Hobgoblin in Maidenhead. The girl who looks after bookings there, Carly, said that (and I quote) “Before we go any further I just have to let you know that although we can’t afford to pay bands properly for their time, we can offer a percentage of the bar takings for the duration of the show if we book you. It’s 10% from the moment you start to the moment you finish, which is on average around £100 usually.” (Grammar corrected by me). A percentage of the takings! What a load of bollocks that is. Not to mention “we can’t afford”. The Hobgoblin is a large pub on Maidenhead High Street that takes hundreds and hundreds of pounds on a Saturday. Believe me, they can afford to pay a band for its work. They just don’t want to!

But it was academic. George couldn’t make May 10th!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Birth of a Band 4

So, we had to oust Neil from the band (see here), but, as Nige wisely pointed out, even better to have Neil at a rehearsal than no-one, so we delayed telling him he was out until we could find someone to take his place. We all started putting our feelers out.

My first port of call was a guy called Angus who played with a really cool bunch of guys, but in a band that was clearly going nowhere. The lead singer preferred hiking and hockey to playing guitar and the bandleader is not the strongest character you will ever come across – though an absolutely lovely bloke…

Anyway, I thought Angus might be able to squeeze us in as well as his other band. As it turned out, he was champing at the bit to find a more serious band. I assured him that we were precisely that.

Thus, after an email from Neil on Feb 13th saying we should establish a set list to get used to playing the songs in order, Nige (having volunteered, I hasten to add) had short-straw duties to perform as our next rehearsal was Feb 16th…

Neil did not take it well, Nige told us, but (interestingly) after a long and painful silence, said: “Andy had made his mind up early on that I was not up to his standard, and it was only a matter of time.” Me?! I articulated my surprise to George and Nige at the rehearsal.

“Yeah, well you did keep giving him ‘The Look’,” Nige said. The Look?! “Yes, when we make a mistake you give us a look that can kill,” explained George. Really?! “Yup,” George continued. “And add to that comments like: ‘Why can’t you get it right? It’s the simplest, most classic fucking song ending in all of history!” Who did I say that to? “To Neil!”

Oh…

How little one can know one’s self sometimes.

At the rehearsal, Angus had had almost no time at all to get to know the songs, but he kept going with admirable stoicism and with his laid back, friendly demeanour, he won us all over. “I just can’t wait to get gigging,” he said. You and us alike, mate.

We arranged for Angus to come over to me (Feb 24th) to re-record the drum parts on the songs we had recorded and set about sorting out the next time we could all get together for a rehearsal. Saturday March 2nd was mooted, but Angus asked if we could do the Sunday instead. I thought nothing of it – it suited me, and anyway, George couldn’t make that weekend, so that was that. The next rehearsal was 9th March.

Angus came over for the recording – and it is here that I really should have seen the signs. He came around, set up his kit, recorded a song with a couple of mistakes, so I said, we should do it again… “Can we leave it till the end,” he asked. “I’d rather do the next one…”

We went through the songs like a dose of salts and he couldn’t wait to get away. I later got to know (for the wont of a better word) his girlfriend and realised what was happening. Poor old Angus spent his entire time with the band trying to balance his job, his girlfriend and the band, but the band always came last – and the girlfriend always hated the band.

After re-recording the drums, of course, we needed to re-record everything else. Not a bad thing, but more time. Looking back, I think I was very na├»ve to think we could have got a band from scratch out gigging in a month. We would have been playing for six weeks by our next rehearsal – and nowhere near getting a gig… Let alone having recordings to tout.