Saturday, November 9, 2013


Twickenham Studios was this cavernous, cold, old, unused movie studio in London where the Beatles recorded the "Let it Be" sessions. Cameras and lights were set up to give a theatrical vibe in which surely the Beatles would create their latest masterpiece. Things didn't turn out that way, however. The end was near. These young men, who'd grown together as a family since what...1961(?) had, by 1969, grown weary of one another's clashing personalities and egos. They couldn't even pretend to tolerate one another's company during the making of "Let if Be." Not even for film.

A last ditch effort was made to cheer the boy up. It was at the Apple office in January of 1969, where the Beatles got the bright idea to go set up on the roof and provide central London with their last group live performance, ever.

(Later, they'd uh, "Come Together" to create one of the world's greatest masterpieces, "Abbey Road, which was released earlier than "Let it Be," though recorded later in 1969. I'm not entirely certain that having musical-genius-come murderer Phil Spector could've saved "Let It Be." But that's not my major point here.

I can relate strongly right now with the disconcert of my own band. We've been largely a family for almost a decade, and and in the last 18 months, have dealt with abandonment (the lead guitarist and his piano-playing wife), after our original bassist quit a couple years ago due to an alcohol dependency. That made our bassist, Jake, take over with lead guitar and me largely relying on the djembe to soften things up a bit. Once in a while I'd get behind the kit, but it was rare. 

Jake suddenly passed away on July 5th. This left us hanging with Pastor guiding practices and soundchecks, and Meg occasionally, would kindly sit with us on keyboards, though she has her own church bands to play with. In between hiring this fella we have now and Jake's death, I've been sort of the wrangler/leader of the group, under Pastor's guidance, of course. 

Drummers are professionals at waiting around for everyone else to get their shit together, which is NOT EASY the present moment, and I truly feel for Ringo. A new band director was hired, which I understand, but 1) I would've appreciated being in on the discussion and voting pre-hire and 2) dude, don't hand me blank sheet music for how you want to do things "your way" when I'm the one who's notated the chord sheets, played by ear alone and and glance at them from time to time the first time you meet me. Don't add or subtract from the 200 pages of notated music I've painstakingly memorized without asking me if I preferred that or not as a musician.

Don't tell my singers to alter pieces and endings that we've done for YEARS because you think the congregation won't be able to follow along and either there'a an 8 measure guitar solo involved or you want to cut out entire verse or bridges,  Have mercy! Trust our instincts and that the singers are following the tempo of the drummer in lieu of a bassist. He may have a master's degree in "singing and literature," which is essentially opera, but to come into our "family," at least have the decency to sit out a couple of sets and see what we can do.

I admittedly angrily aired my grievances via Facebook, which made Pastor Dave look like he'd made a bum decision in hiring the guy. We're open to change; we're not open to assault. It's not Pastor's fault, or that of any committee, but after the 3rd time we've played under this bloke's direction, more and more discontent has followed.

One singer lied to me ( a teenager) about an email exchange which had gone on between she and the new band director. Another singer approached me at post-band dinner, after which the director said she was on "Strike 2." So she decided to quit, since he wouldn't budge regarding the length of certain songs, and where guitar solos belonged originally, what the congregation was used to, etc. While true, our music ministry has undergone the most devastating of changes in the last year and a half, we always manage to get our act together, but our act is not how we rehearsed it 1,000 times.

I had a sit down with the Pastor this week, pledging to be more of the as-labeled "matriarch" of the band, but in this case, I side with the singers. Tonight, the acoustic/electric guitar sounded twangy and tinny (as other congregants told me) and as usual, I can really only hear some of the vocals out the PA. I can't even hear his guitar. 

I volleyed at practice to get our way in a number of songs, kind of like this, from the "Imagine" sessions:

To me, anyway, the role of the director is to direct, not to order around. My singer veterans are unhappy, I'm the leisure and praise activity I've enjoyed the most for 8 years. I like coming home full of adrenaline and "It went great!" as opposed to the last month, where I've come home to my mom and said, "What a clusterfuck THAT was." Drumming in the band is one of my life's only joys. To walk away from that would throw me over the edge of despair.

The new director's a nice person, and obviously enthusiastic about his position ( a year-long contract--who ok'd that? What if he turns out to be a total douche, master's degree or not?).  In the following scenario, which is very brief, I'm totally the Ringo here, though a small bit. bit largely the vibe we've got going on band-wise right now:
 Practice is more like this, and I'm Ringo, mind you: 

I love all those girls in the band, their random infancy notwithstanding. But don't pull the wool over my eyes and make me try to believe the director said one thing when he actually said something else (and not send me the proof via email). With whom does my alliance lie? With the church itself. Not with any individual ego, no matter how much do love each of them. Pastor Dave has the last say, and the band director has to abide by them as much as I do. That said, I do have a modicum of authority in what happens with the band, as the "matriarch," of course.

Being one of only 2 musicians in a band is difficult. I can't hear much more of what's going around outside of the acoustics of my own instrument. On the weekend when the lead guitarist/singer can play guitar, I'd vastly prefer the director play bass to help ME out, but so far, he's been un-receptive to that idea, why, I'm not sure. It'd certainly help a lot when said drummer (me) counts in 1,2,3....1,23.. instead of 1,2, 3, 4, 5...." which is not how drummers work and throws this self-taught, learn by ear, never learned music theory totally off-kilter.

Asked for another confab with Pastor next week.....I don't want to lose my singer, because she's extremely talented, but I don't want to be the bad guy either.....


BMF said...

I wholeheartedly agree with what George said as the "winter of discontent." Every band encounters it--it's just what you do about it that matters whether or not you stay a unit or not. I don't minimalize or scrutinize your band for the type of music you play--it's your gig, babe.

But it's be like our lead singer leaving the band, being replaced and all of us told what to do. I'd have the exact same reaction as you all are having. "Who are you? What the fuck do you know about our group dynamic and how we work best? The director's job is to direct and lead, not overtake what's already established.

I'm sure your pastor's heart was in the right place, and he thought he was going a service to your band, but it's tearing the whole band apart. And as much as you'd like to side with the singers, you can't.

As you've explained it to me, a committee of no one in the actual band contracted this guy and BOOM, he was there, and expected you all to do a complete turnaround of how you've done things for at least a decade. I cannot imagine the stress that put the rest of the band on, especially, since you've already deemed him to me as being kind of a douche.

Is every guy you have to spend time with a total douche or is it just me?

You've been put in a VERY awkward position with this, Annie, and I wouldn't want to pay to be in your shoes. Sorry, Tootsie Pop.

Andrea Miklasz said...

The first service w/him directing was a disaster. The 2nd one seemed to go more smoothly, then last night, it was an epic clusterfuck that even the congregation noticed. It sounded like shit. And he's Just. Not. Listening. To. Us. Two singers are planning to quit, I'm not getting any joy out of it anymore (and it's my favorite hobby and how I choose to praise God) and that's all reflected in how we come across to the congregation. It's awful. Just awful.

And yes, like the Beatles, we're starting to blame other facets of our lives that are totally non-band related on one another, which is totally wrong and a sign of the end times.