If there is one book that could have completely changed my life, it would have been The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Band. I say could have because in the end, it didn’t really. And that was my fault, not the book’s. I had the book, read it, and then ignored it. And that was a mistake, at least as far as having a band was concerned, which was the central goal of reading the book in the first place.

In 2006, when I came home from my mission, I started working on my lifelong dream of starting a rock and roll band. I went to the bookstore to look for something that would help, and really the only book that was dedicated to the subject was one of those orange Idiot books. I bought it, flipped through it a few times, and then started showing up regularly at my best friend Marcus’ house with my guitar and told him to play the drums until he got tired and dropped the sticks on the ground. He was in the band, but only because he knew I wouldn’t let him quit.

After auditioning a few other musicians,  I settled on a quiet and cool guy named Chris who wrote songs about Fellini films and sang like Neil Young. For some reason I thought he played bass, and so he pretended to for a while before confessing he had no clue what he was doing. But it sounded okay, and I was happy with what we had. We were raw, grungey, loud, and sloppy. We weren’t very focused, but we got kicks out of pulling off gimmicks, like wearing suits and sunglasses and drawing pictures during live shows. We would walk off after the first song, and declare the rest of the show the encore. At a house party, Marcus took the opportunity during a slow drumless ballad to make and eat a sandwich at his kit. We were more concerned with entertaining than making technically good-sounding music, and hoped that the noise we produced somewhere in the middle was enough to get people hooked.

But we were poor, and honestly kind of lazy. After being kicked out of a few people’s garages, we had to look for a place to rehearse regularly. If I had consulted the Idiot’s Guide, I might not have taken the first offer given to us. We found a local music academy on Craigslist, where a nervous long haired retired metal guitarist taught grade school kids how to play Ramones songs. He said we could use his back room after hours, for a pretty hefty hourly fee. We liked the setup and the irony of following groups made up of ten year olds so much that we said yes right away. After a few months, we were in so much debt that we started pawning off our equipment to the academy, with the understanding that we let them use it during class, we could rehearse free of charge. This arrangement worked fine for a few weeks before he started asking for money again. By this point, the other two had lost interest and I was floating from couch to couch while trying to land gigs around town. Nothing would ever work out, and we started to feel like this little after-school program owned our band’s soul.

I found myself going back to the Idiot’s Guide over and over, but the shady situation we were in was so off track from the normal plan of a well-organized rock band that the only option I saw available to us was to start completely from scratch. With Chris spending all his time with his new girlfriend and Marcus’ signs of complete apathy becoming more and more pronounced, I left, moved back in with my parents and never looked back.

That’s a lie. I called the shifty eyed school manager one more time to see if I could pick up my amp for a one off gig, and he said no. My music career ended definitively with a tortured month long episode of depression, binging on fried chicken while re-watching seasons of Lost. I started obsessing over sneaky ways to trick him into giving all of my equipment back, or to somehow come up with the several thousand dollars it would take to buy it all back. Eventually, and reluctantly, I moved on. I kept the Idiot’s Guide, in case I ever managed to get enough stuff together to try again. Next time, I always tell myself, I won’t so much as plug an instrument in without consulting the book first.


Cody is a section editor at the Accolade News and enjoys writing political editorials.

0 comments to "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Starting a Band"

Post a Comment