How to Know When It's Time to Quit Your Band
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Fan, I'm in a band of moderate renown. We're a DIY outfit, but the band covers its own operating costs, and on tour we can draw a crowd anywhere we play. We're on the cusp of releasing our second album, nailing down dates for a summer tour (including some festival gigs) and shooting a music video for the lead single.
And I am so goddamn bored I want to quit immediately.
It took us a year and a half to finish our sophomore album. During mixing, I suddenly realized that for all my avant-gardiste pretense, we're just a rock band. Just like every other bloody guitar band on the planet. How depressing. I've become disillusioned with the very ontology of being in a band. I look at audiences with contempt and disgust. I watch other bands and feel nothing. The whole endeavor seems a laughable waste of time.
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Next year my wife and I are leaving the country for good. Do I grit my teeth and continue till the end, for the sake of my bandmates? Or do I say, "Fuck this, I'm out," to save what precious little sanity and soul I have left?
Dearest S, If your greatest concern is truly the sake of your bandmates, you should have quit a long time ago. In the two paragraphs of varying complaints that I edited out (for the sake of brevity), you detailed that you have brought some of your issues to the band already -- and if they are still somehow unaware of the fact that playing music with them is draining your very lifeblood, I imagine that your contributions or lack of enthusiasm might be tipping them off.
There is obviously something holding you here that you either aren't admitting or are unwilling to confess, but I don't think you should bother exploring what that is. The polite thing to do is say you will be leaving in the fall or whenever your summer tour/festival gigs wrap up, which gives them time to try to line someone up. Needlessly dragging this out until you are ready to expatriate is going to look worse, because that is obviously something that you have to plan for a year. Avoiding being a dick and give notice now before you/they invest further in their collaboration with you.
Once you are done, you need to step back from actively pursuing a career as a musician. You need to rediscover what matters to you and find where you connect with it. A couple years ago, I spent three months as the touring bassist in a modestly popular band, and, as the adage goes, once I worked in the restaurant, I never wanted to eat there again. Witnessing other bands' grim backstage scenes, people ripping each other off, people's desperation for fame and adulation, the slog of it can kill the soul a bit. So, just take a break. If you make music, keep it private. Don't share it with people, don't talk about it -- at least for now. It's more like a restorative yoga practice than anything else. You need to get on better terms with music -- because you do not want to be the prematurely bitter guy who spends nights in the bar bitching about his old band and bands these days, and how the audiences are idiots. The world has already made its quota on those people. Fondly, Fan
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