Courtney Love was my idol when I was 13 in 1999 and I practiced her guttural scream in the privacy of my room to the soundtrack of Hole’s “Live Through This” and “Celebrity Skin” until it looked like Godzilla got a hold of my CD’s. Due to all that practice, I have always known I’d be a 6 out of a 10 on the girl-screaming Richter scale. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have always secretly wanted to start my own band. The only problem is, I’m not all that talented.
The most important lesson I learned from my teenage idol is that life is tough and when the kitchen heats up, you should scream in a band. So, I finally decided to bite the bullet and ask someone if they wanted to be in a band with me to see what it’s like. In the process, I learned a few things too.
1.) Find someone who knows how to play an instrument and is actually talented if you aren’t: The only instrument I know how to play fairly decently is the harmonica. I taught myself how to play when I had to move back home to pass the time, but it was something I never felt like pursuing. Also, I wanted to be in a punk band that screams and there is a lack of harmonica in a band like that. So, I asked this 20 year-old art student (who I used to babysit in my primal angst period back in 1999) named JonRoss to be in my band. Turns out, I hit the jackpot. He plays the guitar and can sing and he’s actually in a band called Hey, Chroma.
2.) Band names are very important: In my opinion, great bands are anywhere from one to three words (I.e. Hole, Cake, Cream, Nirvana, Beatles, She and Him, Nine Inch Nails) Since our band was only 50% actual experienced musicians, I thought that our band name should have more than three words, some of which included profanity. JonRoss was against the profanity name and decided to come up with one himself with the knowledge that we’d probably be mediocre or terrible. He called us “Essence of a Shallow Grave.” So punk, right? I know it is—you don’t have to tell me.
3.) Be prepared to be recorded in front of people: When I asked JonRoss to form a band with me, it was midnight two nights before we met up for the first time in 15 years. I didn’t know he actually had equipment to record our music, or the preparedness to play in front of people. I didn’t even realize this when he packed my car full of music stuff and we headed to my friend’s house for our “Essence of a Shallow Grave” first and last band performance. But I realized I would have to perform when he got the microphone out and set up his laptop, so I just went for it.
4.) Writing lyrics are crucial and you need to write them fast: I had no idea what JonRoss meant when he told me I needed to write some lyrics the night before, so I didn’t write any lyrics at all. As a result of my lack of lyrics we sat around for almost an hour playing with a kitten at my friend Sara’s house. Sara, by the way, was kind enough to watch our performance. Eventually, I decided since our song is titled “Punching Walls,” I should go with the first angst-filled thing I could think of, which was getting dumped on Christmas so my ex-boyfriend didn’t have to buy me a gift. I wrote down two pages of lyrics.
5.) Screaming is fun especially if it’s profanity: I love profanity and I love screaming it as much as I can, any time I can, even in a professional setting. Now, if you aren’t against cursing, screaming a four-letter word into a microphone feels like the equivalent of a good pedicure. I highly recommend it.
6.) The most important thing is to have fun: Who doesn’t have fun or experience an emotional release listening to music? That should be no different for those who create it. Regardless of the fact that our finished project was probably terrible, it was fun creating it nonetheless. Often, it’s easy to get into the mindset that life is a chore when things aren’t going your way. But when you see eye-to-eye with someone in the process of creating something, you see how beautiful or genuine a person they are. Time stops for a minute and you’re reminded why music is created in the first place–to share a certain perspective with people.
All-in-all my day in a band was something I needed to experience. I’d do it again and recommend it to anyone. It was completely random and a change from going out on a weekend night and drinking at the bar. The truth is there is no better feeling than creating something and sharing it with an audience—even it’s a one person audience.
Mary Lynn Ritch is a writer from Georgia. She loves doing random things that don’t involve drinking. She has an obsession with ’90s music, indie bands/singer songwriters found on Reverbnation, and the show “Hannibal.” You can find her on twitter @Mlr1985