How the Belle Game stays sane—and stays friends, according to its keyboardist
Rock star livin,' demystified
Being in a band could easily be one of the most challenging, delicate and forthright relationships you’ll ever have with anyone. You and your bandmates are (hopefully) first and foremost friends, but you are also creative partners, business partners, your first line of defense, and sometimes the last people you want to talk to.
If you’re lucky, you’re each other’s support system, but you’re also lucky if your bandmates are willing to push you into cold, uncharted creative territory. It’s a delicate balance between friendship and business- ship, laughing and crying, excitement and frustration—it’s all a little manic, but it’s also a terribly exciting and fun way to live.
I’ve been fortunate enough to engage in this, the Rorchach test of relationships, since 2009 with my band, the Belle Game.
I met guitar-player Adam while studying at McGill. We had a weird long-distance-band thing for the following two years with the other two band members, Alex and Andrea, who were living in Vancouver at the time. We used this time to iron out what can only be described as our awkward years. The year 2011 is when we all permanently landed in Vancouver. Since then, we haven’t looked back: together we’ve released an album, toured the U.S., Canada and Europe, played major international festivals, received very kind and welcomed press, and won a couple of awards.
All in all, it’s been a good few years, but that doesn’t come without its challenges. What follows are my thoughts on how
to keep band life from falling apart.
Talk to each other.
On tour, it’s always better to overshare than to undershare. Don’t assume. Don’t bottle it up. Don’t turn yourback. Sometimes your bandmates want to talk about things that might seem trivial to you, but the road bends everything out of whack. So all of a sudden, if it’s so necessary for your bandmates to talk about the new Kristin Wiig movie, or those ridiculous shoes they wanted, let them. Your drummer has your back onstage. Have their back when chatting in the van.
There’s nothing wrong with telling someone you need some space. How many times have you not told someone this, only to yell at them about how dumb their shirt is a week later?
Get some rest.
Hate to break it to you, but the “rock star” life isn’t a thing, at least for emerging bands. Maybe it is if you’re rich enough to value a bottle of Jack and a pack of smokes over showing up and getting paid at your next gig. But to us, it’s not worth the risk.
As a friend of our producer once said, being in a band these days is like being in the Navy. Work hard and be in bed by 0100 hours. If you want to take advice from a "super cool band” like us, there’s nothing better than giving your teeth a good brush and curling up with an episode of Seinfeld after a great show.
Namaste, friends. Try your best to find some sort of calm on the road, whether your meditation is just being in nature, listening to Deepak or simply closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. Can’t stress this enough—take at least 15 minutes every day to get to that special place.
IN THE STUDIO
Eat well and plan.
There’s nothing more important than getting all those vitamins and minerals. Otherwise, your brain is mush. And there’s no sense in saving up all those dollars and toiling over all your songs only to get in to the studio and not be able to think. I tried the “rock star” diet last time I was in the studio and I came home with bronchitis and a bad attitude. It’s not a good look. Start with the following: vegetables, fruit, water, nuts, seeds, protein, sleep. Repeat.
Don’t believe the hype.
Just take a breath. Just do it. The studio is the worst place to get in your head. I can’t tell you how many times I got aheadof myself thinking “this is the worst fucking song I’ve ever heard” only to have our band and producer play Operation with our music and move around all of its parts until we’re all happy. We always joke that the biggest threat in the studio would be if there was a “direct to iTunes” button where the producer could just threaten you by exposing your half-written messof a song to the world. But guess what, that button doesn’t exist. So chill, k?
All you need is love.
But seriously, don’t forget that the situation you’re in with your bandmates is so unique and complicated and messy and challenging and amazing. For lack of a better word, it’s not a normal relationship. Things are bound to get tough or trying. Remember to use any extra ounce of vigilance and patience you may have before snapping and losing your cool.
Don’t make it your everything.
Whether you love comics or cats, make sure you have other passions, friends and relationships outside of the band. The highs and the lows of band life are too big and exaggerated to make it your only focus—it’s important to have something or someone else that grounds you. Or else you’re putting too much pressure and importance on something that you, for the most part, have little control over.
Because being in a band is fun, right?