Jun 1, 2011

The Sound and the Furry

dear aap:
My band is starting to play out-of-town gigs so you know what that means, getting in the van or in our case a mini-van and loading up the gear and going out for a few days or weeks at a time. Eventually going out for months at a time, we hope. The problem is one of our band members has insisted on packing his 'furry' costume and looking for other furries wherever we're doing a show. We all knew he was kind of weird because we've all known each other for years, but this is more than any of expected, so do you let it go on or do you throw someone out of the band for something like this? - SD&R&R

Dear SD&R&R

While I'm 85% sure this question is a put-on, I think it touches on a basic truth and raises a common issue that anyone at that stage in their band's lifecycle is likely to run into.

On more than one occasion I've described the experience of putting together and/or being in a band as being very similar to dating & establishing a relationship, only more difficult because you're not just dealing with 2 humans and their personalities/issues/desires... but with three or five, (or seven?) other people. When you start out you just want to link up with people who share your views/opinions/tastes in music and hopefully want to accomplish the same things that you want to with this 'band' entity you're conjuring into existence. If you clear THAT hurdle then you've got a band that can stand practicing with each other and can get along well enough with each other to play gigs around town... Which means showing up on time, spending an evening together rocking out and then everyone goes home to their neutral corners.

But if you're all determined and ambitious enough there comes a point where you're going to have to take your show on the road, for days, weeks or possibly even months at a time. This is a lot like finally moving in with a girl/boyfriend in that, you now all have to co-exist on a whole new level... including during what would normally be down, or personal time. You're going to learn things about each other that weren't even part of the equation in the earlier stages of the relationship/band. The kind of things that have nothing to do with music and everything to do with personalities & personal habits. Hygiene, sleep patterns, drug and lifestyle choices ... all of these things are potential landmines for any band (of individuals) who is taking that next step together.

That transition from 'playing gigs around town' to being a 'road band' is one of the many places that aspiring bands discover, to their dismay, that they can't go any further together... Clashes over the previously mentioned issues might be insurmountable if the people involved are selfish, inflexible or a danger to themselves (or others.) In your particular (and possibly imaginary) case, I would say this: I don't think your bandmate's "lifestyle choices" are a good reason, by themselves, to throw him/her out of the band. That said, IF those choices (and again, they could be lifestyle choices, hygienic choices or drug choices etc) have a direct impact on their performance/abilities as a musician and bandmate THEN you have every right to toss that person out of the group. ...but, I'm sure you're saying, what if you're just weirded out by a bandmate's behavior? ...it isn't directly affecting the band, but indirectly it is putting you, or someone else in the band, off... In that case you have to examine your own hang-ups. Are YOU the problem? How does everyone else feel about this? Are you (or they) REALLY personally wigged out by this person's choices, or are you just worried that you'll look bad as a band, if your friends/fans/supporters find out about this one guy's particular kink? ...and if so, aren't we beyond that? I mean at least by now MOST folks of our ilk have gotten over their homophobia and all of THAT nonsense, so do the Furries now have to stay in the closet?

Hope that answers your question.

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