Mar 6, 2013

The Mansion Family

Dear Ask A Punk-
So we put an ad in craigslist looking for a new band member, hopefully someone who would be willing to play bass as well as guitar. This guy showed up and he seemed like a good fit. He could play, but he wasn't super better than any of us and he was around our age (late teens/early 20s) and he didn't seem like a jerk or anything. We all seemed to be on the same plain about a lot of things and are coming from the same place musically, liking most of the same bands and all of that and we're all working day jobs or night jobs and trying to put a decent band together, so all that was cool. We've been practicing with him for a few weeks now and he still doesn't seem like a jerk. But getting to know him we've found out that he isn't working a day job like us and struggling to pay the rent and stuff, but he actually comes from some rich family here - I didn't know this because I moved here from a small town, I don't think the other guys in the band knew it either. I know you're going to say that it shouldn't matter but knowing this about his makes it seem different to me now. Like he is maybe doing all this because he can and he has the free time and doesn't have to worry about anything whether the band does well or not, but he isn't really taking any sort of risk like we are, and it makes me think that some of the rest of it is fake too, like I wear these clothes yes because they're part of my identity but also because it is all I can afford. Knowing he has a big pile of money to take from means he's just wearing this costume for now, and can always change back in to nice clothes whenever he wants. For all we know he maybe already does.    I don't know if I'm being bogus here or if he is.  Your thoughts?  - - Questioning.

Dear Q
I'm thinking your real question is: How do I know if he is sincere? That is tough question to answer from here, since it is impossible to know what is in his heart. Like yourself, I have in the past questioned the motives of people who choose to "slum it" ... especially when their idea of a 'slum' was my actual life... but hey, Joe Strummer came from a pretty well-to-do family (by most standards) and I think we can all agree that his commitment to punk rock was pretty damn sincere. 

Granted, rich kids don't tend to have the same day-to-day pressures that the rest of us have, or had, growing up, but they do have different kinds of pressures - family expectations and the like... and who says that people from privileged backgrounds can't yearn for creative expression too? While some of the sources and causes of their rage and anger might be completely foreign to you, I'm sure at the core there are some universal seeds that anyone could relate to. 

I think you're really questioning your own instincts on this one. It sounds like you liked him and hit it off fairly well before all this other information came to light... so maybe now you're wondering how you couldn't have somehow known or felt that he was from different circumstances than you right off the bat. Maybe he's a very good liar, or at the very least a gifted chameleon... but maybe he is just a guy who wants to rock.  Think back to your first meetings with him, did he actually say he was just like you, background-wise, or did he not say anything and let you assume whatever you were going to assume? How did you actually find out he was from a higher socio-economic realm than you originally thought? Did he tell you? Did someone else?

My thoughts are these: For now give him the benefit of the doubt... especially if he is willing to play bass - I mean, come on, finding a decent bass player is tough enough without asking to see people's tax returns during the audition process - and see how he acts as things move forward. As I asked earlier, does (or did) he outright lie about his family, or just not talk about them? He might be embarrassed by his advantages, who knows? As you get to know him better, you'll be able to better judge his sincerity and you might get a better handle on his true motives. How will he handle interfacing you as his 'bandmates' with his other friends? If he tries to keep the band thing totally separate from the rest of his social life, that might be a red flag about his intentions. On the other hand, if he makes tooooo big a show about being punk rock in the faces of his family and rich friends then yes, he might just be acting out and this whole band thing might be a phase he's working through before he throws in the towel and agrees to trot off to the same Ivy League school his family always sends their kids to. 

Yes, he might bail on you but remember: rich or poor, people bail on their bands all the time and for all kinds of reasons. That is why there are so many ads on craigslist and elsewhere. If you jettison him today, you'll still have to find another guitar/bass player, right? So what is the upside to cutting him loose? Are you afraid having a rich kid in the band will make you less authentic? Get over it. Especially if you do get along with the guy. Get your band on its feet with the people you have. Get good and then see what the fates have in store for you all.

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