Joining a band can be a life-changing experience, yet it's also an endeavor in which reason and planning are all but eclipsed by excitement. It's not like you can predict your precise path anyway, of course. Still, the hindsight of other musicians can serve as a helpful tool in making the best possible decisions.
For a well-rounded batch of advice, we enlisted three musicians from various cities. One is Laira A. Diaz Reyes, who joined her first band only a few years ago. She's singing and playing guitar in her second now, Los Manglers, a '60s girl-group leaning quartet based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The second is Max Roseglass, the guitarist for New York rock 'n' roll outfit Dirty Fences. And our third tipster is Shayde Sartin, a founding member of the Fresh & Onlys and a touring member of Sonny & the Sunsets, another much beloved San Francisco act. Like Roseglass, his music-making history dates back to his teenage years.
The prompt was deceptively simple: What do you wish you'd known before joining a band? Each offered a slice of knowledge different from the others, but it could all prove beneficial to anyone who's considering it or just starting out.
Laira A. Diaz Reyes, 25
“I used to think starting/joining a band was hard. I wish I had known how easy it all comes together as long as you have the right people around you. I also wish I knew more chords,” she says. “I remember being in high school and not knowing anyone else interested in music like I was. I didn't know how to go about it."
Max Roseglass, 28
“I wish I had taken it seriously earlier," Roseglass admits. "It's changed my life infinitely for the better, and helped me to learn about myself and strengths and abilities. I have learned and am learning so much.”
Shayde Sartin, 38
"When I started playing music I had no interest in doing it alone. I needed a gang. I needed a unified purpose. I needed 'us' against 'them.' The problem with that is that it distracted me from my own creative journey," Sartin says. "I believe being an integral part of something often means setting aside your own aesthetics and vision to serve a unified purpose. That fit very well into my musical desires for a long time. However, as you move forward you start to see all of these unrealized ideas and missed opportunities. And by opportunities I mean things that would have served your own identity and relevance with the people you work with.
"Every day it seems like I remember something that I meant to do, but a lack of confidence or the distraction of someone else's agenda sidetracked me. When ideas happen, they need to be realized quickly or they lose their personal relevance. If something is passing through you, you need to take the time to harness it. The more you do of this, the more you'll grow.
"The most important thing is to avoid at all costs is to try to shape what is coming out of you. That raw, awkward, beautiful thing is going to be the most pure. Trying to be someone else's vision of 'cool' or 'relevant' is a sick practice. Resist the urge to bang it out just to get on the road or in front of a crowd. Fall on your face and embarrass yourself as much as possible.”
What do you wish you had known before joining a band? Share your advice in the comments below!
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.