Need a band aid?
Get your act together, rookie rocker—here’s how
Every amusement park needs entertainment other than squeaky roller coasters and freaky animatronic characters that dance and sing about how it’s small a world … after all, live music makes everything better. Well, sometimes. At that mighty Mouse monolith in Anaheim, you have a bunch of mechanical bears playing banjos. Kinda creepy. And if you go to a typical county fair, you’re likely to see a mechanical-looking drummer who recruited a bunch of session musicians to play under the name of a once-great band.
This is Chico. We’re better than that! The following is a simple guide on how to start your own band.
When you get signed to that über-hip indie label, you can look back fondly on your time well-spent in Chico. And don’t forget to thank us in the liner notes!
Step 1. Buy an instrument.
Since this is your first foray into the hedonistic rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, don’t even think about that beautiful Rickenbacker bass you saw Lemmy Kilmister playing. Start simple. Herreid Music (824 Oroville Ave.) and The Music Connection (973 East Ave.) are good places to start locally, and you can sometimes find good deals at pawn shops, too. Craigslist and eBay are tried-and-true sources for finding sweet deals on used instruments.
Step 2. Learn to play … please.
There are a couple of options here. You can take lessons … or you can teach yourself how to play. The latter is definitely more punk rock (and cheaper). You can buy a book that can get you acquainted with the fretboard and basic chords (available at the above locations), or there are a million online sources to choose from; try www.tabplace.co.uk. After you learn the basic chords, start playing along with your favorite songs, or anything by White Stripes.
Step 3. Find some like-minded souls.
A very important step. A band is like a relationship—there’s always someone who wants something different, whether it’s in the music, or whether one person wants to play more shows and so on. Make sure you’re compatible on a personal level, too, or be prepared for the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech.
Step 4. Get a practice space.
Don’t be those guys banging away in the garage in the burbs. No one wants to hear you practice. And you shouldn’t want anyone to hear you practice. Scope out message boards (www.chicolist.com), and go to shows and talk to people in bands … more on that in Step 7.
Step 5. Write the songs that make the whole world sing.
OK. You’ve learned some chords. You’ve got your crew together. You have a sweet practice space with lava lamps and posters ripped from old music mags. Time to start writing songs. The idea here is to rip off as many different pieces from as many different songs, so none of your future fans can pinpoint who you’re ripping off. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Try and put a handful (five or six) songs together and …
Step 6. Practice makes (sorta) perfect.
Make a set list. Separate the ballads from the scorchers. Practice that mofo! Don’t worry about making everything sound perfect. Hint: If you hit the beginnings and endings of your songs, what happens in between won’t matter.
Step 7. Network.
Go to shows. Talk to other bands. They’ll expose you to the deep, dark underbelly of the Chico music scene. Well, they’ll at least tell you where to book gigs: In a punk band? Try Monstros. Folk? Definitely Café Coda. Straight rock ’n’ roll (this town needs more of those)? Nick’s Night Club. A crazy, clothing-optional, experimental tuba-samba-punk-electronic-country band? Go on down to The Crux Artist Collective right now!
If you’re really cool, maybe a band will sneak you onto one of their bills.
Step 8. Create an online presence.
With new-fangled technology, it’s easy to get your music out there and make connections with bands and venues. You have your MySpace. But here in Chico, we’ve got our very own artist/musician networks. Here at the CN&R, you can set up a band profile with photos, bios and MP3s (www.newsreview.com), or try CommonPath.org, an online network for local artists and musicians. Which leads us to …
Step 9. Book your first show.
Now that you’re plugged in, set up a show! Contact venues and let them know who you are. Local booker and promoter Katie Perry and her Devil Kat Rock Productions is a brilliant resource, too (www.myspace.com/devilkatrockproductions). Perry is all about helping new bands get a gig. Plus, she’ll do a lot of the promotion (fliers, contacting local publications), although you should do your own …
Step 10. Promotion.
Congrats! You have your first gig. Let people know that you’re going to wreak havoc on stage. This step should be fun, not a chore. Get creative. Put those doodling or Photoshop skills to work. Make your fliers as garish as possible, and litter the town with them. When hanging fliers, think pizza. Three hot spots: Woodstock’s Pizza (166 E. 2nd St.), Main Street Pizza (331 Main St.) and Celestino’s Live From New York Pizza (101 Salem St., # 100).
Step 11. Put it on wax … or foil.
You’ve played your first show—don’t be alarmed by the large group in front of the stage standing their with their arms folded—that’s just how we do it here in Chico. You rocked. Get those songs recorded. This is where your brilliant networking pays off. There are a number of people who can record you for a decent price. Slap the new songs on your CommonPath profile, and put them on an EP. Bring them to shows and watch them fly off the merch table.
Step 12. You officially rule.
You’re a rock star. People recognize you. Women/men want to be with you. Women/men want to be you. All about the same time you’re done with school and ready to trade in the tight jeans and black T-shirt for a suit and a 9-to-5. Unless you’re good, then you keep the tight jeans and black T-shirt and take a 9-to-5.
Remember the liner notes!