I’ve been meeting musicians in the city with the intent of putting together a band. I discovered that it can be hard to connect with the right people if you’re floating around in a genre-less haze. Defining your vision and drawing a line in the sand helps everyone understand what it’s NOT.
We music types have a tendency of seeing all sides of things, and struggle to shove things into a box. But I had an experience that inspired me to write a manifesto. In other words, to define in big bold lines, what it is that I want. It’s worked wonders! I posted it as an ad on Craigslist, including the story behind it, and I have people sending me messages from every from all over the province.
Oh and by the way I just bought a new (and by new I mean second hand from Craigslist) red Fender Telecaster Standard electric guitar.. which might make you laugh once you get to law #3 of the manifesto. It’s the first non-acoustic guitar I’ve owned in a decade, so let me enjoy this – as I all but ban electric guitar in my own writing haha.
Whatever. I’m just stoked that I got such a strong reaction from this online, met some cool people as a result, and wanted to share.
*Craigslist post begins now..*
after this I mean….
you know.. below the x’s
I was just at the Kellarissa EP release show on Granville Island and half way into her SynthPop set she was struck with a totally unexpected disaster moment on stage! *cringe*
In a sec I’ll tell you why this terrible fail directly inspired the first law of the Indie SynthPop Manifesto, which I typed down below..
I’m a singer with original songs, now chatting and meeting up with musicians here on Craigslist to form a tight SynthPop band, so watching her go through that and to see the “WTF?!” look on her face – hit way too close to home.
Long story short – Kellarissa was half way through a supreme set, complete with back up singers wearing golden capes.(YES! Full on) Stars in their eyes, audience loving every minute, fog machine running. And running. K.. RUNNING A LITTLE TOO MUCH.
Somebody. Turn. Off. The. Fog. Machine.
Too late. Mid chorus, all the fire alarms in the building whine and klang.. We were all stunned, so was she. There was a moment of panic that flashed across her face, followed by a confident laugh. Then she made a choice that took guts.
She kept singing. With intensity. And commitment. We couldn’t help but cheer on her on. Despite the noise we were totally won over and on her side. She probably would have kept on with the next song if it weren’t for someone from the front desk running in to yell for us to evacuate and wait outside for the fire department.
The show would have to wait, but we saw her look the tiger in the eye, and she stared it down.
Her act of casual heroism inspired me to write this manifesto.
(FYI, when I say SynthPop, think bands like:…
Chvrches, M83, Metric, Odesza, Naked and Famous, Empire of the Sun, Little Destroyer, The Human League, Depeche Mode, New Order)
THE INDIE SYNTHPOP MANIFESTO
1. Imperfection is sexy
Synths break, laptops crash, economies collapse, and I’ll forget the words to my own song. Good. I focus human connection over sterile execution. I perform to work things out as I go, and I’m better for the wear and tear.
2. Passion over skill
Synthpop is the eccentric time traveling grandchild of UK Punk – which thrived on truth and simplicity (3 chords and the truth). I commit to expressing authentic emotion above all else.
But never too early – or before coffee.
3. SYNTH > guitar
Electronic soundscapes with a killer drum groove are my north star. I believe:
– Guitars are ok, but never surpass a 50/50 split with synths
– Guitarists have to sit in the back seat on the way to gigs
– YES to guitar delay, chorus and reverb type effects for atmosphere
– NO distortion
4. Honour thy genre. Then break it.
Gary Numan stumbled across a dusty Moog synth while recording his punk album and by pressing a single key, he shook the whole studio.
That was the moment SynthPop was born.
I study our history, value what our heroes were striving to create, and then snap their limitations over my knee like a cheap selfie stick. This will impress girls and breathe new life into old conventions.
5. The Indie DIY philosophy is my lethal superpower
Dreaming of a record deal (and in many cases, signing one) is a sign that I’m lazy and won’t do what it takes to succeed in the long run. In 2005 the following things may have cost me upward of $100,000, today they’re almost free:
– recording a quality single/EP/full length album
– distributing the songs locally & internationally
– building a direct communication channel through email list etc.
– dialogue with fans/community regularly
– reaching out to find new like-minded people who might love my band
– Amazon 1-Click when I’m out of paper towels
I learn how it’s done, and I do the work.
6. # of live gigs played last year? Double it.
This year I made a concrete goal of.playing 52 performances before the new year. It’s tempting to be a bedroom producer or aspire to be a YouTube star, but live music is a shared human ritual older than language itself. Listening to the new Chvrches single on Spotify is sublime, but going on a journey with the band in person – is a religious experience.
I find and create new opportunities to perform. Go where humans gather.
(eg. open mics, laundromats, hostels, college campuses, pubs, bars, house parties, intimate house concerts, BBQs, busy street corners, grandma’s birthday, coffee shops, day programs for people with disabilities, radio stations, community centers)
*Equally Important* I go to at least two shows a month by other bands. Playing in a healthy scene means being an active fan to other bands. JFK said, “A rising tide lifts all boats”. Wise words from a suspected Depeche Mode super-fan.
7. Travel, you fool, TRAVEL!
I leapt into the unknown when I set out to busk around Ireland in 3 months. My greatest fears were debunked one by one by meeting hundreds of strangers excited to show me the best of their hometown.
I travel to tour and play songs, but more importantly I travel to enrich my soul.
I paid $267 to fly from Vancouver to Dublin. Another connecting flight to anywhere else in Europe is well under $50. It’s cheaper today to catch a weekend concert in Prague than it is to fly to Edmonton and visit my grandparents.
In my home country I will tour effectively, with ever expanding concentric circles that allow me to return every few months to people who care about our music.
That’s all 7 laws. More than anything this is about drawing a line in the sand and deciding what I stand for, and who I want to stand with. Are you on team Loud Synthesizer Band For Music?
K… we’ll work on our team name.