Starting a band is really exciting. It really is. It might be my favorite part of being in a band besides playing live. However, for every band I've "started" that's actually worked out, 10 have failed. Mostly due to logistic issues, but those of us that actually get together and play have just kinda done the thing where we all just discommunicate to the point where we all generally understand that the band is no more. My hypothesis is this; Blame it on the covers.
Everywhere you go, musicians tell you the best thing to do when you meet your band members is to "play covers to get to know one another
". It seems like a good idea. It's a quick appraisal of skill and style. Only, I find that it really, really misleads people into the idea of what their sound will eventually be like. When you pick a list of covers, the band's songwriting ability is NEVER exactly that of what they cover. I play in a lot of two and three piece bands, so we get lots of comparisons to other bands of the sort. Whenever I started them I always remember hearing the drummer saying they wanted to sound like The Black Keys
. I don't write like The Black Keys
. The Bassist doesn't. Doesn't matter how many of their covers we do, we won't sound like them. Period.
Even at that, there's the philosophical and romantic point of creating your own sound, anyway. Why on earth would you want to start your own original band with the intent on sounding just like another group of folks? I guess that is some group of guys' cup of tea, but personally it escapes me. Whatever, this is an opinion piece, get over it.
Here's my advice. If you want to start a band, get to know the members BEFORE you play with them. Before you ever hit the practice space, sit down at a diner and bullshit for a while. Grab a burger, get a beer, something. Make sure that they're even the kind of guy or gal that you WANT to be in a band with. I've been in bands with members I didn't enjoy. It's the pits. I definitely don't recommend it. This way, if they completely suck at their instrument, you don't burn bridges. Musicians always know other musicians. Plus, you've got another new friend who probably likes good tunes.
The first time you get together to practice or jam, come with your OWN songs you already have written. This will let the others know exactly how you write, exactly your style, and exactly your sound, because it all genuinely belongs to you. I swear, every audition I go to they want me to play "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World. I don't write like them at all, but I can play that guitar solo without a second thought. I could belt it out and have a conversation with someone while doing it. It's just second nature from all the times I've had to sloppily toss it out pretending to care about it. Eventually, when the creative process comes in, everyone has a completely different idea of what the idea person is supposed to be like, and why shouldn't they? They've heard you toss out the same tired licks from songs you know but don't really care for that much.
Also, that first practice almost always ends up with you having a song half finished, if not completed (provided the guy who says he can write lyrics ever decides to actually share them). Then you all feel accomplished because you have original music, and you get the satisfaction of knowing that these dudes actually dig YOUR sound.
It also forces them to write parts for it, which makes them use THEIR sound. All the different pieces of the puzzle are therefore completely genuine. No one's emulating the song they've got in mind, they're playing what is natural to them and sounds like what THEY think that part should sound like.
That first song will go MUCH farther in setting the tone and direction for your new project. It'll give you material right away, a good evaluation of sounds, and a little bit of something to brag about. "Yeah, bro, we had one practice and we already wrote a song!"
If you're starting a band, don't do covers. Just try it.