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Old 10-18-2013, 12:09 AM   #1
Rockthefaces
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Band members dilemma

Alright, this is a long story, but I'll try to keep it as concise as possible. In a band, most of us playing together for about 4 years: Me (male guitar/vocals/songwriter), female keyboardist/singer, female singer, male drummer. We've had a rotating cast of bassists, to Spinal Tap levels of absurdity.

About two months ago, we found a new guy. Solid player, VERY gung-ho about promotion (which is something we need), and all members of the band liked him at first blush. Now, we are, all of us, really casual with each other, make a lot of rude, sometimes grotesque jokes at rehearsals, often at our own or each other's expense. That's the usual group dynamic. So, a couple weeks after we get this new bassist, the female singer in the band sends a group e-mail about how she's having breast reduction surgery (to help with back pain), and makes a joke about her chest. As usual, we all chime in with our own sick comments. The bassist, who is new, also says something.

The singer flips out. Says - to me - that he violated her. Tells me I have to talk to him. So I do. He says that he has no interest in perving on her, that he just saw what our group dynamic was and was playing along. I tell him I understand, but that, going forward, it'd be best for him not to make those sorts of jokes even if she does, just to be sensitive to her boundaries. He agrees.

Cut to two months later. The singer tells us she can't work with the bassist any more, that he's too pushy and aggressive with his ideas about the promo stuff, and that she doesn't feel "safe" with him in the band. We ask her if there have been any more incidents like the one before, and she says no. But she just doesn't like him, still feels threatened and hurt by what she sees as the initial violation, and gives us the "It's him or me" ultimatum. We ask her if there's any way she can see clear to work it out, and she says no.

The three of us other original members deliberated, and I felt I was in a bind. This guy is a good bassist, he's great with band promo, the rest of us like him, and, more importantly, it's hard for me to see her as being reasonable about the initial incident given that a) she started a group conversation making jokes about her body and included him in it, b) didn't talk to him, herself, and tell him that what he said was not acceptable to her, and c) after I talked to him the first time, there's never been another incident. On the other hand, she's been a friend and bandmate for four years.

Earlier this week, the bassist started asking around what was up, since he could tell something was going on. Our keyboardist spilled the beans about the ultimatum, and I ended up having a two-hour conversation with him about it. He went home and wrote an e-mail to the singer in which he explained that he wasn't trying to perv on her and apologized that what he said hurt her. She responded very negatively and accused him of lying and only apologizing so he could stay in the band. She then basically quit...except I really get the impression that, if we fired the guy and made nice, she'd come back.

Unfortunately, the weight of this decision rests mostly on me, and it weighs on me. On one hand, giving an ultimatum like that sucks, the bassist did make the effort to apologize and wanted to work it out, he hasn't repeated that initial misstep since I had the talk with him, and her total unwillingness to try to work it out says to me that maybe we should just let her walk. On the other hand, she has been blasting me and us saying that, as friends and collaborators for four years, we should take her discomfort with him at face value, that it should be enough that she's not happy with him for us to have her back, and that not doing so means we are shitty friends...and I have been feeling tremendous guilt around that...as well as being bummed at the idea that someone who's been a part of the band for four years would be leaving with such bad blood.

So, what the hell do I do? Any thoughts on this are appreciated.

Last edited by Rockthefaces : 10-18-2013 at 12:33 AM.
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:38 AM   #2
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I've generally taken the side of female bandmates in situations like this, as most of the time this sort of thing comes up I felt there was a powerful sexist dynamic at work which sometimes male posters weren't exactly very sensitive to, even when they weren't actively promoting it.

In this case, however, there's a simple fact:

She QUIT.

You don't get to quit and then pout that somebody else has to fired so they take you back in. She quit. That was her decision. It's not your decision. It was hers an she made it. It is not your job to make concessions in the hope that she might un-quit when she's being a piss-poor communicator.

It sounds like his behavior was reasonable, unless there's something going unreported here. I would definitely talk to her and ask what is really going on. I honestly wouldn't be remotely surprised to hear that they fooled around and she's not mature enough to handle it (in which case she has to own up to her part in it, again) but I am not saying that this is definitely the case.

No, she's not entitled to say "Fire him just because I said so." She has to own up to her part in her boundaries getting crossed, ovary up, accept his apology and move on. (Unless there's something else going on here, in which case she has a responsibility to share it).

The only reason I can see to consider firing her to re-hire him is if your identity as a band is tied up with her as a frontman. Generally, when singers and bassists clash, singers win. 10,000 Maniacs may have kept the name, but they weren't the same band after Natalie Merchant left. But if you do that, you have to realize that essentially you're admitting that you're her band.

Nothing wrong with that, if it happens to be true. But you're giving her a tremendous amount of veto power over what the band does and, well, that may not be a great idea.

If she can't articulate to you a coherent sense of how his behavior was unacceptable, then no, you don't have to take her word for it. Especially because her earlier behavior with respect to this guy seems UNreasonable. To talk about feeling violated because of a discussion that she initiated which he was a participant is unreasonable. It's fine if she doesn't want to have the conversation with him, and if she didn't realize that until it was too late to stop it. But violated? No.

Let me be very clear about something, however: I would, if I were you, take her claims of not feeling "safe" with him in the band VERY seriously. If those have any sort of reasonable ground, then he would be out. The other female band member's opinion about whatever behavior she described would be very important, because we guys aren't always so good at judging that sort of stuff. Don't ask her to make a final decision (it sounds like she doesn't want that decision) but do ask her what she feels about the stories the singer reports.

But when she throws around words like "violated" in the context of the email exchange you describe, well, she's going to have to explain why she feels unsafe. What, specifically, he's doing. Throwing words like that around when it's just that she doesn't particularly like the guy is not okay.

She's calling you a shitty friend, but she's also been a shitty friend and bandmate here. Good friends COMMUNICATE. Good bandmates COMMUNICATE. Good bandmates recognize that sometimes minor boundaries get crossed (and the email exchange you describe is a MINOR boundary) and you accept an apology and move on. Heck, good friends do that, too. This is what grown-ups do.

This is a sucky situation, and I recognize that none of the outcomes over which you have control (eg, that don't involve her suddenly behaving like an adult) are optimal.

Again, I wouldn't be surprised at all if they hooked up and she's freaking out about it. (It's about the only thing in the world that I could imagine justifying the timing of the flip-out and her unwillingness to provide specifics). But again, if so, this becomes mature adult territory: mature adults fool around with people, sometimes, and then interact with them in a variety of other fashions without it being a big deal. If this is what happened, then she needs to ovary up and be an adult.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:58 AM   #3
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^^^ Excellent points by Hotspur. I completely agree.

Try to meet up with her, just you two and talk it out. When I say meet up I don't mean phonecall, sms, email, facebook etc. I'm talking about a face to face meeting. Ask what her specific concerns are, and in particular ask specifically whether it was just the email exchange or if it was something else.

Because if it was just the email exchange, then it looks like she's not the type of person who is going to be good for this band. Ultimatiums are a form of manipulation, a destructive personality in a band. However if it's really a cry for help this should be attended to.
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Old 10-18-2013, 09:27 AM   #4
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Thanks for the input, both. To clarify a couple things...

1) I would say there's a 99.99% chance the two of them haven't hooked up. I'd never rule anything out entirely, but I don't think it's really within the realm of possibility.

2) There were two e-mail exchanges. One with the full group, and one that went directly to her...but that was a conversation initiated by her, as well. Here, I'll cut and paste, with the names changed to protect everyone. The first is a response to her saying something about having surgery on her chest:

From: Bassist
To: Everyone

So we have next week Monday at 8p and then Friday right? What time?
Singer, what happened to your chest? I am getting worried here

From: Singer
To: Bassist

Nothing yet, but it's gonna be BLEAK! I'm getting a breast reduction,
and I promised these three that they could keep what gets removed. If
you want some, you're going to have to fight them for it.

See you guys Monday with big tatas for the last time.

From: Bassist
To: Singer

Can I see them live before they change forever? Band Member X knows martial arts so he can keep his part, but Band Members Y and Z, beware!

From: Singer
To: Bassist

LOL. You can all see them Monday.


These were provided by the bassist. When I asked her to share the e-mails so I could see the context of what he said, she said that she didn't understand what context I was looking for and that all that should matter is that my friend and bandmate of four years is uncomfortable.

Now, yes, this conversation happened between the two of them...but as you can see in the thread above, she was the first to split it off from the group e-mail. My guess is that she hit "reply" instead of "reply all" by accident. But still, she is accusing him of initiating this type of conversation with her, directly, and from the looks of things, that wasn't the case.

Again, I don't think what he said was in good taste, but a lot of what we say to each other, as a band, isn't. And I actually don't have an issue with her getting offended - a woman has a right to draw her boundaries where she wants them, and as Hotspur said, even if she started the conversation and didn't realize until it was too late that she didn't want to have it, that's her call. What I do find unreasonable is her unwillingness to even entertain the possibility that it could have been a misunderstanding, especially since it has not come close to happening again since I had that conversation with him back in August (This is by her admission, not based on my evaluation - we were sure to ask, specifically, if he has said anything else in the same vein since. The above thread happened at approximately the same time as the group discussion I mentioned in the first post).

3) The other female member of the band is a big fan of the bassist as a person, finds him completely non-threatening, and thinks the singer is being unreasonable. So do several female friends I've asked for advice on this. I am really aware of the fact that I am a male and can't know what it's like to be on that side of the gender dynamic, and worry that I'm not being sensitive enough to that is a big part of what's made me so confounded about this situation.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:07 AM   #5
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I agree that from the information provided, the singer seems to be acting a bit harshly. but I think considering she's going through a major life changing surgery, her reaction might be more because of stress and shot nerves rather than whatever the bassist said.

My advice is to accept her resignation, go on with the bassist and give her time to come to terms with her operation. Wait 2 or 3 months and ask her if she'd be interested in giving it another go.


Also since you're apparently fine with inappropriate behavior, why don't you just go ahead and post pictures of her rack. Do a side by side with the other girl in the band. The more empirical data, the batter
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Old 10-18-2013, 12:30 PM   #6
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Wow. Let me be clear about something here:

He asked in a vague way about her chest. And she responded WITH AN INVITATION TO FLIRT. That's what "I'm getting a breast reduction,and I promised these three that they could keep what gets removed. If you want some, you're going to have to fight them for it" is going to be interpreted as by 90% of the straight male population.

Now, maybe he was trying to flirt with her by bringing it up in the private email, but, again, she responded in kind.

Yes, he was probably flirting with her by saying she was worried about her chest, but she responded in a way that said, unambiguously, "I'm perfectly happy to flirt about my tits with you."

Again: she needs to take ownership in her part in this. While I'll take your word for in that these two didn't hook up, in the absence of your near-certainty I would take this as further evidence for that hypothesis.

Quote:
she said that she didn't understand what context I was looking for and that all that should matter is that my friend and bandmate of four years is uncomfortable.


Honest question:

Is she bright? Is she a smart person?

Because if she is, this sounds to me like she's playing dumb and trying to manipulate you. Her steadfast refusal to provide further details or context, and relying on the blanket "you should trust me" trope makes her seem very non-credible. Again, I could be wrong, and I'm reading your explanation of things rather than hearing them from her, but ... hers is not the behavior of a reasonable person who's in the right.

A reasonable person who's in the right is usually more than happy to say "here's what happened" to bring people around. There are exceptions to this (eg, rape where the victim feels shamed about it) but it seems more likely that she's hiding something much smaller that she's not proud of.
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Old 10-18-2013, 01:23 PM   #7
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ditch the bitch......if you play with fire you get burnt.

Itīs kind of like the women with double Dīs in an itsy bitsy shirt with cleavage down too the navel complaining about men staring at their chest!?!? She was just as respectful towards the new basist when including him in a downright "iffy" Group mail as he was when responding if not more.
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Old 10-18-2013, 06:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
When I asked her to share the e-mails so I could see the context of what he said, she said that she didn't understand what context I was looking for and that all that should matter is that my friend and bandmate of four years is uncomfortable.


I'd stop worrying about the emails. If its just the emails then she is being very unreasonable. As above, catch up with her and ask if there is anything else that happened.
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Old 10-18-2013, 11:57 PM   #9
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This is why I wouldn't have a female band mate, just seems like inevitable trouble. Hate if you want, just my opinion. Stuff like this always arises in some form or fashion.
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Old 10-19-2013, 12:44 AM   #10
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^^^ Guys can be just as bad. The truth is that most people aren't valuable within a band context. When you do finally find some good, reliable musos who aren't drama queens, you'll end up playing with them again and again, possibly for the rest of your life.
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Old 10-19-2013, 01:00 AM   #11
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If we assume the information you provided tells the whole story:
1) the singer had a social/communication problem with the bass player
2) initially, rather than constructively communicate to the bassplayer about her problem (either alone, or -- if she didn't feel physically safe -- with a burly male friend to ensure her safety while she led the constructive communication), she chose to ask you to deal with the problem for her. Ideally, she would have dealt with the problem herself (with or without a "bodyguard"): asking another to deal with one's issue is not effective problem resolution
3) The bass player made reasonable efforts to fix the problem
4) 2 months pass (where I presume she seemed to have no further issues)
5) the singer then brought up the same issue (suggesting it was either unresolved for her but she did nothing further to resolve it, or that she simply felt like directing negativity at the bassplayer and this was her excuse -- or both. Both are bad)
6) The singer quits

If I can safely assume she could bring a strong male friend along for physical security, then being female is irrelevant here.

She's repeatedly shown she's not good at interpersonal problem resolution, and possibly is also prone to scapegoating "the new guy" if she's feeling down.

It's also clear that you value her as a friend and as a bandmate.

Given this, I recommend having a conversation clearly and calmly stating that:
a) you value her as a friend and bandmate, and you'd very much like to continue your relationships to her in both capacities
b) however, if she really has a problem with the bassplayer, she needs to take it up with him by calmly, and specifically explaining to him what her problem is -- along with what she needs him to do differently to correct the problem. If she feels the need for a bodyguard to feel safe (but *not* to have another guy to take her side in the conflict), that should be arranged -- ideally this should be someone she trusts who's not in the band, so he can easily stay quiet and let them converse
c) the way she dealt with the problem so far is unacceptable bandmate behavior...
d) ...but you'd really like for her to resolve this problem so you can all move past it and get on with the music!

Then, if she's amicable to doing b) instead of c) in this situation and all future situations, then hold her (and yourself, and everyone else in the band) to the same standard all of the time.

If she's not, calmly accept her resignation, say you're sorry it didn't work out, and wish her the best. Emotionally immature or interpersonally incompetent people are time bombs, and it's best not to trust such people with anything important to you.

(The trouble is, you usually don't know if someone's up to snuff until they're under stress and pressure. Everybody messes up under the stress sometimes -- but the good ones take responsibility for their mistakes, apologize, make amends and move on -- the bad people refuse to take responsibility, and often drag down everybody else along the way)


@scguitarking927: Gender has nothing to do with someone's conflict resolution and interpersonal (in)abilities. I know men and women who are equally great -- and equally awful -- at all of these things. I'm not hating on you, just disagreeing.

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Old 10-20-2013, 11:11 PM   #12
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Alright, so a talk with her happened. It didn't go so great. She considers all of this a great betrayal. She said that the fact that I asked to see the e-mails from the bassist in the first place was "stomach-turning" and "vile," because what is or isn't in the e-mails shouldn't matter. She talked about how subsequent interactions with him reinforced for her his aggression, his barely-checked anger (which, I'll be honest, kind of flummoxes me, because neither I nor anyone else in the band sees this in him)...and that it doesn't matter whether I, or anyone else, perceived those things, because she did. That that was the only truth we should have needed.

So, I don't know. The situation appears unsalvageable, to say the least. But I'm just having such a hard time wrapping my head around it. For everyone else in the band (including the other female member), this guy seems nice, and harmless - yes, pushy and aggressive when it comes to trying to get us to take care of business promo-wise, but not in any way beyond the pale, let alone actually dangerous. But the singer who is/was having the issue sees him as this misogynist and time bomb just waiting to explode, and that a lot of it comes back to those initial e-mails, for her. And while I think she's being unreasonable and unfair, I can't help worrying that I'm being a disloyal prick by not just taking her side in this. Maybe I just need to get over that. I don't know.
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Old 10-21-2013, 02:23 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rockthefaces
She talked about how subsequent interactions with him reinforced for her his aggression, his barely-checked anger (which, I'll be honest, kind of flummoxes me, because neither I nor anyone else in the band sees this in him)...and that it doesn't matter whether I, or anyone else, perceived those things, because she did. That that was the only truth we should have needed.


Did she expand on how "subsequent interactions reinforced for her his aggression"?

I mean, are there actual examples of aggression?

Because yeah, this situation does look like a lose/lose situation if you're keen on maintaining your relationship with this girl. The logical answer is "if there are no examples of agression, she's being unreasonable".

However it sounds like you're pretty good friends with her and that will be damaged if you lose her, and if you kick the other guy your band will be screwed as you'll never know when this will come up again with the girl ("you never stood by me" or enhanced drama at the next band issue).

Perhaps the best bet is just to break up the band, go find some other band (with different people obviously). This one is taking forever to get it's stuff together anyway.
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:46 AM   #14
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I don't know what to say. She is being clearly unreasonable in my opinion. She is not entitled to have you stand by her no matter what, and it sounds like that's what she expects and needs.

I think she needs to learn a harsh lesson, and it's unfortunate that your friendship will be the cost of that lesson, but so be it.

Normal friend behavior, when somebody says, "This guy's an a-hole," is to say, "What did he do?" It's to sympathetically listen. Sometimes, in those cases, for the sake of your friendship, you nod along even if you think your friend is being unreasonable, trusting that he or she will see things more clearly once the emotions have settled.

But she's not engaging in normal friend behavior. She's engaging in relationship blackmail.

"You agree with me, without knowing the details, or you're a horrible person."

That is bullsh*t. It is f---ing bullsh*t. That she considered a simple request for more information to be "vile" and "stomach churning" is just, in my mind, further information that she's an immature little manipulator. (This seems like a pattern with her, given the way she used "violated" earlier. Heck, does she even know that you saw the emails from the bassist? If not, it seems clear that she's covering because it's obvious that she WASN'T violated in the emails he shared. On the contrary, she invited him to flirt with her.).

Quite frankly, don't put up with this. Go enjoy being in the band with the perfectly reasonable people that want to be in a band with you. It sucks that your friendship with her is the price you have to pay, but let's be very clear here:

She is the one setting your friendship on fire, not you. Don't feel guilty about it. She is the one choosing to get unreasonably offended here. She is the one displaying piss-poor communication skills. It seems likely to me that she's destroying the friendship so that you can come groveling to her to change your mind: she bet than when she quit, you'd fire him. Now you called her bluff, and she's doubling down. Expect her to lob some more grenades, trying to get you to come apologizing. Don't. She owes you an apology, not vice-versa.

She is playing relationship blackmail. If you were dating her, my advice would be DTMFA. If she hadn't quit, I would say she needs a stern talking to because I'd be considering firing her. At this point, I'd be grateful that she saved me the trouble.
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Old 10-21-2013, 07:55 PM   #15
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Sounds to me like she's hoping you'll all beg her to come back, because she can't stand the bassist's original comment. He acted very properly about it, imho -- considering what you've said about his response and such (and me being some stranger looking at the situation from the outside, lol). If the (former) singer really going to be that manipulative, I'd tell her, "Fine, we as a band hate to do this, but have a nice life. You've been with us for 4 years and all, but you quit. Sorry. We'll look for a new singer."
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Old 10-21-2013, 08:24 PM   #16
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This is a touchy subject. I cannot imagine what it's like to be a woman in a male-dominated field like rock and roll. We do live in a sexist society, and I firmly believe that rape culture is a very real, and very serious problem.
That being said, it is still possible she is overreacting. That email conversation seemed friendly enough, and while the bassist comes across as crude, you've essentially said that he thought it was ok after seeing how the rest of you interacted. As the new guy, he probably stepped over the line, but I don't know if it was egregiously so. It's hard to tell when I don't know any of you personally - I don't know the specifics of your group dynamic.
You other female bandmate says she has no problem with the bassist. Assuming that she is an intelligent person, a good judge of character, somebody who understands your group dynamics - I'm inclined to go with her judgment. If this guy has done nothing else that would send out creepy, misogynist vibes since that email exchange, I'm inclined to believe that the singer has some other axe to grind. But again, as a male, I cannot imagine what she has going through her head, how badly her sense of boundaries was violated, etc...

If it was me, I'd want to have a long, long, long talk with her about what specifically happened, why she doesn't like this guy, if she genuinely feels unsafe around him, etc... I think there must be some kind of other underlying issue. But if she refuses to have that conversation, it can either mean she simply doesn't like him and is being unreasonable, or there is something even more personal at play. You'd have to use your best judgment on that.
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Old 10-21-2013, 11:54 PM   #17
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You can act as an intermediary but you will never get anywhere with problem resolution until you have the two people sitting down in the same room. -Preferably the whole band to hash it out.

what kind of agreement do you have in your band in regards to accepting new members...

A. Unanimous - each member has full veto power and either
1) A new prospect has a predetermined period of time before which if no objections have been raised then the band member is accepted with full voting rights.
2)A new prospect is considered a non voting member of the band until such time as the members vote to accept the new member as a full equal member.

B. Majority Rules - all members have a say but the majority decision is accepted.

C. Dictatorship - a single member has full hiring authority either
1)because it is effectively "their" band
2)because the other members have entrusted this responsibility to a single member

D. I don't know, we've never really discussed anything like that.

=====

If all band members must agree unanimously then she is quite within her rights and he should be sacked regardless of whether the rest of the band like him or not. -You could always work a side project with him.

If it's majority rules or a dictatorship then it can be looked at one of two ways.
The way I see it is that the rest of the band voted they are not to fire anyone. The singer can accept the decision of the band as a whole or she can choose to leave. If she chooses to leave it is on her. If she tries to guilt you about her decision make it clear that she was not fired and you would love to have her back.

If you have never talked about this kind of stuff as a band....you're screwed. I suggest once you sort this mess out you discuss this kind of stuff so everyone knows what's going on before problems arise. You also should tell new band members so they know where they stand from the get go.

To resolve this issue everyone needs to work out what they want from the band and then sit down as a group and discuss it - with everyone present. Personally, I will not be held to ransom nor give in to ultimatums.
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Old 10-24-2013, 08:13 AM   #18
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dude...stop waisting time on her. Hereīs the deal.....you all have to grow up and start seeing your band like a workplace....a really fun place to work but none the less a job. Everybody canīt be friends, it would be nice if it was that way but thatīs not life, if everyone can get along and respect eachothers faults and focus on their job (which would be making Music in your case) then itīs all good....if someone sexually haresses another employe they get fired....but thatīs not going to happen on "someones word"

....and like the guy above said...if the ground work for the band hasenīt been laid youre screwed.....you really need to form rules and guidelines that govern a band, cause if youīre trying to make everyone happy all the time, your in for a tuff ride!!!
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Old 10-26-2013, 09:42 AM   #19
thUnderground12
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Does this singer act in this way often or is this new behaviour?

Although from what you have told us it looks like she is the one at fault, but you can never rule anything out. There could have been an incident between them without the rest of the band and she may be too scared to talk.
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Old 11-23-2013, 06:02 PM   #20
Northernmight
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What's up with this whole "Oh, she's a woman", thing?

Doesn't fly. No matter your gender, if you want to be a professional musician, you'll have to act professionally. And it seems completely clear to me that, despite being your friend for a long time, she is in the wrong here.

Basically what you're telling us here is that she's trying **** over this great guy that everybody likes, who's professional and a good player for no good reason what-so-ever.

I understand you might be torn with regards to her being a good friend of yours. But there's a difference between being a friend and a bandmate. if she acts like that, she should not be your bandmate.

And if you base your decision on her being a woman and oh-so-sensitive, you're basically letting her push people around because she has tits, which is just absurd.

In summary: The one being an arsehat should be treated as the one being an arsehat. Sheesh..
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