"You have about ten minutes before you can set up," said the pink haired receptionist. She had come over with a small stack of paper for us. "I need you guys to sign this release form."
She handed me the papers which at first glance seemed to be about 'redistribution'. I gave her a confused look. "Wait, what are we releasing?"
"Oh, it's really simple. Didn't you know about the promo compilation?" She looked at me like I was expected to know this already. "We record the audition and you sign over the rights of reproduction for promotional purposes."
"Everything will be recorded? Sorry we don't know too much about this," I said, referring to me and Drew, who was sitting against the wall with his practice pad. "The two that signed up the band went out for a smoke."
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever, just have them signed when Kevin's ready, okay? He'll be your engineer." She smiled and walked back to her desk.
I looked over at Drew banging away at his practice pad. "Did you know about this?" I asked, waving the three pages of legal copy we were expected to sign.
"Nope, but we knew they'd get the promo track somehow," he replied, not taking his eyes of the snare patterns he was running. "It's just weird they'd record all the bands instead of only the ones that make it."
"Maybe the recording is our audition," I said.
"Shit, this is the real deal isn't it?" my theory made Drew stop warming up; the excitement in his face made me feel better. He was spending thousands on tuition studying music, but I knew what he wanted most was to perform in front of a sold-out crowd every night. Being in a band was his religion, and over the past several months the rest of Great Mongol Armies were coming around to that level of devotion too.
A door opened around the corner from our hallway. A skinny kid with straightened hair as black as his t-shirt was wheeling out a flight case with three imposing Mesa heads mounted on racks. He was one of the guitarists from Fragments, the band that had opened for us at our last show.
I walked towards him and offered my hand. "Hey dude, just finish your audition?"
"Oh hi Marc, yeah it was good," he said. We shook hands and I helped him attach the ends to his road case. "I guess we'll have to wait to hear the recording before we know how tight we were though. You guys up next?" We put the gear under a posted sign for Dischord.
"That we are," I replied, feeling a little guilty I had no clue what his name was. "What happened to Fragments, is this your new band?" Judging by his colourless clothing I guessed they were taking a heavier route than his previous band.
"You know what the problem is with singers?" he asked, not really expecting a reply. "They don't have any idea how much work the rest of us put into the music. Ours was such a diva, and all he did was jump around onstage and scream over our songs. Dischord is where I'm at now no singer, all shred."
He wished me luck before going back to help his band with more gear. Graham and Chelsea were walking toward me, arm in arm.
"We just had a smoke with a band from New York," Chelsea said. "Turns out these auditions aren't so local, they drove here this morning. They're an eight-piece fusion group looking to gain Canadian fans."
"I guess that explains the mountain of gear in the hallway," I responded. "In other news, we're getting our set recorded," I handed Graham the release form.
"Awesome, let's make something they can put on the radio," he said as we passed around the papers to sign. All four of us wrote the music, so we all signed the release.
Drew raised an eyebrow at Graham. "Alright, as long as we're not talking top 40. That's shit's tedious on the kit."
We laughed a little while unpacking the gear. When Dischord had everything out of the studio we brought in the pieces of Drew's kit for him to set up. When the last of our stuff was in, a middle aged man with hipster glasses came to greet us; presumably this was Kevin.
"Hey guys, here are your headphones, I'm just going to set up the drum mics and then we'll get some levels," he spoke quickly. He must have ran through this same process several times already in the last 48 hours; Graham and I were still tuning when he had everything plugged in the way he wanted.
Kevin went back to the control room. A camera was set up beside him; it seemed our fate would be decided by someone we may never even see. After giving Kevin a thumbs up, with a nod to Drew I started the rumbling bass line in sync with his tom-heavy beat. Chelsea's aggressive playing brought a layer of harmonic noise, building a frame for Graham to sing the opening line of "Fool's Gold" the song we had completed that morning.
We all knew it was risky playing something so new, but the countless hours spent over the last few days had made its performance an attainable goal. Chelsea's harmonies pierced through Graham's leads, creating depth we had never achieved through vocals before. The song held true to its original form, rising from an ambient drone to a heavy groove.
"Fool's Gold" reached its sudden stop, leaving space for a soft resonating chord from Chelsea's jazz organ to bridge the space before our second song.
We were doing well. Everybody was looking relaxed and confident, even though "Fool's Gold" was so new to us. Playing through our driving number "Demise" allowed us to have some fun. It all happened so fast, but I was confident in our performance.
By the time we brought our third song to its re-worked big ending every ounce of energy inside us had been spent. Kevin was still staring at his computer screen and hadn't said anything yet. I set down my bass and went into the little control room; I needed some feedback on the performance.
"Hey man, thanks for recording us. Hope everything sounded good in here," I flashed him the friendliest smile I could.
"Yeah, you guys were tight," he said, barely taking his eyes off the wave forms on his computer screen. "Going for the whole Kyuss meets Black Angels thing eh? Do yourself a favour, get the girl to do some more singing. Shit, if she can pull it off get her out from behind that Rhodes."
My smile slightly faded. Having our sound reduced to two bands in such an offhand fashion made it hard to keep up the super-positive act. "What, having a chick lead singer is what it takes to succeed?" I couldn't hide my scepticism.
"Hey, I'm not the judge for this. All the songs and video go to the festival heads and they choose everything. But kid," he took off his ridiculous glasses and turned towards me. "Your band should capitalize on its strengths."
I'm not sure whether it was the implicit meaning that we had little to offer musically or his reduction of Chelsea to a piece of ass that made me angrier, but this elitist midlife-crisis victim instantly pissed me off with that statement. Fuelled by the adrenaline of the performance I was about to launch into an inflammatory retort when Graham entered the control room.
"Hey Marc, let's get our stuff out of here. The next guys are waiting," Graham saw the anger in my face and immediately lead me out, thanking the engineer before closing the control room door.
"If you're going to start a fight, can't it be with someone who doesn't have the power to make us sound like shit for the judges?" Graham expressed his worry for any damage I may have caused as we carried his combo out of the studio.
"Don't worry, I kept cool. He just wanted to get his two cents in," I replied. If Graham hadn't come in when he did things would have gotten much worse, but I decided not to disclose that information.
Graham wasn't completely convinced. "Just be careful. He's a DJ here too, and first impressions are everything in this business."
We set down his amp and I shrugged. "If we let our music speak for ourselves we'll do just fine."
"That's the problem you don't seem to get," said Graham, staring straight at me. "To be successful image is everything. How good our music actually sounds is secondary."