Everything I need to know about being in a band I learned from nine-year-olds at Girls Rock
For some of us, half the battle of being in a band is having the wherewithal to start one in the first place. Even if you're not a musician, you probably have at least one musician friend who has a ton of fancy gear in his or her basement but has never started a band -- let alone played a show. (Those folks are called the "never been gigged" set, as they're often people selling lots of good musical equipment on Craigslist that has never been used outside their home.)
My lovely adult cohorts for the week of Girls Rock Camp.
My last band broke up about a year and a half ago, and I have been playing the sad-widow card ever since, laying all the blame for me not playing with a new band on the fact that I can't get over my old band being, well, long over. Every time I go to a show, I run into someone who excitedly asks, "Are you playing with a new band yet?" The answer, of course, is no (though I am lucky people even gave enough of a shit about my last band to inquire what I might be doing now).
But at last week's Girls Rock Camp, as I attempted to teach a group of nine- and ten-year-olds how to be in a band, I found myself wondering why I couldn't just take my own advice and be in a band.
At Girls Rock Camp, we teach the girls that their band can be and sound like anything: "There are no rules!" we tell them. "Write a song about whatever you want!" we proclaim. So when it comes to starting my own band as an adult, why do I pretend there are all of these invisible parameters around what it takes to be in a band? Now in year four of volunteering at Girls Rock Camp, I found myself learning a lot just by attempting to teach others a few things that I myself had yet to master.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Exploding Diamonds (and their band managers, Bree Davies and Sara Century).
I have to say that, based on observation and interaction, my little band of ladies weren't necessarily friends outside of the camp where they had to spend time together doing actual band stuff, but it didn't seem to matter. Regardless of whether they maintained any kind of BFF status, they still managed to come up with a band name in one sitting, write a song in less than an hour, then spend the remaining allotted time perfecting their sound. They were the most efficient band I have ever worked with -- or witnessed.
I'm not saying they weren't friendly with each other, but the members of this band definitely had a strictly professional relationship. It was interesting to see a band work so democratically: When musicians haven't had years to develop egos that inevitably wall off any feedback from coming their way, they can get a lot done.
This little band even managed to breeze through a mock interview in a way that made me wonder why so many adult bands can't seem to get it together when talking to the press. No one in this band -- they were called the Exploding Diamonds, by the way, after a few other possibilities like the Yadda Yadda Guavas were ruled out -- talked over each other. No one disagreed when discussing the meaning behind their song. There were some eye rolls here and there, but rolling your eyes and being a nine-year-old girl go hand in hand.
There are many components to Girls Rock Camp; beyond instrument instruction and band practice, these little women spend time in workshops that explore such topics as "conflict resolution," "stage presence" and "activism in music." The Exploding Diamonds didn't seem to need any help in resolving conflict -- unlike the rest of my daily reality, where everyone I know who is in a band could probably benefit from these workshops.