Blog 5: : A Lead Guitarist’s Perspective.
This blog is written by Andrew, our lead-guitarist and band cherub. Here’s his beautiful little face when in action at Albert’s in March 2019:
Andrew has written this in the lead-up to the second anniversary of our first full gig performance, and as such we thought it would be fitting to release it on the page on the actual day (25th of August). For trivia’s sake, our last full gig on the 27th of July 2019 was our 35th. You can let us know in the comments how many of them you think you’ve been to!
As we approach the second anniversary of our first full gig performance, I wanted to take a few moments to give my thoughts on the band. I was approached to join initially by Phil and whilst Bowie’s music had always featured relatively superficially in my musical tastes, like a lot of music that features in our lives, we tend to have an appreciation of an artist’s very well-known songs without having any knowledge of those deeper cut tracks, which are fabulous songs in their own right but are so often hidden away in the darker reaches of an album.
So having told Phil I’d give it a go, I turned up at a rehearsal studio in Nottingham on a cold March evening and acquainted myself with the others. At this point, the band having been conceived by Allan was still very much in its infancy and featured original guitarist Ben, but no Mel. I remember I was quite surprised during those first few weeks how easily we gelled together and how quickly we were able to get songs off the ground. By the time we played our first gig at NEM in Derbyshire that August, we had about 20 songs under our belts that we could call on which gave us enough for a full set.
As a band, we continually seek to improve and we are very committed to rehearsing. Some two and a half years on, our rehearsal time is used to fix the odd mistake, to learn new material, and to play through songs that we know very well but which we just love playing. We aim to have two or three new songs on the go at any one time and increasingly, we are finding that we are able to mix our set-lists up a little more, which to us is another form of progression.
As those first few weeks of rehearsals wore on, we started lining up some gigs and our focus soon turned to our first outing as a band at NEM. We were reasonably confident in our ability to play the songs but we knew we were frayed around the edges and our inexperience showed. But we did it and for a first gig, I think we did pretty well. Our first major challenge was soon to follow, however, when original guitarist Ben announced that he wanted to leave the band. Fortunately, we had already drafted Mel in on backing vocals by this time and she is an accomplished guitarist in her own right, so there was no question that she would take over from Ben. Ben kindly honoured his commitment not to leave us until we were ready for him to leave and he proved a great help during this period of transition.
Playing such great music in front of a receptive audience is a real honour but we do not have the luxury of roadies (yet!) and so there is an awful lot of gear lugging and late nights. Generally, we start playing around 9.00 p.m having arrived at the venue around 6.30 p.m. or slightly later if we do not need to set up our own PA. Depending on the location of the venue, we can also have anything up to a two hour drive beforehand and 3.00 a.m. is not an uncommon bedtime after a gig.
Stage areas for us can be quite restricted, which for a five piece band with cables running here, there, and everywhere, can be interesting. At a recent gig, my effects pedals were at the side of me and I was conscious of not clipping Phil with the headstock of my guitar – and of course, we need to leave sufficient room for Jane to do her thing or we get told off!
From a guitar player’s perspective, some songs we play are relatively straightforward but many are distinctly more challenging. So, it is important to maintain a degree of concentration and not to lose sight of where you are in the context of the song. Having two guitarists means that Mel and I are able to cover each other at times of “wandering” – these occasions are fairly rare but definitely not unheard of.
There are so many great aspects about being part of this band but the one thing that has struck me most is the bond we have developed between us and our unity of purpose. We have all become firm friends, we like spending time with each other socially and our wives, partners, and parents have all become friends too. We are all decent musicians individually but I also think we bring out the best in each other’s abilities. So many people have also commented about how much fun we seem to be having when we’re playing. Ultimately, I suppose this is why we do it.