Friday, 12 July 2013

10 things I know now about being in a band ...

Recently somebody contacted me and said he had some live recordings of Club Hoy (a folk-pop duo/band I fronted with Julia Richardson.)  Would I like to hear them?

My first instinct was, "Good God in heaven, please destroy them immediately and let us never speak of this again."

Because here is the first thing I know to be sure:

1. Live recordings of any band are never goo

Unless you've gone in and set up for a live recording and remain acutely conscious of the fact that you are being recorded throughout the entire process, even the best live gig will not translate to audio only.  It's akin to recording yourself singing in the shower, then playing it back later MINUS  all the forgiving bouncy reverb that the shower tiles so kindly afforded you.

(See Linda McCartney's infamous "Hey Jude" backing vocal.  I'm sure it was fine in the stadium where she was being drowned out by everyone else and in her defence, sometimes it's hard to hear yourself on a big stage and above all may she rest in peace.)

The Club Hoy recording was from a gig in Perth (never our greatest crowd-pulling town) at a pub called, The Shenton Park.  And while I was not into mind-altering drugs and never have been, I do not have any memory of this gig, apart from a vaguely depressing image of a long room with dank green carpet.  The reason I could see the carpet, was probably because there were not many people the room.

The live recording with its sad smattering of (albeit enthusiastic) applause after each song, confirms this fact. 

Anyway, I downloaded the files, during which a brief snippet of one of the songs suddenly blared from my laptop without warning: a blast from the past indeed.  As predicted, the audio made me feel slightly nauseous; I think I actually broke out into a cold sweat in my haste to find the volume control on my laptop.

I completed the download then promptly forgot about it.

Then a few weeks later, the very kind man who had forwarded them on emailed me to ask if I had listened to them yet. I had to admit I had not. It seemed ungrateful and so I had another go.

To be honest, it wasn't all bad. There were moments of sonic beauty of the female harmony kind, interspersed with interminably long tracts of atonal, "back away from the microphone, foghorn lady" hideousness.

Overall, I don't think it was our finest live gigging moment.

This recording took place over 20 years ago and what I did realise was that I have learned a lot since then.

Here are the things I know now, that I didn't know then

2.  A backing vocal is a "backing" vocal 

So why am I singing my foghorn harmonies right INTO the microphone like it's the lead vocal. Somebody stop me. To be fair though, I think it is also a 'mixing' issew.

3. A song is not a running race

Vince (the drummer) and I seem to be engaged in a highly competitive race to the finish during House On Fire. I think he won.

4. "That look" she used to give me was for a reason

Regarding my "race to the finish" rhythm style: now I think I know why Julia (the other lead vocalist and guitarist) used to look across at me during some songs as if to say, "What the fuck are you doing?" At the time, I was thinking, "What's the problem? These are the right chords."  It did  not occur to me that the "problem" might be tempo-related. Note to self.

5. Girls can play lead

I know this is pretty much a given these days, but in those days, if you weren't messing around with some serious testosterone distortion, a "wah wah" pedal and making "I'm constipated" guitar faces, you weren't considered to be really playing that guitar.   As a result, I was always very self-conscious about my clean, chorus-sound, chin-out-in-concentration attempts to play any sort of lead guitar part.  But my lead guitar playing, (not withstanding the race to the finish rhythm parts) was not all bad. I played some nice little parts here and there, albeit workmanlike in their execution, but not bad. Not bad at all.  Retrospective pat on back to self.

6. Get an appropriate guitar

Don't get one that looks good. Get one that sounds right for what you are doing.  In this band, I used to play a white Kramer, simply because I once saw Neil Finn playing a black one. It sounds like crap and always did.  Julia alternately played a black and white Rickenbacker, (because we saw Susanna Hoffs playing one and it looked to die for) and a Les Paul copy inscribed with the name of the previous band who owned it: The Voodoo Prawns.   As evidenced by the name of that band, a Les Paul was probably not the optimum choice for a girly folk-pop sound.  In fact, none of these guitars, (except maybe the Rickenbacker in a jangly rhythmic way) was appropriate for the way we were playing them. Dumb girls indeed.


7. Going high and loud? Step back a bit

When one is singing a very high part, during which one must project to reach the note, take about three steps back from the microphone to give it "some air." I know that now.


8. One or two rounds of chords is enough of an "intro"

Sometimes when you start a song, it's like you're jumping rope and you missed the point of entry. So you wait a few more 'overs' then the longer you wait, the harder it is to just get in there and start jumping rope.  I seem to do that alot. There's a lot of very long intros made up of four or five rounds of the same chords before I actually start singing. I've been working on that lately.

9. If you're going to speak into the microphone say something interesting

Saying, "here's another song from the album," is not even worth saying. Just shut up and keep singing unless you're going to actually say something interesting.

10. Allow the audience to applaud you, for the love of GOD

DO: Finish the final song, let the crowd applaud you and THEN leave the stage in an orderly fashion.
DON'T: Drop your guitar AS you play the final chord, say "see ya ..."  and bolt off the stage like a squirrel scurrying for cover.

Don't believe me? Have a listen below:

And for those of you who are interested, I will be applying all of the  above at a one-off gig of my own at:

Saturday 31st August
with special guest Alannah Russack (The Hummingbirds)


  1. I do hope that there will be MORE snippets from the gig for us Hoy/Flanno fans! If anything, to keep us going until the eagerly anticipated gig!

    1. Hi James, I have listened to the recordings again and the version of "On and On" is not too bad. If only for posterity, I will post that one next.

  2. Lol'd my way right through that. Absolute classic.
    And that recording of Linda's ..dear god. In Paul & Linda's marriage love was deaf apparently.
    (Found you on Kidspot & stalked you via google to your blog!)

  3. Oooh I am a cyberstalker too. Thanks for commenting. As you can see I need the 'comments.'