Today is a hangover day because yesterday was band practice in a room over in Camden somewhere. I’m saying ‘band practice’ in a very casual way that implies I do it all the time, but this was actually the first in almost a decade. I was round at Sam’s garden in Clapham two weeks ago for beers, and we drunkenly decided to form a band once we learned Sam’s colleague Mike, who was also present, can play the drums. Sam plays guitar, as do I, so there you have it: band.
Our band doesn’t have a name and we can barely play a note and we haven’t written any songs, but we are a band all the same. We hired a rehearsal space in Camden and Sam and I drank beers on the Tube and lugged our guitars over that end of the city. When Mike arrived I was mortified to learn we had all worn white Converse.
The studio we rented—owned by a company called Pirate, who have similar spaces all across London and the world—was useful, if a little soulless. The whole space is unmanned, which meant we simply arrived outside, entered a PIN code in the number pad on the door, then walked down a couple of winding corridors past doors marked with things like ‘DJ BOOTH 1’ and ‘RECORDING ROOM 3’ until we reached our room: REHEARSAL ROOM 11. Well, actually we began in REHEARSAL ROOM 8 but the drum kit had no cymbals.
Mike hadn’t drummed in ten years. Sam hadn’t played guitar in five. I play guitar all the time, but for the past six months I’ve been endeavouring to learn Classical Gas note for note, and although I’ve made excellent progress I can no longer remember anything else. We set our instruments up, cracked open fresh beers, and got to work.
By ‘work’ I of course mean ‘generating a caustic din so aggressively shit it would have the Dalai Lama ripping his hair out, if he had any’. We began by trying to play Backwaters by Drenge, a band Sam and I like very much. The guitar is simple enough and the vocals are easy, however the drums are quite complicated, it turns out, and we were forced to abandon it early on.
Next we tried to play Rocks by Primal Scream, and it sounded okay at the beginning when we played along to the song, which we blasted through giant speakers to inspire us. The moment the song stopped, however, we realised keeping the rhythm was very difficult and after a minute we gave up.
Then we tried to write our own song but kept sacking it off because every riff we made up sounded either too pop punk, too hip hop, or too goth. In the last five minutes of our band practice we decided to attempt a cover of the song Jobseeker by Sleaford Mods, which is essentially a ranting spoken word performance over a three-note bass loop and a drum machine.
It sounded brilliant and we were thrilled.
Outside the band room, as we packed up and left, now steaming, we said hello to a bunch of young people sitting outside rolling joints. I asked them if they were musicians, and they said yes, pretty much. One of them—a purple haired young man in camo dungarees—asked me if I was a musician too. Then his friend elbowed him and said of course he’s a musician, he’s holding a bass guitar you dick.
I asked the young people—and when I say young I mean it, they had not a crow’s foot between them—whether they were a band. They said not exactly. I said what do you mean. They said they’re more of a crew. I said a crew? And they laughed and said yeah man.
I returned to Sam and Mike after this encounter, and together we drank our tins of Stella and sauntered back towards the Tube. Those kids called themselves a crew, I told them. Do you think we’re a crew too?
Sam said no, we’re not a crew. We’re a band. You need more people for it to be a crew. I asked Sam what a crew is and he said he wasn’t sure, but you definitely need more people to be counted as one. Then we reached the high street but wanted to finish our beers, so we propped our guitars against the shutters of a sleeping Sainsbury’s and drank and discussed the future of our new nameless band.
We listened back to our recording of Jobseeker while standing on the street corner, and we were happy to hear that it actually sounded pretty good. And like that, we decided to continue practicing at being a band until we are fantastic.
This… may take some time.