Breaking up (with multiple people) is hard to do
My band broke up two weeks ago. For the three or four people who know us and may accidentally find themselves reading this, I won't be discussing why we broke up. Sorry. I know band breakups are really fascinating to everyone who isn't in the band, but it's not really something I can talk about without my bandmates. Besides, that part of the story isn't that interesting, because there was no drama to the split.
There has been drama, of course: When you're a band that's been around for four years and you've been through six drummers and a drum machine, that inevitably creates some human-to-human misunderstandings, arguments and general inappropriate behavior.
But what's interesting to me now is that for four years, we gave ourselves to an entity that was meant to sometimes entertain, always engage and more often than not invoke a lot of irritation. Sometimes, it was just a reaction to resistance. But after our last show goes down in March, we won't be doing any of that anymore. And I'm not sure how to not be doing that, with them, anymore.
I can't say a band is akin to a marriage, because I've never been in one of those. (But if I do ever con someone into marrying me, I'm going to do it the Emily Nokes way.) I think it is a lot like a relationship, however; we make big decisions together, we travel together, we have to be vulnerable around each other in order to create music. It takes a lot of heart and even more guts to be in a band.
When the band came into my life in 2008, it was unknowingly perfect timing. I had a one-way ticket back to New York City with my name on it, and I was ready to return to the place I had fallen in love with the year before. Then a family situation arose that kept me in Denver, and everything changed. I lost the money on the return ticket. I was depressed.
My friend Valerie was in a similar situation; temporarily home in Boulder for the summer, she was headed for California in the fall. That also did not happen, for reasons out of her control. So there we were, two people with broken plans and bleak outlooks.
We had talked about writing music together before, sending tapes through the mail from my apartment in Brooklyn to her then-home in Portland. That never happened, but we did manage to come together in her dad's church and watch a movie, and that was our first band practice.
From that point forward, we chose to not only make music together from a real and rough place, but we worked together to educate ourselves on band ethics. We stuck to our guns. Our refusal to deal with shitty promoters and play places that treated bands badly, our fight to make as many shows as possible open to all ages -- these things never made us the most popular. But we didn't want to be popular; we were popular to each other, two loser-feeling girls who just wanted to jam econo.
After a cycle of good and not-so-good drummer situations (note: That old saying about not fucking people you're in a band with? It's true. Don't do that. Ever), we found Fez. The story got better from there: We toured more, played some fun shows, put out a record and made a really too-fancy-to-be-true music video. We all got the image of a piece of John Candy tattooed on our arms.
But now that's ending. Things are good, but the party is over. The jokes are over. The shows will soon be over. The thing I used to do on stage with these two people will cease to exist, no matter how many more times I get on stage with other people -- or even these same people later on, but in a different context. Thinking about the dozen or so songs we created together and played in front of that small number of people who always showed up and how that music will most likely never be played again feels odd.
You know when you're in a relationship and it inevitably ends, and all of those things you used to say to each other, the inside jokes you had, the stories you told each other about each other over and over again, just die? I guess it isn't so much a death as it is a displacement, because those things unique to your relationship only exist when your relationship is alive. After that, they're gone forever. You can try to re-create moments, but it's best when you can let them be memories. Re-creations, like cover bands, are never as good as the real thing. They cheat the original material of the gooey insides that make music/art/love great.
There are millions of different ways to be in a band/relationship, and there are no rules when it comes to how things are supposed to work. But what's important is acknowledging when it's working and knowing when it's not. If it's not, let it go. No one wants to be the relationship that fights in public. No one wants to be the band that played the same ten songs for a decade past their expiration date. At least I don't want to be.
So the next time you see someone who may have just gone through a breakup -- with another person or with a band -- don't ask them why. They probably don't want to talk about it.
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