How to kick a drunk out of your band

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Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Dear Fan,

Is there a way to kick someone out of your band gently? After a few months with a new synth player, we are all getting tired of his flaky behavior, being late to practice and him being too drunk to load out. He's a nice guy, but we need to find someone else who is as committed and responsible as the rest of the band. I don't want him to think we are judging him or make him feel bad.

The Singing Drummer

Dear SD,

Even a gentle letdown is likely bound to be a disappointment. Gentle news and soft-pedaling the truth -- or even worse, covering up your motivations -- is a disservice to your bandmate. It can also be confusing and infuriating to be treated like a baby. I know some guys from one local band who told a member they were breaking up in order to not have to confront kicking him out; imagine their surprise when they started playing again and the ex-member assumed he was in on the reunion shows. Being in a band, those dynamics can be hard -- it's rock & roll, after all -- and no one wants to be the bad cop.

Give it to him straight, especially if his drinking behavior has something to do with it. Hopefully this is not the first time he has been made aware of the band's dissatisfaction with him, because everyone deserves a chance to get it together. If you have never brought this stuff up and then just stewed silently, he probably thinks it's fine to roll up late or that no one minds hauling his gear out at 2 a.m. He may be unaware of how problematic his drinking is. Being in a band can insulate you from that awareness because so much of the culture of concerts and music is structured around booze and having a good time. It may not be that he doesn't care or isn't committed; he might be barely holding his life together and this is just a symptom of that.

Respect him and your situation enough to be honest and allow him to have the natural consequences of his behavior -- he's an adult. Just lay out that there is pattern of flakiness and drunkeness, and you can't allow him to disrupt the life of the band with his hassle. Don't offer him a second chance to get it together unless you are positive you have the collective patience.

Good luck, Fan

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