Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

 ***NOTE This article is a throwback to the dimly-lit past of 2009. Please enjoy my post-post-post adolescent angst***

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of change, and the repercussions of change.


Let me elaborate. I’m in a band. I formed this band with a guy I met on the Internet, through an online band classified ads site. We got together and wrote some songs, and although his words were very good, he admitted that his singing experience only went as far as karaoke. I figured that the more we played and practiced, the better he would become. Then as we gradually began to accumulate band members, and the volume got louder, it became clear, or rather it became clear to others that the singing was not progressing to the level of the music.


I would often explain the concerns of people who would hear the music as poor recording methods, which was true, or some other excuse. Last fall, we ventured into the recording studio, not a big, fancy studio, but a small digital studio run out of this guys’ basement.


The guy was terrific, and the studio was pretty much what we needed and very inexpensive. This was not the problem, however. The music came out pretty much as we expected, but due to time constraints and playback volume issues, there were flaws, which we had to live with.


The singing, on the other hand, was glaringly substandard. Now I had a dilemma. All my excuses were gone. We had a good recording, multiple takes, and an acoustically sound environment. And STILL the vocals were lacking. It became obvious that something would need to be done, or at least said. As humans, I think we dislike confrontation, especially one in which we may be delivering bad, and accusatory news to someone who we like a great deal. Much humming and hawing was done on my part and finally several months from the review of the finished product, we decided to take the matter to action.


As a group, the instrumentalists decided to review the recordings with the singer and point out where we were dissatisfied with our own performances, hoping that the singer would pony up and admit that his performance was not up to scratch. This, we figured, would at least tell us he knew there was a problem. We listened to the tracks, and each commented on where we all “messed up” and would like to redo things if we could.


The singer could find little or no fault in his performance, with the exception of a matter of song structure.


Big red flag time.


Regrouping later we decided that we’d have to just tell him that we had concerns with his staying on key and lackluster vocal melodies. Due to the conflict avoidance, noted above, I sent him an e-mail saying basically we have noticed that when the singer sings loud, he goes off key, and he may not notice it, because he’s too “in the moment” and enjoying himself to notice. This was not necessarily bullshit, because when this guy sang, he really got into it heart, and soul. I suggested that he may want to look into a professional; assessment of the recording by a vocal coach, and ask for suggestions on how to improve himself, and that as a show of band solidarity, we would each chip in to defer the cost of such a venture.


There. out in the open, finally. Problem stated concisely and non-accusatorily. Possible solution offered. How could we lose? Read on and you’ll see.


Rehearsal that week came, and the singer came loaded for bear, in full on feisty-porcupine mode. The excuses and justifications were many and varied from the “If I knew we were serious, I could have done better” (why are you holding back and giving us inferior product. we don’t play our instruments any worse than we can because we’re just goofing around) to “We should have spent more time in the studio working on vocals” (That would only prove that you CAN be made to sound good. not that you ARE good). When asked about the vocal coaching, he flat out refused, stating that he had “had singing lessons before and that they’ll just teach him the same things”, and that “he’s 36 years old and this is as good as it’s going to get.” (I’d never heard of an old dog REFUSING to learn new tricks before!).


In the end we asserted that if he simply took the recordings to a vocal coach, HIS vocal coach if he wanted, and worked on it we’d be willing to stick by him. Well, weeks came and went and no mention of if he went, hadn’t gotten around to it, or simply changed his mind. The vocals didn’t sound any better, in fact they may have been worse, it was noted that he seemed to be distancing himself from his usual whole-hearted involvement. Possibly the handwriting was evident, or he was figuring he had dodged a bullet and we’d forgotten that the singing was not fitting with the music. 


Ultimately, we decided to say goodbye to our longtime friend, I’m sure he was not happy and his paranoia, suspicion, and sense of betrayal were stirred to fever pitch about how long this had been in the works behind his back et cetera.


So why, you may ask, did it take almost 2 years from the time someone first told me he didn’t fit the music to manage to tell him so? 




Change is difficult and daunting and opens up many, many cans of worms that otherwise we’d gladly leave just on the shelf rather than deal with. What change you say? Well firstly, a new singer needs to be found. One who can sing, who is dedicated and motivated, and not a total jerk-wad. Secondly, all the singer’s lyrics need to be re-written, as I don’t feel good about using his words if he’s not in the band, although he said it would be okay. Thirdly, the vocal amplification (p.a. and mics) belonged to him, so we need to replace that as well. So, we’ve gone from a full band with 21 completed songs, to a band minus a singer with 21 instrumentals and no p.a.


I feel as if we’ve taken a HUGE step backwards and lost some direction. I feel we’re in flux. we don’t have to worry about bad singing anymore because there is NO singing. The bass player is a good singer but can’t do it full time. he can also write lyrics like a fiend, but how will the new singer (whomever he/she is) feel about singing his words? Should we maybe wait and see before we continue re-writing the whole catalogue. This sense of ennui is discouraging me somewhat, as I can’t see the other side of the forest, and it’s making me wonder if this is all worth it. I’ll be very glad once it’s over.





Looking back on this 12 years later (!) I can say that ultimately, some bands don’t survive personnel changes. This band in question, the pre-cursor to Giant Triangle, got a new singer and shortly after the second guitarist and drummer quit because they got unworkable jobs, and the bass player quit because he hated the new singer. Some of the melodies, and song titles still remain from that endeavour, but otherwise nothing in the way of internet presence still lingers.


But often, Phoenixes rise from ashes.  


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