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I’m the Band Leader, You’re Not. I Know Better.

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I’m back, losers. And I’m not surprised you’re here, to be honest. I’ve been killing it on the music front with my band, The Gnarly Shredderz, then I went and wrote a bangin’ article for the nerds here at Soundfly. No wonder you’re itching to read more of what I have to say.

Well, I recently had to part ways with my band, I guess you could say I outgrew them. After all these cooler, sexier, more professional musicians wanted to join forces with me, I just had to leave those knuckle-draggers behind. But what’s most important is that I’ve learned a thing or two about band leadership along the way, so I’m gonna do you a favor and share it with it you.

So if you see me out and want to thank me, do me a favor and respect my strict dietary needs: Jager shots only, don’t tip the bartender. Here’s my advice for all you budding band leaders out there.

You’re the center of the band — act like it

It doesn’t matter what instrument you pick up and play on that stage — you’ve got the keys and you’re sitting in the driver’s seat at all times. This is especially true if you’re new to the band. How else are you going to prove how amazing you are? The musicians need to know, and more importantly, the audience does, too. You need to play louder, and you need to play more solos, than anyone else on that stage. They say leadership is all about the nonverbal signs you give off, the alpha attitude. So go ahead and crank it.

Adjust your bandmates’ equipment for them, because you know better

This one is a no-brainer. You know what sounds good, so show the others and they’ll learn it eventually.

Definitely feel free to walk up to the amps when they’re playing and adjust their levels until it sounds good to your ears. They’ve probably been playing the same songs for so long, they don’t even know how they’re supposed to sound anymore. This goes for the drummer, too — feel free to tighten their drumheads and move the toms around if the feng shui of the kit doesn’t suit your standards. I’ve only taken three drum lessons and I’m pretty sure that I know more than 99% of the drummers out there what looks and sounds good.

Make sure that when you perform, you’re stealing the show

I am fun to be around all the time, but my personality really shines when I’m on stage. I can’t help it, it’s like a gift or something. Musicians love it when one person in the band just takes over the stage and sets the tone. It doesn’t matter if your vibe doesn’t match with the others — you’re supposed to stand out.

I was playing bass in this really lame soft rock band, and I thought they needed more of a hard rock edge, so I ripped off my T-shirt during one of the (many) ballads, poured my beer over my head, and screamed, “who’s ready for some mother-effing ROCK!!!”

The audience got it. They got it so clearly that everyone just sat in silence for a minute or two, because what else was there to say about that?! I preach the truth.

Monopolize the soundcheck

Get up there first for soundcheck, because you’re going to need to perfect your sound before anyone else even starts their check. Take as long as you want, and don’t listen to the sound guy if he says he needs to check the other musicians in the band. Cover yourself first, and then if you have a couple minutes left or whatever, let the rest of your bandmates soundcheck while you raid the green room table spread.

Wear whatever you want

Oh man, this really ticks me off. No coordinating. I have my stage clothes, and they’re whatever I want to wear. Wedding? Garden party? Jazz club? Who cares? I mean, is this the ’60s? Are we the Temptations? I didn’t think so.

Lead, lead, lead, solo, solo, solo

Most knuckleheads you play with won’t let you set the tempo for one of their songs or play a solo until you’ve been with them for a while. I say, screw that. I used to play in The Gnarly Shredderz, and we tore America up on our awesome tours. I know what works, where it works, and how to make lame songs sound rad. Sometimes you have to put your best foot forward, even if that means kicking down a few doors.

If you’re playing bass and there’s a guitar solo coming up, just jump in a bar early and make it a bass solo. People will be so impressed with your sick maneuvers, and you’ll keep all your bandmates on their toes every time you play. Bands love that.

Practice times are suggestions

This one time, I showed up, like, 45 minutes late to a practice, and the guys were so pissed. First of all, if it were an hour, I could maybe see why they’d be angry. But showing up late is one of the hallmarks of rock ‘n’ roll, so if you’re in a rock band, why would you be upset over your band leader living that lifestyle up? It doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who gets it.

Their gear is not your problem

I’m shocked by how often drummers, bassists, guitarists, and others want me to help carry their stuff. I mean, hello, that’s not my job! Carry your own stuff — I’m not going to risk hurting something just because you chose an instrument that requires you to make two trips. I’ve got to get to the bar and make the most of my free drink tickets.

Eat all the food you can

Breaking bread with your bandmates is a time-honored tradition, but when it comes to your energy, there’s no one more important than the leader. You need your power up there, so don’t let the others steal that away from you.

Let’s say you get a pizza for a band of four people (always a great choice for a pre-show meal). If everyone takes one slice, that leaves four slices, or half the pizza. They’re good with one, you should roll up the other half like a burrito and shovel it down your gullet. It’s your right.

The after-show hang is your sexual buffet

Speaking of all you can eat, this is something that I feel very strongly about. When I’m done playing a show, I’m a glistening god. Women, men, and anyone in between — they all want to throw themselves at me. So why would I help my dull band mates load out?! They can find me at the bar when they’re done.

Don’t quit in person

Quitting is awkward, that’s a fact. So why bring that awkwardness and stress into your life? Just shoot the band a quick email. At the end of the day, why do the respectful thing and “talk about it,” when you can do the easy thing and rip it off like a Band-Aid?

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Evan Zwisler
Evan Zwisler

Evan Zwisler is a NYC-based musician who is most notably known for his work with The Values as a songwriter and guitarist. He is an active member of the Brooklyn music scene, throwing fundraisers and organizing compilations for Planned Parenthood and the Anti-Violence Project. He started playing music in the underground punk scene of Shanghai with various local bands when he was in high school before going to California for college and finally moving to New York in 2012.