Hey, it’s me Pan and I’m here to tell you about the magical experience of being in a mediocre punk band. Let’s jump right in – a typical day on tour with the Burnt Tapes goes like this:
We wake up somewhere outside of Berlin in a private double decker bus with climate control and private bunks to a high protein breakfast cooked up by our private chef (Michel). Phil stumbles out of bed with an echinacea and green tea face mask on and shouts at Michel for a matcha tea. Tone is upset because his weed has too many stems in it and his subscription to FourFourTwo hasn’t arrived yet, so he wanders around aimlessly in his Armani Exchange boxers pretending to read an article in Elle magazine about “10 Ways to Please Your Lover”. Jo, sitting at the front of the bus smiling because he has just won £300 on an accumulator bet, is brought violently back to earth when he realises he didn’t actually confirm the bet due to spotty 4g reception. Our manager and hair/make-up artist Laura is shouting the word ‘tetanus’ at me because the night before I left after the show and was later found on a park bench spooning a homeless German man.
After our breakfast (organic salmon on rye bread with a side of caviar) we are whisked away to our next destination – a sold out Allianz Arena where we are opening for Blink-182. Laura argues that they should be opening for us and we all share a laugh. The show goes well, there are no brown M&Ms backstage and we end up doing cocaine off each other and sleeping with anything we want to sleep with. My mother calls but I ignore it and I momentarily catch my sullen reflection in the dark screen of my phone. We’ve made it.
Just kidding. I’m in the back of a car, under boxes of merch, sleeping bags and a half eaten pack of crisps with an amp digging into my hip. We’re 3 hours into a 8 hour drive and everything looks fucked up from here. It’s grey, it’s raining, we’re in Belgium. I think After The Party has been on repeat for the last 2 hours but no one seems to notice. I’m horny but also I’m not. It’s day 2 of our 5th European tour and I already want to go home. Being in a band is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The soaring highs, the crushing lows and the dead times in between. One minute you’re playing a show with a band you grew up listening to, the next you’re playing to literally nobody. Instead of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll it’s petrol money, P&O channel crossings and huddling together in our sleeping bags for warmth. Why the fuck do we do this?
P&O ferry breakfasts – just one of the perks of the job
I like bullet points so here we go.
Pros of being in a band:
1. The joy of creating and playing music for yourself, even if no one listens or cares
2. The joy of collaborating with awesome people to make art, merch and music videos for your mediocre band
3. The opportunity to travel and visit places you wouldn’t be able to find on a map let alone play a show in
4. Temporarily getting away from an unfulfilling day job
5. The opportunity to meet like minded people at home and abroad
6. The opportunity to play with your heroes but also with the local band who realise halfway through their set that their bassist isn’t plugged in
7. Spending all your money on guitars and guitar pedals
8. The experience of doing all of this with your friends
Cons of being in a band:
1. It’s tough work and mentally exhausting at times
2. It will take up a lot of your spare time
3. It will take up a lot of your money
4. Your parents and friends will think you are crazy
5. Spending all your money on guitars and guitar pedals
6. The experience of doing all of this with your friends
I’ve always been ambivalent about it and still am. I’ve almost quit the band a handful of times, I’ve had to miss tours, chose to sit in the van or walk around Ipswich town centre for hours just to get through a show.
The flip side to that is that four flawed humans with a common goal, get to write and record music, play it in different countries and make physical records that one day we can show our kids and grandkids. Life is weird and short, so there’s a certain solace in knowing that you created something not only for yourself but possibly for others to enjoy too. The 13 year old punk rocker in me still can’t quite believe that we play shows where people actually turn up so it’s nice to tell him to chill out once in a while.
Being in a band will teach you a lot of things outside of the confines of a stuffy office – dedication, discipline, organisation, crisis management, how to poop standing up etc. (quick shout-out to Tone and Phil who deal with all the real-life, mundane band stuff while Jo and I get pedicures). You will meet super nice people who will give you food and a couch/floor to sleep on, so that when you next travel by yourself you have no problem falling asleep in a 32 person hostel room where the couple next to you have had a bit too much sangria. Maybe you’ll learn a bit about community and supporting your local scene too.
It’s an interesting reflection on where passion and hard work can get you and ultimately serves as a lesson for life outside of the band. For the first 2 years (the cutting your teeth phase) we played shows all the time, anywhere we could get them (we once drove to Berlin and back for a single show). Since then it’s always been important for us to keep moving forward – outlining one goal, reaching it, then setting another. Re-think, re-calibrate, set our sights on something bigger. Always moving forward together, like Spartans but without the CGI muscles. And once you get some momentum going, things start to shift and the fruits of your labours start popping up in the dankest of places.
So start a band, be shit at the start, be a little less shit a year later and maybe one day be decent. Whatever happens, at the end of the day at least you can say you gave it a shot, eh?
Stream and download The Burnt Tapes music here and like them here.
The band are doing a short tour soon. Be sure to catch them if you're near any of these places.