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Audition Report

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by mrcbass, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Short version, audition went well, but a couple of minor red flags...

    Long version....

    Looking to get away form my current gigging band, I auditioned with a start up last night. The pre audition condition on my part was that they felt they could be ready to gig by "the summer". Pretty broad target I know, but end of summer would be fine for my goals.

    Being a startup, they really don't even have a full playlist yet, so the guy arranging auditions provided me a list of 6 songs (Born to Be Wild, Old Man, Dear Mr. Fantasy, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Wagon Wheel, Ready for Love) "plus we'll probably jam on other stuff in the same genre" (country rock-classic rock). I told him I prefer to be prepared, but we'll see what happens. I had almost three weeks to get the 6 songs worked out and had them ready to go in two days. So I had lots of burn in time - I was plenty ready.

    I get to the guy's house about 10 minutes early (after killing 10 minutes at a Starbucks near his house) and see a few other cars parked as if they were at the house. I had heard they play in the garage, but went an knocked on the front door - which was answered by a couple of yapping dogs. Only. Hmmm.. Double checked the address, this is where he told me to come. I texted the guy and a minute later he came walking out the side yard gate - they'd been sitting out in the guys backyard just hanging out. OK, no bigggie, but thanks for the scare....

    The guys are very age appropriate for me (54- 65? and I just turned 60) and really friendly fellows.

    I plop my stuff and get set up as we do the pre audition small talk dance.

    "Oh, you brought a mic stand. You can sing?"

    "Well, some might call it that..." ha, ha , ha ...

    The lead guy was somehow without his electric guitar (in the shop) so we couldn't really get into his lead guitar work - he didn't seem to be too interested in playing lead guitar anyway (going to look for a third guitar to play lead), so we didn't even play one of the prepared songs.

    We bounced back and forth between the prepared songs and the "jam" songs he'd just call out. Nothing complex and I was at least familiar with all but two songs (one original, one country) so I was on them after the first pass of the verse/chorus. I chimed in on vocals where ever I was comfortable to do so, but mostly focused on the bass lines.

    I found out after the audition that the lead guy has never really even played a gig before. He has a very interesting voice (in a good way) and presents well, but I'm guessing he's spent a lot of time working alone. I don't think we cycled through one song as it was performed by the original artist - adding choruses, skipping or doubling bridges, adding his own little breaks, etc. It was pretty easy to keep up with him, but it was just a little more work than it should have taken. When called on it, he said he'd work on learning the songs properly, but I'm a little concerned he's had too much time playing them wrong to get them right.

    The drummer was pretty solid - claims to not be a "lead" drummer (which I had no issue with!) and he kept a solid beat and actually took responsibility for leading us astray when we had trouble getting to the chorus too early on one song. I'm pretty sure I was the only one in the room with any musical training. The lead guy flat out said he knew nothing about notes - he just figured things out. The drummer and the rhythm guitarist both told me to play a 12 bar blues to an original tune - but it was an 8 bar blues. So that will be a little frustrating not being able to converse easily in music speak.

    The rhythm guitarist/BG vocals did a good job of being a member of the rhythm section - hardly knew he was there most of the night, and has some great vocal range. We should be able to get some awesome 3-4 part vocals working on the right songs.

    We sounded pretty good together. And it was clear the guys - especially the lead guy was pretty happy with what we doing in general - he just had this big poopie-eating grin as we wrapped every song - "That's the best we've ever done that!" Some of the songs were ones they hadn't even really worked out yet, and it was good to see that we could collectively get through new songs pretty easily. Very simple stuff, but still, we were all listening to each other and going where things took us. I've played with people who couldn't do this after a couple of weeks.

    This was their week 4 including auditioning 3 other bassists. I was pretty sure, they would have found their guy by the time I got there (I knew there was a "lot" of interest in the position) and pretty much treated this as a networking opportunity, but I guess of the three, only one was appropriate for consideration. The drummer (my point of contact) told me that one guy showed up with a massive pedal board including a looper that he wanted to use so he could play percussion sometimes. Wow - this isn't a funk band dude; southern/classic rock does not need all of that.

    We hung out for about 2 hours and exhausted everything they'd ever tried to play and a few they hadn't yet. I guess I created a bit of a "problem" for them; Drummer says:
    "Dude, don't take this the wrong way, but I was hoping you'd suck - now we have to make a decision!"

    They're going to sit on it for a couple of days, but all the conversation as I was breaking down was done in a "we" (including me) style of conversation and the drummer even let it slip that my vocal work - sad as it is - was a likely tie-breaker if it came to that.

    So assuming I get the call, there are a couple of red flags (some more yellow than red) for me:
    The biggest, by far, is the tendency for the lead guy making up his own versions of songs.

    Secondly, they need to find a lead guitarist. I was in one project where we tried to find that and we had two guys show up that were just not right at all (totally unprepared) and we ended up folding the project after about a month. I'm hoping the different genre (southern/classic rock vs hard classic rock) may attract a better pool.

    Third - I'll be dealing with three guitars. We didn't have great sound in his garage (hard to hear vocals), but the volume was very reasonable. With acoustic drums, it just has to be a certain volume - no choice. Even a drummer with great dynamics has to hit a drum at a certain velocity to keep some beats going. I talked to the drummer afterword about possibly using rods for rehearsals and he wasn't opposed to trying it.

    Fourth - they still need to get a workable sound system. No sub yet and the mixer they have is probably not enough for a gig.

    Fifth - I'm not sure all of their choices will be good for the stage. They didn't sound bad, just didn't seem very danceable and in one case - a very down tempo, bluesy rendition of Watchtower - not even recognizable.

    Lastly, they seem to think that 30 songs is enough for a full gig - my other band does 45 to 50 songs over a 3 set night, so there needs to be a reality check.

    We did sound good together. The vocalist style, again, is as if he has worked alone a lot in the past and he has some unique lyrical phrasing even when he is following the form - but that can be dealt with as long as he is consistent. We had some nice three part harmony going a few times - especially considering we really hadn't worked anything out.

    The groove was there. Nothing flashy. The lead guy obviously sings his heart out, but rhythm guy and myself are both neck gazers and the drummer was just kind of staring off into his zone most of the time - had a hard time making eye contact with him. I was the only one looking around at everyone most of the time - at least I didn't notice them looking around when I did.

    The hang was comfortable, everyone was cool, no obvious ego issues. They haven't been together long enough for any drama to build, so time will be the true judge of the hang.

    These guys are not afraid to play older stuff - the true classic rock the stuff we grew up with. They understand we can't just play the stuff we personally individually love (deeper cuts), but get that people still react to a lot of the older stuff - from what I've seen just as much if not more than the "newer" stuff.

    Drummer says he already has two venues lined up to play at when we're ready.

    If I get the call, I'm probably going to accept it on a "trial basis".

    First test will be can we get the lead guy to either learn the songs correctly or at least be sure to develop a consistent form. I fine following new song forms, but it just has to be consistent.

    Second: They believe they can be ready to go by June 1. I know I can be ready that quickly, but can they? I'll set a concreate goal to have one set ready in a month; if we can have 10-15 songs ready, we're on pace to make their June target and I'll be a little more comfortable that we collectively have what it takes to be ready.

    If we pass the tests, I'll give notice to my other band and of course, honor my booked gigs and do what I can to help them replace me. I mostly still like them, just don't really want to play with that drummer anymore. The lead singer from this group takes off for most of the summer and the BL is concocting this weird plan to get karaoke singers to sing with us when she's away. The though is kind of fun, but I just see a lot opportunity for issues with that, so it will be an easy for everyone "out" after our booked gig in June

    I do need to note that the P bass really stood out in this particular mix - first time I've really felt it sit so well. My other live play with the P is all FOH, through IEMs so I really can't hear the tone well. Even with just running it through my little Fender Rumble 100 (older 115 model), it really shined last night. I have the EQ and compressor on my EHX Batallion DI set perfectly now, so I can just set my amps' EQ at 12 my bass sounds great.
  2. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    Wish you luck. Can only add that 3 guitarists is at least 1 too many; just making up for shortcomings of another. Guitar in shop means he can't play...any other guitar?!? Immediate dismissal.

    A skilled drummer can play any genre at the lightest of volume.
    leto, lfmn16, pellomoco14 and 3 others like this.
  3. catcauphonic

    catcauphonic High Freak of the Low Frequencies Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Seattle WA
    Sounds like it went quite well overall and you should give this opportunity a go.
    Jimmy4string and mrcbass like this.
  4. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Actually , he played his acoustic all night - just never heard his lead chops, which they're going to be shopping for anyway.

    I actually just heard from the contact and I'm in if I want it. We chatted for a good long time and I expressed my concerns and he was a bit concerned about being in another band - they didn't want to get 6 weeks in and have to reboot if I bailed. The drummer was pretty much step for step with me on my concerns and feels that a short trial period is probably going to be acceptable. He said he was much ore comfortable offering me the position after our chat and I like what I heard from him in regards to getting us on a good path. They have another guy who is capable and I suggested that they tell him the truth - trying out another guy for a few weeks and you may get a call. I would have liked a longer period, but this seems to be the line they are comfortable with. Hopefully it's enough time to see it we can get there.

    He also indicated that the current rhythm player may not be in the long term picture - seems he has a history of not getting his homework done and despite his solid BG vox is expendable. Base on what I heard, I don't see there being much issue with volume with three guitars (the rhythm guy was not loud at all, and the lead guy would be singing more than playing).

    I actually disagree with your statement regarding the skilled drummer - agree to disagree. Yes they employ dynamics, but there is just a certain velocity required. Doesn't mean he always plays it hard as he can (I've played with that guy), but it is extremely unusual to find a drummer who can rock out at extremely low volumes - he wasn't that bad last night. Rods would work out just fine.
    LBS-bass and StayLow like this.
  5. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    We do agree. It is extremely unusual to find a drummer who can rock out at extremely low volumes, as much as truly skilled drummers (and bassists, guitarists, etc. etc.) are rare.

    Best of luck!
  6. sounds good.... I hate it when you audition for a band and ask what their 'long term plan' is for the band and they say "err I dunno, we'll just see how it goes...."
  7. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Yeah, no. That was dealt with in my pre-audition interview. No more open ended "lets see hw it goes" auditions for me.
  8. Luckaz


    Feb 10, 2019
  9. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2015
    The biggest red flag for me would be that the songs aren’t really going to fill a dance floor, so no one would buy booze, so the club would likely not make any money, so y’all would not be hired back. My apologies if that’s not the kind of band this is supposed to be in the first place.
  10. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    My solution is to never audition for a band that isn't already gigging, or a start-up by established artist with a solid track record of getting killer bands up & running ASAP.

    Why bother, unless you live in an area where there aren't any choices? Must be a lot of great bands Aukland and in Sacramento, so no need to compromise and certainly no need to "commit" to something that doesn't exist. "Compromise" is just another word for lowering your standards and slumming in the lower leagues.

    Real life's the same. Job? Yeah, for a company that pays well otherwise it's charity. You *might* hit the lotto with a start-up but realistically you won't especially if they have no track record and aren't doing anything new. Offer marriage to an obese woman with anger issues and hatred towards men? Sure, *AFTER* she becomes a well-adjusted bikini model with aspirations to give the world's best b....ughh... breakfast every morning.

    DO NOT COMPROMISE BROTHERS! Not in anything. It never ends well, so rise up - rock the life you want and groove the music you want to hear.
    pcake likes this.
  11. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Not all of the songs are undanceable - there was mainly the one. They're still spit-balling for the playlist and the drummer is on board with me to make sure we select appropriate tunes.

    I can't speak for Aukland, but sure there's a lot of bands in Sacramento. But there are not a lot of postings for a need for a 60 year old bassist and many more postings of bassists looking for opportunities than opportunities looking for bassist. I'd have preferred a non start up situation and had applied for a working band position last week (no audition), but have been watching for opportunities for a couple months and nothing that fit my vision of fun has come up so if I want to jump bands, I can't be too picky.
    StayLow likes this.
  12. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Proceed with caution. Three guitars can cause all sorts of problems - volume, too many guitarists make getting gigs and getting paid tough. But I hope it works out for you. :thumbsup:
  13. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hi @mrcbass,

    [EDIT] I see there have been some more responses between the time I walked away from my post and then came back to finish. Please forgive any redundancies and profound glimpses into the obvious. :D

    Thanks for all the sordid details. As for myself, I would be a bit leery about getting too involved with these guys on a professional musical level. You may find it frustrating after a while. I know I'm spoiled but it sounds like these guys just might not have it together enough. You've got a good perspective and you're going in with both eyes and ears open, that's great. It seems like there are some promising aspects about this project.

    I've only ever auditioned for one band in my entire "career" since I started playing for money in 1970. That band had gigs booked and we were playing them after three rehearsals. For all the other bands I was recruited through networking and I started gigging with most of them without any rehearsal at all. And most everyone I've ever worked with has had some musical training, lessons, education, etc. Like you said, the music-speak is important in order to communicate clearly. I like to be able to tell someone "It's just a I-V-vi-IV in A" and they know what I mean. It saves so much time.

    Not having a workable PA system is a problem. Will you be renting? Borrowing? In my current band, three members own PA systems and we still end up hiring a sound company for most of our gigs, when the budget is there.

    I wouldn't worry too much about three guitars. Give one of them an acoustic, the lead singer probably, and you should be OK as long as the other two behave themselves. ;)

    But the lead singer not knowing the arrangements could be brutal. How is his timing? Does he at least come in at the right spots? I ask because I'm currently involved in a little talent show project. I'm playing acoustic guitar accompanying a "singer" who's had no musical training and he has absolutely no rhythm, no feel for meter, sings ahead, sings behind, comes in late, comes in early, and I'm being nice, giving him pointers and tricks to use so that he sounds like he knows what he's doing. But unless I sing along with him he messes up the timing.

    Oh drat. I didn't mean to make this about me but I thought I'd share some personal experiences, as if you haven't had enough personal experiences already. :whistle:

    Sure, give'em a chance. Hang out for a while. See if they'll live up to expectations. If your lead singer has never gigged then I wonder how serious this project is about getting good gigs. Do they know how to get good gigs? Or do they want to use this as an excuse just to get out of the house, party, and make some noise? Don't get me wrong, I like to get out of the house, make some noise, and party a bit, but I also like good music, good gigs, good fun, and good money. Dang, I'm spoiled. Thanks for putting up with this 61 year old country bass player. :p

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  14. InhumanResource


    Dec 28, 2012
    It sounds like out went well enough but I think I sense OP wants to actually gig and these guys are having other thoughts (based on what they have decided to play). Needs to make a decision based on what he wants out of the situation.
  15. chazolson

    chazolson Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2013
    Reston, VA
    I can only advise you with my mantra on joining any new project: if I am obviously the best player in the band - and from reading your description, it sounds like it - I would pass. You are simply wishing that the rest of the band will improve, and that’s unlikely. I always want to play with people better than me, because that’s the only way I’m gonna get better.
    Nashrakh and BassCliff like this.
  16. I say give it a chance. You're auditioning them as much as they are auditioning you. A good lead player might make all of the difference. But if it's not going well soon, don't be afraid to bail.
  17. Madhouse27

    Madhouse27 Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2016
    How did you like the garage? There’s the possibility that you could be there for a while.
  18. oldrocker


    Feb 13, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    Now you tell me. I could have used this advice like 40 years ago. :facepalm:
    dan1952 and BassCliff like this.
  19. 3 guitars? 3 red flags. Start up? Its a long shot, if you are serious about gigging.
    Bodeanly likes this.
  20. bfields


    Apr 9, 2015
    For 3-4 part vocals you need more than just 3-4 people that can sing. You need 3-4 people that can each find their own part and nail it each time. Maybe there are people that can just wing that, but I think that's hard. So they need to be able to communicate about and memorize individual parts without reading music, and that can be a big effort. Not impossible, I just wouldn't assume it'll be easy based on what you've seen.

    Three guitars sounds kinda dubious too. If one's playing rhythm and one lead, or if they have some other way to divide things up, that's fine, but if they're all just strumming it can be kind of a mess.

    But, if it sounded like fun, why not try it a while?

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