In a way, the summation of a band is not unlike writing a eulogy. You face the same general problem set: that of compressing a number of years, the lives of the members themselves, the lives of their families, the lives of the folks who have worked with/for them, etc., down to a few paragraphs.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get the unauthorized biography with all the dirt and grime and hearsay that makes being in a band sound so interesting to those on the outside. Other times, you get the graveside eulogy.In this case, I have 2,000 words, divided into two parts.
You’re getting the eulogy treatment.
I first balked a little at the idea. It didn’t seem like enough space. I’ve now grown to appreciate it. It is, truth be told, the perfect way to craft a retrospective. You have to ask, what is more important? The whole or the tiny parts that made it? Really, what we are experiencing is the death and burial of a life.
And what is a band but a life?
It is conceived, at times under the influence of hazy excitement, or calculated planning or “what the heck, lets give it a shot!”-ness. It is birthed and nurtured to the point that it can exist on its own, and then it is put out there to become an individual entity, complete with missteps and successes and in the end, hopefully, be a meaningful and productive member of society. One who brings happiness to others and who generally avoids the moniker of being a jerk.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If anything, it’s the exception rather than the rule. The landscape is littered with the bones of bands past, and I guarantee you that every single one of them thought they were going to “make it.” The very first band I was ever in was going to absolutely revolutionize the 8th grade talent show. As it turned out, we lost to a duo who lip-synced to Kriss Kross, our lead “singer” made out with the girl I had a crush on and the drummer’s mom never let him play outside of church again. A hard lesson was learned, but it was absolutely essential.
The lesson was that everything ends. Especially when it’s a band. There are just too many lives involved for it to go on forever.
So this life, that of The David Crowder Band, is something special. And even in our more difficult moments, I’d like to think we never forgot the fact that we have been blessed enough to not only make a living but to put something good out into the world.
And we grieve the fact that something special is coming to an end.
Over the years we’ve gotten a lot of variations of the same question, the “what advice do you have for aspiring musicians” inquiry, generally from folks who have a desire to play music for a living. I think that now, after all these years, I’ve finally figured out a good (albeit multi-part) answer:
Check your motivations.
Believe it or not, we never set out to be a well-known band. That wasn’t ever really in the cards. We were all involved in a church for college kids who were either over-churched or under-churched. It was a place to question the big questions without fear of reprisal. We simply provided a soundtrack for that group of people that helped them sing to God with a sonic palette that they could relate to.
That was it. But college kids are transient, and the music traveled with them. We left the comfort of our small Texas town only when people asked us to come sing with them. As it turned out, a lot of people were looking for the same things we were. It felt as it there was a sea change happening, and we were riding a current we never saw coming.
From the beginning our prayer was for God to show us enough light to see the next step, and to give us the courage to take it. Our motives have always stayed rooted with that same small group of people. And I honestly think that has been one of main reasons the whole thing worked like it did.
Seems like a no-brainer. I know. But you would be surprised. We all put in a ridiculous amount of work into our instruments before we ever came together. But that didn’t make playing as a band any easier.
For us, the pieces didn’t come together until one of the first “official” things we did. We were asked to play about 30 minutes of cover songs before every session of a conference in Southern California, a total of several hours’ worth of music in addition to our own stuff. We learned songs from every genre, note for note. It made a massive difference in how we performed as a unit. San Diego was our Hamburg.
Just because it’s good, doesn’t make it honest. And just because it’s honest, don’t think it’s always good. That’s what makes it tough to really pull off.
Love each other.
Living as a band means being in each other’s lives in a way that goes against so much of our Western, American ideal. But that’s what makes it so worthwhile. When it works, it becomes a crack in the façade, a real and honest moment where the light shines through.
Otherwise, how could it mean anything at all?
True story: We made it for 12 years, and only one of us ever caught on fire. And only one of us almost died by getting hit by a train.
But that’s for next time …