The anatomy of a break up
by Pol Nikulin
For every one successful band, there seems to be an abundance of those that do not make the cut. Whether it is skill level or personality differences, bands can break up in the blink of an eye.
Nigel Befus, a 21-year-old bass player with three years of experience in the local circuit – formerly of Lothian, A Stronghold To Save Me, and Blueprints – has been through numerous band breakups.
“It’s out of your hands,” says Befus. “When you are one-fifth of what makes up a band, you are only one-fifth of what can keep it together.”
The anatomy of the band breakup is a difficult idea because it has so much variation on the concept. Bands tend to fall apart for specific reasons: personality traits, levels of commitment and talent play a huge role in the breakup of a prominent unit.
Egos play the biggest role in the eyes of Jeff Perry, a guitarist in Divinity Through Chaos and a former member of Hollowpoint.
Having suffered through band problems before, he has finally found a band that suits his style.
“I think a lot of bands suffer because people are so focused on producing the best thing they can possibly do, that they aren’t stopping to take the time to get to know each other,” Perry muses. “They don’t work with the ones they get along with personally, and are taking the ones that they get along with musically.”
The bands Befus has played with, A Stronghold To Save Me being the most prominent, disbanded due to lack of a long-term vision.
“We didn’t even put our full effort into that project,” says Befus. “I mean, we half-assed it and we went a long way doing that, but if we had put everything into it, if we put more time and effort into it, there is no telling how far we would have gone.”
The mentality of quitting members can mow down the progress made by the band. Perry’s band Hollowpoint broke up because of musical differences.
“We basically broke up because we all wanted to go in different directions, and we all had different ideas of image and style and where this band was going to go,” says Perry. “It got so bad that we couldn’t agree on which covers to play.”
Band breakups are common in the Calgary region as a musical pyramid has emerged, according to Befus.
“When everyone starts playing in a band, those who are really serious about it and have drive and motivation, they’re going to look for people with the same motivation. So people will come together from those bands to form bands that will actually go somewhere. It is an essential process; everywhere in the world you see artists collaborating with other artists, creating new sounds and new directions, and that is the only way it’s going to happen.”
With musicians moving from band to band with little to no notice, there is a feeling of betrayal within any band split.
Musicians look out for themselves, as there is always a likelihood that things can end very quickly and prematurely. Befus’ last project, Blueprints, went through a trust issue before their breakup that did not sink the ship, but hurt the band.
“The night before recording, I stayed at Jordan (guitarist for Blueprints)’s house,” says Befus. “We had to be at the recording at 11 a.m. on Saturday; that is pretty reasonable, but Chad (drummer) was stressing out so hard about us not waking up that he actually came over and slept on Jordan’s floor, just because he didn’t trust us to wake up to get there. I work at 10 everyday.”
Befus doesn’t have hard feelings about losing the project and keeps in touch with the other guys from the band.
With local promoters relying heavily on social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace, band members receive an additional strain of having to promote their own shows through flyer runs in malls and shops across the city.
It seems that for every one successful band there are 10 that do not scratch the surface of success in the local scene. While bands like Divinity, a local progressive death metal act that started over five years ago, sign with major labels, smaller bands do not survive.
As Befus explains, a hierarchy exists in the Calgary music scene. This hierarchy leads groups to band, disband and create feuds that can hinder opportunities for smaller bands to tag along with the big boys of the community.
As odd as it sounds, it is very visible in the scene as bands are always looking for replacements that can play in common interest with them. Perry agrees with Befus on the “scene pyramid.”
“I would say,” says Perry, “that the Calgary scene has now become so much more competitive over the past three years, that I could totally see something like that happening because these musicians are passionate and adamant about getting their name out, and getting a career out of playing music.”
In order for a band to work, many intangible qualities must exist within the band. The group has to exert the same amount of energy into their progress, have to consistently challenge each other musically, play a style that fits them, and be able to spend long periods of time with the same three to four people on a daily basis.
As bands shut themselves down, the strongest musicians move on to a more elite level of the pyramid, with the ultimate goal being to make their music into a career.
“It no longer becomes a garage band thing, where you just hang out with your friends and jam,” Perry explains. “It becomes a lifestyle that can definitely be found in a lot of musicians in Calgary: they are willing to quit their jobs and quit going to school to play in these bands that are constantly losing members to each other.”
This is a very strong indicator that bands do not form just for the sake of playing music, but to create business opportunities down the line. Even with a love for music, many bands notice the perks that follow with becoming successful in the industry.
Calgary’s scene is always shuffling, but at the end of the day, this is a common practice in the local scenes across the nation, as making it is more difficult than it seems.