After A Decade Of Tribute Tours, A Word Of Advice
Hey guys, this is Ken the lead vocalist for LBN. If I can save your tribute band some time, money, stop a few mistakes, then I accomplished what I set out to do in this particular blog.
When we first started out in April of 2010, Ethan and I went through some 22-25 musicians in just the first 18 months in order to find the right ones for the parts. As a tribute, sure the look is important..(duh) but trust me, only after the musicianship, chemistry of the band, professionalism of the individual members. Once you've got the right personalities (characters) then you have the ingredients.
Finding tribute members has unique challenges. They have to be cool, hopefully the right look or are willing to work on it then..then they also have to have the actor in them. The ability of these talented musicians to actually impersonate the playing ability of the great players and then capture their tones and sounds to whom we pay tribute. As some or nearly all of you know..its pretty fucking hard.
For us it's Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Hugh MacDonald and Tico Torres. Too many tribute bands toss a band together, have a few practices in between beers and then just get out there and start knocking on doors too big for them.
Technically they can play the notes and know the words. I'm not speaking from any high horse, We did the same thing. But we had several better reasons than most bands. For one, the original group we had have actually performed as members of Steelheart (Ethan Brosh 2015 tour in S Korea), Stryper (John O'Boyle recorded their last record), Fifth Angel (Ethan) and even Whitesnake (Amos Sanfilippo our backup guitarist). Still, what we were attempting cannot be shoved on to the road no matter who you are.
There are a couple of reasons tribute bands tend to rush things.
The Reasons Bands Tend To Rush
1) As you go along, you'll realize how forgiving you were about how you sounded in the first year. Sometimes, we'll listen to our recordings while on the road touring and cringe and laugh. "What the actual FUCK were we thinking handing that over to the talent buyers?" Maybe I was flat or didn't hold a note until the end without a little bend or the bass went into the wrong progression, whatever. You'll come to hate what you did sound like....but you'll get there. Patience, practice and pickiness.
2) Another reason bands get their press kits out before they know the words to a GD song is basically, the clock is ticking. for a lot of tributes, the band you choose may be a wide appeal act today but two, three or five years down the road, your band's music may be in a down cycle or even at an end to the window you're shooting for. Rushing is natural. Plus who knows how long these guys will be around to play with you?
3) Maybe the sense of urgency is coming from other bands playing the same tribute. It's tough to know in your mind that you can envision a product that will be better than this band or that band if only... But while they may or may not be lesser musicians or incapable of providing a closer resemblance to the real band, they have likely put in the work. Don't be a hater. Do your job. If you're right, you'll pass them in certain barometers that you will come to know.
4) Don't sweat it, I'm not going to preach even a little; but I remember something that Christ said about the typical classifications of faith that men predictably have. Basically, those who first embrace the faith and then go bananas over it, in public, in their homes, at work and are "all about it" usually tend to abandon it in short time like a fad. The ones who slowly learn and embrace it are the ones who tend to be in it until the end.... same rule applies here.
5) The bands that show signs of doing foolish things like build an expensive and impressive website before all members are settled and twelve songs are learned (don't laugh, they're out there). Avoid joining those guys. Impulsive thinkers tend to make many impulsive mistakes along the way. You don't need that shit. It's a sign of instability and tribute bands in particular need to be stable.
Don't bring on complainers. Fuck that, it is a cancer to which there is no cure. Find the chill guys who are not selfish, who understand that band is a team sport.
I have no strong opinion about drug users other than that my experience has shown me, many of the best have been reduced from their exceptional abilities by using and of course, they are obviously a risk. Some really cool and great players that I have played with are dead, a fraction of the player they were or dropped their instruments all together.
It's a sad gravitation that these drugs have on many of our most talented brothers and sisters of Rock.
If all things are even while considering people trying out, the guys with fewer issues tend to be the safer choice....not always.
But, back to my point in this part; Baby Steps. Think Dr. Leo Marvin. Don't give the region's better venues your shitty recording with crappy harmonies sung by drunk wannabes. I'm not saying your band is that. I'm saying, if you hand that over to the better venues before its a product you are honestly proud of; they will think that is exactly what you are. Casinos, theaters, large capacity venues usually (not always) have the right people booking.
So be realistic about what you are presenting.
So again, have a plan to take small steps and be honest about what you sound like, what you look like, what your production looks and sounds like. Play out two or if you can three nights a week at a beer swilling bar in front of 30-60 people. Who cares? You are making peanuts but set aside the peanuts to build your brand. Look at this period like paid rehearsals. This is Rocky in the sweaty, shitty gym. Get tight, hit those notes exactly right. Learn to perform and not just play. And ask the right people what you need to work on.
Don't puss out with cupcake loaded questions to a friendly patron, "So how did we do?" Unless you can't bear to hear real observations, then go ahead- waste your own time.
Strike up a few conversations with people and when you realize you're talking to a musician or a knowledgeable rocker, ask them, "What things do you think need more work?" Record almost every show. Instead of guessing and then putting a member on the stand the next day, have the evidence and make constructive, honest criticism about what to fix and how.
We tend to watch a lot of videos of Bon Jovi in concert. It helps us ..we think.
Have fun but if a player is lagging behind, you have to decide what you want to do with this product of yours. Patriot players all seem to love Bill Belichick. When is the last time you heard an ex-Patriot talk shit? But Bill, even when he loves the person, will cut that player if it's clear he is dragging on and not pulling the team. As I said, band is a team sport and while you have to put yourself last at times to be a good team player, so does the one being cut have to put the team first.
Again, this is an emotional and hard thing to do and can cost friendships...for a time. Almost always the player who was cut comes to realize he or she was limiting the band and forgives and forgets. If they don't...it was a good riddance!
Harmonize! Don't not practice that. Do your warm up vocal exercises before every show...or wish you did.
Find a good contract template and never, ever, ever perform without something in writing. Emails holds up in court but get something!
Another important goal right? Have fun. Once you've built the tribute, the reward comes in the money, in the size of the crowd and the size of the appreciation they show. The venues have better amenities and perks. Travel far and wide, enjoy the show, enjoy the band and if your significant other couldn't go on the road with you, stay in touch back home.
They do worry even if you have the kind that will hide it. I'm married with six kids. In my case, my oldest son Keith is our drummer and always on the road with me. I think secretly that brings comfort to my wife. She isn't the jealous type but she's been in the crowd when girls have jumped on stage, dancing all over me, flashing their tits from the audience, looking to "incidentally" bump into me at the door to the green room or before I disappear backstage.
You owe it to them to give them the peace of mind they deserve. They're not stupid. They're alive and they care. If you fuck up your home life, you will fuck up the band. If you fuck up while in the band, you will fuck up the home life. It's a marathon of challenges and struggles, disappointments and some rewards slip in somehow and make it all worth it. All you have to do is work hard in all areas of your life and the rest will come.
Best of luck to you all!....except you Bon Jovi tribute bands....fuck off! Do Britney Foxx or some shit!...jk