Dear Steff Metal
I am a young metalhead (16) in the seemingly metal-less state of NC. I am a bassist, which is a good thing, as there arent too many of us. But there is one problem; I cannot find anyone my age that is in my area that is into similar music as me, (which not only includes metal, but jazz, funk, and classical.)
The last two bands I have played in have been made up of people that are much older than I am, as in mid 40’s to 50’s. I had to leave these bands because of moving, but once again I find myself trying out to play in a band of people much older than I am.
There is a loose group of metalheads in the state, but they are spread few and far between. And all of the bands I seem to find are always on websites like reverbnation, where I am talking to people i have never even seen, and it can be (and has been) sketchy. But just finding someone who plays, or has any commitment to playing, is impossible. Of course you always run into the guy is full of it and OWNS a guitar but can’t play shit, so forming my own band is an incredibly daunting task, any thoughts or suggestions for this?
This question is in two parts. I’m going to answer the first part here – finding metalheads / musicians your own age – and the second part – about forming your own band – in another article.
I have been the small-town metalhead before, and I know it’s frustrating. I can’t imagine doing that and wanting to play in a band, as well. And being a discerning metalhead, I know you’re not just willing to settle for the first slightly alternative punk/goth/metal band that makes it big at your school. You have specific likes and dislikes, and you’re not willing to compromise them for the sake of being in a band.
But how to find metal musicians who share you views who don’t have mailboxes overflowing with brochures for retirement villages?
My short answer is to say it doesn’t really matter what age your bandmates are, as long as you’re all on the same page musically, you’re still enjoying playing, and your singer isn’t a coke addict. But I’m going to guess that what you really want is a band that can also be your mates – you can hang out with them, share music, compare windmilling techniques and talk about girls and whatever. That’s half the fun of having a band, especially at your age – and I bet that’s pretty hard to do when all your bandmates and bald and married.
Possibly what you’ve been doing is hunting for a clone of yourself, and that’s why you’re running into trouble. If you’re posting ads saying: “Wanted: Die-hard metalheads for melodic-death-grind project. Must like Tombs, Obscura and Cynic, as well as a be huge jazz, classical and funk fanatic”, then you’re not going to get any answers – because that’s a hugely specific set of criteria. Musicians might look at that and think “Well, I love Cynic, but I don’t know anything about jazz, so I’m out” or “I like pretty much anything, and I’m keen to learn more about metal, but I’ve never heard any of these bands, so he won’t like me”.
Don’t worry so much about finding someone with exactly the same tastes as you, and focus on finding people who are open-minded and who you gel with musically. You may find a jazz guitarist who knows nothing about metal but is open-minded enough to learn. And his jazz skills will infuse your music with something truly unique. You may find a metal drummer who is mean as but still only listens to Metallica, and you can be the one to introduce him to more underground stuff, and blow his widdle drummer mind.
Most 16 year olds – even 16 year old metal fans – aren’t as musicially diverse as you are. But they’ll probably never have to skip band practice because it’s their weekend with the kids, either, so that’s a big plus.
Putting up or answering ads is probably the best way to meet musicians in your area. If you’re happy to play anything as long as you’re in a band, I think you should keep an eye out for possible groups to join, but if you want to play metal – a specific kind of metal – I suggest you start trying to put together a band of your own. Sure, it’s daunting, but you’ve got to do it sometime.
My suggestion is to widen your search to include projects – or musicians – that aren’t necessary metal, but might include people you could get on with. Instead of just putting up ads in the metal forums, try the following places:
- local music shops, even if all their ads are for rock bands or string quartets
- rock forums, jazz forums and local general music forums
- notice boards, newsletters and websites for local arts groups.
- notice boards at your high school, and other high schools in the area.
- you guys often have school papers, right? Can you place ads in those?
- notice boards, newsletters, websites at local music schools, especially if they cater to youth.
Make sure your ad explains you’re looking for musicians with diverse backgrounds. Maybe even don’t mention the kind of band you want – just that you want some people your age to jam with. Be honest about that – you’ll probably find plenty of other teens in your area in exactly the same position. It doesn’t have to start as a formal band / audition process to end up in a recording studio or on stage.
And, of course, ask around the friends you do have if anyone knows any musicians who might want someone to jam with. Jamming with people is one of the best ways of making friends with musicians and figuring out if your compatible without the pressure of an audition.
Another kind of roundabout way is to join local youth music groups – whether they be an orchestra, jazz group, or one of those hippie drum circles. Show up in your metal shirts and get talking to people and you may find someone who shares some of your tastes.
Offer to tutor kids your age. You may find guitarists or vocalists looking to learn the bass who you’ll hit it off with.
If you go to all-ages shows in your area (in my hometown local high school bands would often play at the town hall or local youth group – most of these were metalish or punk groups) don’t be afraid to talk to the band after the show. Those guys will either know musicians or will give you advice on how they got together – and one of them may even be looking for a new project.
The more you try to actively search for musicians, the more people you’ll meet – some of them will be the coolest people on earth, but the majority of them will probably be not right for you and that’s fine. You’re under no obligation to give them any more of your time.
And yes, you will get the odd weirdo, and a few arrogant pricks, and a crazy or two, but you can usually spot them after a short conversation. When answering ads or talking to bands online, I think the best idea is to go with your gut. If the music sounds like your kind of thing and you’ve sent an email and they’ve replied and they don’t sound batshit mental, and they haven’t asked you to turn up to an audition in the middle of a cornfield at midnight with a pint of cow’s blood, I say it’s perfectly fine to go along for a jam. If you get a bad vibe, even if everything seems legit, don’t go. You gotta listen to that little voice.
Finding musicians you gel with – and who you can be mates with – is part perseverance, part not being up-yourself, part being that awesome friendly guy everyone wants to help out, and part pure, dumb luck. You’ve got no control over the other one, but the first three are all down to you.
Readers – any advice – especially from musicians – on finding other musicians your own age who share the same tastes? How did you meet your current bandmates?
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