The first article I ever wrote about “the music industry” (the quotation marks have become increasingly necessary) was about the phenomenon of BAD BAND PHOTOGRAPHY. The piece is here if you’re interested.
In it I try to identify the most common mistakes that bands make when getting press photos taken. I also list my favourite clichés (the most common being sulky youths inexplicably surrounded by urban decay). One of the things I find most interesting is that, regardless of props or visual context, you can always immediately identify a band photo – something about the unnatural proximity of disinterested persons.
It’s an article close to my heart mostly because it was directly responsible for my close friendship with Joe Sparrow (A New Band A Day, Hype Machine), a man who gets sent so many press packs he knows more about band self-sabotage than anyone I know. He read the piece and told me he liked it, then we met soon after to discuss a plan to co-author a book about naff band publicity (we never wrote it, that’s what happens when all your meetings happen in the pub).
Anyway, The Bedlam Six and I had a few photos taken recently. We’ve got plans for a big photoshoot after Christmas (involving all sorts of fancy tableaus and clever lighting) but were in need of something vaguely current to send out to 2013 event programmers that have been on my case recently (our last shoot was in 2010 and a lot has changed since then).
So we spent half an hour with Ian O’Brien backstage at a gig and took some generic band shots during which we succeeded in breaking most of the rules I’d laid out in that article (standing in a line, looking in different directions with different expressions… all that’s missing is a derelict mill in the background). The picture above is one that I almost scrapped upon first glance. Drummer and lead guitarist are pulling the same silly face; bassist has just been startled by the fooling of trombonist and the pianist appears to be either mid-yawn or mid-complaint. And yet, it’s my favourite of the batch, perhaps my favourite photo of us EVER. I don’t know why but I really like it. There’s something really honest about it, there’s character there but minimal pretentiousness. A strange balance.
Being in a band can be a bizarre life choice. Most of what we do is utterly needless and often completely ridiculous. I think this photo sums that all up rather well.
If you’d like to see a few more from the shoot there’s a handful on the Bedlam Six Tumblr