I’m in a new band. It’s called Tunc, comprising Laura Polence (Snowapple), Biff Roxby (Bedlam Six, Shyfinger, Honeyfeet) and me. Here’s why…
Before the Bedlam Six I was in loads of bands, indeed everyone I knew was in loads of bands. Each person tended to have one main project that showed some promise then lots of other bits and pieces that were either for pure joy or extra cash. Sometimes the side-project can sneak up and become the main event (Honeyfeet springs to mind) but usually it’s there to keep its members’ spirits intact while their main band becomes more and more like a business.
I remember being on tour looking at yet another misspelled tiny-fonted Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six poster regretting our choice of name (and the ampersanded role I played in that choice). I was reading Lawrence Durrell’s TUNC and thought “If I’m ever in a band again I’m going to strongly advocate for a monosyllabic name like TUNC – we’d be the biggest damn font on the poster and no one would mispronounce us”.
Once the Bedlams finally called time at the arse end of 2016, the idea of forming a new band was utterly repellant to me. The last tour had been riddled with problems and we’d all become totally exhausted; the fact we were all still friends was a miracle. Bands were fun but never again. I’d already been in the best one ever, anything else would just be a sad mistake.
Fast forward eighteen months and I realise that, to someone like me, NOT being in a band is an entirely unnatural state. I have pages of floating lyrics piling up with nowhere to go, little riffs, amusing album titles. What does one do with this stuff? My new musical is not a suitable place for it (set for the most part in a 1930s French mental hospital, it’s quite a specific kind of sonic palette). I no longer want to tour, I have no interest in “making it”, I don’t care about meeting famous people or getting applause, I’ve ticked off all the most enjoyable things associated with being in a band so why start another one. I mean, what is a band even for? Most bands are built upon naive expectations that are subsequently adapted into something more realistic once the members become better versed with their section of the industry, it’s just one compromise after another. But what does one aim for if all your experience tells you simply not to go there at all? When one has been a professional musician recording and touring original work, is one allowed to go back to doing it for a laugh? More to the point is one even capable of just doing it for a laugh?
And that’s the difficulty. Somehow it has become very difficult to be in a band simply for its own sake; it used to be that a bunch of friends playing music in a basement or garage was worlds away from the professional circuit, nowadays we are all just a canny marketing push away from millions of eyes and ears (which does not necessarily make for a sustainable career but it’s a start). So they’re all mini-businesses in waiting, primed with elevator pitches and five-year-plans. I’ve sat on so many panel discussions where some smug management type has uttered the horrendous phrase “bands are brands” and it makes my spirit wither within me every time.
Still, as a thirty five year old man, the BAND is still the anachronistic go-to format for self-expression. I almost ruined that experience for myself with the Bedlams, that bloody ampersand threatening to drive a wiggly wedge between me and all the joys of being in a gang of like-minded souls. But this one should be easier to steer away from the brink of success. For one thing the members of Tunc all live in different countries, only getting to meet up every few months, probably no more than four times a year, so that’s a pretty big obstacle to achieving any kind of momentum; plus, everyone is busy with loads of other projects – many of which also contain the lure of actual income. All in all, if we don’t keep this light, it’ll get heavy very quick, which is as good a reason as any to resist the temptation to view ourselves as important.
So how does it work and what do we sound like? The loose rule is that no one brings any finished ideas to the table and preferably we all stay well clear of our comfort zones. The first session was a lot of fun. Armed with nothing more than a desire to get something off our collective chest, we found three consecutive days when we were all free and booked ourselves into WR Audio‘s live room to try out ideas, we have no go-to genre or specific roles within the band, plus we’ve yet to find what one might call “our sound”, but we have made a lot of noise and carved three approximate song-shaped things out of the raw material we laid down. Two of those still need a fair bit of work but the first thing we tried came together pretty rapidly; we will be sharing it later this week once Biff has made it relatively presentable. Not a release, just something we dreamed up that you can listen to.