It's a new year, another new year, another set of resolutions, of renewed optimism, of vows and promises. It's like getting married every year isn't it! Do you promise to eat better and lower your carbon footprint? I do. And will you promise to engage more with your family? I will. And will you endeavour to take the band to more varied and interesting places? I will. And do you promise to never forget your piano leads again. I do. And then sometime in early spring it all comes tumbling down; you're eating pizza with peppers flown over from Mexico. You skipped the family reunion cause you had a hangover. You're taking the band to the same places you did the year before and the piano player has already forgotten his leads and we're only in March. March, that month where January's resolutions go to die.
All that aside this year we turn 10, that's kind of a big deal, no? When we started this band at the turn of the decade, I never imagined it would run this long, cover this many miles and take us on quite so many madcap adventures. It's a decade of pubs and clubs and shaky old barns, of weddings and churches and peoples front rooms. Of arguments and countless wrong turns. It's a decade of getting it wrong but making it right. Of making it up. It's a decade of love. Relationships, mortgages, babies and jobs. Of moving city. Moving county. Of moving on. Or trying to. But staying together. Somehow. Through all the upheaval of turning into adults we've kept this band going. Kept it earning. Kept it fun. It's a decade of laughter; of side splitting giggles and loud raucous cheers, of laughing so hard that you bring on the tears. It's a decade of friendships. Of growing older. Growing closer. A decade of making people dance. Of making them groove. Meeting and greeting and back on the move. A decade of Cornwall. Of Bristol. London. The Forest of Dean. Scattered the south like chaff to the wind. It's a decade of travel, escape, gone continental; the Low Countries, the Effel Range, the Berlin wall. A decade of festivals. Putting up tents and taking them down again in the rain. It's a Decade of tours; of miles in a van, to the furthest flung places all over our land. It's a decade of vehicles, eccentric old buses with weird little quirks, of breaking down, being pulled by the police and hit with a fine, and a search. It's a decade of success. Of near misses. Of nearly's. Of almost's. Of try again next year's. And we did. Year after year. And it's bridged our lives from directionless youths to grown-ups with babies and death-grips. And we've lived it. Oh how we've lived it. Every triumph. Every disaster. Every gig. All 208 of them. Even the 5 we can't remember.
Our 9th year was a good year but it was the same year. In many ways we've plateaued. If we compared this year with the one before, they are remarkably similar. Toured Europe. Tick. Half a dozen festivals. Tick. A few weddings. Tick. All the usual local gigs. Tick. And a few further afield. Tick. Finishing up with our christmas party. Tick tock. Clock is ticking. What are you doing? What are you thinking? How do you get better? What do you do different? A new album?
I'd say. America? We're trying!
"Don't put all your eggs into one basket!" said my friend as we sipped calvados in the corner of the pub. "We kinda have to" I replied. "We won't have time to book anything when this American fantasy falls short."
"That's where you're wrong" said my friend, brandy glass in hand. "You book them both simultaneously, that way when one breaks down you have another readymade!" As if it was all that simple? As if I had that much time on my hands? What planet was he on? I'm juggling three kids, a house move and my own work and I keep on dropping everything as it is.
I can't even book one tour let alone two different ones in two continents at the same time! But he was right, if perhaps a little thick-skinned. In an ideal world when one broke down we would have a backup plan. But then nobody lives in an ideal world. In an ideal world there would be no Tories and no Brexit. In an ideal world I'd have enough money and a stream at the bottom of my garden. We finished our drinks and slipped out into the night, it was crisp and cold and our breathe danced in the air, making us blend in with the smokers. "Why don't you get one of the others to book the tour?" said my friend adjusting his scarf. "Yeah right!" I scoffed and we set off up the hill.
But I did think about it. Tried to imagine how each tour would turn out. The drummer's tour would be very practical and professional, and not dissimilar to mine, but it would be swift due to childcare commitments and it wouldn't be very profitable due to us forking out most of the budget on hiring a sexy new splitter van with heated seats and tv's in the back! The bass player's tour would be fun and full of adventure but it wouldn't get finished cause he would run out of time due to work commitments and we'd have to go on it without him. And then the piano player's tour; where to begin? It would be fantastical and nonsensical, beset with criminal logistics; a gig in Penzance followed by one in Berlin the next night. There would be mystery and intrigue of course, with gigs in obscure places in Luxembourg that don't even exist and contact numbers for the wrong people. We would be paid in vegetables and we'd come home early cause the second half of it was booked for 2021 by accident. Nope, that wouldn't do. I'd have to do it on my own. Somehow. Somewhere. In the quiet times. Those stolen moments so few and far between.
And so there we have it, this is the rather unenviable life of leader of The Odd Folk; booking a tour of America and at the same time booking a back-up one in Europe in case that never takes off and at the same time booking a third one in Scotland in case a 'Bad Brexit' happens and working in Europe becomes as hard as working in the States. Of course you've got to keep one eye on the summer cause otherwise festivals pass you by. And then all those emails from Mr and Mrs NewlyWed and we know all about them! Not to mention our terrible maintenance of the online shop, with customers frequently waiting two or three months for their CD's. We need a secretary, an assistant, a helping hand! It's a full time job and we can offer you a generous salary of vegetables and free audio editing, some advise on renewable energy and a rehearsed reading of your favourite play. Your position will be part time but you will be needed at all times, particularly spur of the moment times and without warning. Tasks will include reminding us to post a CD to Camborne, or better still driving there yourself. Assisting in the booking of tours and making sure we don't stray too far from the path, but not sticking to the path too much that you loose that sense of adventure.
You will need editing skills and to be able to find your way around our complicated website, or better still make a new one. You will need to finally upload our albums onto Spotify after 10 years of trying. You need to drive and own a house big enough that we can practice in at unusual times. You will need to dash off to fetch the piano players leads just before the gig, or better still buy a load in bulk for those all two frequent occurrences. You will need to manage our finances, making sure we get paid on time while keeping some money in the kitty for the next adventure but only if we have been paid enough, in which case the bank will have to remain empty. You will need to cut a promo video before the deadline three weeks ago and advise us whether we should blow all the money for the third album on a flight of fancy in California? You must do all this punctually and efficiently but not enough to damage our image. We are The Odd Folk and this is How NOT to be in a Band.
Oh and did I mention the position is unpaid!?