It’s easy isn’t it? Buy a guitar, learn a couple of chords, start a band and wallop, you’re a rock and roll star, right?
Not quite, well, not in my case anyway. Up until the “wallop” all is working out fine, but that’s when the wheels start to fall off . . .
The Call started out as 4 mates with no instruments, little to no musical ability, and no idea how to write songs – if I remember correctly most of our gear was borrowed and we definitely didn’t have a bass player at the start.
With nowhere to rehearse we were forced to beg, steal and borrow anything we could get our hands on. So, garages, basements, school classrooms, back gardens, big cupboards and all manner of community rooms hosted very intimate sessions and even the odd show – anytime, anywhere that we could practice, we would.
We learned a sack full of covers to keep the locals happy at gigs and in the meantime, I tried to work out how to write some bloody good songs.
I don’t know if it was due to blind luck, complete ignorance or just sheer hard graft, but we managed to work our way from playing bad boozers to appearing on BBC Radio playlists, playing some major festival slots, the odd television show and headlining some pretty cool sold out venues.
We were part-time losers, part-time rockstars and we were buzzing.
We agreed to hold down crumby jobs to pay the bills and spend every other spare moment on music. We acquired a full-time practise room, nicknamed it “Shabby Road” and, using some skilful negotiation with the local scout group, managed to get it at a price that our part time wages could afford.
After a while the press (yes, paper-based publications) got behind us, the songs got great, we ditched the covers and fans started turning up to our headline shows to sing our choruses back to us.
Looking at it now, The Call was ahead of the game. We really had a DIY approach to the industry. We managed all our own affairs, handled our merchandise, booked our gigs, arranged press, self-financed our recordings and built a loyal fan-base that supported us throughout.
Don’t get me wrong, we had ridiculous fun doing all of the above, but we were of the opinion that we needed a label to take us to the next level and perhaps this was the undoing of us, perhaps we should’ve just kept “building the legend” as my good friend always said and appreciate that things were working – albeit slower than we hoped.
You’ve got to appreciate that I’m talking about an era in which Myspace was the internet giant and things like Twitter and Facebook weren’t on the scene, so “getting signed” was always the paramount goal.
We were approached on occasion by labels and were in talks with EMI at one point, so we knew we were doing something right. However, with the benefit of hindsight and the emergence of huge social media platforms, I genuinely feel that we could have gone on to do something really quite special as a band if we had carried on.
Which leads me to believe that the “major deal” just wasn’t right for us, because fame and exposure wasn’t what we needed. Essentially, we had it covered – we had a great fan base, we were writing great songs, playing live and making money.
I guess this is all gravy – I’ll chalk it up to experience and definitely class it as part of those “10 thousand hours” needed to become great at something.
Plus, what’s better than being in a band with 3 of your best mates?
Thinking about it, I wouldn’t mind getting in a room with the guys and having a crack through the old classics some time.
I’ll keep you posted . . .
EJ Mann x
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