Whither the Band or Drummer as an App

Jonno is moving to Sydney. He’s got a new and better job and he likes Sydney with all that harbour and water everywhere. Goodbye Gardners Creek, Eric Raven Reserve, the Malvern Fences, the South Eastern Arterial, Glen Iris train station and other suburban highlights. Hello beaches, ferries, tourists, concerts at the Opera House, John Laws, cricket captains, two varieties of Rugby and ocean pools.


Messy Band SetupSince February 2020 we have been jamming on Saturday mornings at my place. There is room and we can leave equipment set up. My place is roughly equidistant from Jonno’s in Glen Iris and Chris’s Elsternwick. Jonno left his spare keyboard here and Chris leaves his amp here. We don’t need much space to jam in, but, all the faffing about with cables and plugs and adapters etc at the start of every jam is a bit of a weekly palaver and cuts into precious playing time. These Saturday morning jams are an alternative to the Thursday nights at Kindred: Jonno and I used to have to battle traffic and Chris had already had a long day at work and was probably itching to go home rather than have a casually structured jam. Before we start the jam, we have coffee and chit chat and sometimes chocolate.


The Billy Pilgrims-2We’ve got better with the routine. We listen more closely to each other and play with an awareness of what the others are doing. I have started recording our little jams. The purpose of this is more than just narcissism, methinks (or, rather mehopes). Watching the videos provides an opportunity to critically evaluate our own style and to get a better idea of what we sound like in general.


But the propensity to record and upload to YouTube is also related to how I have been learning the bass (in part). I’ve watched my fair share of videos by Scott Devine (in the beginning), Tom Kenrick, Tom Bornermann, Benny the Bassman and also drumming videos by Yoyoka. I enjoy Yoyoka’s videos for the joy she plays the drums with and probably she inspired me to start enjoying the Red Hot Chili Peppers again. The videos I upload are plain and simple and will not go viral. We are not showing off virtuosity. The videos are a means to share with others what we have been doing during our often talked about jams.


Bellman-1Here are our videos: Domination (Version 1) and Domination (Version 2) (by Christopher Young), Soul to Squeeze (RHCP) and Snow (RHCP). The videos are in chronological order and hopefully show an upwards trajectory. In the moments after uploading Snow, I realised I was playing the bridge incorrectly. In real life, Jonno had picked it up that I was playing a note that was clashing with what he and Chris was playing.


Playing with the original tracks is a bit of a lazy crutch, but, it fills in the missing parts to the song and provides us with structure. We don’t have a drummer and haven’t been looking hard for one. For the moment, the android app, Loopz, will suffice.


Learning music is pretty abstract. The videos are in some way part of the process of making the learning process feel more real. Playing in this little band has helped my learning of music and this is thanks to our already existing friendships. But the band has actually varied our way of communicating with each other and has built up trust between us. Those so-called life-skills are some of the reasons why children are encouraged to learn music. But, I’m quite sure they are applicable to adults as well.


Jonno is moving to Sydney. The band, which I have nominally called The Billy Pilgrims (after the narrator of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse 5), will re-band itself or whither. I’m proposing we find an actual human drummer, so when Jonno visits he won’t find anyone sitting in his spot. Jonno is the most theoretically sound and thoroughly trained of us. He provides the guidance of what Chris and I should be playing when we get lost. Jonno is also not dogmatic about which songs we should play. For me, he has played a key role in my idiosyncratic and informal music education. Without Jonno we’re just a duo with a drum loop app. But, we’ll see how we go.

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