In my many years of touring I’ve seen the most pointless arguments, the pettiest grudges, held over issues that should never have escalated to the point of raise voices. Sometimes people get sloshed when it should be their turn to drive the van, or they don’t throw out their garbage. Sometimes you can’t find a crash spot and one person wants to spring for a motel room and get a good night’s sleep for once but the more frugal band members would prefer to sleep in the van. There’s a litany of reasons why tempers flare up; but most of these fights are perfectly avoidable.
Here’s the most important rule for getting along with your bandmates: whenever possible, always, as long as you can stomach it, just try to be laid back. You’re enclosed in a tiny metal box together for weeks if not months. Now this is important–don’t be laid back on stage. Don’t be laid back with your rehearsal regimen, or as you hustle deals at the merch table. But when interacting with your traveling family? Just let these things go.
I’m sure so far you’re saying, “yeah, it’s common knowledge: be furious as a business and performing entity, and be cool to each other. It’s a no-brainer.” But within that business aspect lies the catch. I’ve found that a lot of bands have hang-ups in concerns over the division of labor. This can manifest itself in a few ways, like when one member of the band is always stuck working the merch table, or dealing with promoters, updating social media, etc. Yet somehow with those jobs the inequality is grudgingly accepted. There’s usually one person who handles the business duties, and most of those roles rest under that umbrella. This self-appointed magnate of enterprise likes wielding the cudgel of power, or maybe just thinks the other musicians would mishandle it, and the rest of the band is happy to not have to deal with it at all. Cudgels aren’t known for their lightness.
But loading the van? I’ve seen some death stares when this job is shirked. I guess it’s part and parcel with the physical exertion. If you’re hauling a 412 cab by your lonesome while your drummer is chatting up a prospective sexy-time bunk mate then you might find yourself touched with an inescapable urge to toss said 412 at the head of the drummer in question. Or what about a vocalist who writes off the entire loading process wholesale? “I’ve got all my gear right here” is a phrase the singer-type has been known to retort while pointing to a singular microphone, and maybe a packet of earplugs if they want to be really cute about it. At this point you may be thinking “that person needs to have their aforementioned SM58 rammed down their SM fifty throat.”
But don’t do it.
Okay, maybe to a lead singer… no, not even then. Resist that urge. You know how I was saying that everyone has a role? Not all of those roles are the good ones like the “4am Driver.” Some people are the “Schmuck Who’s Perpetually MIA When a Drum Coffin Needs to Be Carried up a Flight of Stairs.” Don’t get me wrong: these folk are, if not assholes, then at least temporarily visited by an ephemeral spirit of assholishness. But there’s always that band member. You will never be in a band without this person. Ever. And you want to have a complete band, don’t you? You don’t want to be missing an essential piece like some crappy particle board desk from Ikea. Then you need the “Load Vanisher.” That person completes you. He or she may be a completely ridiculous bassist, or a rock solid rhythm guitarist, or the one that packs your local gigs with innumerable friends.
So just deal with it. Go into any new musical endeavor with the foreknowledge that everyone flakes in some regard. They may not throw their back out lifting a 75 pound amp, but maybe you can’t drive at night, or you repeatedly screw up the merch bin organization. You probably ruin something. You’re a musician, after all.