Quite a few of the things I’ll be talking about in this series of posts relate to most forms of interviews and journalism, not just relating to music.
[NOTE: This is an archived post from Almost Famous, a music blog for unsigned musicians which I ran from 2012-2013.]
Doing your research is certainly one of them, though there’s a few things I’ve learned in particular about researching bands that I thought would be useful to share.
Listen to the music, know the tunes.
Sounds obvious right? How are you supposed to successfully interview a band if you don’t know their songs? Well..yeah.
Just to prove these aren’t the words of some arrogant ahole who believes everything he ever did went perfectly, let me tell you a little story….
It was 2006, I’d been working full-time for a magazine for roughly twelve months, everything was going well and I was very happy. As the next edition of the approached, I was asked to go out to a small nearby rehearsal studio to interview a young band for full-page feature.
Right from my very first interview back in 2004 I’d always made a point that, if nothing else, I would always listen to a band’s music before I had to interview them, or even just write a few words about them.
Except this time, I didn’t.
Things were incredibly busy, we were under-staffed and under pressure, I had what felt like a million side projects on the go, and my now ex-wife was moving us into a new home every six months, taking us on holidays we couldn’t afford and generally making me do a bunch of other crap I didn’t really want to do.
Somehow, among all that, I lost the ten minutes it would have taken to listen to this band’s music.
That’s not an excuse -at least not a very good one- I know, but that’s what happened.
It worried me, but since the interview was supposed to be less about how these lads sounded and more about how it felt to be a young band rising to prominence at the helm of a thriving music scene, I hoped I might just get away with it.
For a while I did; we talked enthusiastically and at great length about said scene and their place in it, and everything was going well. Then, as the conversation shifted towards the band’s frustration at some people’s attempts to pigeonhole them, the guitarist turned to me and asked:
‘How would you describe what we sound like?’
‘Very good indeed,’ I said.
Or maybe I didn’t, but whatever it was that I did say it was pretty rubbish and basically had the same effect as shrugging my shoulders and saying ‘huh, I dunno.’
So yeah, lesson learned. Since then, I’ve made sure that even when the house has been burning down around me and chaos rules, I always find time to sit down and listen to every single band I interview, review or report on, no excuses.
The point, ultimately, is that even if you’re not there to talk specifically about their music, at least know it what it sounds like for those awkward times when a pesky guitarist tries to catch you out!