Matt Kourie is a one-man electro-pop artist based in New York City. Kourie played in countless bands before he decided to cut out the usual troubles of band life to pursue a solo project called theWhen. Musicians can benefit from what went wrong and what Kourie learned from his extensive experience playing in bands.
Here are Kourie's Top 10 Traits of an Awesome Band Member!
No matter how talented anyone is, if they don't call you back, don't return emails, don't show up or are frequently late, you basically don't have a band. "No Flakes Allowed." Reliability trumps talent every time. A reliable and skilled musician can be taught and that type of accountability is very valuable. After all, a band is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.
Tip: *Be careful not to be mesmerized by good chops when reliability is totally vacant.
2. A "gelling" and positive attitude
Band conflicts are bound to happen, you are essentially in a marriage. When working with human parts you have to deal with insecurities, competitive behavior, egos, and all the usual woes of musicians. When you have someone who connects with the band personally, their instrument will become an extension of that personality and the musical chemistry may be just as cool. This awesome trait makes for some pretty tasty jams, good times and a stronger more effective team.
3. Has the same goals in mind as the rest of the band
Playing together and having magical moments is all well and good but the band mission will be short-lived if each member does not have the same goals in mind. Have clear conversations about what everyone wants out of being in the band as perceptions and motivations often change. If you're on different pages, it is inevitable that things will fall apart. Don't get too attached to your expectations from the people you're playing with, be realistic about possible changes.
4. Solution-minded person
This is a great quality all around in any team effort or project. Many people can notice a problem and stop there but a solution-minded person will make things happen to move forward. Look for solution-minded people and you'll reach your goals much faster. It will keep the band morale high which creates momentum and a feeling of things being worthwhile.
5. Not too into drugs
Let's not be oblivious, musicians often do some form of drugs. But someone with an extreme addiction will prioritize his money and time towards those substances instead of band goals and expenses. Look for someone with the same habits as the band and gels with that flow.
6. Anti-buddy system
Buddy systems happen in bands all the time. It's "these two against those two" and a lot of smack is talked behind closed doors. Get someone who is positive about conflict resolution as opposed to commiserating their point of view with other members to start battles. This is one of the biggest band "breaker uppers" of all time. Avoid the buddy system instigator and find the peacemaker. Your hours of sacrifice and hard work will pay off and not be sabotaged.
Tip: *If you're hanging out after rehearsals, make sure your conversations are positive and focused on solutions. If someone is bad-mouthing another member, they're probably bad-mouthing you too.
7. Takes direction well and does not view it as being controlled
Role establishment is important in bands and is often overlooked in favor of a politically correct mindset. Many bands have a false perception that everyone is supposed to play the same role, which leads to stepping on each other's toes and fights. The most successful scenarios are when the roles are established with writers and performers that bring the best of their abilities to the table. They are proud of what they do best and are not threatened by anyone else's role. The member who can take direction from a writer or band leader and understands that it is for the best of the song, is a mega keeper.
Tip: *If you're in the type of group where there are one or two main writers and you feel the need to be creative, find a second creative outlet to fill that need so you do not act out in unhealthy ways in the project.
8. Knows how to mix the room in rehearsal or lets the designated room mixer do his thing
One of the worst things to hear from a band member is, "I can't hear my drums" or "I can't hear my guitar" as the volume wars then ensue. A great band member will trust the skills of the person mixing the levels of the instruments in the room and play nice without turning up every few bars until they overpower everything. This is especially annoying during mixing sessions when making your EP or album. Whatever is best for the song should always be the motive and not, "Hey, I can't hear my snare." Hold on to band members that get this concept. You'll have better songs and less headaches.
9. Knows how to balance their relationships and time
Having someone who knows how to manage their time and relationships is key. A member may get a girlfriend or boyfriend and throw things way off. If they are hardcore and dedicated to the group, they will still be able to make appropriate time for all things. Excuses for missing rehearsals based on their significant other will weigh things down. Though in many cases, girlfriends and boyfriends can be a dedicated support. Take this on a case-by-case basis. If your band is revolving around that girlfriend or boyfriend it's time for an adjustment or a new member who can stick to the schedule.
10. Drives a car and has equipment
If the band member has a car and equipment, you can do things. They most likely have a job too. It takes money to do things in a band and you'll need someone responsible enough to work for his life AND goals of the band. Get those guys while you can, they are valuable. If the band doesn't take too long to get off the ground, they'll dedicate their goals to the band and not leave for a mediocre future with a pottery company, etc. (Not that there is anything wrong with pottery.)
Tip: *Awesome band members will help loading gear to and from shows. Beware of the vocalist who will only carry his microphone and leave everyone else with the labor. Those who come together will succeed. "Every man for himself" is the opposite of the definition of the word "band."