How To Be a New Band in SF (Without Immediately Breaking Up)

Categories: Helpful Advice
travis and nate.jpg
Play in the goddamn street if you have to.

You've never heard of Brightlighters because they've only been a band for five months. But this San Francisco trio -- vocalist/guitarist Travis Busse, vocalist/bassist Matt Cline and drummer Nate Blaustone -- are already experts when it comes to navigating the pitfalls of being the new boys in town. Here's their advice on how to be a new band in San Francisco, without immediately imploding.

Improvise on the Essentials
You have to have your own gear, which is expensive. Then you have to have a way to transport that gear. We currently use Nate's roommate's Jeep to do that -- which gives us a really going-to-the-beach-in-the-'80s vibe before every show that we've had to learn to embrace. We've also learned to embrace bending ourselves into weird positions like it's a game of human Tetris, because there's not enough space for us in the Jeep once the gear's in. The other most important thing your band needs is a space to practice, which means renting one. By the way, renting a place to practice in San Francisco is more expensive than renting a house to live in in the suburbs. So you have to share with other people. We share our practice space with a stoned marching band who are really into porn and fond of burning incense in there. Which is obviously awesome.

Get 'Insider' Jobs
No one will give you a show in the city until you have proper recordings of your songs. We do not have that. What we do have is Travis, who works in Thee Parkside as a booker, so can exploit his position by basically calling in favors all over the place. We're hoping that by the time we've used up all the favors, we'll have recorded something so awesome that we can get shows the regular way. We would highly recommend all new bands have at least one member who works in a venue though, because that way you can just badger your bosses until they let you play. That's how we got our first show. Thanks Parkside!

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Be Confident
Before our shows, Matt enjoys turning to the rest of us and asking the immortal questions: 'What if everyone hates us?' and 'What if everyone leaves?' This is a very real fear when you're a new band. There are so many bands that come through San Francisco, [that] there are basically too many for people to choose from. In addition, all new bands think they're something special and they've got it going on. We're a new band and we're something special and we totally have it going on. At least we think we are -- how do you really know that until you have people repeatedly volunteering to listen to you? What if we only think we're amazing, but we're actually fucking terrible? It's a mindfuck, people. A mindfuck. But try and stay positive. Unless you find out you definitely do suck -- in which case, break up immediately.

Get Used to Being on Inappropriate Bills
Being a new band in San Francisco sometimes means getting added to a bill with really crappy DJs. Like when we got added to a college night at a club in S.F. and they apparently wanted a band -- that would be us -- to open for a guy who's really proficient at using iTunes. So you finish playing your heart and soul out and some guy opens his computer up, hits play and the entire room starts screaming and dancing and grabbing at him, thereby forgetting you immediately. Then he skips a song and they scream some more. And then everyone's dancing and you can't get your gear out. And when you go back several hours later to remove it from the venue, you find that all your gear has been used as coasters all night and slutty girls have rubbed their glittery slutty bodies all over it. Onwards and upwards!

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Brightlighters: Dressed as Steve Zissou, only during Halloween performances

Write About What You Know
A lot of our music is about women doing terrible things to us. Like dating us and lying about the fact that they're dating other women at the same time. And then they leave you to become full-time lesbians and it's very emasculating. Those songs involve a fair amount of screaming. We also write about predicaments common for 21-year-old guys, like ourselves --  meeting a girl in a bar and taking her home and then waking up in the morning to her saying 'I really like you -- will you go to my prom with me?' C'mon -- we've all been there. Let's talk about this.

Value Welcoming Venues
When you're a new band and you only have three people who will come and watch you and you have no recorded music and no anything of value, you can go to Kimo's, ask for a show and they'll say 'Yeah, great, you can play here'. And that's great for the city because they really help smaller bands. I'm sure it sucks to work there and hear all these crappy bands working their kinks out all the time, but it's going to suck way harder after it's been turned into a fucking dance club. [Ed. note: Kimo's is likely turning into a DJ lounge at the start of 2012.] So we're excited about playing Kimo's before it turns into a shitty dance club. What the fuck new bands are going to do after that happens, we don't even know.

Brightlighters plays with Moonlight Orchestra and Plastic Villains, at Kimo's, Thursday Nov. 17, at 9 p.m.

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Juan DeShawn
Juan DeShawn

who gives a shit about Facebook "likes"or Last.FM?  fuck the haters, make music from your heart for people's ears and souls not the internet.


19 likes on Facebook?0 plays on Last.FM? Who are you guys again? 

I'd take a DJ who's enjoyed by a crowd over a band with basically no material or shows of significance using their friend at SF Weekly to get them some very undeserved press. 


sippin' that haterade. 

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