Harry’s Soapbox – You Wear It Well (or do you?)

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Our man Harry delivers another broadside to the music fraternity… does what you look like matter? Should you all be thinking about having the same haircut in order to breakthru? Harry wakes up your Monday in a way only he can… from his Soapbox!

“Fucking music journalists! Critics! What the hell do you know, anyway? You’re just washed-up, failed musicians. Bitter, twisted and resentful hacks without the talent to make it in a band. You sit there, behind your keyboards, spitting bile and poison, sneering at those of us with the balls and the talent you haven’t got, doing what you can’t!” So said one tired and emotional musician following a less than stellar review of his band’s, strictly average, offerings. Actually, he didn’t say that, really. He wasn’t sufficiently cultured, articulate and refined to couch his rant in such elegant prose. He was much more, ah, industrial in his choice of epithets. I’m paraphrasing here, you understand.

So what caused the above unnamed muso to react so vehemently? Did I pan his music? Only a little bit. Did I slag his performance? Not at all, actually. Did I, then, stick the boot in on a much deeper level and damage so badly his frail and trembling little psyche? Again, no. I merely observed that, despite some musical promise and a performance of undoubted vigour and energy, he and his band looked like a motley crew of destitute vagrants; unwashed scruffs of the kind more usually found queuing at a soup-kitchen. Greasy, unkempt hair, filthy, stained, unwashed jeans, unironed shirts with that morning’s breakfast clearly visible and neither a clean shave or a proper beard between them. Simply the lazy sod’s Monday-morning-half-way-house stubble. In other words, people, my observations concerned his image.

Yeah, thorny one that, right, kids? You can sneer and maintain it’s all about “our art, man!” you can insist on purity in the artistic wilderness all you like because, and make no mistake here, if you don’t pay attention to every facet of your band’s operation, and that includes image, then you’ve virtually guaranteed that the wilderness is where you will remain. Oh I know it’s not fair, that you’re such a great band everyone should simply accept your breathtaking monuments to musical excellence as and when you deem fit to bestow them but seriously? Grow up. Life isn’t fair and life in the music business, in particular, is not only unfair but also illogical, capricious and bewildering. The hard truth is that you need every single thing you can muster to give you an edge, to make you stand out, to set you apart from the also-rans. Image, guys. I say again; image.

Before some smart-arse reminds me we’re talking rock ‘n’ roll here, not going for an interview at a bank, let me remind you of a fundamental rock ‘n ‘roll truth; all great bands are gangs. Fact one. They behave like gangs. Fact two. And they have a visual uniformity, consistency and cohesion that reflects that truth. Fact three.

That applies as much to Black Label Society, with their strong biker-style brand, as it does to blow-dried and lipsticked 80s New Romantic dandies like Duran Duran. Ditto Motorhead, Motley Crue, Status Quo or, my bête noire, The fecking B**tl*s, to pluck just four examples entirely at random. On an unsigned/independent level there are so many bands cluttering up the scene that sport a disregard of personal presentation, even basic hygiene, to make the most unsightly and raggedy-arsed of road-crews blush. In fact, most bands I see don’t even look like bands; most look like roadies.

Thankfully, there are exceptions. Look at JD & The FDCs. Their presentation tells me they’re serious about what they do. It doesn’t matter if you like their look or not. It’s the message it sends that matters. It says ‘we care so much about everything we’re offering you we even make an effort with our non-musical concerns’. Other examples? Dakesis. Check out their photo. It tells you exactly what they’re about and presents a visual image on which some thought has clearly been expended. Ditto bands as diverse as Evil Scarecrow, Bury The Ladybird and Winter In Eden.

‘Appearances shouldn’t matter!’ ‘That’s shallow!’ Yeah, yeah, yeah; whatever. Apart from all that, though, why wouldn’t you want to present your band in the possible light? In all walks of life people make value-judgments based on visuals. You’re stuck with that. You won’t change it so unless you really don’t care about your career and your progress, wise up, smarten up and get an image. It matters.

JD & The FDCs

taken by Keith Mitchell and then jazzed up by Dazmondo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter in Eden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bury The Ladybird

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Scarecrow

Photo by Sue Paterson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dakesis

Copyright Cryptikcorp 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 COMMENTS

  1. Good article; shame the photos are shit.
    The bands may well have taken the time to consider and construct their image, but the images are shocking!
    JD & The FCs pic is blatantly photoshopped – badly!
    Bury the whatever’s shot looks like a school kid project.
    Evil Scarecrow’s image is good, but a white background? Come on!
    And given their penchant for fantasy themed anthems, Dakesis need something darker.
    Winter In Eden seem to be the only band of this bunch that have found a photographer with any imagination (though it does reek of Gothic cliches)

    Image is important but a decent photographer and a band with an imagination makes the difference…

  2. And when they’ve decided on their image, they can ask one of MR’s togs to do some decent shots for them…

  3. Dude everything you wrote is spot on. Finding your image both musically and appearance wise can be a long process but a simple task like taking a fucking shower isn’t something to sneer about unless your image is a tramp. Nothing worse than following a smelly c*** on stage.

  4. I have to agree with a lot of what you say here. If you polish every aspect of your presentation, but then forget the visual aspect when people are coming to WATCH you, I think it’s a shame. That’s not to say everyone needs to dress up like Priest or whoever, but I’ve seen bands playing that had no real “image”, just jeans and t-shirts and they looked okay… except for the lunch still on the singers shirt. D’oh!

  5. Oh dear, despite the clarity of these very obvious common-sense truths, some still don’t appear to understand. Image, and marketing are, in my opinion, MORE important than the music. Without either you’ll find you have no-one to play to!
    I’m a photographer and I shoot a few bands. The ones with great image make great images, people see these and are interested to know more. Sometimes you can make a good guess on the type of music just from looking at the photos..
    Scruffy gits; look at the bands making real progress, Dakesis, Lionsex, Burn City Burn, Sacred Mother Tongue etc, look at them, LOOK at them.. Not saying you have to wear a suit, just some effort and cohesion visually. After all, a live gig is an audioVISUAL thing.

    And while you’re at it get some decent bloody lights….

  6. An interesting read and one with which I’d agree on most points. While I’ll gloss over Harry’s lack of love for The Beatles, Epstein’s insistence on getting them out of their leather jackets and jeans and into suits, plus Astrid Kirchherr taking a pair of scissors to first, Sutcliffe’s, then Harrison’s, hair, probably made a significant difference to their appeal.

    Personally, I’d argue that metal doesn’t have to be black and would probably be rather interested in a metal band in brightly coloured clothing before I’d even heard them. Of course, the music is the most important factor but you see, they’d already have caught my attention from that first photo. Shallow? No, not really, it’s all part of the game.

    Yes bands, some of you may say “it’s all about the music” but if your audience is stood in front of someone who isn’t at least interesting to look at, you’ve already created another wall before you’ve struck that very first chord (pun intended).

    I’d also like to make a final appeal. Even when you dress within your genre, stamp your own mark on it and make it yours. Good examples, Haerken and Fallen Fate. Bad examples, anyone who looks identical to the majority of their audience. There’s surely a limit to how much camouflage any band can wear!

  7. Once again Harry – hit the nail on the head.

    So many bands on the scene don’t put enough effort expecting people to flock to see them… the harsh reality is that it takes so much more than musical virtuosity to make a successful band.

    First impressions count… and your image is the first thing the audience sees as you take to the stage, in many cases they will make a judgement about how good/bad you are based on the images they are presented with – everything from the clothes you wear to the brand of guitars you play.

    This is why image is paramount – I personally don’t like this fact, I’d like people to remember Dakesis on the merits of the music I spent months composing nonstop – but in reality if I was to ask what people remember about Dakesis they will say it’s ‘the band with the girls with the red and blue hair’. This is just the way it works I’m afraid!

    Image is like a trademark and branding as much as your bands logo is – it’s important that it’s appropriate and consistent… imagine Rob Halford taking to the stage in a Hawaiian shirt and loafers – it just wouldn’t work, even though he’s a metal god people wouldn’t take him seriously.

  8. I think image is a factor,but the bottom line,for me anyway is the riffs and hooks and lyrics,and how the musical energy is given over to the crowd,i mean, if say a shit hot guitarist feels comfortable in jeans and a tee when he or she plays,the result has got to be positive creative energy,if on the other hand the individual(operative word)
    is told to wear something he or she hates for the purpose of marketing..,the positivity and energy in the band becomes blurred.,i mean if the fashion police had their way,rock fans would all turn up to gigs suited and booted..!
    its the music,not the image,that ROCKS…..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Yes, I *know*. All I’m saying is why leave an important part of your operation to chance? Why not give yourself every edge you can? Every opportunity to stand out and entice people to listen to your music in the first place?

      And no offence but this is patently nonsense, “i mean if the fashion police had their way,rock fans would all turn up to gigs suited and booted..!”

      Current fashion dictates all bands should, therefore, be wearing skinny Hipster jeans and checked shirts! But no one’s suggesting any such thing, are they?

  9. I agree to some degree but then I don’t feel I personally need to wear the “BLACK” boring shit when I can bring some colour back to rock n roll. Fortunately we all seem to wear similar clothes anyway so not really an issue as such there but I do agree image is a crucial part cuz lets face it what groupie would wanna get with a scruffy, stinking urk who can’t remember what a shower looks like let alone deodorant.

    Another great read H

    PLnB

    • Piss off Whitty, Hannah likes me just the way I am! :p She can smell me coming.

      And yeah, this is one of the reasons I was so taken by that fawn ac30. Everything’s black on a rock stage. I don’t think I’ve ever played with a band that had a cream coloured amp!

  10. some of the stuff you brought up made sense, but youre examples are dated, lacking originality and this irritates me, and a great deal of others trying to push or witness music being pushed in to new areas. start a band that looks like or plays like another band (i can think of at least one for each of the above) and you will not only disappoint potential fans, but also, hopefully yourself, years down the line when, if you manage to see through your idolistic self worship, realise that you were a part of the sorry, incestuous plague of posers, that cause the majority to cough up their lungs in disgust or fall out of love with humanity.
    You don’t get anywhere by (synthetically) becoming a ‘rockstar’ you become a ‘rockstar’ by blowing peoples minds. IN NEW AND INTERESTING WAYS.

    • Oh dear. A point missed here, I feel.
      It matters not one jot whether you feel my examples are “dated” or not. They were, after all, merely *examples*. Examples of bands that have an image and have taken some time to consider it as part of their overall operation. *That’s* the point. Not whether this or that image tickles your particular, subjective fancy.

      As for this bit, “You don’t get anywhere by (synthetically) becoming a ‘rockstar’ you become a ‘rockstar’ by blowing peoples minds. IN NEW AND INTERESTING WAYS.” What on earth are you talking about? Who is suggesting any such thing? Certainly not I. Image does *not* make any kind of substitute for decent music and nowhere do I suggest any such thing. Tip; when responding to these sorts of things, it’s generally advisable to respond to points that have actually been made, rather than the ones you wish had been made.

      Finally, despite an extensive vocabulary and, in all modesty, being a widely-read sort of fellow, I’ve not encountered the word ‘idolistic’ before. Subsequent researches have provided no enlightenment, either, with both Colin’s and the OED asserting no such word exists. I’d be delighted, therefore, if you could provide a definition with, preferably, a link to some recognised authority on such matters.

  11. Totally agree Harry. It really puts me off when a band show up looking like a bunch of street corner kids with their trousers round their arses and then try to convince me they are “Metal”!! A message for them – they are NOT metal they are Chav – and I hate Chav! Metal means black, means leather, means skulls, means ATTITUDE!
    On the other hand Rock can take on many images. You use some good examples here Harry, Evil Scarecrow go to great lengths to give us a SHOW !! Dakesis look the business and when they come on stage you are already anticipating great things because they look like a band that is going to produce. (And by God they do!!) One of my favorites, who you may or may not have come across, are Manchester band Fantasist who dress in ’30s gangster pins stripe suits and spats, the lead guitarist even wears a boater – and because of this when they let rip with their quirky interesting and powerful music, you are almost expecting it!! I also rate Falling Red very highly.
    Good article and thanks for giving us all something to think about once again!!

    PS I know exactly what you mean Joshua Watson — Me too !!!

  12. Couldn’t agree more…Falling Red impressed me last year, everything down to the colour of the guitar leads was colour co-ordinated (black and..er, red), but the level of attention to detail was most impressive and shows that they take their ‘art’ seriously.

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