About a month or so ago, with sonic-goggles on, and relying on word-of-mouth and some facebookin', I set off in search of a brand new line-up of drugstore cowboys.I was a bit surprised by the amount of people who applied, but also disappointed that so many came from another Planet. A MySpace page featuring songs by Billy Joel, or a Hard-Rock tribute band, would guarantee they'd be sent straight to the 'rejects' folder, which was rapidly growing at an alarming rate. It was obvious that to bypass the dirt, I would need to apply some serious sieving to get to the precious gold nuggets I was after.
I began to dread the whole MySpace experience: 7 minutes to load and build-up excitement, only to be crushed down within the first few bars of yet another 4 nondescript dull blokes, bashing some average forgettable crap. Nothing stood out. I started to understand why so many were hoping to join our band.
There were jazz guitarists, session players, death-metal lovers, under-age indie-kids, poets and downbeat songwriters, ex-rockers and pretty much everything else in between
If they managed to pass the MySpace test and could write a vaguely coherent email, I'd then set-up meetings at the Troubadour Cafe in Earls Court, for further inspection.
the troubadour cafe, scene of dozens of disappointing meetings:
I'd be sitting there from 10am till late afternoon, meeting cowboy after cowboy, and would head home hoping that the following batch would wield a better crop. Those who failed to pay for their own bleedin' cafe lattes were also instantly dismissed, regardless.
Having passed the cafe/pub test, I would then set up a proper rehearsal in a studio or at the Cave, for an acoustic bash.
To the handful of musicians who managed to get as far as the Cave or the studio: take pride, you guys were the 'good ones', but for some reason or other, didn't quite match what I was looking for.
People tried all sorts of tricks to get into the 'audition stage', from offers to pay my rent and free recording studio time. But it would take a lot more to impress monteiro, an awful lot more.
another would-be cowboy fails to impress monteiro.
Another, Matty, a kid from Manchester, rejected for being too young for drugstore's 'lived-in' factor, and being too far from the Cave, re-applied as 'Matt, 20-something, who is thinking of moving to London'. Impressed by his cunning persistence, I set-up a meeting. He turns up with this massive back-pack, looking as fresh-faced as I suspected:
- "So, er...Matty, is that your Fender-Twin in your backpack?" -- "Erm...no, erm... actually, I've decided to move to London, wanna give, like, Drugstore 100%..., and, like, can I... like ...erm...stay with you, like, tonite...?
As tempted as I was to give Matty the audition of his life, and really make him grow a decade in an evening of rock'n'roll debauchery at the Cave, common sense prevailed and he was sent away with an autograph and directions to the YMCA at Center Point.
"Dear Isabel, really wanna give this a go, love your music. But, this monkey-costume thing, is it just a gimmick for promotional photos, or is it something you are going to incorporate into the live scenario as well? I think it would be too hot and sweaty to wear the full costume for a whole concert, you think?"
Then came the painful process of mass-mailing out dozens and dozens of rejection letters.A few cool guys managed to turn their disappointment into an opportunity, and offered their services as roadies. A very smart move and a lesson to us all. But, others didn't take it quite so well:
Having checked this guy's MySpace, and confident that being a 'metallero' in "Death-Skull" was not going to be right for Drugstore, I sent him my standard, non-suicidal rejection, friendly reply:
"Hi xxxx, I'm sorry, but you're just not quite right for us - as we're hoping to work with people who are coming from roughly the same indie musical stable, if you know what I mean. You're probably a great player, just not the one we're looking for. Best of luck w/ your music, life, everything x - isabel."But he replied:
"Quite how you make that judgment defeats me, "coming from roughly the same indie musical stable"? Is about as meaningless a phrase as I've ever heard, have you considered a career in politics?! I'm not being bitter, perhaps you were just being kind. Does seem a shame though as listening to your demo's I felt quite a resonance, I heard tinges of Neillson in the songwriting and he's a big influence on me, though my leanings are darker. Keep me on file and when your sitting in the studio all alone and the rest of your band have got married and had babies and started knitting yoghurt, and you need a high planes drifter to come in and play, drop me a line, I'll still be gunslingin. bon voyage."Oooh, temper, temper!
Some of the people I've turned down, came from the right stable, were great players, who'd been playing with decent indie bands, but they formed what struck me as the worst category of them all: the bitter ones. Each one with a long string of angry tales against previous managers and band members, slaggin' off the music industry and everything around it. I don't like that. Bitterness is the one emotion I have never had any space for neither in my heart nor in my music. We've all had terrible moments when we've found ourselves knee deep in disappointment, but, as every seasoned traveller will tell you, in life, to have a cool ride and to keep moving forward, it is essential that your heavy luggage is zipped safely away, for the heart must remain open, and real smart cowboys travel light.
The more people I met, the more obvious it became that what I was looking for just doesn't grow on your average Fender-Twin tree.To be in Drugstore takes a lot more than just being a great musician, that's just the starting point. I was looking for truly special individuals: creative and smart, charming and witty, people with emotional depth, who would fit in nicely within the band's ethos, and above all, people with the 'drugstore factor': stardust.
I think I've found them!
(oh.. but how wrong you were, miss monteiro , as it would take many a painful auditions and nearly a whole year later till the goodloot was found -jun/2011).
just published the post, checked my emails and here we go again, this one from a guy who's based in Antarctica! That's pretty 'cool' huh?
"Love your music, so it's great to here you're getting all fired up ready to get recording again. I thought I'd try my luck with you guys, when you're on a roll, you're on a roll! I'm from Cornwall originally, 29 years old and I'm currently working in the Antarctic as a mechanic for the British Antarctic survey, ironically enough, it's colder back in the UK at the moment than it is here!!! Global warming? I'm returning to the UK in April and I'll have some time and some cash to support myself, so I thought I'd put my name forward to you guys. Take it easy, Nxxx Xxxxx - Vehicle mechanic/Halley research station/Antarctica/British Antarctic Survey"