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Summer 2004/5 . PBS Easey Magazine
Do It Yourself
by Claire Stuchbery

Every year thousands of people pick up their instrument, get a few mates together, choose a name, write a couple of tunes and head down the alluring road of fame and fortune... or something like that anyway. Playing in a fledgling band has become less about snorting lines off strippers and more about running a business; while backstage is more about filling in hobby forms for tax purposes than downing tequila shots. Claire Stuchbery spoke to three Melbourne bands about the organisational side of
rock 'n' roll.


When The Suns moved over to Melbourne from Singapore they decided to share a house so that they could split living expenses as well as the band costs. "We basically don't have our own personal income," explains drummer Wayne, "Whatever money I make is for the band. We're like communists."Singer San expands, "We live together in the same house, we rehearse at home. So we're not three individual people anymore, we just kinda like one," Which, he says, works out well most of the time. "Except when all these beautiful girls ask you out, you gotta check with the band first." The band always comes first, he laughs, "As much as I would like to sleep with beautiful girls, unfortunately I have to sleep with these two other guys most of the time."


The Suns want a manager with contacts they don't have themselves, "You should have contacts in at least three different continents. That's the kind of manager I think the band needs!" says Wayne, then reconsiders, "At least every city in Australia. That'd be cool."


One of the reasons The Suns moved to Melbourne in the first place was because the live scene is so good for emerging bands. When they left Singapore there were very few music venues to play and a handful of festivals per year. "At the time you'd probably be lucky to play five times a year which is not something that you can do to sustain yourself. You can't be professional musicians and play five times a year. Not at our level at least. There's no Tote or Corner or the Espy where you can count on it every weekend to see some live bands," says Wayne. However their bass player, JBoss, says he still doesn't know why he's here, he laughs that his bandmates hyped everything up, "They were like, 'Dude you gotta come here man! We've got all the contacts and shit.' So I came here and was like 'Hey, what's happening, where's the gig? Basically they told me to come here, they had all the necessary contacts, man we're rockin' here! So I pack all my dreams, fill my suitcase, my tiny suitcase, I come here, and guess which one of us landed us our first gig? It was me. These idiots have been here for four years."

One of the problems The Suns have faced with being an independent band in a foreign country is that they don't have the "rent-a-crowd" people of family and friends to make up the numbers at midweek gigs. "Another big issue is that we are an insular band. Like, my friends are his friends. We all share the same common circle of friends. A lot of other bands, the bass player has his own friends, the guitarist has his own friends, the lead singer's got his own friends," says Wayne. Essentially a do-it-yourself band is pretty reliant on their support network to show up at gigs and buy their first EP to keep the cycle going and get more gigs.

At the end of the day it will be a lucky few that actually get to make a living from their music... but musicians are getting smarter and some are actually taking the do-it-yourself approach by preference now.

Caption: Claire Stuchbery is a freelance writer and presents No Frills PBS 106.7FM

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