Monday, April 4, 2011

Tune - The Anthology, chapter 3

In this part we struggle to get gigs in Oslo, rehearse incessantly, record another demo of songs that too long, and join a band competition that lets us play the hippest stages in Oslo.

Our first little demo/EP got us some news gigs. Gigs were few and far between, though. It usually took months before we got another gig. Progress was slow and that's not what you want when you're in an aspiring band. Perhaps we weren't looking well enough. But then again I can't say Oslo was (or is!) making it easy for new bands. We were all doing different things on the side. Education first and foremost, and part-time jobs which you need if you want to live in such an expensive city and play in a band as well. We were rehearsing once a week, but when you've got course work and your job to worry about on top of everything, it leaves frustratingly little energy and time for the music.

I was still writing new songs, although I wouldn't say I was super productive. I was very picky about the songs I wrote and a most of them never saw the light of day. A few of them I would introduce to the band and we would try them out together. It is so much better to have a band to play your music. I would write the chords and the melody and lyrics, and have a few ideas about lead guitar and bass. But it was the band that took the songs and made them awesome. Espen and Arngeir were brilliant at coming up with ideas on their own instruments and in that way bring a whole new dimension to the song. I always wrote the melody and guitar with Lars' voice in mind. On the demos I would do a half-hearted howling/screaming version of the song; Lars would then pick it up really quickly and sing the song superbly as it was meant to sound. Me being the song writer, the others where waiting for me to bring new material to the rehearsing room. But due to my fastidiousness with my demos it usually took a while for me to introduce a new song. Instead, rehearsals became sessions where we would play the old songs over and over again, much like a setlist for a gig.

After a while we had played all the smaller venue in Oslo, the little places that would give amateur bands a chance. There seemed to be a marked boundary, or threshold, between the little places where any band could play, and the more "hyped" places where only the bigger bands could get gigs; Bands that had released an actual CD, got a review in a paper or magazine, or were considered "cool enough". We weren't too keen on circulating and treading water in the same amateur venues which we'd already played. We were too ambitious for that. We wanted to play the big venues simply because we felt (or should I say "I felt") that was where we belonged.

We decided to record another demo. We got in touch with Jonas Kroon who had mastered our first self-produced demo. He was an aspiring producer and studio engineer and booked us into a studio that some of his friends had built - in a barn. We decided on three new songs which we recorded so much more quickly and efficiently than last time. Jonas knew his stuff. Jonas was excellent at making us relax and performing at a high level - considering we weren't experienced studio musicians. The tracks came out brilliant. Beyond what I thought they could sound like. At this point we had gotten quite skilled at producing the sounds we wanted, owning a lot of equipment and different guitar effects and such. But Jonas made us sound like pros. He made us sound as big as I was imagining we were sounding in my head.

With this demo our aim was to get even bigger gigs. But not much happened. It was a busy time for us with education and jobs and whatnot. We were treading water again. We were now rehearsing twice a week and were getting more and more serious with our sound and musicianship. But one thing is playing in the rehearsal room. We knew our songs backwards and forwards, but everything changes when your on a stage. It's a different dynamic and the presence of an audience makes the troupe on edge. I loved the exhilarating euphoria of the nervousness crossed with excitement, but it was too far in between gigs. Which meant that we weren't getting enough live experience, something every band needs and craves. To bring a new dimension to the band, Arngeir suggested we bring his younger brother as an additional keyboard player. The demos had showed us that some keys could do wonders with a song. So Gjermund was in.

One of the most discouraging things about this demo-business was that it wasn't getting us gigs. We handed in our demos to many events or concerts that asked bands to submit demos and be selected. However, we never got chosen. It was as if we were playing the wrong kind of music. The kind of pop-rock that wasn't "niche" enough for the indie crowd of Oslo. It pissed me off, because I genuinely believed (and still believe!) that we had some great songs. And not only that; we also knew how to PLAY! Too often did we see bands playing the cool venues where we wanted to play, and these bands would pound away at their instruments like five year olds destroying a sand castle. Or playing one guitar string at a time is also considered "cool" by the indie sycophants. You might argue that the music is more important than the musicianship, but fuck me... I can appreciated that argument, but I also know that I enjoy watching musicians who know what they're doing, and they're doing it well.

But the demo turned the attention to an important thing about our songs: My self-indulgent Noel Gallagher'esque song writing. Arngeir hinted that quite a lot of my songs were too long. This was something I had never thought of as I would write the songs as it sounded in my head and that was that. However, two of the songs we had recorded for our second demo were six minutes long! Not exactly radio-friendly durations... I defended myself by insisting that it was how they were meant to be. However, the band persuaded me to let Jonas edit them and make shorter versions. I'll admit I was both angry and sceptical when I heard the new versions for the first time. They were totally different songs. But the others liked it so we went with it (Later on I would grow to love the new edits).

With our new and improved line-up and setlist we entered a band competition, which actually didn't require a demo, just that we pay an entry fee (No recognition of musicianship - just the content in your wallet...). The competition involved three stages which, if we got through, would let us play at a bigger venue for the every stage. A ridiculous amount bands entered. Some bands that seemed to have been formed in someone's garage two days before, and bands that had been playing around for some time. Slightly demoralised by previous competitions and demo-judgings, we didn't exactly fancy our chances, but nevertheless it was another opportunity to play.

To our surprise we got through to the next stage, the so-called semi finals, which let us play a small but reputable venue where a lot of respected national and international bands had played. This was a great experience for us and it showed on stage. We played one of our best gigs. And to our surprise, we were voted through to the finals, which were held on the "coolest" stage in Oslo: Rockefeller. A venue that could hold 2500 people and served as a benchmark for any upcoming band: fill Rockefeller and you knew you had it made. Of course, we weren't playing Rockefeller in that way; we were in a competition with 20 other bands and had only 20 minutes to prove ourselves. But that didn't matter to us at this point. All that mattered was that we were finally going to play a big stage, on which so many of our idols had played, and on which our band was meant to play. This was the sort of stage and venue Tune was meant to play - that had been my aim and ambition since we formed the band. I didn't care if it wasn't our own gig: Our 20 minutes on that stage rocked! Espen delivered, Arngeir delivered, Lars owned the stage, and I was buzzing. The best performance we had ever done - period. Alas, it would also be our last.

The songs from the demo (edited versions) are available on our still existing facebook page . Hope you enjoy them

Tune at Rockefeller:

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