Starting a Band - How We Did It
I (Roach) wanted to write about what bands go through before they ever play a live show. You always hear about bands after they have "made it”, but I've never seen anything documenting the first time a local band gets together and writes music, records their first album or books their first show. This is about all of the shit those bands go through before any one even knows that band exists.
As a backing story in the summer of 2014 my band Execrate had broken up. We had been together since 2009, and throughout a couple of lineup changes I thought we were still pretty solid. But when you least expect it, doors can close. Our singer had pretty much quite showing up, and our bass player decided to transfer colleges and would be six and a half hours away. After our singer finally officially quite I decided to end the band.
That day I had got on the phone with my cousin Nick. Nick had started playing guitar just a year after I did and yet surpassed me on so many levels. We had always discussed getting a band together but we had a little bit of a drive between us and a lot of conflicts in our schedule. Now having the free time I hadn't had since 2009 Nick and I started to get something going.
Nick and I started meeting up regularly to write music. We wrote what would become Monster on 63rd street in about 20 minutes on our first get together. Suffering Through Inconceivable Rape and Torturing next, and then Grotesque Enslavement followed shortly by Trashed. Things were great and the music was getting written fast. We didn't have a drummer nor a bass player so Nick and I would write drums on EZ drummer. Things were going smoothly and we continued to write all that winter.
Early into 2015 with snow still on the ground our next musician showed up somewhat unexpectedly, right by the entrance of a local Walmart. An old acquaintance from my Execrate days Steve Worley was walking out the front door as I was walking in. A conversation that lasted 5 minutes was all Nick and I needed and we knew we had our drummer. Despite how hard Nick and I had looked month after month random luck played to our needs more than our honest efforts.
Steve, Nick, and I began practicing regularly. Nick lived an hour away so during the week Steve and I would work on the couple of songs already written. The programmed drums offered a rough sketch for Steve to follow. We also wrote new songs this time as a band in a practice space improvising riffs until we stumbled upon a song structure we liked. Black Death was written this way. I also frequented Nick’s house and our future producer Kyle Langley’s house to work on new material and receive music theory and technique lessons regularly and within the next couple of months the skeletons of our first album Medieval Holocaust had been written.
Our search for a bass player had been even more futile than we had first thought, and by the middle of the summer we were starting to think our first shows would be played without one. By now our songs were starting to sound more refined and we were preparing to finally enter the studio. Thinking of band names posed a problem as well. Everything that had sounded good was taken and we were actually thinking about naming the band Novgorod. Never the less we strived to better ourselves. Nick’s guitar playing was a good as ever, Steve’s blast beats were becoming more consistent, and I was getting better at writing leads. My vocals finally started to shape up too. Months upon months of training seemed to have gotten me nowhere, but slowly I began to progress. The slow climb towards becoming a good metal vocalist still bothers me today. I didn’t want to be a singer but I was positive no one around us could sing and maintain any sort of dedication towards constant improvement.
Before we knew it fall was approaching. Without a bass player and without a band name we entered the studio. Kyle Langley was easy to work with. He pushed us harder than ever, and in the end, most of our transitions toward better musicianship are directly due to him. Nothing was sugar coated. If something sounded bad it was deleted. Hour after hour after we tracked 12 to 14 hours at a time were regular for a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was at times a bit of a work overload but the challenge was paying off. Every weekend was a studio weekend and during the work week I was finally able to work with a bass player.
Spud had come to us months ago and told us he would play bass for us. This would have been a no brainer but Spud didn’t play bass much. He had several instruments and played all of them a little but wasn’t well versed in any of them, the bass being no exception. Steve and I had told him then that we would think about it but actually continued to look elsewhere. When months and months went by with no bass player in sight we brought Spud in. I thought he would surely quit within a week or so. The demand to get more out of each other pushed us to get better both individually and as a whole, bass would be no exception.
A couple of weeks turned into a couple of months. Although I played Bass on the album Medieval Holocaust Spud was practicing his ass off, working out the bass lines I had wrote, and eventually adding some flare to them. We were driving this project as fast as it would go and before long tracking was finally done, Spud had learned nearly our entire set, and in January of 2016 we were almost ready to book a show.
Before booking a show we needed to solidify a name, we had narrowed it down between a few but Pestilent seemed to stick. A google search, at the time didn’t return any bands already named Pestilent so we solidified the name and immediately began ordering merch. 5 types of T-shirts, band stickers, business cards, band patches and buttons. While this was happening my weekends were still occupied at the studio where Kyle and I had begun mixing and mastering. Long hours were spent picking guitar tones, bass tones, and trigger samples. Weekend by weekend my excitement grew. This album was sounding better than anything I’ve ever heard from a local band. February came and went and the last details of this project were taking longer to fine tune than expected. I had received album art from an awesome artist named Rudi Yanto, and the mix was finally in its last stages of mastering but we still hadn’t locked down a show. No one would respond to our booking inquiries.
The end of February finally turned a new leaf. We had gotten our first show with a stacked line up in Bay City. A newer tech death band The Dunwich Horror would open, we would be 2nd on the bill, followed by the awesome melodic death metal band Legend Scroll, and finally a local legend of sorts Hokori would finish the night off. Meanwhile Spud was doing well on Bass. Months and months of hour, after hour, of practice had finally paid off. Three sometimes four times a week we would meet at my place just Spud and I. Metronome in hand we sifted through points of weakness, weeding out the worst in our playing. Another 2 times during the work week Steve, Spud, and I would get together and when the weekends came Nick would join. Sonically we sounded awesome both Nick and I played extremely tight together. Spud could hold his own and Steve consistently improved his foot work and ability to play closely with a metronome. I finally felt ready for a show and May 7th would be a chance to prove ourselves.
At this point in time we hadn’t told anyone outside of a small group of friends that we were putting together a band. Pestilent Age felt strongly that we should only announce our musical presence once we had a professional album and merch up. One Regret with my former band Execrate is that we didn’t have a demo to pass out for a year so. During that time we played 1 to 2 shows every weekend. Those shows weren’t by any means a waste of time but to this day I still feel bad about not giving those fans something to listen to or wear once they went home, provided this chance to start anew I would learn from my mistakes.
Fast forward to April 1st and Kyle and I were finally sitting in the studio. The day began to turn into night and the two of us hadn’t moved from the studio chairs set in front of the computer. Hard at work, the smallest changes in eq and limiters were being made. The day turned into night and by 2 or 3 that following morning we exported the final mix. Tired and exhausted we uploaded our album to our website and I began launching our social media pages. We were finally an official band! The album was done but the work was just beginning.