Unless you’re one of a lucky few, performing in an independent band this century likely requires working a day job to support your passion. STUMPS are a four-piece indie rock band from Sydney, doing exactly that. Bassist Merrick Powell explains why it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
We are in the inevitable situation that many early-career musicians face. We are an independent band and, as such, must fund our artistic endeavours and give our ideas a certain level of justice. This is a long-winded way of saying we all work full-time, or thereabouts.
This can incite many arm wrestles with bosses: getting time off work to play shows, trying to explain why I need to take a phone call in the middle of a lunch rush at a cafe, or whatever it may be (City Calm Down address this general notion beautifully in their track “Blood”). Rather than being bogged down or maimed by this reality however, we have found that it can serve a series of positives for the band as a whole, as well as our individual artistry and relative sanity.
The old adage goes “if you want something done, you should ask someone who’s busy,” and whilst it does not quite apply here in its truest form, working outside of music can have some great benefits.
Something inherent to STUMPS is life through Kyle’s gaze: our lyrics are often an assessment of a certain situation Kyle has been in. Work can be a great means of hearing those tidbits, triggering some further thoughts and ideas that can help inform his lyrical procedure. Especially as most of us work in hospitality, which is a great way to get a cross-section of society and opinions of all sorts.
There is nothing like making 350 large-cappucinos-with-two to reignite the fire…
Having a “day job”, whatever that may entail, can be a great relief from the symptoms of creative burnout. Various times we have been writing, recording, or practicing and started to notice that our performance and enthusiasm was beginning to deteriorate. There is nothing like making 350 large-cappucinos-with-two to reignite the fire and make you realise that the studio or prac room is where you want to be.
As the nature of our jobs are, for the most part, repetitive and rely predominantly on muscle memory, work can actually serve as a time to reflect on what we have created, how we have performed or whatever our most recent team effort was. If we were a sporting team, work almost acts as our video session, whereby we can ponder what we like, what to improve or what else to experiment with before the next session. This also doesn’t have to specifically pertain to paid work, all of these positives can arise just from life getting in the way. For example, I was trying to move house the week we were tracking our new single “Your Old Man” and that time to think helped me come at the process with fresh ears every time I re-entered the studio.
Whilst the dream is to put down the milk jug and turn our music into a full-time career for all of us, it is a reality in our industry that a job on top of STUMPS may be necessary for some time to come. However, I do believe there is some merit in the mundane and hopefully I can remember this next time my alarm goes off at 5:45am on a Friday morning.