Well, we have good news and we have bad news:
If you are in a band, at some point you will have to have a press photo, whether you like it or not. The good news is that it will all be over soon. [Maybe]. The bad news is that it still sucks and you’ll feel rather dirty & ashamed for a while. So…yeah. Take as long as you need to get comfortable with that.
Depending on your particular band, your style, your philosophy, your audience, and whatever other aesthetic guidelines you have placed on yourself (or have allowed to be placed on you), this may or may not be the start of a long & tumultuous personal debate that often spills over into using actual words to talk to other people about this very personal yet collective aspect of bandom. Essentially: how much am I willing to feel and act like a total knob in order to not look like one?
There are exceptions to this. In fact, there are heaps of them. For starters, if you play a genre of music that is not afraid to take itself seriously, then congratulations: you can win this game without fretting over your vanity, your ethics, your principles, or any other inane aspect of your precious & fragile artistic ego. Metal bands? Ace! You win hands down. You’re SUPPOSED to wear black and look straight into the camera with a scowl. Pop Princess? Winner-winner-chicken-dinner! Spending 2 1/2 hours in makeup and prancing around on a set making fish lips is exactly what you’ve been training your whole life for. Happy-go-lucky-acoustic-storyteller? Go on, wear those floral suspenders and have 3 puppies in your lap! Crack a smile! You’ve earned it!
In a band such as Royal Chant, getting a picture taken has, so far, ranked as one of the most impossible and unpleasant experiences we’ve yet had to face. Essentially, if we’re one of those “ego-less” bands (HA!), then how does one go about getting a photo taken, much less contemplating or talking about the idea? It’s sort of supposed to be anathema to our very existence, but that still doesn’t change the fact that YOU STILL HAVE TO GET IT DONE.
So….we mostly just have shit photos. Seriously. And the best/worst part is: the shittiest ones seem to circulate the longest. If you don’t bother updating and sending out regular new photos with every press release, then the press/the media/some blogger is just going to google your band and find the first one that comes up, which, as luck would have it, happens to make you look like a bloody hayseed wearing ill-chosen, ill-fitting t-shirts.
Want to know what our conversation turns to when we’re in the van or hanging at the airport?
No? Well too bad, I’m going to tell you anyways.
On more than occasion we have wished that we were a heavy rock act or metal band, coz at least then any questions about fashion, countenance, and attitude would be immediately solved by the very nature of the genre, but noooooo….we have to try and become artistically “transparent”, which I guess means trying to look at the camera without looking at it, or maybe we’re supposed to look away without looking like we’re trying to pose for a Daniel Steele cover, or maybe WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL WE’RE SUPPOSED TO DO WITH OUR HANDS. It fucking sucks.
I think deep down, we just want to look OK. Asking to look cool is way, way, way out of our league. What you really need is someone who can look at you, understand you, and then tell you to do exactly what is needed in order to best visually represent yourself and your music to the wider world. So yeah, that means taking yourself seriously and acting consciously for at least a little while, but at least you have someone holding your hand through and essentially whispering, “It’s OK, this will all be over soon.” If you ever have that opportunity: take it.
Artists are often as guilty of undervaluing or underestimating other art forms just as much as the general public. Lord knows I’ve been guilty of being visually ignorant, just as much as I’ve seen visual artists be completely clueless as to what is involved with writing or recording music. It’s cool, it happens, but where musicians get into trouble is when we think that getting a decent press shot is just going to happen to happen by accident. The word “just” should be banished from that conversation, because if you want a good press photo you actually have to dedicate yourself to that very purpose, which means you have to….[gulp]…care. About what you look like. About how you will be perceived. Just. Bloody. Care.
Is it any wonder we’re stuck with normally shyte photos? At the very beginning of Royal Chant, we paid a photographer friend $60 and actually lucked out with some decent ones, but ever since then we’ve pretty consistently hit the toilet bowl when it comes to photos. Bad lighting is often the culprit, but on a few occasions there’s been so much tension in the air that the photographer was afraid to say anything. Sometimes we get really really really close, but we either need just a little direction, (coz we’re not photogenic in any way), or else we quit right as we were getting into the groove. We are our own worst enemy.
We did mange to wind up with a decent crop earlier this year when it was still just James & I all by our lonesome, thanks to the kind & patient hand of Kate Farquharson….
It wasn’t until we were faced with the prospect of taking new photos that I really began to appreciate the photos she took (or maybe I was just too smitten with the Designer Mutts photos she snapped in the same session)….
[As an aside: those Designer Mutts photos were easy as guts, because it's a joke, and joking around in costumes is easy. Maybe we should just wear them all the time and be done with it.]
In any case, last week we had to get a new photo done, because now we have Ryan in the band and people get confused when the band photo doesn’t match what they see on stage. So once again….we were in the same situation as we always were. Three guys, awkwardly standing in front of a camera, with things unraveling fast. Now this is what we have to live with until we start all over again.
In case you haven’t heard, our new album is out now, so if you’re feeling like a modern consumer you can head over to iTunes and pick up a copy. Technically it is a double EP consisting of Small Town Bruises / A Day At The Wauchope Races, but in this digital age the concept of a double EP is hard to convey so they wound up being separate beings.
You can also head over to our bandcamp site and get it that way, like all the young kids these days. Pay what you like, or else you can put in an order for a hardcopy which we will then lovingly send your way courtesy of Australia Post.
It’s starting to get a bit of airplay around Australia, so if you’re ambitious & drunk you can always ring up any random radio station and yell your request into the phone. Then, after they say “Wait….what?!?!?”, you can politely explain that you’d like to hear our latest. A few reviews are coming in as well, one good, one shit, plus I sat down with Mess + Noise for a fun interview where I was clearly out of my depth but did my best to fake my way through it. You know, all the usual jazz….
That’s all from here. Holler back and let us know what’s going on in your world.