Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The moral of 2011 for bands, acts and musicians: it takes time

If new bands and acts are to take one lesson from 2011, it’s should be the one about time and patience. I know, it’s a strange moral to take from a year when it seemed, yet again, as if accelerated …

Tue, Dec 13, 2011, 09:24


If new bands and acts are to take one lesson from 2011, it’s should be the one about time and patience. I know, it’s a strange moral to take from a year when it seemed, yet again, as if accelerated culture was all that mattered. In a world of Twitter and internet memes, instant gratification and low attention spans and going from zeroes to heroes to zeroes again in a few months, it seems weird to be putting time and patience in the frame.

But as this year went on, it seemed to me that the art of creating music with bite and substance was something which was well worth spending time on and taking time over. The alternatives are rarely palatable or sustainable. Think about it. Does the world really need another eager new band to emerge with songs which were semi-formed or tunes which were more ideas and textures rather than something to really hang your hat on? Are we really going to think well of acts doing in public what they should have done in private? Are we going to continue to have to tut and sigh over acts who come on strong with one or two decent tunes, but who don’t have anything else to offer when you go to see them live for the first time? Do paying punters really have to subsidise you as you try to decide if you need three or six players in your band?

The problem for many acts is that they think if they don’t strike now that they’re damned forever. My in-box overflows with bands hawking their wares, trying to get mentions and previews for upcoming gigs or online releases. There’s a pang of desperation to many of these missives, especially acts who emerged six months ago who feel that they’re now overlooked as another batch of bright new things enjoy some profile.

Of course, there are some of you who will be going “pot kettle black” at this stage. At On the Record, we champion new music every single week of the year. We tell you about new acts and we highlight new tunes. But it’s not our job to ensure these bands are ready for the floor and going to be around for years. Our new music spots are about spotting potential and it’s up to the act who do the rest. We’re not their parents, you know. We’re also not the A&R department of their record label, an expertise which is sorely missed when it comes to developing and building an act.

But it is well worth taking the time to get things right, as a couple of examples from 2011 show. At Hard Working Class Heroes 2009, we saw We Cut Corners for the first time. Between then and 2011, the band never registered on our radars. Sure, they were around and doing stuff, but it was on the downlow and any noise was exerted on rehearsals and songwriting rather than hussling hacks to write about them. When they played at HWCH 2011, they were a totally different band and, as their fantastic debut album “Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards” shows, they’ve squared the songwriting and songcraft circle over the last two years. They’re a band you could see still in the game five or ten years from now, which is a goal most acts want to achieve.

Another example is James Vincent McMorrow. As he explained in a Ticket cover story in October, he spent four or five years working away on songs and techniques in a room at home before he ever went near a recording studio. He spent a year in London where he found out that he wasn’t ready to engage with the industry, before finding his mojo in a house by the sea in Co Louth. He released “Early In the Morning” in February 2010 and it’s an album which is still finding its legs nearly two years (indeed, McMorrow will spend the second anniversary of the album’s release on another UK tour). Further proof that it takes time.

Finally, there’s The Black Keys, a band enjoying the best press and sales of their career on the back of new album “El Camino”. But as you see again and again in interviews with them (like this one), such success didn’t happen overnight. I remember seeing the band at SXSW in 2003, a year after they formed, and being wowed by their sound. Eight years and many albums on, they’ve found their feet and the rest of the world has caught up with them. That they did so in public and over the course of putting a deep catalogue together is down to the ability to gig again and again across America, an asset which Irish acts sorely lack due to geographical limitations.

All three of the above show the virtues and values of taking time. Sure, they may have wondered down through the years if the work and patience would ever pay off – and hindsight is a wonderful thing – but it’s obvious what the acts have gained from actually having a developmental arch. No need to throw out a new track every other week. No need to do anything until you were ready to do it and happy with what you had. No need to rush into anything just because you thought there was a demand for it. Memo to all: the world is not impatiently waiting for your new EP or album. Take the time to get the basics right and everything else flows from there.