It feels weird to be at the practice space (Cock’s Lodge) on a Sunday afternoon. Wrong, even. The sun is bouncing off the pavement and big, fluffy clouds streak the sky. Driving to the industrial park where the warehouse is located is freakishly scenic. The van barrels down Buckley Road, passing fresh green hills and wildflowers. It's like a tampon commercial up in this mug.
Usually, I’m here on Wednesday nights for Magazine Dirty practice, and everything is dark, slick, and mysterious-feeling. As we walk into the familiar space, I’m comforted by the darkness and stale smell.
You can’t tell if it’s day or night in here, and I like that. No windows, just four walls and my trusty gear, stacked up against the wall, strings no doubt rusting over from my super sweaty hands and my neglect after the last few shows.
One day, I will remember to wipe down those strings. Ok, no. I probably won’t. There are always way too many people to talk to and feelings surging toward me when I’m lugging my gear off stage…I’ve never once thought about how gross my guitar will be at the next band practice (blood—not my own, has lived on my guitar for weeks on end). The “next practice” always feels like its millennia away, somehow.
And yet, here we are, for Hayley and the Crusher’s Second Practice Ever.
Reid is pulling out a bass guitar, which also feels weird, a little naughty. He’s supposed to play rhythm guitar—or at least, that’s his role in Magazine Dirty. But here he is, pulling out a red Squire bass, thumping the strings like a seasoned pro and fuzzing it out so hard that the inside of my ears tickle. It’s almost unbearably fuzzy. Perfect.
Ryan is bringing in drum gear (setting up drums is awkward, like piecing together dismembered body parts). Having him here is thrilling and a little scary, too. I’ve only played one practice with Ryan, and I instinctually liked him. He’s the kind of person who only says what he thinks will add to the conversation. He’s thoughtful and doesn’t find my spazziness annoying (or at least he hides it well). When I ask him for a little more “bom bom rickity-tat,” he just nods knowingly.
“I don’t speak drummer,” I keep offering. “Sorry!”
He totally understands, and I feel forever grateful.
Practice Number Two commences without much talk. Ryan has already heard the songs Reid and I have demoed out over the last few weeks, and—much to my shock—he has actually listened to them. He knows the breaks, the changes, and where to put the fills. God bless him!
We kick into “Caught in the Vices.” It’s a raw, moody ditty Reid originally penned for Magazine Dirty, but it never caught on with our band. Not because our singer couldn't or wouldn't do it--I think he would have made the song awesome. It just didn't exactly fit with the Mag Dirty style.
"Vices" is slow and menacing and the chorus is a sustained moan, “Caught in the vices.” Ryan moves to a primal beat which instantly reminds me of X’s “The Unheard Music,” when Exene and John Doe are crooning, “No hardcore on the car radiooooo.”
This time, I want Ryan to sing the chorus. I’ve never heard him sing before in my life, so his voice startles me. This quiet, well-mannered architectural design guy is suddenly growling: “CAUGHT IN THE VICES” like a bad ass whilst keeping a steady, rock-solid beat.
It almost throws me off my game. I wobble into the verse while fingering a repetitive lick. My heart is open and my mind is clear. All that exists now is this song, as imperfect and shambled together as it may be at the moment. Being a front-woman means you can’t worry about looking cool. I know that I certainly don't. There’s way too much work to be done. Got to steer the ship (even if I find myself laughing with joy at the sheer amazingness of hearing this gentle, bearded drummer sing with such gravel and conviction).
We move into a new song I've written for my new band: "Jaywalkin'"
"YELLOW LIGHT GREEN LIGHT RED LIGHT!/ I DON'T KNOW / LET'S GO DOWN TO THE CIRCLE K, AND GRAB A PACK OF HO-HOs! GRAB A PACK OF HO HOOOOOs!" I yell. I like to say "ho-hos" the Ramones would say, "Let's go!"
Like everything in life, content is nothing without DELIVERY! I learned that one as front woman/guitar player of the short-lived, all-female all-sparkly Gal Fridays. For about a year, the trio met nearly once a week in the bedroom/creative space/freelance writing office Reid and I share.
The Gal's 20 minute set may have been imperfect, but it was powerful and from the heart. I was proud of that set, although I knew it could not carry us where we wanted to go (on tour)—and, as I came to realize later—the band would be crushed under the weight of my own heavy expectations. However, the loss of that side project taught me some stuff…stuff that I will use at every show going forward from here on out.
1) How to pack, unpack, and set up a PA without the help of my detail-oriented husband and/or strong bicep-ed male bandmates. Sucked at first, but then it became a source of pride.
2) How to play guitar, sing and “try to keep the crowd interested” by moving around as much as possible. How to not squirm under the pressure, but take it head-on and maybe even enjoy it a bit. I think I’ve honed a few cool new dance moves, too.
3) How not to let high expectations crush you. To truly believe that every show is progress, and every practice, a feat (true for every band, no matter how big or well-oiled).
4) How to speak my truth. How to move on. How to let go. How to have hope that you’ll find other humans to play with, when the time is right. How to believe in that.
5) DO THINGS THAT SCARE YOU. Do them until they aren't scary anymore. Rinse and repeat.
Every time a project blows up, falters, or disintegrates (and there have been a few), Reid has always reminded me: There are many fish in the sea! That there’s a million bands and a million chances and a million shitty clubs to play in this life. He always brings me back to hope.
As humans, we are designed to think in terms of scarcity (BUT THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY BERRIES IN THE WOODS!!! HOW WILL WE SURVIVE?!), but, if you really look around, there is so much bounty it's mind-boggling. There are so many new connections to make if you are willing to “put yourself out there.” That’s what it’s all hinging on. Are you willing to take a chance?
It took me a few years, but now I know where I stand. I will gladly choose to be uncomfortable or freaked out in the moment for a shot at glory in the end. That has been my mantra for a while now, and the thought that popped into my head the day Reid brought up the idea of me taking on another side project—but this time, with him.
"But I'm already in a million bands with you!" I yelled.
I honestly think he was waiting for the time that he could try out his new bass skills (who knew he had it in him?!!) This is what Reid said, out of the blue: “I’ll be in your band. We’ll call it Hayley and the Crushers. Like, you crush people, but you’re also crushing on someone. Get it?”
If I hadn't already married him, I would have done it all over again. For Christmas, he bought me studio time at Certain Sparks studios, just the nudge I needed to revive and dust off the part of me that wants to lead my own band. He will no doubt complain that I mentioned him "too much" in this blog post.
I can't help it if I want to be both a domestic goddess and a rockstar. A crazy chicken lady and a defiant rock, mucking up "the gears of the system." I want to have a professional freelance writing career and to scream "GO APE" at the top of my lungs, thrashing and writhing like Madonna in her wedding dress.
I used to be scared that “my voice” would be lost if I somehow agreed with Reid’s musical suggestions, which always seem too easy and too simple (why hadn't I thought of that first??). But... that's the beauty of his youthful, overflowing DIY spirit. If it can be done, it WILL, by God.
We do not fight about many things, but artistic choices become a bloody brawl in an instant. How has this fierceness served me in my life thus far? Not well, I tell you.
For the millionth time, I decided to let me guard down. I agreed, and off we went, recording demos, thinking up funny costumes to wear on stage (Luche Liebre masks?) and looking for a drummer.
Ask and you shall receive.
Blondie said that, right?