Nailed the audition

alparrott

Platinum Member
Now that it's done, happy to share the latest with you.

I just moved to this small central Washington state town last month for good, after being gone for oh so many years in the military. Even before seriously thinking about getting a job, I was set and determined to find a band or two or three and work on areas that I had long neglected in my playing... such as Latin/Afro-Cuban, serious jazz, etc. Seattle is just over the mountains and I'm looking forward to taking some classes at the Bennett studio next summer.

This is a pretty small town with a definite blue-collar tone to it. As you can imagine, that means acts playing originals are in short supply. Most bands around here play covers to make their cash, and even they are seeing their profits shrink away due to DJs and karaoke DJs undercutting band prices. In other words, why pay $400 a night for a band when this one DJ will do it for $150? Simple math, but not so great for bands.

In any case, I just hit the ground running. Started making friends at the local hangouts, meeting people, even Craigslisted. Yes, I know, that dirty word. And of course I got several emails from local cover bands, and I sat in with a couple. But one of the respondents to my ad was a sometimes guitarist for one of the most prominent singer/songwriters in the area. His old drummer had quit and started up a coffeeshop, and he'd been scaling back his gigs and using a rotating roster of fill-ins, which he wasn't happiest with.

I did a little research on the artist and listened to every song I could find of his online or on YouTube. His music basically drew from every genre of popular music, plus a healthy Latin influence (he is Hispanic and the town has a large Hispanic population, to the point where most jobs prefer bilingualism). His signature song, in fact, was an adaptation of a Mexican cumbia, written in memory of a passed loved one.

The guitarist mentioned to me that one of the biggest problems with other drummers who had tried out for the act was that they could not get Latin rhythms. This concerned me a bit, since I had never consciously sat down to figure out any of these patterns, but I had a secret weapon: My wife, who is Mexican and therefore has exposed me to a wide array of Mexican music. So already I knew the different styles... and how they felt... I needed to learn to PLAY them, and fast! I had one week to prepare.

I met with the artist, got the CDs, and did a crash course on the seven songs he had picked for me to audition - one of which was the cumbia, another one being a playful quasi-clave with triplet feel on the hi-hat, and then a smattering of rock, rockabilly, and jazzier selections. A bit of research on specific stickings and sounds, and it was off to the woodshed. (This is where not having a job came in handy. I was able to practice literally for eight hours a day for the whole week!)

Last night we met at a local studio - the artist, his current guitarist, and the bassist (who also owns the studio, largest one in the area - another good contact). We all crowded around my drums in a sound room about the size of a kid's bedroom. At first I was underplaying a bit, so not to blow their ears out. They grinned, put in some earplugs, and the singer said, "Put away those tiny jazz sticks and pull out your baseball bats. I think you're holding back on us."

From then on, my friends, it was gold. Or whatever gold wishes it could be if it were really valuable. You know the audition is going well when the lead singer starts rocking out as you play the song. The bassist and I locked up, I caught all the cues from the CD plus the eyes and shapes they threw me for the re-arrangements they'd thrown in since the CD, and then we went exploring on a jam groove.

The singer turned to the other guys and said, "Okay, next show is the 11th, the acoustic coffeehouse thing." The bassist had already indicated he couldn't make it, so it would be the singer with his guitar and the other guitarist. He looked at me. "Can you do something on a tiny coffeehouse stage without your drums?" I pulled Page One from Bermuda's playbook and said I would be there with a pair of egg shakers, a cardboard box and some brushes. I knew he was going to debut a couple of songs he'd been working on and was relishing the idea of learning them in a no-risk, relaxed format like that.

He says, "Why wait? Here's one of them - -" and we launch into a bruising, brooding rocker of a song. No drummer has played this song yet....

"The next one is a ska song, but not Orange County pop ska, it's real Mexicali ska." I grinned and said, "All right, here we go!" The last song of the night was a blistering ska beat that would have had No Doubt or Rancid crying for mercy.

He looks at me and says.... "great. You free for that gig? And we've got another one ..."

What a rush! And keep in mind it's just over a month after getting here, and I have apparently snapped up a great gig. I am truly, truly blessed.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Al, I especially like the prep you put in, & the lucky break with your exposure to latin rhythms. Sounds like you got a great vibe going. Congratulations, & the best of luck with your project. Thanks for sharing your good news. Always great to hear of happy stuff in these grumpy times!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Nice job Al. This is what you envisioned. You must let us all know how the gigs went, what the crowd was like, and all the other juicy details.
 

jimtyler

Senior Member
With your obvious desire and serious work ethic, they were lucky to have found you!
You did all the right things connection wise, but then locked in by proving your value. Good lesson here for anyone starting out!
 

NC68

Senior Member
Congrats on your audition. What's the old saying? Something like: "Luck is when hard work meets opportunity."
 

Frost

Silver Member
It was very insightful, and quite well written, of the kind of hard work and constant learning that comes with trying to make it without pre-established contacts.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Thanks much, everyone. I spent all day on a sugar high, and am eagerly awaiting the setlist. I'm looking forward to shearing what comes of this opportunity.
 

braincramp

Gold Member
Congrats!! and good luck sounds like it could not of worked out much better for you...nothing like a happy drummer!
 

iwantmemoney

Senior Member
thanks and well-written, yes. useful, good stuff. very cool for getting hired, esp. with the impromptu throw-down. are you gonna tell everyone who it is so we can youtube him, both before and hopefully after your presence?
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Once I get the first few shows out of the way and establish myself in his band, absolutely. As of right now I'm hesitant to go promoting myself as his "new drummer" until he makes the announcement himself. We'll get some YouTube up soon I'm sure, he has his own channel.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Well, it looks like that announcement will be ... tomorrow, after we make a phone call. But the gig on Saturday has been stepped up to a full band with me bringing a kit. And just to make this interesting, we'll be playing six of the seven songs we did at the audition, three other songs from the CDs (which I have to go learn), we're covering "La Bamba" (forget Los Lobos, this could go *any* direction), and then three new songs which I do NOT have on CD. No pressure, right?! But here's an excerpt from the email:

"Give me a call sometime tomorrow and let's talk about your audition and suggestions we have for the next practices, etc. Which is to say, you passed Step 1 with flying colors."

Sooooo... in any case, if there's still any interest and I'm not just turning this thread into a LiveJournal page, shall I keep letting you guys know what goes on with this...?
 

JT1

Silver Member
Very entertaining read Al, all I can say is nice one and very well done it must feel great!
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
As so often happens, the drummer's house may become this band's Batcave. Our rehearsal for the Saturday gig will be here in my house this afternoon. (My long-suffering wife is already planning a shopping trip...)

Since I had been listening to all the songs on both CDs, picking up the extra three songs added from the artist's repertoire was no biggie. Finding the songs we are covering also was no issue (how did musicians survive before the age of easily downloadable mp3s?) and there was nothing scary there. So I hope to have some positive feedback within the next few weeks.

The singer is treating Saturday's gig like the "final exam" for my audition, so once he's happy and officially blesses off on me being the "new drummer", I'll share links , name names, start posting video, etc.
 
Top