Latest ‘struggling muso’ flick and why you should join a band

What is it about the struggling muso (star wannabe) and comedy? Is it about watching people with delusions of stardom?  Is the comic affect gained just from the concept of delusion -people kidding themselves about being something they’re not? Is it the ability as viewers to watch people aspiring for the almost impossible safely from our sofas? Or is it we just find ‘losers’ comic?


I’ve just come across another film which I’m labeling a ‘struggling muso’ film. This is the third I’ve seen in the last few years that’s not only well done but also Australian. (The previous film which I blogged about is ‘Bigger than Tina’, and the first film which I saw before this blog is ‘Garage Days’, which hit closest to home for me.)


So this latest film is called ‘Thunderstruck’, and as well as being about four wannabe rock-gods, it’s also largely themed around tribute to one of Australia’s greatest bands: ACDC. I don’t need to give it much of a plug because I think it has received rave reviews in the Australian media, but I’ll share how it’s impacted me:


The movie portrayed the relationships of the band as far more important than the music of the band, which goes without saying because the theme of the film really was about loyalty to each other (without giving too much of the plot away). But that’s part of rock culture and forming a band. And it goes deeper into the Australian rock culture -there’s a camaraderie about being in a band, and every musician is important! It’s a team effort.


The movie also plays on a sub-theme: the girlfriend. The main songwriter has a girlfriend who wants to be a star and wants him to support her career over the band’s (and it’s implied in the film that this is why the band broke up). Similar to ‘Bigger than Tina’, solo pop-artists are egotistical, self-absorbed and vane. The culture of being in a band counters this -no one is more important than the other, and rather than showing loyalty only to one’s self, there’s loyalty to the band -a bonding of brothers.


And there’s an element of truth to this. There’s something about being in a band, where potentially, the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Could Bono have done it without U2? Could Robert plan have done it without Led Zeppelin? Could Paul McCartney or John Lennon have done it without you-know-who?


Another thing about being in a band versus a solo artist is it provides a sort of psychological barrier against the pitfalls of fame (should the band hit stardom). As they say, it’s lonely at the top. Far better to do it as a team, something you can share.


Consider the top solo artists in the pop world and how the enormous pressure of being a star has impacted them, like Michael Jackson and Britney Spears. Sure, there are others who seem to have the fortitude of character to stand the pressure of fame like Madonna or Prince or Beyonce (but Beyonce came to fame in a group) -but you have to be strong and vanity will still be a factor in your character.


Being in a band can remind you of your humanity. If the band splits, you’re suddenly a mere mortal. You have to acknowledge that your value to culture is attached to the band you made fame in. No matter how many more great songs Paul McCartney writes, the most important aspect of his career will be the fact that he was part of the Beatles.


Being in a band forces you to put your ego in check, to compromise and to respect your fellow band members. There’s another movie I haven’t mentioned because it’s a documentary and it’s not about struggling musos, but successful musos. Two bands: The Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. Can’t remember what it’s called, but the moral of the doco was (no matter how accurate it’s portrayal of the two bands was) learning to work with other musicians is paramount to being in a successful band.


Things that don’t lend well to success in a band: selfishness, immaturity, delusional thinking, artistic ego, poor listening and communication skills, being a dictator, laziness and general emotional instability. On the positive, a willingness to compromise, to do one’s part, to communicate well with both listening and conveying your own position with tact and clarity and conflict resolving skills are important.


There’s one scene in Thunderstruck where two members are at each others’ throats, and it took a third member to intervene and tell them both what they need to do to resolve the conflict. It was drama and comedy, but isn’t that a reflection of life?


Apparently a key to success in making the film was the preparation and practice that the actors put in before filming started. This allowed them to build a rapport with each other and a chemistry that was evident in the film and made it great to watch. But chemistry is an important factor musically for bands -not only must they learn to work together well, they must have that chemistry and musical rapport that the audience can appreciate.


%d bloggers like this: