(image: Reuxben)

October 28, 2014
by Tony Thaxton

Before I say anything, let me be clear: I don’t want this to come across like I’m whining. This is simply a firsthand account of what it can like to be in a band when you aren’t the singer.

Playing in a band is full of highs and lows. It can be great for an ego boost. Just about everyone you meet is fascinated by the fact that you play in a band for a living. They have a ton of questions for you. They want to know where you have been and what you’ve done. Sometimes, people end up wanting your signature or their picture with you, even if they haven’t even heard of you. I’ll never understand that, but it happened plenty of times over the years.

But there’s also the reality checks. Maybe you’re lucky enough to play sold out shows every night, but the common public has no clue who you are. Sometimes you can play a sold out show, and even your fans don’t actually know who you are. Unless you’re the singer. Look, I get it. The singer is kind of like the quarterback of the band. Am I allowed to use sports analogies or did I just lose 90 percent of you? My point is, generally, all eyes are on the singer. I’m sure that’s a lot of overwhelming pressure, or great for the ego, depending on the singer. I’ve seen both sides. And no, I won’t name names.

I tried to always be grateful and take time to say hello to any fans that wanted to say hello. If they didn’t want to, that’s totally fine. But sometimes, they actually just had no idea that I was just onstage for the last hour. I would walk right past them, head over to our merch table, just in case someone wanted to say hello. Often I’d just stand there alone, feeling a little silly. Once the singer comes out, everyone flocks to them. It definitely keeps your ego in check. I get it. The drummer is in the back, often being blocked by the other band members. And that’s fine. It really is. If anything, sometimes it’s nice. Maybe you’re not in a great mood. Maybe you get social anxiety. Both of those happened to me quite a bit, so sometimes being able to just stroll past everyone and carry about my business was not anything to complain about. I can’t tell you how many times I was handed a camera and asked to take someone’s photo with our singer. It always just made me laugh.

Once, in our earlier days on the Warped Tour, I watched the merch table for a bit so our merch girl could go to lunch. A girl came up and starts looking at our merch and says, “I love these guys!."  I thanked her.  She looked at me and said, "You’re not in the band!” I told her I was, and she didn’t believe me. She actually argued with me about it. I don’t even remember how or if I actually convinced her, but it was pretty hilarious being told you aren’t in the band. Especially by a fan of your band. I think it’s commonplace, especially for drummers.

There are always exceptions.  Occasionally, someone other than the singer becomes “the voice” of the band.  I’ve always found that kind of fascinating. Guys like Lars Ulrich and Pete Wentz seem to get more attention than their singers. Is that an orchestrated move by the band? Is it an organic thing that just happens in time with some bands? Some singers don’t actually want the spotlight, I suppose.

If you’re getting into the business simply to be recognized, you’re not doing it for the right reasons. You need to love doing it, and let it unfold however it’s going to unfold. Don’t get upset if people don’t know who you are. Appreciate the ones who appreciate you and even the ones who have no idea that you were onstage. They still came to see you, even if they didn’t realize it.