This week’s post centres around what happens when one or more band members decide to book a holiday, injure themselves in a drunken incident or get an opportunity to perform a more prestigious gig. Like any line of work, these things happen and people become unavailable. That’s life. However, we hope to give some reassurance to wedding couples who might be wondering what happens if a member of their wedding band gets injured the day before their wedding. As well as this, we have some advice for musicians who are looking to do some free-lance work with wedding/ cover bands.
Having studied modern music for four years, 4Till6 are very fortunate to have a pool of incredibly talented musicians to choose from when we require a stand in or ‘dep’ to use the musician lingo. It is for this reason that we are confident our show will go off without a hitch, regardless of what may issues may arise with individual band members. However, we understand the worry this can cause for a bride or groom. Couples painstakingly sift through hundreds of wedding bands to finally pick one that they can both agree on that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Just an arm… it is a wedding after all! As the future bride or groom, you have probably journeyed to see the band at one of their showcase gigs and have even brought along your parents and some of the bridal party to get second, third and even fourth opinions. The decision is unanimous, you all love the band so you pay the deposit to secure the band of your dreams for your special day. Now fast forward approximately 18 months, to your first dance. Out of the corner of your eye you notice that the band you booked doesn’t quite match the band you see in-front of you… DISASTER! Not only is this the worst case scenario for you, this is also the worst case scenario for the band. Nothing scares a wedding band more than the thought of a dismayed bride. Thankfully though, this very rarely happens to any reputable band. Let’s delve into why.
First, we will step back to approximately four weeks from our imaginary couple’s big day and have a look from the perspective of the band. As the manager of a wedding band, this is generally about the time that I will start preparing the band for an upcoming function. I will meet with or phone the bride or groom to discuss song choices (*See our previous blog on First Dances) and other small details such as what time they would like the band to start, if their D.J is booked through us as part of one of our packages, etc. We will discuss a start time and some song choices for the D.J as well. There really isn’t much thought that needs to go into the band once you have picked one as it’s very straight forward. At this stage I will look at our band calendar and sometimes (rarely) one member of the band will be unavailable. Again, this doesn’t happen very often with weddings. We all like to be around for weddings as our pay is a good deal better than our public shows and they are great fun to play at. Nonetheless, it does happen from time to time. Thankfully for us, we have never had to permanently replace a member of our band; we have only ever had to cover short absences. We’re still the same six cheery faces that started out on this journey of musical exploration back in 2015. Anyway, at this stage I will now frantically go through my list of contacts and secure a replacement musician for the night. I generally have 3-4 trusted replacements for each instrument in the band, so it is easy enough to find someone who is available. I will send them the set-list with plenty of notice and they will have everything learned for the day. Rehearsals will take place prior to the gig to make sure everything runs smoothly. To give an idea of how this work out, below is a clip of one of our recent weddings where we had to call in some replacements. We had Killian Collopy filing in on vocals. Killian had the job of singing the first dance and the father daughter dance which are probably the two most important songs of the night as they were the only songs requested by the bride and groom. As you can see from the clip, Killian absolutely nails it, as we knew he would. Although he doesn’t sing with us every week, having worked with him before, we know that he is a consummate professional and is always incredibly prepared. As with any of the stand in musicians we work with, we had no doubt in our minds this would be the end result. We also had Paul Gordon with us on second guitar. Like Killian, Paul is an absolute pro and has gigged with some of the best cover bands in Ireland. He slots into the band like he’s been there from day one.
Have a listen and let us know what you think.
The wedding discussed above was a very unusual case, having replaced both a guitar player and a singer. Though both instruments are equally important, when it comes to weddings it is all about the singers. We would have no hesitation about swapping out drummers, bass players or guitarists for gigs because it is very rare that anyone notices, unless they have a personal connection to the band. Singers, on the other hand, are a different ball game. Our band is primarily based around our female vocalist, Heather. Once she is there and there are several musicians standing behind her in shirts and braces then it resembles our band. That’s our thing btw, the braces… yeah, moving swiftly on. It’s usually not the end of the world when one of our musicians is missing for a wedding gig because really, the couple have booked Heather. She is the singer and the M.C. We also vary between a 5 piece and a 6 piece band. Generally it will be our keyboard player, Jake or second guitar player, Ed who will be missing. This doesn’t happen often but if it does it is generally because our musicians are exceptionally good at what they do. They are in high demand and on occasion, will be offered a job opportunity that they can’t turn down.
So that’s us: a 5 or 6 piece band fronted by Heather. Everyone’s happy, right? Yes… until something happens to Heather. What people booking wedding bands, or bands in general, often don’t realise is the severe working conditions musicians put up with and how this can affect our bodies. We love it and we wouldn’t change it for the world but it is tough. For guitar players, drummers and piano players it’s no problem waking up a little groggy and with a sore throat after getting home from a wedding gig in Cork at 5a.m. However, for singers who have to go and do another gig that day, this can be disastrous. Sometimes, especially in winter, it’s just not possible for a singer to string together a number of these gigs in a row. We do our best to manage these situations and we have more cover for Heather than any other member of the band (special shout out to Joanna Burns who is our number one stand in for Heather – she always rock’s it while bringing her own style and flair to the gig). When we have multiple gigs in one weekend and only one is a wedding, we will generally save Heathers voice for the wedding and get a stand in for the public shows. This is all a part of avoiding any upset brides as we can assure you, nobody wants that and thankfully, we haven’t experienced it so far – probably, in part, due to the close network we have of awesome musicians who can step in at a moment’s notice. Now, if you’re a blushing bride or groom then you can stop reading here.. hopefully your busy mind has been put at ease a little. Rest assured, even if the worst case scenario happens, a good band will have a back-up plan and your big day will be an absolute hit.
Advice For Musicians Who Want to be Deps
Now, a little advice for our fellow musicians in the industry. If you skipped down to this part of the post without reading the rest you then you are more than likely a musician who is starting out and looking to get some experience filling in with bands. Or maybe you’re quite experienced but are in between bands at the moment. No problem! We will give you some pointers on what we look for when hiring deps.
Firstly, if you want a chance of getting a gig with a band like ours, you are going to need a recommendation, so get networking. Social media posts showing off your chops are great and I promise we will look at those, but not before you’ve been referred to us by someone else. That’s just how this business works. We all want to get paid and we need to make sure we don’t come across as amateurs and on any given night, you are only as strong as your weakest member. This means that if one person sucks, we all suck.
Once you secure a gig, try following these pointers.
- Ask for the set-list A.S.A.P. Not only does this give you more preparation time, it gives the impression that you are going about your job in a professional manner. Never come off too casual about a gig, even if the songs are ridiculously easy. Give the impression that you are going to put all your time into learning the set. Maybe this won’t be the case… and maybe you will still be learning the songs the night before the gig… Don’t worry, shit happens. Life gets in the way and all that jazz. As long as you nail it on the day, it’s all good with us.
- After you get the set-list, ask as many questions as you possibly can. It’s impossible to look stupid asking questions about songs but you can make the whole band look stupid when start playing a different version of a song at a gig…yeah, that can happen!
- Make sure your gear is in check. Nobody cares what guitar, amp or keyboard you have as long as it works and is to a professional standard. Guitar players, bring mics for your amps. Key board players, bring D.I boxes and for the love of all that is holy if you are a singer, bring your own mic! This is just for your benefit. You don’t want germs from someone else’s mic. (Scroll up to the section about singers and illness).
- Be on time. No, be early. Make the rest of the band feel like assholes for merely being on time.
- Don’t be a dick. Yeah, funny how often this rule is broken. Just be a normal human without any notions of your fame or expertise… that’s just a general life tip, on the house.
- Don’t be afraid to ask to rehearse with the band. It might be a pain for a band who has been gigging a set for a long time and know it inside out, but they will do it as their priority is the show to go well. Little secret: chances are, if you have learned your stuff well enough, you will know the songs better than the people in the band. I can guarantee you they haven’t spent all week before the gig practicing the set. Again if this does happen, don’t be a dick about it. Sometimes bands deviate from the original tracks for a variety of reasons. Just ask about that section so everyone’s on the same page.
- If you arrive at the rehearsal or the gig itself and realize you completely missed a song and don’t have it learned, well, just own it. Say you fucked up. It happens, we won’t care. Quite often on the night of a gig we will pull a song or two if someone’s not feeling it or if we don’t think it will suit the crowd. A good band will always have a few more songs than they need.
- Get to know the people in the band, this reverts back to the top of this section. If the gig goes well, you can get a tonne more work from the guys in the band. Get facebook pages, mobile numbers or emails. This makes it seem like you are interested and eager to work too.
- Don’t skip on loading the gear in or out. This is a relatively small thing and fairly common sense. This especially applies to drummers or guitar players who are using gear belonging to the person they are filling in for. Don’t leave the bands drum kit or amp in the venue and assume we’ll carry it out for you. Sorry pal, your jobs not done until the gears in the van! The setting up and tearing down is kind of what we actually get paid for and playing the set is a fun break in between.
- Once the gig is done there’s lots of small things you can do to further your chances of getting a call again. Some of these are as simple as sharing your knowledge of other venues that might suit the band or potential opportunities. We’re all in the same game so if you can help us out then I can guarantee we’ll look after you as well. It’s all about who you know and whether they will put your name forward for a job.
We hope this spiel has helped some of you, whether you are stressing about how your wedding might fall apart or you are a musician looking to get your foot in the industry door. If you have any questions regarding any of our blog posts, please feel free to get in touch in the comments section or at firstname.lastname@example.org . By no means do we claim to know it all, we know sweet feck all, but we do know more than we knew when we started, and we are happy to share what we have picked up.