By Lena Sukhova
It was the last few seconds of the show. The sound of guitars united with the beat of the drums in an energy-charged frenzy, and that’s when the drummer stood up.
He held up a drum and started banging it feverishly with a stick. With a frown on his face, he seemed ready to throw the drum off the stage. Then he sat down, as though remembering how much it would cost to replace the instrument.
To the crowd, such a finale seemed an international part of the show. But Rob Gandhu, drummer for Toronto indie band March, was reacting impulsively to the stress that comes with being in an independent band. An eternal aspect of a starting band’s career is the attitude you can treat small bands like crap. At the band’s March 6 show at the Rivoli as part of Canadian Music Week, the group wan’t told Wide Mouth Mason was playing before them. March had only half an hour to install their gear and do a soundcheck before their 30-minute set. They also weren’t allowed to use their own drum kit — the source of Gandhu’s frustration.
“Not everyone’s cut out for it,” says Paul Mancini, the band’s guitarist and a second-year Ryerson computer science student. “A lot of people crack. As a musician, you have to put up with a lot of crap.”
Mancini has had only five months to get accustomed to the quirks of a musician’s life. The band’s first lineup was formed about two years ago, when bassist Dave Beeson put out an ad for a “girl band.” A few months later, having fired the two female members after they stopped coming to rehearsals, March was left with Beeson, Chris Myles as lead singer and guitarist and Rob Gandhu on drums.
Mancini, hired in September, played his first gig with the band only two weeks later. He describes March’s sound as “classic rock meets grunge meets 80s rock meets heavy metal.”
The band’s biggest challenge has been financing. The members practice about two times a week at the Rehearsal Factory, where the last room they rented cost $500 a month. Their equipment is even more expensive: a guitar costs from $500 to $1,500.
“You need the day jobs,” says Mancini. “Otherwise, the band wouldn’t be able to support itself.”
Beeson works for CBC Newsworld, Gandhu does technical support for a computer company and Myles has his own graphic design company.
Another challenge is building a fan base, a difficult task without a major record company’s support. Mancini says Toronto’s indie scene is a problem because it was created in part by one-hit wonder acts and fabricated bands.
“Nobody goes to shows,” he says. “In the early ‘90s, the grunge days, you could get up a decent crowd. Now it’s dried up.”
Though most bands play for empty rooms in the beginning, members of March believe their patience and persistence will pay off.
“Right now we have a lot of friends who come out to every show,” says Myles. “So we have a pretty large fan base of friends and it’s starting to grow.”
But some things in the music industry don’t change — nepotism is one of them.
“The only reason we got into the Canadian Music Week is because our management has connections,” says Gandhu.
They had to overcome several difficulties at that gig.
“We had a rough time with lighting problems and with Rob not being able to use his drum kit, but it was a pretty intense show,” says Mancini.
Afterwards, a few new fans approached the band and got a free CD.
Mancini advises new bands not to get discouraged because dedication is essential to any band’s success. “Just play your ass off,” he says.
“If you’re getting into music to make money, there are easier ways to make it,” says Myles. “And if you’re getting into it just to have a lot of fun, you might have a lot of fun, but you’re never going to be a successful band. It’s got to be the job that you want to turn into what you do full-time every day of your life.”