I thought I'd take this quiet opportunity to try and recall some of the thoughts that have been bouncing around my head the last few weeks. I was thinking about all the various manners in which many of the bands that I've known have experienced or dealt with personnel changes. I believe there to be a spectrum, and my departure from RRE seems to fall somewhere in the middle.
On the one side you have the "okay, bye" method, most notably employed by my friend Zac Matthews, formerly of Hot Buttered Rum. (Funny, his was a November announcement as well. What is it about impending winter that runs roughshod over summertime festival bands? Rhetorical question.) Obviously this approach has it's pros and cons. The most obvious con is the sense of a lack of closure that the public can feel when one day everything is cool and the next their favorite band is no longer what it was. I know I felt something of a shock when Ben quit Tea Leaf or when John-O split SCI. You want to know "why?" Usually you are disappointed. The pro (singular) of doing it like this would presumably be that relations within the band have deteriorated to such a degree by this point that dragging it out over a farewell tour would not be a good thing at all for anyone. I'm glad that's not the case here.
Then there's the other end of the spectrum, most notably employed by Bill Nershi of String Cheese Incident. I'm not going to rehash the reasons for his splitting, mostly because I'm afraid he might be reading this. Instead, I'm going to guess at them. Bill was the frontman of a huge operation. They weren't just a band at the point when he had to call it, and hadn't been for many years. As much as I look up to their operation, and the operation of Phish or even Umphrey's McGee as a band whose business model seems sound from my perspective, I can understand the pressure of finding yourself in that position of success. Let's face it, most musicians don't become musicians because they like running companies, yet the more successful your band becomes the more of your time the business syphons off. The less time you have to make music. The less time you have to contemplate taking a break since the rest of the operation doesn't go on holiday just because you do. I think this played a big part in Phish's hiatus, aside from the much publicized substance issues. The business of being in a band can be a major grind. I digress...
This approach also has it's pros and it's cons. The most notable pro is that you can actually set it up in a very lucrative business-like manner for your last tour to be a "farewell" one. I'm not sure how much $ SCI made on that summer 07 tour, but they didn't play another gig until summer 09, so it must've been okay. The fans of the band get to relish a last hoorah, and the band members themselves get to say goodbye to a lifestyle as well as some of the locales that have become home out there, if only for a little while. The cons of this approach are relatively minor, mostly having to do with people continually asking "so what are you gonna be doing next?" It's a natural question, but you might not always have an answer ready.
Where I fall is somewhere in between. I wouldn't quit this band if I were less than ready. As I may have said to some of you, this decision took me years to come to, but on the other hand I've known for years that it was coming. Sometimes when I walk into a room full of hobos I get this feeling like everyone is looking at me, like I'm a dead man walking. And to be perfectly honest, I haven't had a ready made answer for what kind of music my band plays for the last seven years, so obviously I don't have a ready made answer to "what are you doing next?" Well, I'm gonna be programming. You see this website? I'm gonna make a living off of it one day.
The pros - I get to say goodbye.
The cons - sometimes I'm tired of saying goodbye.More on quitting a band.