At rehearsal we recently played through our entire first album Whapper Stormer as part of our preparations for our 20th anniversary celebrations in Feb 2015. It got me thinking about bands, their longevity and the law of diminishing returns. Is early output an artists best?
When thinking of this subject I thought of some of my favourite artists and some others. Let me begin.
Case 1. Nirvana. 1st album Bleach. Best album In Utero 3rd studio release.
Case 2. The National. 1st album The National. Best album Trouble Will Find Me, their most recent.
Case 3. Oasis. 1st album Definitely Maybe. Best album. Definitely Maybe.
Case 4. Guns n Roses. 1st album Appetite for Destruction. Best album Appetite for Destruction.
Case 5. Radiohead. 1st album Pablo Honey. Best album. Ok Computer.
There is one band on the above list that did not achieve overnight success that the others enjoyed. The National. Slowly they have been building their music, and slowly they have been building their fan base. All the others, bar Nirvana had stratospheric success with early output and have since struggled to match this with later works. Radiohead had huge creative problems after Ok Computer and opted for Kid A which was great but not in the same league as its predecessor. They hit a high with In Rainbows, their peak lies with their difficult third though. Oasis produced one of the greatest debuts of all time then rarely recorded anything of merit thereafter. Guns n Roses had an agonising death after the wonderful Appetite.
So what has this to do with a small band like Weird Decibels I hear you scream at your tablet/laptop/mobile phone/PC and maybe, just maybe surface…
I prefer their earlier stuff. This is an expression I had fretted over for years. When we had written Whapper Stormer we were a fresh faced young rock band with ideas pouring out of our finger tips. Whapper had found a small audience of people who really enjoyed it, including a radio DJ who loved The Rain and Vancouver. A year later we had recorded some of our follow up album, the slightly lazy drunken romp that is Firkin Outburst. We handed this DJ our new demo and in the very pub the album is name after I asked him what he thought. His answer? Well I think you know by now….
I stormed out the pub in anger, seething our new songs had not received the praise that our debut collection had mustered.
In the following years we wrote songs of varying quality, another 5 albums would be produced. The other guys would ask me what my favourite album was. Without fail I’d say Whapper Stormer, for the lyrics, the music and the youthful exuberance. Then from 2008 we started to write Weird Decibels 1.
Derek is quoted saying we had to do Quiet Act (our first fully acoustic album) to write Weird Decibels 1. He’s right. We had a renewed enthusiasm for writing. So many things came together. Our music, my lyrics and the gear we had to record it. A year ago I knew we had written one of our greatest albums. For months I was not sure if it was better than Whapper, a year on and several listens? Its my favourite.
So what Is the point here? I hear you ask.
We are a small band, very small. We have our little patch on the huge quilt of music. We have no pressure to make a living out of music, we can write what we want when we want. We have been together so long it was likely we would hit another creative peak.
Any band that is allowed to breath, grow within itself without the pressure of producing an even better follow up to the last will always prosper. In this new age of self released music, small artists will produce music the way they want to smaller but more enthusiastic fans. I hope these bands will glow for many years instead of burning out and fading away…