Back in 2008 I joined a band.
My friend Ben and I had talked about forming a band for years. We both played guitar and neither of us was as good as we wanted to be. Most of my efforts to improve stalled because I found practising guitar on my own unspeakably dull.
Ben was a little more driven. He decided that going ahead and starting the band was a superior idea to ‘waiting until we’re better musicians’. It was the correct call, but I remember being pretty resistant. I was horrified at the idea of my friends discovering just how shitty a guitarist I thought I was.
The original lineup was Ben and myself playing guitar, with Ben also singing, plus our friends Jake on bass and Fran on drums. We started playing together in early 2008 and we were absolutely awful. Just awful. We practised most weeks at Brighton Electric Studios (costly, but worth it, especially considering at this point we didn’t have good amps ourselves). We did this for an entire year before playing our first gig at Brighton’s Prince Albert, a great local venue and pub. We were opening for our friends the Offcuts and Extravagatron, both bands I loved. Most people I spoke to that night were kind, but I thought our set was so bad I punched a wall outside. Happily I didn’t break my knuckles.
Over the next four and a half years we played about sixty or seventy other shows, mostly in Brighton and Hove but occasionally travelling to Worthing or Eastbourne (the former was much more welcoming to an out-of-town band). A lot of gigs I didn’t feel much better about than our first, but I swallowed my tongue because I knew I was being way harsher on us – particularly myself – than anyone else was.
There were some absolutely blinders, of course. The best were typically those we played alongside friends, although my absolute favourite was a mixed lineup at the Cowley Club (an anarcho-socialist club, coffee shop and bookshop). The headliner got annoyed that we were having a cigarette outside after the first band, rather than immediately setting up, so unilaterally decided to take our slot. We weren’t expecting to be playing as late as we eventually did, and so got quite drunk on strong local organic cider. We were wrecked by the time we played, but so was the packed audience. I’ve never played our songs with as much enthusiasm, confidence or joy as at that show. It was my greatest taste of what it must really feel like to be in a successful band where you draw your energy from the overwhelming enthusiasm of your audience.
Our original lineup shifted over the years. Fran left the band shortly after our first gig, citing a lack of enthusiasm, and we replaced her with a friend of a friend called Jack, who was also just learning to drum. He was a great fit and stuck with us for a few years before, in turn, being replaced by Becky in 2011, who had a lot more drumming experience and really elevated our game. Original bassist Jake left the band in late 2009 or early 2010 when he moved away from Brighton and we replaced him with Chris, a more experienced bassist who also had great vocals to contribute. Ben, Becky, Chris and myself were the lineup all the way through to the end.
We recorded our first demos at Studio 284 in Brighton, which involved an entire day of endlessly repeated takes. We were still pretty bad at this point. I forget where the second demo was recorded, but it was an improvement. Our third was recorded at Transmission Studios, with a great guy called Ally, and the results were so good that we returned to record our fourth and final set of tracks with him. At the time of this recording we knew that the band was facing a hiatus as Becky was leaving Brighton to complete her PhD.
We intended to use these final tracks to put out a vinyl record as we’d never previously done much more than burn a few CD-Rs, and vinyl records are so much nicer as memorabilia than CDs. We worked out the costs but subsequently this went nowhere, partly due to none of us having much money at the time. Our final gig – the first one we played at The Green Door Store – went ahead in August 2013. It was one of the best gigs we played, the venue was stuffed with friends, and we had support from Ed Wood, Ragweed and As It Is, a mix of friends and bands we’d played alongside before.
In 2014 we briefly got together to do a few practices with the Wedding Present’s session guitarist filling in on drums (no shit), but we didn’t manage to get ourselves organised enough to do a gig and eventually petered out. Today Chris and I are still in Brighton, but Chris is busy raising a family and I don’t put much time into music any more. Ben still plays guitar but moved to London earlier this year, whilst Becky moved to Bristol right after our final gig.
There are few things I’ve done that I’m as glad I did as agreeing to be in the band that ended up being called Wrecktheplacefantastic. It was hard work and cost a lot of money – you’re lucky to get a few quid or a couple of free drinks playing live music at our level – but I met some amazing people, had a lot of fun, helped make some great music and, let’s be honest, playing in a band helped my self-confidence a lot. I’m a shy type deep down and having to stand on a stage and perform for a crowd of friends and strangers wasn’t easy, but being forced out of your comfort zone is a good thing.
For fun, a bit of trivia:
- The band’s name is taken from Dillinger Four’s album Versus God. It shouldn’t have any spaces in it, but we quickly gave up mentioning that.
- Chris organised a lot of the gigs we played as we did a bunch of promotion as well. I put one show on, and it was a lot of work. Chris, as always, gets a huge amount of respect from me.
- Ben wrote most of our songs, bringing what he had to practices where we filled in our own parts. I only wrote one song and it wasn’t that good (‘Pckl Yr Lvr’).
- We had some fantastic songs, particularly ‘Sharks’ and ‘I Never Saw You’, which we were never able to record.
- I cannot drink anywhere near as much cider as I used to.