Archived Story

Dave Carlock: Honesty can be tough policy

Published 7:51am Friday, February 8, 2013

Trips to California always serve a few purposes for me. It’s great to reconnect with friends and keep sharing real-time experiences — you know, kinda like Facebook for those who like to leave the house. Because I’m a social person, that includes a lot of work-related things I also happen to enjoy, such as going to clubs, visiting artists working in recording studios and hanging at the homes of friends.

Aside from being fun, keeping connected with friends leads me to check out bands and aids me in the continual search for great talent and marketable artists. However, producers have to be careful how they check out bands — anonymously in a crowd is best — because doing it the wrong way can put them in the hot seat, which is exactly where I found myself last week.

An L.A. friend of mine had invited me to his house to check out a new band he had put together. For the record, this scenario is not optimal. Shows are better because you can gauge crowd reaction, see if they have any audience pull, and remove yourself from the request for an instant review. But my friend’s band had no shows while I was in town, so I said yes. I just hoped that they were amazing so I could tell them so. So here’s what it’s like checking out a band in a rehearsal .…
To set the stage, you need to know that the band has a twice-weekly rehearsal at 7 p.m., so I told my friend I would show up at 7:30 figuring they might need a little time to tune and be ready. I mentioned to him that I would need to head out after 30 minutes because as a Sabian-endorsed artist, I needed to attend a Sabian event that evening. To follow up, I texted at 7:30 and asked if they needed more time and my friend said yes, so I ran an errand.

I showed up at 7:50 and met the band, only to discover that the female lead singer still hadn’t showed up. So I waited and got to know the other members while I tried to not think of being late to the Sabian event. The band members were cool people. The secondary singer was friendly and beautiful. The guitarist was cool and easy to talk to and looked quite a bit like GOTYE, which led to a few laughs. The bassist was fairly quiet but nice. My friend was the drummer. Like most drummers, he was pretty laid back with a good sense of humor.

About 8:10, the lead singer “Kathy” (name changed) showed up and, as she started to settle in, we said hello. She pulled out an acoustic guitar and I noticed that Kathy couldn’t tune the thing even with her tuner after trying two go arounds. Finally, she gave up, and the band was ready to play a few things.

During their three songs, the drummer, guitarist and bassist sounded pretty solid musically —definitely in the ballpark. “GOTYE” ended up being a really good soloist. The vocals sounded solid, with the backing vocalist sounding very good on harmonies. Aside from the lead singer’s “rhythmically out of groove and out of tune” acoustic, there wasn’t anything to betray a lack of ability from any of the members. They had only played together for a few weeks so that was positive, too.
But then there were the songs — which were pretty lackluster melodically. They leaned on played-out bluesy melodies that countless female-wannabe rock chicks have sung all the way into obscurity. Lyrically, I couldn’t tell much but the overall song impressions were definitely not attention getting.

When they finished,  I said, “You guys have only played a few weeks? You sound good! Thanks for having me to check out your sound.”

I started to grab my bag, hoping I could shoot out the door before something went wrong, but then it happened. The ultra quiet bass player spoke up with the absolute worst question he could’ve asked me, “What do you think of the songs?” I knew I was sunk because I can’t lie. And even worse, at a tough moment like this one, I tend to over-tell the truth. So what I told them was…


Dave Carlock is a 26-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable.

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