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Mix with Marissa: So you want to start a band?

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Second Best performs on March 28 at the first Chicoachella. Photo courtesy of Second Best.

Your desire to start a band all started over a drunken declaration during your winning streak at “Rock Band.”

As you devour your cold cheese pizza, you flash back to every open mic and talent show you’ve ever taken part in. If the fame, fortune and roaring stadiums alone aren’t enough to inspire you, the hotties throwing themselves at you should do the trick.

But how does someone go from Aretha Franklin power chords in the shower to rock star status? I got the chance to sit down with Second Best to talk about being in a band.

Find a killer beginning story

Many bands have great stories to tell the crowd at the beginning of their shows about how they got started.

I’m happy to say that Second Best’s did not disappoint. Having formed officially just two days before its debut appearance at Chicoachella, sometimes you have to leave it up to luck to help you out.

A mere four days before the event, the band was struggling to find a drummer who could keep up with the commitments of the band.

“We were all cracking our hands trying to think of someone who would play for us when it just clicked — Tommy,” said Kevin Ristow, bass player, about drummer Tommy Ghiorso.

Don’t be a dick

All the talent in the world will get you nowhere if you are a difficult to deal with. Being in a band means that you have to be willing to give up your creative freedom.

This is especially true for those who evolved from riding solo to working with others. Suddenly, the world doesn’t revolve around you. You have to listen to other people’s input.

“Being in a solo project was cool because I made every decision, and being in a solo project was dumb because I made every decision,” said Kaleb Sievers, who plays acoustic guitar and does vocals.

And you actually have responsibilities to fulfill — gasp, shock, horror!

No one has the luxury or the money to hire a band manager starting out. This makes everyone responsible for finding shows and promoting them on top of their individual roles in the band. But this doesn’t mean that everyone performs cookie-cutter responsibilities.

“Maybe I’m not good at talking to people because I’m awkward, or he’s really good at making websites,” Ristow said. “Everyone has a part to play.”

Between balancing jobs and stints at the radio station, these guys still find the time to get together to work on their music and promote the shows.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about recognizing your strengths and weaknesses,” said David Hollenbeck, lead guitarist. “You have to be on the same page. Otherwise, you fall out.”

You kind of have to like each other

Not wanting to stab your bandmate in the eye with a spoon is something to think about when starting out. Chances are you are going to be stuck with these bozos for a while for hours at a time. Especially because creative differences can make tensions arise, having bandmates who are responsible and respectful can make or break the deal.

This is why communication plays such an important role. You have to listen to each other. Simply shooting someone’s idea down isn’t going to help the situation. Offering constructive criticism will help find a problem to the solution and can help ease the tension of an awkward situation.

It’s usually about a girl

Songwriting is a laborious process that everyone approaches in a different way — or for some, a different place. Apparently we were spot on about the singing in the shower. The guys rate it as one of their top places to get great ideas to flow from (pun unintended).

Alternatively, it can grow from something as simple as a guitar line. As you grow with it, perfecting a single section at a time or through messing around, those become the best ones — the ones that write themselves. But like all creative types, sometimes we need a little nudge to help get the juices flowing.

But one form of inspiration that’s used quite often is actually relatable to us all. Different people evoke different emotions, and heartbreak will always be the number one reason.

“Those are the songs that make you try for months and you just want it to be over,” Sievers said. “That’s what makes it so stupid easy to write songs about girls.”

Touring is not glamorous

When you are starting out, there are no five-star hotels, paparazzi chases or tour buses.

Usually, you’ve got a van where you have to squeeze yourselves and all your equipment in. The hell doesn’t end with being squashed into a metal chamber that reeks of sweat and Cheetos for 13 hours.

Next, you’re begging the booking people to take you for shows, and en route you’re praying to the rock ‘n’ roll gods that there’s still a show when you get there.

Also, if you’re in it for the money, that’s probably not going to work out either. Anything you make goes towards gas money and Jack in the Box tacos. Or if you’re lucky, Denny’s. Insider tip: Denny’s has a touring band discount.

Being in a tight squeeze for long hours at a time in crappy conditions can be rough on the body. The key to pushing through is that you really have to want it so badly that you’re going to be OK with “things just sucking” sometimes.

“All you’re thinking about is how horrible everything is,” Sievers said. “I don’t want to finish this. I just want to go home and sleep in my own bed.”

But it is so worth it

Being in a band is a lot of work, and it’s easy to raise the white flag and send the troops home.

If you want start a band to score free booze and sex, that’s a great idea. If you want start a band to fill your bathtub with Benjamins, that’s cool, too.

But if you’ve endured all the crap and still want to get up on stage simply because it makes you happy, then you know this is it. This is what you were made for.

The euphoria of playing to a crowd is something you can’t download. The camaraderie between the band and its fans is what drives them through.

“Even if it’s that one kid who is singing along, but you know he identifies with your music — it’s something else,” Sievers said.

I suppose what makes live performance so addictive for both sides is that you suddenly feel an interdependency on each other. Each side plays such a huge role in each other’s musical experience.

“Just like how some people are in bands and choirs and some people paint,” Ristow said. “But at the end of the day you just want to share it with others.”

Stay hungry but happy

The formula to starting a band is that there is not an exact formula. No amount of market analytics, Facebook likes, killer drum solos or half-naked groupies are going to be the secret ingredient to the ultimate band.

You need to keep genuine to who you are as a person, even when it comes to reaching for your goals. There is nothing wrong with trying to aim for the best. But when you start obsessing, you lose yourself in always trying to attain the next best thing.

It’s all about keeping the important things in check — family, friends, jobs, education. Once you’ve sought that balance out in both your artistic and personal lives, you’ll eventually get where you need to be.

It is clear that Second Best’s mantra is to create music to make people happy.

“I’m just happy I’m playing music to be honest,” Ristow said. “You can have goals and aspirations but don’t solidify your expectations.”

As we wrapped up, Hollenbeck left me with some parting words of wisdom.

“The best part about being in a band is getting to play with such passionate and talented bandmates, making the crowd happy and getting high after the show,” he said.

I’ll smoke to that.

Marissa Iqbal Hakim can be reached at [email protected] or @daenamarissa on Twitter.

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Mix with Marissa: So you want to start a band?