On-stage and bathed in sweat, musicians can be irresistible. There’s something about a human wielding an instrument and showing off what they can do with their fingers that's conducive to wanting to sit on their face and, at some point, every music-attending fan has fallen for some mood-ridden bassist, convinced the curve of their clavicle or aptness for songwriting is the answer to their Sahara Desert of modern romance. But that's looking at it through rose-tinted beer-goggled fan-centric glasses.
I mean, have you ever tried to maintain a relationship with someone who makes music? Not only is their off-stage presence horrendously underwhelming, they comprise some of the most selfish, unreliable entities on the planet, second only to domestic cats and Transport For London. Musicians profoundly suck.
When it comes to dating people in bands, the best advice would probably be to just not. But if you absolutely must fall for that guy or girl who slapped you around the heart with their keytar playing swagger - and you will, because love knows no boundaries - then here is a guide to navigating each stage of the relationship, from asking for their number to wondering where it all went wrong and cry-wanking to songs they wrote about you.
If you meet someone who plays in a band who also has the internet, then a few minutes of scrolling through their Twitter feed in a toilet cubicle should give you a vague idea of their interests. So if you’re in some kind of hurry to establish yourself on their radar, drop in a bunch of recent (but not too recent) references you know they’ll get - “Oh my god did you see that Broad City where Abby goes on a stoned rampage through Whole Foods?” That kind of thing. Hop aboard the conversation train, first stop: in-joke junction.
Whatever you do, don’t be intimidated. The majority of people “on the road” spend their time masturbating in a Travelodge twin room with people they’ve sat next to in a van all day, so they’re pretty much DTF wherever possible.
If you’re in this for more than just an evening of sweaty fun, then here’s a pro tip: try talking to them about something other than music. If they struggle to talk about anything else, stop talking to them. File under “lost cause”. Unless the idea of discussing the modulated feedback of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music every day for the rest of your life appeals to you.
The hardest thing you’ll have to accept when you start dating a musician is that pretty much everything they've written so far is about their ex. All their late-night Tinder encounters are documented in song and not only will you be required to positively support this 'art' because that's your job now, you must nod along to it at gigs, even during songs titled "Nobody's Ever Fucked Me Like You Did". So sex becomes important, because you need to be remembered as some sort of erotic wizard, and not as the one who threw up in their bare lap while they were thinking about someone else.
The beautiful irony of all this is that musicians themselves tend to be shit shags. They have a tendency to over-faff when it comes to selecting “mood music” and an even greater tendency to pick up that instrument in the corner of their bedroom as an object of seduction. I could write a book about how many times the latter has happened to me and it would be called Fear & Loathing in My Uterus. Music should remain where it belongs: within the confines of properly rigged venues, broadway and war documentaries.
Great, you’re dating! Expect to see them never
Nobody buys music anymore so most artists make their money (or, more commonly, ensure that they lose less) by getting on a Megabus and flogging tote bags for £15. This will happen many times a year and last anywhere from a weekend up North to two months in the Eastern hemisphere. So, what do you do? Go with them and make yourself into a desperate object of resentment to both your lover and the entire band? Or don’t, and accept that you're being cheated on every night for 30 days because “what happens in Norwich stays in Norwich”? The answer is actually secret option number three: fuck it, get on with your own radical life I guess
The only time you will is at their shitty shows
You will absolutely have to attend hundreds of shows and almost none of them will be fun, but here are a few housekeeping rules: while they’re off soundchecking seemingly for hours, don’t mope around the venue like Grumpy Cat on a family caravan holiday, get stuck straight into that rider. When the show starts, don’t stand centre stage taking multiple zoomed-in pictures of your b/gf like a maddening mother at a pageant show. And don’t sit in the corner with a face like a slapped arse when they’re too busy to pay any attention to you. Between loading in, playing the actual show, loading out again and trying to get the promoter to actually pay them, you must accept that you will spend the majority of the evening by yourself. Take a book. Locate the wi-fi password. Get pissed with a stranger. Whatever it takes to pass the time.
They will ruin all your favourite bands
Take a moment to recall all the things you currently enjoy about music, because a few months of sleeping with a musician will slowly whittle them away like a divorcees confidence. Whether it’s recreationally dissing pop music, destroying the very albums you bonded over by explaining their intricacies in exhausting detail, or quietly undermining you by unplugging your iPod in the car and replacing it with theirs without asking, be prepared to sacrifice everything you once loved about the great meaningful experience that is sound. By nature, their opinions and habits will be more oppressive than a Glasgow patter, but try not to let them hold too much sway over yours or the relationship is doomed. I was force-fed The National by a musician for an entire year and all that did was send me careering into an earnest but short-lived powerviolence craze. Needles to say we parted due to lifestyle differences.
You may have been able to hold their undivided attention for the first month or so of the relationship, but after that they will stop looking up when you enter the room because they’re busy looping something on Garageband and assume you will organise your life around their recording schedule. For the most part, this kind of reckless disregard for another person’s feelings isn’t intentional - they just can’t help it. Most musicians are deeply invested in what they do, which is both a blessing and a curse for everyone involved. Ultimately, the musician always comes first in the relationship, the music will come second, and you will be third. And because music isn’t a physical entity you can’t even throw your drink over it and call it a whore.
Other stupid things they will do
- Start a fight with you so they have something to write about.
- Eat like shit, live like shit, drop £750 on a fourth guitar.
- Point out how everyone on X-Factor is flat (which they are, but that’s why it’s good).
- Refuse to go to any gig they can’t get on the guestlist for.
- Make you go to their warehouse show in Leamington Spa at 2pm on a Sunday.
- Complain about how hard it is being a musician.
The profile of the “sensitive” songwriter is one that lends itself very easily to unrealistic fantasies of romance and adventure, when the harsh reality is usually very different. Just because they can express themselves creatively doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the gatekeepers of empathy with a masters in communication. Quite often, their grasp of love has come from ripping W. H. Auden poems off for their lyrics, rather than genuine life experiences. So if things don’t turn out to be all you expected, it’s very possible that you set yourself up for inevitable failure.
Some unlucky sods might even date really famous musicians, which might seem like the greatest most unbelievable thing that’s ever happened to you until it’s over. Then your emotional recovery process is relentlessly marred by the fact that their album posters line your entire commute everyday for a year. Saying that, having art created about or because of you must also be one of the single most unique human experiences available even if the intimate details of your life do become drunken sing-alongs at Glastonbury. Maybe it all evens out in the end, even if they did ignore you for an entire week and you replaced all the presets on their Casio with fart sounds.
Wait… are you a musician dating a musician?
If so, please feel free to discard all of the above. Either your egos will cancel each other out and you’ll live happily ever after as a power couple, or both of your careers will be enriched by a Justin VS Britney style game of one-upmanship. Power to you.
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