If you have made music with others, you have probably pondered this complicated question.
Here are some scenarios of many that I have encountered over my years of kicking around or have experienced myself.
This goes without saying, perhaps. The folks involved can be stubborn, citing the rare examples of when a band survives the break up. But you have to recognize that being in bands with people is a form of intimacy, and the end of members’ romantic intimacy is often the end of their creative intimacy.
This has the same causal relationship as the annual rise in heart attack deaths following the change of the clocks. Put a group of creative folks in a pressure cooker with an outside engineer or producer, where potential different directions for the band’s music (already simmering) come to a head. Add money for the session on the table. Stir.
My first experience of bands I knew personally breaking up had to do with a member graduating high school and going to college elsewhere. Today, with Google Drive, maybe this does not happen as often as it once did? But life changes like these can end creative partnerships.
Many bands associated with Dischord records go on “hiatus” instead of breaking up. The unspoken rule seems to be that the band is just the original members, or just the members from a certain long-lasting configuration forward. Once one leaves, the band stops, because the band is an equal partnership between those people. Now those remaining who wish to make music together do so under a new name.
This last one is the hardest one to face. Some bands end with announced “final shows,” go out in a blaze of glory and attention, eventual reunion shows possible and hoped-for. One band I was in ended on a Wednesday night at the Ottobar, in front of the other bands on the bill and a handful of attendees. We ended our set with a cover song. A lone person clapped briefly, the noise echoing around a very empty room. And the band was over.
I have heard that there was a version of Blue Cheer that toured with no original members in the band. When The Zombies had a surprise hit, other musicians were hired to play and tour as the band. The Beach Boys are probably in court right now.
Obviously and logically, your band could break up if a member dies The examples of this are many and clear. What is surprising is how many folks decide to continue on. When John Belushi did a bit on Saturday Night Live about giving away or selling the viewers some of his belongings, he mentioned with pride that he had “the good Doors albums, from before Jim died.” Yep. The Doors did that. More than once.
Whatever the case, all things end. It may feel like the end of the world when your band breaks up, but life will continue on. We are all experiencing cycles of endings and beginnings. Please don’t take this article as “a sign” or some kind of veiled message; I am just speaking from what I have heard and learned from experience.
Bands break up.