Many bands spend time apart. Old high school bands go their separate ways for college and college bands go their separate ways for the real world. Often times this leads break-ups, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Welch & Penn has managed to be a group that always functioned with distance. Penn and I founded the duo while we were both in college and our respective locales were Davidson/Greensboro, North Carolina and Boston, Massachusetts.
Despite this distance we’ve managed two tours, two EPs, one home recorded and one recorded in Nashville, and to play close to fifty shows in counting. So as the holidays grow near and I plan my trip back to North Carolina, the unofficial home base for Welch & Penn, I thought I’d share what I consider some of the ways to make a long distance musical relationship work:
Set reasonable goals- Welch & Penn only tours in the summer and gigs when I was visit my family in North Carolina. We don’t criss-cross the east coast in an attempt to make shows, instead we give ourselves plenty of scheduling time and set up shows and recording sessions when we’re both in town. We also understand that we’re a small venue and coffee shop act, which is an important realization to make as a band. Since we can only meet up a few times a year we don’t have the ability to practice every day and really gig around to land huge venues.
Use Technology to your advantage, but don’t rely on it- Don’t use Skype to practice. It can be a useful tool for meetings since it replicates the sensation of a face to face interaction, but the delays and just general strangeness of video stream practicing makes it difficult to accomplish much. We tried this and it didn’t work. However, this blog is an invaluable asset to us. It gives us the opportunity to post updates, videos, photos, from both the band and our personal lives and is something we can contribute to together while in our separate homes. Social Media (as I’ve mentioned in my facebook and twitter blogs) is a great tool for bands today so use that to your advantage!
Make most of your time together- People want to see a band live. When Penn and I are both around we’ll perform as often as possible, whether it’s a paid gig or an open mic, to have a strong presence and make it known that we’re in town. When we play a show we’d also make sure to film at least a song or two from it so that when we’re split again people will still have something to watch. Penn is incredibly good about keeping up with this and that’s why there are so many Welch & Penn live videos on Youtube.
Use the time apart to promote- When we’re apart we send our music off to radio shows and reviews and post the videos not just to personal sites, but around to music blogs or wherever takes submissions. We also use that time to plan our tours, divvying up the areas between us to find venues and local support. These things can and should be time consuming, making it more efficient to do on our own when there are shows, recording, and touring to do together.
Use the distance to your advantage- There’s something very unique about bands that manage to work despite distance. In live performances this detail always catches people’s attention and makes us that much more interesting or worth listening to. Furthermore, it opens up more resources since technically our ‘local’ presses, venues, and fan bases are in two completely different regions. This broad range of an audience base made our Green Sundress Tour possible since we had more resources to pull from and work with during an extensive tour.
Patience- Have patience with one another. Things are going to move more slowly because of the space. But that’s the nature of it. And like the saying goes: distance makes the heart grow fonder. And the difficulty of navigating distance as a band will make actually performing, recording, and working together all the sweeter.