Rhodri Marsden: I’m in five bands. Which is a bit like being in 20 relationships

Life on Marsden
  • @rhodri

I'm in a band that plays inept versions of classic TV theme tunes. All four of us accept that there's a glass ceiling preventing us from signing a four-album deal with Sony, and that's fine, but it doesn't stop us having impassioned arguments about everything from rehearsal locations to dress code to whether there's any point in learning the theme tune to The Sweeney when the majority of the audience will be too young to remember it.

Things get heated. The bass player calls me a prick, frequently. But this is how you know that you're definitely in a band: you start having intense exchanges over things that don't matter that much. Like a village cricket club AGM, but with guitars.

My hunger for musical fame receded during my twenties at about the same rate as my hairline, but I still find myself putting huge emotional investment into performing loud music to people I don't know. I'm in five bands, and seem to have developed an addiction to starting pointless cultural crusades with musicians who then immediately find themselves fighting over whether a song should end in a double chorus. For some bizarre reason, all these issues seem hugely important. I remember once hurling a malfunctioning keyboard to the floor in anger during one rehearsal; the singer looked at me and said "Oh" in the same disappointed tone she might use if she found a hair in her sandwich. I remember her expression of bemusement as I stood there, seething, surrounded by large black boxes emitting hisses and hums, thinking "Why am I doing this, exactly?"

Things become even more surreal on tour. Weary people crammed into a tiny van that, if it were used to transport livestock across France, would probably be outlawed by a thick pamphlet of EU regulations. You're exposed to the strange personal foibles of your bandmates. You might see them cry, suck their thumb, attempt seduction, or try all three simultaneously. You become depressingly au fait with the unique timbre of their snoring. But all these experiences bond you, tightly. On the best days it provokes the kind of camaraderie that can move you to tears; on the worst it's a failing marriage of convenience, with a series of lumpen riffs your illegitimate offspring. If anyone asks me if I'm in a relationship, I say yeah, I am. About 20 of them.