Be A Sponge!!!

March 23, 2011

The Lifeline is a five-piece alternative rock band from Chicago that, no doubt, stands out amongst their peers. They have performed in venues throughout the U.S. and have shared stages with artists such as My Chemical Romance, Saving Abel, and 30 Seconds to Mars. With band members originally living in different states, one could say that The Lifeline was born touring.  So they should have some pretty good stories, right? Right.

We got to sit down with guitarist/vocalist Ryan T. Hope and violinist Rebecca Faber before their CD release show in January at Chicago’s Metro to talk about life, touring, and everything that goes wrong when you’re on the road.


About the Band

Rebecca: I started out as a classical violinist and studied throughout college. I always loved rock music, but I never considered playing it until I met Ryan. It was a very cool coincidence. It wasn’t until then really that I learned anything about touring. I knew a little about promotion through chamber music and stuff like that, but not very much. When I decided to start doing this, I would go to Barnes and Noble and just read and read and read. I read books like Tour:Smart trying to get as much advice as I possibly could to educate myself on what I was getting into. I knew it was tough, but when you’re actually doing it, you see how tough it really is.

Ryan: My experience is kind of the polar opposite of Rebecca’s. I’m the rock guy. I started off playing in bands when I was in eighth grade. I always loved music and being around it, so if I wasn’t in a band, I was always going to shows, listening to music, just totally into everything, but I was completely clueless. I had a band when I was in high school. We played one show about every six months, or something like that, but it was a big deal for us then because we were just young kids. It wasn’t until I got into college and I started getting involved in Student Entertainment Services that I got a look at what it’s really like to be in a band. I actually ran a club on the campus for a year and a half, and I think that experience is what shaped my views of what being in a touring band is like. It was from those experiences that we decided you know what, we want to give it a shot with the music that we’re making. I took a lot of those experiences—things that I saw other bands doing that I was booking and used it as a strategy for The Lifeline. I’m also classically trained vocally and I played bass for four or five years in school, so when we did start playing music together, we definitely had that chemistry as to knowing musically what we wanted to accomplish.


When did your band start touring?

Rebecca: We actually started playing. He lived in New York and I lived in Champagne, so we started the band touring. My very first show ever was a battle of the bands in upstate New York, and we won. Then our very second show, we opened for My Chemical Romance. And then I would come back. It was awesome.

Ryan: At the very beginning… after we did those shows, we did some acoustic shows. I would fly from New York out to Chicago to play a show or she would fly out to New York and we’d play in the city or someplace like that and it was always just buying plane tickets and trying to convince the airline to let you carry your guitar on. It was always a struggle like that at first but once we started doing stuff with a full band and really started playing legitimate shows as a band, then we had to do the whole trailer thing.


What advice would you give to newer bands thinking of touring?

Rebecca: Prepare for bad things to happen. Always be as prepared as you can because something is going to always go wrong, no matter how much you prepare. But also, in general, be a sponge and try to soak up as much information as you possibly can, whether it’s musically or business wise. And never expect anything to fall into your lap. No matter how good you are, you have to work your ass off.

Ryan: I think, for me, the biggest thing was actually getting out there and doing it myself. I can’t tell you how many mistakes I’ve personally made on the road, but just pay attention to what’s going on around you. Like Rebecca said, be a sponge. I think one thing that really works well for us is that—not everyone in our band is the most responsible person in the world, so, I think the best thing to do is delegate certain things to each member of the band. I’m the band dad. I drive the van, if our manager isn’t with us, I make sure everybody is up at the right time, I make sure everybody is out the door when we need to be out the door. If you can have somebody in your band where that’s their job, do it. It’s going to make everything flow a bit better. If you don’t have a tour manager, make sure there’s somebody that can take on that challenge because it’s really, really important. If you show up to a gig late, you could lose your guarantee.  If you forget something in another city, you could lose out on selling merch. You just have to be responsible as far as the different jobs that everyone has going, because it’s really important.


Any advice about what NOT to do?

Ryan: If you’re driving your own van or vehicle, maintenance is so important. Before you go out on the road, make sure your vehicle is working. Get an oil change and all that stuff, because you never know what can happen on the road. We played CMJ last year and we had a couple shows on the way to New York City, a few in the city, and then we had a show in Albany, New York the next day, so we decided to leave the show and drive straight to Albany that night. Well, the gas gauge on the truck wasn’t working correctly, and we forgot to calculate the city mileage. So we got half way to Albany and the van just completely stalled out on the highway in the middle of the night. All of the guys were sleeping in the back and I’m just sitting there with the drummer like “Man…”  Anyway, moral of the story is, we had to pay for a tow truck, we had to pay for gas, and it set us back a couple hundred bucks. Small details like that need to be worked out before you head out or else they could come back to bite you.


What strategies do you use to promote your band?

Rebecca: All types. Right now the big thing is Facebook. The way you promote is constantly changing. You have to be on top of what everyone else uses to get the word out. Word of mouth definitely works the best. If you can get a good buzz going on through Facebook or going to shows and talking to people about your band, I think those things are the best.

Ryan: Honestly, I’m awful with Facebook and Myspace and all that stuff. I find what works the best is just being genuine with people. You can go ahead and send out a mass invite to a show, but I don’t think that works quite as well as trying to connect individually with people that you know are going to come to the show. Or somebody that you know came to the last show, just send them a message saying “Hey man, what’s up? I’m really happy you came out to the show, I’d like to see you again.”  Something that is going to make that person feel like you’re connecting with them on a personal level rather than just using a social networking site to let everybody know about your band.


What is your proudest moment as a band?

Rebecca: We paired up with a video director and made three videos, basically, that became a short film. It went to film festivals around the country and ended up winning a lot of awards. When it premiered, it premiered here in Chicago at the Century Cinema on Clark. Our short film was being screened on this huge screen, and it was a really proud moment because we were doing something that no one else was doing. You have to work really hard to facilitate the whole thing. It took a complete year to go from contract negotiations to that screening.

Ryan: My passion is performing. I love recording music, I love writing, I love doing all that stuff involved, but playing shows really is the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing, so my proudest moment is probably the first year that we played South by Southwest. We just kind of got booked on a whim. We decided to plan this tour to support it all the way down there. Before the tour happened, we lost a band member, which is something that would usually cripple a band and allow you to not move forward, but we found somebody in the right amount of time and once we got to Austin, we played the show and just killed it. I just remember feeling this enormous sense of pride, and just feeling like this is really what I want to do with the rest of my life. I think that was the moment in time where I realized that I really have a legitimate shot at doing this, so I’m going to try my hardest.


Check out more information on The Lifeline HERE!

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