“Bands are fun but I’m not really a leader or a follower, so I get along better by myself,” writes Doug Barker, lead man — only man, for that matter — for San Diego band Pant Hoots.
Among the other benefits of being a multi-instrumentalist and the sole member of the band, says Barker: “I don’t have to teach anyone the songs, worry if they’ll show up, or deal with drama. Also, I only have to be in tune with myself. If I goof a song, I can stop and start over or just skip to another part. And, I usually get extra drink tickets.”
In recent years, local lo-fi, slacker-rock duos such as the Crocodiles and Nathan Willams’s Wavves have set a trend in San Diego’s music scene of forming bands with fewer members.
And now, solo musicians are picking up more than one instrument and taking centerstage.
Barker says his influences range from punk rock to country, blues, swing, and rockabilly, and his instruments of choice include “drums, banjo, cardboard box, tin can, and rubber hose.” He formed Pant Hoots in 2007, after some songs that he wrote for his former band the Nightmares were rejected.
Barker is not the only one-man band in town. There’s also Sam Lucas’s solo project Samhears. Lucas, whose influences include Radiohead, David Bowie, and the Pixies, decided to go his own way after becoming disillusioned while searching for a drummer.
That decision came in 2009 when Zack Wentz, drummer and singer for garage-rock duo the Dabbers, suggested that Lucas abandon his search and play drums himself...that is, in addition to guitar, bass, and piano.
“I find it easier to be a one-man band,” writes Lucas in an email. “I don’t have to pay for a rehearsal studio, or coordinate schedules, deal with a crap-load of equipment. And, I don’t have to try and convince anyone to play something I wrote. I don’t have to explain why I’m changing a song or adding a part. I don’t have to make sure everyone feels happy.”
For Lucas and Barker, no longer having to compromise artistic vision is key.
“My songs are very precious to me,” writes Lucas. “They are how I interpret my surroundings, and they are my voice. In the past, I couldn’t compromise them with other musicians...that’s why we usually ended up drifting apart.”