Oh, to be young and to be in a band…… As much as I love music, I have an absolute inability to play any instrument, young experiences with a recorder proved that. So I never went through the “lets form a band” phase so many teens go through. Although right now, with a guitar in her bedroom and Grandpa’s drums in the garage, our Molly is well on her way to making her own – you can imagine our delight when she told us two of her friends were coming round, one plays drums, the other bass, and can they use our garage as their band practice room? I love my daughter dearly and I’ll never say no to any musical endeavour she undertakes, but it’s difficult, oh so difficult to remember this when all three of them are “making music” in the garage and I’m 5 minutes away from a head splitting mega-migraine.
Mawil, however, did go through the “let’s form a band” thing. And proceeds to tell us all about his musical journey from can’t play an instrument novice, to can’t play a note on this bass bassist in a German language punk-hip-hop fusion band (and if that idea doesn’t fill you with horror I don’t know what will), to a fve year tenure as bassist in “Tine Melk”.
(Baby steps…. baby steps… Mawil gets on the road to musical superstardom? From The Band by Mawil, published by Blank Slate Books)
It’s a musical journey, but more than that, it’s a personal one, and that we can all share in – it’s about young hopes and dreams, of genuinely believing that if you do kepp playing those youth clubs, school gyms and church halls, the agents will come calling and international superstar rock-god status will inevitably follow.
So join Mawil as he struggles against a perfectly observed list of musical cliches…. musical differences, band hopping, useless drummers, the inevitable crush on the girl singer, and more. He slowly gets better with his bass, but it’s pretty obvious to all concerned that he’s never going to be the most talented… but then again, who said success had anything to do with talent? In fact, this being Mawil, he’s less concerned with learning the bass than he is with getting the one that looks just right….
(Mawil knows what’s important when it comes to choosing a bass …… “and…. erm …. does it only come in black?”)
Throughout The Band, there’s a lot of great music gags, a host of beautifully observed character pieces and all of it is done with Mawil’s incredibly deceptive relaxed style. His art really does look, at first glance, like simplistic, effortless sketching, full of motion, energy and life. But sit back and take it slow and the skill of the artist comes through. Like so many things, to look this relaxed and laid back artistically takes a lot of carefully controlled hard work.
The Band has a formal layout of the nine panel, three tiered page. But within this formalised structure Mawil takes great delight in breaking away from formality… his panels lose their borders, his characters overlap tiers above or below, and every so often, there’s some little stylistic trick thrown in that made me stop in amazement at his skill, at his ability to play with a page.
There are a couple of pages right near the end of The Band, as his band are due to take to the stage at their high school and Mawil’s nerves are getting the better of him, it’s all a little too much and the only way he gets through the performance is by fixing his gaze firmly on his feet all the way through.
And as Mawil the bass player spends the time looking down, so does Mawil the artist and so do we:
How brilliant is that?
The Band is one of Mawil’s earlier works, and as such, it’s not so polished as We Can Still Be Friends or certain strips in the other recent Blank Slate release Home And Away, but the energy, the youthful dream of success, no matter how unlikely, is shot through the book, from the artist’s memories, onto a page and into your heart.
“Teenage Dreams, so hard to beat” – Oh, how very true. And in The Band we’re party to every last one of teenage Mawil’s musical dream. It’s a pleasure to be able to share them, and an even greater pleasure laughing like a drain at them all the way through. Great stuff.