A site for Gen-X men, by Gen-X men, about the stuff in life that really matters.
The Arrow Logo - SVG
Oh no!
It looks like you aren't logged in to the Arrow community. Log in to get the best user experience, save your favorite articles and quotes, and follow our authors.
Don't have an Online Account? 

How to Start a Dad Band and Become a Rock God

You middle-aged guys with some free time on the weekends about to rock, we salute you.

Group of dads having a band jam session
Nate Ryan

I’m not in a bowling league. I’ve never played organized basketball at the YMCA. There are many reasons why I’m unlikely to ever join a company softball team (one of which is that I’m self-employed and the dogs in my home office are awful at sports).

But I am on a team. It’s called Math Emergency, and I’m the lead singer. We’re a dad band. 

We’ve played maybe half a dozen live shows and released one album, which has been downloaded tens of times. We practice nearly every Sunday night. We’ve been together for 10 years.

The band is my favorite hobby. It provides me with friendship, fun and an escape from all the work and hassle of daily life. It’s a more realized and less sad version of playing air guitar in front of a mirror with a tennis racket. 

I believe everyone should be in a band. I also know that most people don’t know how. I can help. Let’s get started.

Check the Garage

You’re going to be at a social gathering at someone’s house at some point. Maybe a backyard barbecue, graduation thing, a kid’s birthday party even. Once there, mingle a bit and then take a detour to the garage. 

You’re looking for a drum kit covered in a drop cloth. You’re looking for a Marshall amp in the corner. Maybe even some keyboards or a mic stand, if you’re lucky. That’s a sign of a dad who played music, stopped and then didn’t get rid of his gear. 

In other words, that’s your bandmate.

Aim Casual

Make your move on the dad, but gently. You don’t want to spook him. Tell him you spotted the gear in the garage and ask if he still plays. He will say no, not really, but there will be a spark of excitement flashing through his eyes. 

Tell him that you play or sing, and mention that you’ve been looking to get something casual together. Avoid using the word “band” (too much pressure) or “jam” (gross). Chances are he’ll guardedly return the interest, and you’re on your way. 

In case he doesn’t, repeat step one.

Get Word Around

At this point, you’re secretly already a band. The White Stripes, Japandroids and The Carpenters are all two-person bands. But you are not as good as them, so you’ll need more people. 

Ask your one new bandmate if he knows anyone to fill out the lineup. Mention it at work or to friends. Word will circulate. People like to join things, and “being in a band” is a very common guy daydream, as it involves noise, a possibly antiquated sense of cool, and the lure of male friendship without the pressure of traditional socializing. 

The dads will find you. They will detect the musical pheromones you are emitting.

Designate a Practice Space

Ideally this will be the garage or basement of whoever in the band has the most indulgent family and tolerant neighbors. There are rented rehearsal spaces available in most cities, but then you’re paying money, and that pressure can get in your way. 

Start with Covers

You want to establish a common language and give everyone a chance to safely play out a fantasy. In my band, early period R.E.M. was a good place to connect. Except for our drummer, who connects most strongly to Rush because he’s a drummer and that’s the law. 

This will be an easy musical introduction to one another, and it will become apparent who is willing to do backing vocals and who is absolutely not.

Encourage Noodling and Follow the Noodling of Others

Original songs are harder to create and master than covers, and they are also the key to your dad band’s long-term longevity. It’s doubtful any dad will walk in with a fully realized demo recording of an idea, but it’s highly likely that the guitarist or bassist will fiddle with an original riff between songs. Give space for that and for others to join in. 

Once the riff seems to be following a discernible pattern, give it a name and, ideally, some kind of lyrics. You’ve written a song.

Book a Show

You can choose the ultra-casual route and go with the same backyard barbecue where this all got started. If you want to be a bit more professional, find a small nearby venue that has bands sometimes but not constantly. Contact them and let them know it’s a debut show and you have a lot of fans excited to come and spend money.

Keep the set relatively brief, and provide earplugs for the kids. Also provide understanding for the kids who do not wish to attend, since the idea of dad being in a band is mortifying.

Set Expectations Low. No, Lower. No, Even Lower Than That

A dad band will not make you a rock star. Thinking it will, even hoping it will, is a path to heartbreak. You are there to have fun. If you’ve formed a band, played together, written some original songs and played a show, you did it. You won. Good job.