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the eardrums

I was in a band for about five years. We were The Eardrums.

Having spent my late teens and early twenties cranking out tunes while staring at a computer screen underneath enormous headphones, I was ready for a new creative outlet. Around the age of 25, I moved into a house for the first time since I was five. Less than a week later, there was a drum kit in my bedroom, and the band took shape shortly after.

I think this might be the most rock and roll photo ever, but I'm biased.

The Eardrums were: my twin brother, Tim; our mutual childhood friend, James; and myself. For the most part, our positive qualities served to compensate for each other's deficits. What the two of them lacked in musical know-how, they supplanted with good looks and geniality.

L-R: Sadie, me, Tim, James.

We decided pretty early that we'd try our hands with original material, but covers were always a big part of what we do. Also, my brother and I are notoriously unable to sit still, and we found ourselves rotating amongst instruments on stage and in studio. Over the course of one show, I'd usually play guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, in addition to singing lead vocals on a third of our songs.

As a creative jack-of-all-trades, I wore many hats during my tenure as Eardrum Number Three. Besides the long list of instruments I wrestled with, I wrote many of the songs, and the ones I didn't write, I had a hand in arranging. In the studio, I handled all the engineering and production duties for all of our recordings. (Had I not spent most of my early twenties learning how to make music on a computer, we would have been completely lost.) Between engagements, I booked us gigs, designed our merch and artwork, and stapled up more posters than I can count. I ran a 45-minute podcast to promote the band, which lasted like fifty episodes or something. It was also my responsibility to fill in the awkward silences on stage and in interviews.

Given that long list of duties, you may wonder what that leaves for the other two members. That's a fair question, I'd say.

I felt one of the ways we could distinguish ourselves as a group was to promote an image of us as creative equals. I thought the idea of three guys who are all singers, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists was a great hook to hang us upon. Unfortunately, that aspect of the group was more or less a total sham. I think the three of us were never really on the same page. We all had different ideas about what it meant to be in a band and what that implied about the kind of commitments entailed by being in a band.

The death of the band was a sad, protracted thing. All the usual stuff. Tim went to school and got a real job, which sucked up most of his free time. James was also pretty busy, though not to the extent that Tim was. I moved out of the house that doubled as our jam space and tripled as our recording studio, which really put a damper on things. Finally, Tim and his wife decided to have a child, which was the end of it. My biggest regret was that we were unable to play a proper Last Show Ever. The gig which turned out to be our last was so uneventful that I'm still grappling with a lack of closure about the whole Eardrums shebang. I am grateful, though, that Tim found the time to contribute to a cover of The Beatles' In My Life that I recorded for my cousin's wedding. In lieu of a proper swan song, that will have to do.

Now that the band is dead and gone, I have no reservations about taking credit for the plurality of the work we did and the accomplishments we achieved. Make no mistake — The Eardrums would not have been what it was without the three of us and the special way our personalities blended. However, I'm through with being falsely modest about what I brought to the group and how much credit I deserve for whatever success we may have achieved (for whichever blessedly modest definition of "success" you choose to employ).

Since we never really connected with an audience, the band's legacy is in my pride about what we managed to accomplish. We did lots of neat stuff. Our debut EP, Eardrops, charted among the top 200 albums on nationwide Canadian campus/community radio. We were fortunate enough to have a few tracks appear on local compilations. One such appearance led to our first and only music video. And I fulfilled a teenage dream by having our second EP rated (four stars, even!) by Winnipeg's dearly departed alt-weekly, Uptown, not to mention the Uniter, who have taken on the Uptown's mantle.

A Little Bit of Wheels in All of Us - The Eardrums from Nicholas Friesen on Vimeo.

Sadly, the shadow of what The Eardrums never became eclipses anything we ever achieved. It would have been really great to say we recorded an actual album, instead of just EPs and single tracks. Albums are important to me, and an album release show would have been tons of fun. I also regret that we never put our songs on vinyl, and that we never got to play out of town.

...and, now that I've spelled out how we failed to make the grade, it's kind of silly to think how much time and effort I've spent on this project which went absolutely nowhere and connected with virtually nobody. On the other hand, The Eardrums has taught me an awful lot — about what it means to make music, what it means to make a record, what it means to be a person.

On our own.