The short answer?
Before you start with the “But… but… but…"s, it is possible (and highly common, actually) to balance a romantic relationship with a bandmate, but here are a few questions that you must ask yourself first.
THE FOUR QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK YOURSELF BEFORE DATING YOUR BANDMATE:
1.) How serious am I about this band?
If everyone in your band is just playing "for fun,” the results of your relationship and band simultaneously breaking up are less-than-catastrophic for everyone in your band. Everyone will just move on. If it’s a more serious band situation, then you have more people’s feelings to consider than just yours and your would-be band-lover’s. You really have to examine your personal emotional fitness to take on such an intense and complicated relationship, which the other three questions should help you determine.
2.) Am I ready for a real relationship?
“It’s gotta be a love thing. If you have any inclination that it’s just gonna be a fling thing, don’t do it. Because for most, that can tear apart a band. You and the other must have a strong work ethic and vision for the band to carry it out while dating. A LOT of maturity is required!” – Danielle Engle, vocals, Radio Lola (If You Swim)
“If you like your space or if you’re not ready for a serious relationship then don’t do it! It’s your bandmate and if you’re a serious band you’ll be jammin with that person for the long haul so you should expect your relationship to outlast your band.”
– Emily Grace, vocals, Rylynn
If you’re both really young and inexperienced, or if either of you is a serial dater who hasn’t had a relationship that lasts more than a month, you really should walk away. Really. Walk away. If you’re really ready to settle down with someone, you STILL should wait as long as you possibly can before you reveal your romantic feelings about your bandmate to ANYONE, much less your bandmate. Take the time to get to know him/her very well, at practices, on the road, hanging out, and make sure you’re really compatible. Sometimes what starts as a hot and heavy crush fizzles out in a month or two, which leaves some serious awkwardness in your band–not just for you two, but for the other people in your band as well. Let yourself find out his/her most annoying traits BEFORE you reveal your feelings and let them fizzle out naturally, rather than revealing your feelings, discovering you can’t stand his addiction to deer jerky or her super-fussy hair habits, and then having to find a way to get things back to normal once you break up.
“You know, you spend so much time around your bandmates that as members of the opposite sex, it’s oh so very easy to confuse a meaningful friendship for something more…so I would say be DAMN sure about what you’re getting into and ask yourself, is it really worth it? Because, if things should fall apart, it puts a strain on the band that I can’t even begin to find the words to describe.” – Jaycee Clark, vocals, A Light Divided
If several months down the road, you’re still head-over-heels after getting a realistic picture of your bandmate, and think s/he may be marriage material, read on.
3.) Can I keep band practice/shows/events relationship-drama-free?
“Tread carefully. Make sure your individual roles are defined well.” – Rebecca DeBord, keyboards/vocals, The Billie Jo Spears Show, The Hank Thompson Show, The Ronnie Prophet Show, Rhapsody&Blues
“Finding real love in this world is hard enough. If you find a strong attraction take a chance and date but don’t do it if you can’t separate biz from personal.” – Alex Ramirez, banjo/dobro, Session Musician
People hate dealing with other people’s relationship drama, and this hatred for drama is magnified in a band situation. Regular people can avoid their significant others and pout with some other friends, but you will have to suck it up a couple times a week (or more!) for shows. If you can’t do your arguing outside of band business, or if you can’t suck it up and be civil long enough to practice or play a show or do a press interview, don’t date your bandmate. Talking to your other band members about your relationship, especially venting about the one you’re dating, is also a big no-no. There are enough weird relationship dynamics within a band when nobody is dating another band member, so don’t bring that mess into your band dynamic. Still dead set on dating your bandmate? Consider this:
4.) What will we/the band do if we break up?
“If the band came first, leave them as band mates. Don’t complicate it. If things get screwed up, you’re either stuck with an awkward situation, or you are out of a band mate.” – Kelly Flusk, lead guitar, Something Clever
Some bands stay together after a break-up, and some split up. Some just boot out one or both of the members that were dating and replace them, and some write Platinum albums about their torrid relationships. The happy endings and the good testimonials just aren’t the ones that we hear about most often in music news. (But we do have some quoted examples of them below!) Actually, because of the negative stigma surrounding intra-band relationships, many couples keep their in-band relationships out of the public eye, so media coverage really isn’t representative of the frequency or success/failure rates of these types of relationships. If you’re friends with a lot of serious musicians, though, you will find from experience that a lot more people than you’d expect have dated a bandmate, and those relationships often outlast the band.
Even so, when you have your discussion about, “So, hey, I’d like to date you, bandmate,” make sure you include a pact about what you will do if you two break up, and keep in mind these tips from actual music-couples for how to make a successful go at a band-relationship:
TIPS FOR DATING YOUR BANDMATE FROM REAL BAND-COUPLES:
If you get through these questions and still think dating your bandmate is a good idea, here are some pro-tips.
– When you’re around your band, don’t act like a couple. Save that for your alone time.
– Voice your band-related disagreements just as you would with any other band mate, and don’t agree with your partner just for the sake of the relationship. Be wary of resolving band matters between the two of you outside of band practice–your bandmates may feel alienated if you two always seem to agree at practice, even if you really fought about it for 2 hours at home.
– On the flip side, don’t get personally butthurt when your partner disagrees with your band-related issue, and if for some reason you do, save that butthurt-airing for an at-home argument. Don’t argue about personal stuff at band–don’t even THINK about those things while at band. Also, don’t ask your bandmates for relationship advice OR vent about your partner in any non-band-related way. If you think always agreeing alienates other band members, try putting them in the middle of your relationship drama!
– Be honest with your bandmates about the fact that you’re dating, and let them know that you’ve discussed the no-drama-at-band-functions pact and agreed to power through it for the band’s sake if you break up (or determine which member will leave). Ask them to give you a chance, rather than coming in like a dictator and saying, “We’re dating. Deal with it.”
– Be prepared for the fact that some people just don’t want to deal with a couple in the band, and know that someone (or all of them) may quit when you tell them. Don’t let this convince you to keep it secret – still be honest, and possibly reconsider your decision if it would mean losing another member.
– Always remember that you have more than just your relationship at stake whenever you’re mad or considering breaking up or retaliating against your significant other in some way. If you can’t keep it together and stay faithful, just don’t go there, or at least wait until your band breaks up before you start a relationship.
TEARING DOWN THE TABOO OF INTRA-BAND DATING:
Despite the long-held taboo of intra-band dating (thanks to that handful of terrible examples *cough* Fleetwood Mac *cough* No Doubt *cough, cough*) it really can be a positive thing to have a dating couple in the band. Some bands even find the couple’s relationship acts as a source of stability for the band because the two have even more invested in the band than just the music itself.
“We based our whole relationship on mutual respect and being each other’s muse and that’s how we’ve always been. We were just two missing pieces that found each other.” – Neil Giraldo, guitarist & husband to Pat Benatar
(Quoted from Parade Magazine
)“If me and my ex never dated I’d never be in the band. She recruited me in when they needed a second guitarist. Lucky me.” Chris “Toefur,” guitar, Something Clever
“Being in a band with my husband has only strengthened the bond between us. There is NOTHING like playing music, especially live, with someone you are that close to.” – Laura Lithium, bass, Jack Derringer and the Smokin’ Gunz
“[T]here’s something to be said for having your significant other with you when you’re on the road for long stretches of time, or even more important than that, being able to make music that you both 100% believe in together. Very few things can top that.” – Jaycee Clark, vocals, A Light Divided
“Making music is a very intimate thing, in my opinion, and to share the process with your significant other is awesome and powerful and raw.” – Christie Mowery, vocals, Hawthorn & Holly
“Working and creating together, this is the most intimate connection you can have and [when] that happens it’s beautiful.” – Erika, vocals, HENBRAIN
“I think our mutual passion for each other makes us better bandmates. We are more empathetic and attuned to each other when we jam or write a song. ” – Danielle Engle, vocals, Radio Lola (If You Swim)
“I don’t think Rylynn would exist without us being together.” – Emily Grace, vocals, Rylynn
See? Dating your bandmate is not all bad! Just make sure you go into the relationship with your eyes wide open and avoid the minefield of things that can go wrong.
Good luck with your band-dating endeavors, and Happy Valentine’s Day to all, single or coupled-up, from Tattermask!
This article was compiled from a survey conducted via a Google form by rock band Tattermask in Charlotte, NC. Respondents were not required to give their identities, and all quotations are included by express permission. Many respondents chose to remain anonymous and not be quoted directly, though we thank all respondents for contributing their words of wisdom to our research.