Zine Philosophy: Return to the Night: Starting a Band When You’re Over 35

by Stephanie Johns

Hello from Not You, a four piece rock band from Halifax, NS. This is Stephanie. Here’s my advice about how to start a band when you’re older (over 35, that special time).

First, it helps if you’ve played music before, and feel comfortable on a stage and holding and playing and instrument but I don’t think this is a requirement. What IS a requirement is a mutable tuner. Don’t even mess around on this point.

Second, try to fight through the feeling that you should be retired from public nightlife by now and taking care of your kid(s)/face at home (because, like, IT’S NIGHTTIME the kid is sleeping, what are you supposed to do, stare at him? That’s for months 0–3). You can roast sweet potatoes and make peanut butter and banana sandwiches when you wake up at 6:30am. If someone is hate-staring at you they’re just scared of your strength and confidence. Those people are small. You’re 10 feet tall. It also is worth remembering the *actual truth* is that no one is even looking or judging you whatsoever, everyone is in their own heads — they’re there to hook up, enjoy music, have a fun time. No one is wondering who let their mom in. You deserve to be there! You make things better just by being there, you really do.

I really, truly understand that it’s somewhat uncomfortable being the oldest person at the venue. It’s enough to bring on some kind of existential questioning — what am I doing here? Why aren’t there any other older women here? What are those women doing instead? Should I also be doing that? But here’s the deal: existing in public as a woman nearing *invisibility age* is a political act. Playing music on stage as a woman over 35 is a political act. People will appreciate it. Maybe there’s someone else in the audience who would love to do what you’re doing and just seeing you gives them a little push!

But there are challenges: It’s hard to be spoken to in a really condescending way by a boy in his 20s, and it will definitely happen. (“I’m impressed, those were REAL bass lines! I’m a bass player, so I know.”) The best tactic is to stare dead into his eyes and say nothing.

Playing music with kind, caring, like-minded people helps. You need a group of people who understand that your life is a living, breathing entity that needs tending. A common goal is good, but a lot of support and understanding is better. And if the other women in the band have kids that are older than yours you will get their sweet hand-me-downs. And the snack assortment is way better.

Organization needs to be up there. Doodle polls help with band practice scheduling so much. It’s important not to waste a ton of time (you’re busy!) but also remember to take a minute to enjoy the process. I’m sure you work your ass off in every aspect of your life and being in a band *is* hard work, but don’t forget that it’s fun and you like it.

Obviously wear your earplugs.