Conversations: The Herringbones
I've always been a fan of live music. Whether it is a major performer at a sold out arena or a one man show at a local coffee shop, there is just something about music being created right in front of you. There is an certain type of energy a band brings and that is why I get excited when my wedding clients book one. I met George Booth, and his band The Herringbones, at a wedding last spring. George has loved music since childhood when his friend’s English grandmother sent over early Beatles records. Between the British pop influence to the great vocalizations of Soul/R&B artists to the theatricality of Alice Cooper and Kiss, George credits a wide musical diet for shaping his love of all things music today. I recently sat down with George to talk about live music at weddings.
James: We met at the wedding of Christine and Jonathan last spring and what I remember very distinctly is the last 10-15 minutes when everybody was right there in front of the stage. You had their undivided attention. The bride and groom were in the middle and everyone seemed to be showering them with love. It was an incredible moment and there was so much electricity on the room. I don’t think you can get that kind of moment with out a well-oiled band that can get the crowd together like that.
George: I remember that very clearly and it means a lot that you noticed that. I wish I could tell you exactly how that works. We try to build the set list in a way that we create this build to the end, so in someways, it’s like telling a story or a joke. You’ve got to have this climax to the story or the joke as to have a punchline. They chose The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” to end the night with.
James: Photographically, I love that song because everyone, on cue, knows to throw their hands in the air. Tell me more about The Herringbones and what you bring to a wedding.
George: We have this five piece band and we don’t sound like a studio recording; we’re not meant to. We’re a live band and we sort of feature that part of it. We don’t use tracks or sequences, we want what we do to be created on the spot in the moment. We try to communicate to brides and grooms that this is truly authentic. If all you want is a playlist, there are some really great DJs out there. We’re not talking down about any of it or competing with those folks. There is just something about creating something in the moment that feels right.
James: Are the Herringbones a wedding band or do you do other things?
George: The kind of work you do is the kind of work you are going to get. We don’t play clubs and bars. When we are out playing, it’s at somebody's private function. What we love about playing a wedding is you are participating in what is bound to be one of the top two or three days in a person’s life. It’s like nothing else. It’s never a thing we take for granted. We know everything is probably the product of years of dreams and hopes and wishes. We try to get involved as early as we can and over communicate. We do as much homework as we can to take the burden off the bride and groom.
James: What type of music do you guys generally play?
George: We don’t come in with a canned show. I like to say we play everything and lot’s of it. We’re pretty good at a variety of genres. We can do country, pop, mo-town, classic rock. If you want a variety of music that will appeal to the toddlers running around to the great grandparents, we can do that. We’ll learn up to 4 new songs per event.
James: Is that by request, or do you go out with the intent each time to learn new stuff to push yourself.
George: It’s both. We tell them we’ll learn up to four new songs, but we like to. It’s better when they choose the songs because my favorite song might be something you love or it might be something you’ve never heard of and that is an awful bet to take on somebody else’s special day.
George: We try to set up as much stuff for them ahead of time. We leave the decisions that are pivotal to them but then give them some guidance. The other thing we do is we provide MC services, so with coordination, we can help make sure the timeline is followed. But we don’t try to dictate that if the bouquet toss is scheduled at 9:25, it’s happening at 9:25.
James: I find flexibility to be pretty crucial during a wedding. You can plan it down to the minute, but what fun is it if you, as the bride or groom, are constantly stressing about hitting each point on the agenda? There needs to be a little bit of breathing room.
George: What we see is couples are often too optimistic about how long some things take. We tell them that if anything goes over, it’s ok, we’ll play some acoustic music for the cocktail hour or shorten the dinner set. We build in some little give points just for that sort of thing.
The truth of the matter is, you can take 5 really good musicians and put them together, and they could do everything the same way, but it’s still not going to be the same thing.
James: The same thing goes with photography, going back to the authenticity and creating something on the spot. Photographers can use the same equipment I do, but I’m seeing things differently, I’m approaching moments differently, I’m thinking about things differently. Anything that is happening live at the wedding can be adjusted on the fly. That’s what separates professionals, making those adjustments. I’m sure if you guys are playing a song and start feeling a bad vibe from the room, you’re going to make adjustments.
George: Absolutely. It’s funny, sometimes you’ll have a client that will choose all these songs, and when you play them the dance floor is empty and when the song ends it’s crickets. We definitely want to encourage brides and grooms, when they’re working with a band, either with us or somebody else, we’ll give you some pointers. We want it to be a reflection of your taste. We can dial it into things that will get people on the dance floor and have a great time, because that’s what they will remember.
The band is also listed on gigmasters.com