The DIY lifestyle has little sympathy or compassion for the world of aspiring musicians, let alone college musicians. Long drives to shows and little to no income are among the common problems most bands face, but when you throw an early morning English class into the mix three days a week, it truly becomes a struggle.
The odds are against the countless number of student artists trying to make a living doing what they love, and a lucky few are able to find a balance between their passion and school obligations.
University of Georgia students Helen Rhinehart (senior) and Rob Thomason (junior) are just a couple of the many college students taking on a full course load while also touring and playing in an active band, along with band member Drew Smith (2007 graduate). To the untrained eyes of UGA academics, they may come across as your "typical" college students, but to the Athenian music scene they are much more.
Smith, Rhinehart and Thomason formed Chrissakes in early 2008. Smith (vocals and guitar) describes the group as "a very loud rock band."
Together the trio produces some of the hardest hitting post-hardcore/punk sounds that Athens has to offer. Smith's buzz saw guitar chords coupled with Thomason's quick hand on the drums and Rhinehart's infectious bass tone might not suit a stereotypical frat dude's musical tastes, but that's what makes them so great.
They may live a untraditional college life, but Smith says he still feels like a regular student. "Athens has a great music scene and that's what drew me to the area originally," he says. "The climate of UGA is that there are so many people in bands. Most of my friends are in bands and basically all of them are musically inclined in some way, so I don't consider us abnormal college students."
One of the most difficult aspects of college can be a student's inability to manage his or her time. Taking a full course load while maintaining a social life is one of the biggest obstacles students face, and for Chrissakes it's no different.
"We usually only practice once a week because everyone is so busy with school," says Smith. "We try and play two shows locally a month and make it down to Atlanta once a month. We rarely play more than four shows in a month."
With time constraints from school and jobs – somebody's got to pay the bills – the members of Chrissakes credit communication and making time for the band as the key to keeping their head above water.
"We are constantly talking to each other," says Smith. "Helen in the beginning suggested that we set a day aside for the band if we were serious about it and we all decided that was a great idea. We had to prioritize and Chrissakes was one of our top priorities."
Smith, Rhinehart and Thomason are no strangers to the financial struggles of being a student, either. It's safe to say they've eaten a pack of ramen or two in their day. But while most students have some kind of income to fund their study habits (beer and more beer), the bandmates' jobs help pay for their touring expenses, including transportation, equipment maintenance and other miscellaneous band obligations.
Even though college may aim to teach students everything in theory, it seems like Chrissakes have learned most of life's lessons outside of the classroom.
"The No. 1 tip I have for kids out there trying to keep up with being in a band while at school is communication," says Smith. Spoken like a true wise man, it seems as if Smith actually did learn a thing or two in his four years: "It's all about prioritizing and communicating with your bandmates so you can achieve your goals."
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