[Photos by: Cody Carson/Carmin Edwards, Ben Barlow/Joshua Halling, Lynn Gunn/Ashley Osborn]
It’s the worst kind of nightmare: standing by yourself on stage, staring down a blinding spotlight, when your mind goes completely blank. And for some musicians who have made a career out of performing, it’s a feeling they know all too well. AP caught up with a few singers, from Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow to PVRIS’ Lynn Gunn, to talk about that one time they forgot the lyrics on stage.
Ben Barlow, Neck Deep
"That is so hard because I don’t do it very much, thankfully! There was this one time we were playing a venue called the Cookie Jar in Leicester, and I completely forgot one of the verses to 'What Did You Expect?' In fact, what actually happened is something weird went on instrumentally and I totally lost where I was—I was looking round without a clue what was going on! Luckily, the crowd were still singing along; those five or six dudes going crazy at the front really helped me out there. In the end I managed to drop back in and we got away with it—in fact, the band didn’t even realize I’d forgotten and thought my mic had just fucked up, so that panned out well for me! It’s pretty rare that I forget something these days, though. I occasionally get the odd word mixed up, but I’m pretty tight, usually."
John O’Callaghan, The Maine
"I would say probably on the last tour, so pretty recently. Most of what it is, to be honest, is just mental lapse. You know the lyrics, but for some reason, you look into the crowd and somebody catches your eye and throws you off, whatever it might be. It’s one of those things that you hope doesn’t happen, but it does, and to me, it’s important to just stay as cool as possible and to try to get the cue from somebody in the audience because if I stop onstage, I can’t look over to the guys because they’re just as lost. It’s been recent, but we try to make it few and far between. [Laughs.]"
Derek DiScanio, State Champs
"It’s happened a couple of times. [Laughs.] I think a big time that does happen is when we’re playing very early on Vans Warped Tour. I’m the one who sleeps the latest, so if I wake up at 11 a.m. and someone says, 'Derek, get up, we’re playing first today'—because at Warped Tour the schedule is totally random—I’ll get up and be in a daze. I’ll jump up, start pounding water and get myself psyched up. I’m worried about my voice and getting ready, and I’m not really thinking about the songs. We get up there, and I remember one or two shows on this past Warped Tour where I just completely blanked it on a couple certain verses or whatever. A lot of our songs have really fast lyrics in the verses, so I kind of choke up a little bit. Since that’s happened, the one or two times it has, I’ve made sure that that does not happen again. But nobody’s perfect, and it’s bound to happen again. It’s only a matter of time."
Keith Buckley, Every Time I Die
"Download Fest, Donington Park, England; June 10, 2017. We got up at 4:30 a.m. to fly from Switzerland and when we landed in London we had about a two-hour drive to the fest. It is, in my mind, the most important festival that a band like us can play, so our performance was going to be crucial, and there is literally nothing worse for my voice than no sleep. That whole plane ride, the whole van ride, the whole day before the set, I was panicking that I would not be able to hit the note at the end of 'It Remembers,' which is the most difficult part of any song we have. I fretted all day long about that one note. All day.
"Finally we’re up there, the show is going incredible and here comes that note. I fuckin’ nail it. I am so ecstatic in my own mind that I actually did it that I start throwing a mental afterparty and completely forgot that there were still two more lines. When I realized it, it was already too late. My mouth was already singing the wrong ones. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them that I meant to do it because I like that line better, but the truth is, I was destroyed by my own hubris. The irony that my biggest moment of forgetfulness was in a song called 'It Remembers' is not lost on me."
Cody Carson, Set It Off
"That’s actually happened to me a couple times, unfortunately. [Laughs.] Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge over-analyzer. I have crazy-bad ADD. I’m that kid in middle school who had to get his planner signed on Friday so that they knew I was paying attention. The reason why I bring that up is, onstage, if I see something that’s distracting me, sometimes my brain will just switch over to obsessing about whatever that is or creating scenarios in my head. It just happens. Usually the songs that we play are muscle memory. I don’t really need to think to be able to sing the words to it, just like a lot of your favorite songs when you’re in the car. Sometimes it catches me, and I come back from that realization. I guess the way to think about it is a mental trick where I was on a roll with the muscle memory, then I come back, and I’m thinking too much about it and I’ll forget a word. The way I usually recover is Dan [Clermont, guitar], who does background vocals. I either look to him, or I’ll let the crowd take it for a couple words, and then I’ll get right back on it. I’m usually pretty good about recovery. [Laughs.]"
Lynn Gunn, PVRIS
"It happens every once in awhile. When it does, I stop and look out at the audience. Our fans are amazing and always singing back to me, which is super-helpful if I lose my place. I listen to them and then jump right back into the song."
Kieran Shudall, Circa Waves
"It happens all the time. The worst part is that I’ll forget a lyric and look to the crowd to try to see if someone is mouthing the lyrics so I can remember it. But then the kids are singing the wrong lyrics, so then I start singing the wrong lyrics, and it gets worse from there. I have a terrible memory, so I forget lyrics all the time."
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