11 vocalists spill the tea about forgetting lyrics onstage
There are songs that we know every single lyric to and can recite at any given moment. But sometimes, even the people who wrote the lyrics–or at least sing them nightly on tour–can have a total and utter mind blank while performing them live in front of a captive audience. Talk about an anxiety dream come true, right?
We asked members of Parkway Drive, Marmozets, the Bronx, Grayscale, Deez Nuts, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, PVRIS, Cancer Bats, the Faim, Palaye Royale and Municipal Waste to spill the tea about forgetting lyrics onstage.
Winston McCall, PARKWAY DRIVE
It’s weird because forgetting the lyrics, for me, is when I start focusing too much. All of a sudden I hit a mental roadblock, and then nothing comes out. I stand there for a bit and think, “I hope I remember something soon!” and then something sparks. Every time it happens, I turn around and look at our drummer, and he’s just shaking his head laughing. It happens once, and then it jinxes me for the next night, because the next night I get to that bit and I’m like, “I hope it doesn’t happen again, ah fuck, it happened again!” Sometimes, I have to read through the lyrics before I go on to break the cycle; that’s rare, though. It’s always random because when it does pop into my head I’m like, “Yeah, of course, it’s that song I sing every night!” It’s just a mental tick.
Becca Mcintyre, MARMOZETS
It’s happened so many times. I just hum the tune to disguise it. No one’s ever caught me out doing it; I’m really good! I think it’s a nerve thing; sometimes you black out. But then in the last second—it always quickly comes back to your memory, and you’re like, “That was close!” It happens to the best of us.
Collin Walsh, GRAYSCALE
That’s happened plenty of times to me. When I play now, I’m lucky enough where I can let the crowd sing it. But recently, our show was canceled in Cardiff, and we played this little acoustic pop up, and we have this song called “Forever Yours” that we don’t play often, and we played it. Because we never play it live, in the third verse, on this weird occasion that we were playing it—I totally forgot the lyrics. Dallas was playing guitar, and he just held on the chord, and I literally said, “What are the lyrics?!” and somebody started singing it, and I picked back up on that. I don’t care!
Tony Foresta, MUNICIPAL WASTE
It happens when I’m doing songs for other bands, but never with Municipal Waste. If I wrote it, I remember it—thank God! When I fill in for other bands—I filled in for Hatebreed a couple of nights ago—sometimes I do guest vocals and shit, and I’ll forget. If somebody else writes the lyrics, I can’t remember them!
Frank Carter, FRANK CARTER & THE RATTLESNAKES
Did it yesterday. Literally all the time! I normally look at the front row, and there will be someone singing along, and they help me get back in time. I’m terrible! I am really bad. A lot of the time I’ll just dive in the crowd then—make this look cool! Got to do something because I can’t remember the lyrics! My bass player, Tank, he’s really good at having my back. So if he sees me struggling and miss a couple of words already, I’ll turn to him, and he’ll be singing it for me. Thanks buddy. I’ve got a support network.
JJ Peters, DEEZ NUTS
I do it all the time. I have the blessing that I can just put the mic in the crowd. That’s the great thing about hardcore. I do that even when I can remember the lyrics, but if there are ever any points in the night where I—for whatever reason—have a bit of memory loss, I just put the mic in the crowd, and someone will fill up, and I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s right!” It doesn’t happen too often; it’s usually if it’s a new song or a song that we haven’t played for mad long and haven’t rehearsed. It can be one of those things where you go on autopilot, and then you realize you’re in part of the song where you’ve forgotten your feet. “Can someone just remind me?” Ah right, I’m back!
Lynn Gunn, PVRIS
I do it all the time! You just roll with it. I’ll wait for people to pick it back up, see where we are. But that happens a lot. Sometimes, I’ll start daydreaming about something and forget! You’re human, and people think it’s funny when that shit happens, too.
Liam Cormier, CANCER BATS
Happens all the time! I just laugh it off. Usually the kids who know the lyrics will catch the thing. We hang with all of our kids after the show, so we’ll always laugh about it later. The only time I get really nervous is when we do the Black Sabbath cover set stuff. That I’m terrified to mess up the lyrics because I’m like, “That’s not a Cancer Bats song; that’s a Black Sabbath song!” That’s the only time I get worried.
Remington Leith, PALAYE ROYALE
I’ve messed up. I’ll switch verses, because there are some days that it’s just a complete blank, and it’s so obvious. I’ll make up some gibberish or some bullshit or mumble the melody.
Josh Raven, THE FAIM
I have, definitely in our earliest days for sure. It happens; nobody forgets the lyrics because they don’t care about the song. Sometimes, there’s something else going through their mind, or I’ve watched something really funny happen in the crowd, and it takes you off guard. There are a lot of different elements that can affect that for sure.
Matt Caughthran, THE BRONX
It happens. I used to be so good at it, I never forgot anything, but around record four or five, after we did three mariachi records—especially when we were going back and forth between both those bands live—that was a lot. You just got to laugh and try your best to remember what you’re supposed to be singing. But it’s never because the words don’t mean a lot to me. Everything I’ve written, that we’ve written together as a band, means the world to me. It’s just sometimes it’s not in your brain.