What’s a Nation State? (And how does this apply to Rock and Roll Bands?)

6 Mar

To be fair, at this point I really have no preconception, (or at least a well defined one), of how a Rock and Roll band is like a nation state. But I suspect there’s something to this. And I want to find out. So here we go.

Nation State

  • An imagined community.
  • A source of economic organization.
  • An identity.
  • A sense of shared purpose.
  • Shared myths, culture, economy, rights, and language.

Nation states have political autonomy. The population has pride in their national identity.  In application, though perhaps not internally on every issue, it’s people collectively think and act as one entity. They have currency, labor laws, trade agreements, etc. They identify as nationals or citizens.

Shared sense of purpose. Beating the USSR to the moon, getting a nuclear weapon no matter what those infidels say, colonizing the New World. Getting the gold medal.

Shared history or myths. Paul Revere signaling the arrival of the British, George Washington crossing the Delaware, Vasily Zaytsev singlehandedly saving Stalingrad from the German Army, the conquests of William the Conqueror or Charlemagne, Genghis Khan and the Mongolian hordes, The Six Day War.

Shared rights and responsibilities  The Magna Carta, the Tennis Court Oath, the Constitution. Taxes, obeying laws, voting.

Language. English, Deutsch, Francais, Hebrew, Xosha, Farsi, Russian, Ebonics.

Rock and Roll Bands:

  • An imagined group.
  • A source of musical organization.
  • An identity.
  • A sense of shared puprpose.
  • Shared Rock and Roll stories, income, and responsibilities.

An imagined group. With few exceptions, who are the members of a band prior to it’s formation but casual friends, people you met on Craigslist or a music ad, (or okay – maybe a family member – I told you it’s not exactly the same as a nation state).

A source of musical organization. What did you have before you got together? An unfinished riff here and there, a bass line you thought sounded cool but not attached to anything, pentatonic scales you weren’t putting to use? Maybe you had a full song or two, (or even an album), you’d written on your own, but are you gonna play all the instruments yourself? Sure, you could. But that’s something I’m not interested in at all, so eff that.

An identity. You  named your band, right? (Maybe you even named it after a nation state or something close, like America or Beirut or Asia or Nazareth – my personal favorite name is a local group called Battlestar Canada). And you do look like you’re in the same band, right? (If not, you really need to0). Made up a logo or is there a specific typeface you use? Got all that? Good. You have an identity.

A sense of shared purpose. Self-explanatory. You’re there to play rock and roll, and maybe score some free booze and drugs and to get laid occasionally. To have a good time and stories to tell when you’re old.

Shared stories. Of course you remember the time that One Hit Wonder from 15 years ago came through town and you snagged the opening spot at their show. Or the time you met J Mascis at that dive bar in DC and he was kind of an asshole to you. Or the time the van broke down and those hot chicks gave you a ride to the gas station, and Joe disappeared with one of them, returning only minutes before soundcheck the next night.

Income. You have settled the publishing rights, yeah? No? You better do that right now. Trust me.

Responsibilities. Who books the gigs and manages the website and marketing? Who handles the money? You play an instrument and pitched in for those stickers and Tshirts, right? Show up for practice and gigs sober and on time? Yeah.

Language. Don’t tell me you don’t have inside jokes or special names each other, or for bands or sound guys you don’t like. Or that one really annoying girl who comes to all your shows and won’t shut up on your Facebook page. You know that’s not what her mother calls her.

So yeah. At least simplistically, you might say Rock and Roll bands have the same basic things at their core you’ll find making up most nation states. But what should Rock and Roll bands do with this information? This is where the fun part begins.


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