Hippo Manchester
December 22, 2005

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Nite: Take me to your leader

What does it take to be a front man?

By Richie Victorino   rvictorino@hippopress.com

Most successful “teams” have leaders — people who are there to make sure things get done well and push you when you don’t want to be pushed.

Orchestras have a conductor. Football teams have a quarterback. I have an editor.

Many rock bands have a similar go-to person, a front man who acts as the leader on stage, and, typically, is the spokesman for the band when folks like me come snooping around.

But how does a front man become a front man?

Is it, by default, the lead singer? Is it the most charismatic member or is it the one with the Hollywood looks? Is it the one who puts the most time or effort into the songwriting?

There are a lot of reasons why a front man becomes a front man. But if a band isn’t clear on who their front man is, tension can grow (just ask the guys from Stillwater, the imaginary band from the movie Almost Famous).

Once dubbed a front man, this band member has responsibilities to meet.

Chad LaMarsh, of Chad LaMarsh Band, knows what it takes to lead a band.

“Entertaining, whether it be fronting a band or doing a solo show, has to be a part of you,” he said. “You have to want to be there singing and playing from your heart and soul, if you’re in front of seven people or 7,000. Your audience knows when you’re going through the motions and not caring, so you have to be “on” every gig, every night.”

The sacrifice

“How far would I go [as front man]?” Drew Baker, frontman of Mongrel, said. “I’ve gotten numerous injuries including a broken nose, black eye, sprained ankle, dislocated fingers ... I also attempt to climb as high as I can before jumping into the crowd.”

Mongrel understands that it’s more than just the music that keeps the crowd entertained. Baker’s lively antics add to the show.

“The fans see how much we are willing to put ourselves into it for them and are always wondering what will happen next,” Savage said.

Baker is quick to add that Savage helps out in fulfilling front man duties.

Enter the hype man

The hype man, according to the guys in the band Averi, is the front man’s partner in crime. Think Penn and Teller, Siegfried and Roy, Abbott and Costello.

For Averi, singer/guitarist Mike Golarz is the front man “because he has an amazing voice, he’s a great guitar player ... and has the ability to keep the crowd entertained,” according to keyboardist/saxophonist Michael Currier. Currier is the hype man.

“I essentially help to support the front man by ... giving him more fuel and material to feed off of and to keep the band on the same page on stage while he’s off singing to some pretty girl,” Currier said. “A hype man is usually a very colorful character who usually emerges in a group that has two charismatic people ... Flavor Flav [of Public Enemy] is a perfect example.”

While some bands are quick to define the role of each member, other bands seek the “team” approach, and succeed just fine.

“The best part of a lot of bands, in my opinion, is the group as a whole,” said Art Murphy, singer with Blue Matter, as well as producer of various bands.  “I look at our situation as more of a group,” he said of Blue Matter. “I’m definitely the guy singing the songs, but we all go beyond the typical ego of musicians.”