Advice To New Bands From Spelling Bee's Mabel Suen And Joseph Hess


  • Photo by Andy Peterson

Spelling Bee's Mabel Suen (who, in the interest of full disclosure, writes for Gut Check, the RFT food blog) and Joseph Hess have thrown themselves into more-or-less every corner of DIY music -- their relentless efforts are detailed in this week's feature. Their band kicks off its sixth tour this Friday at Pig Slop Studios.

As you might expect, there's no magic formula for carving out a corner for your own band and others in a scene like St. Louis. Still, Hess and Suen have some general words of wisdom.

One way they've been able to effectively tour is by helping out-of-town bands book shows at some of the many venues in St. Louis. But it wasn't just a matter of helping friends: Hess was the primary force behind booking Cranky Yellow. That space recently closed due to an ongoing struggle with the City to meet codes. Hess and Suen don't see these sorts of things as dead ends.

"People like us will always find a space for our shows, whether they are consistent or not," says Suen.

"While venues are obviously an important part of keeping the DIY scene alive, people who care are really the ones that have to be around to make it thrive," she says. "I think that as long as there are people in this city who are passionate about bringing in great music from out of town, there will always be something worthwhile happening."

Hess and Suen, whose relative success with Spelling Bee is no accident, offer some suggestions for up-and-coming bands:

"Play out often," says Hess. "Seek out opening spots for touring acts, big or small. There are plenty of touring acts who are constantly looking for shows in St. Louis. Opening the music community and letting in new sounds enriches everyone involved. No matter what, try to bring in as many people as possible. Post flyers for your show, do any sort of online promotion that you can and above all, go out and support others. You cannot be lazy and apathetic and expect people to pay attention to your music, good or bad. Don't expect to get anything back for your effort, but hope for the best."

Says Suen, "Realize that everyone has their own tastes, and they're more-than-likely not the same as yours. Deal with it, and don't take it personally. Be positive. And, very simply: Work hard and be nice to others!"

Most of Spelling Bee's output can be downloaded for free on its Bandcamp site. Listen to 2010's Sweet Dreams, Strange Animal below.


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