Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

More and more bands are recruiting members who don't perform or play instruments

Photo: Roger Kisby (Getty Images)

Some bands suffice on music alone, but others realize that success is dependent on much more than a few guitars, a drum kit, and some singers. Remember I’m From Barcelona? They were a solid Swedish indie outfit that wouldn’t have made much of an impact if not for the fact that they always had somewhere between 16 and 28 members in the band. The thing was, a five-piece could’ve produced their tunes; most of their members did stuff like play the kazoo or shout along with some choruses. It was marketing, and it was smart.

The question of what constitutes being a member of a band is at the heart of this Tedium piece, which focuses first and foremost on Coldplay’s fifth member, Phil Harvey, who doesn’t play an instrument but has long served as a jack-of-all-trades for the band behind-the-scenes. Other bands count non-players in their ranks as well—The Grateful Dead’s primary lyricist, Robert Hunter, for example, became the first non-performing individual to grace the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, despite him never taking the stage with the band.


But the real point of the piece focuses on how visual components and design are becoming more and more prevalent in a band’s identity, and how it’s becoming more and more common to see those members listed in a group’s liner notes. “[I]n 2018, the game is different,” reads the piece. “Bands aren’t following the same script. The future of artistry is that we’re going to have more multimedia, interactive experiences, where creative stuff is going to be hitting us a thousand ways from Tuesday.”

Boy band Brockhampton counts a webmaster and graphic designer among its members. Gwar, for example, is a band known primarily for their grotesque aesthetic and onstage antics, the likes of which probably wouldn’t exist if not for artist Don Drakulich (a.k.a. Sleazy P. Martini). Similarly, Gorillaz’ entire aesthetic was designed with the help of Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett.

Of course, no conversation about non-playing band members would be complete without mentioning Ben Carr, a.k.a. that dude who dances onstage for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Read the full piece here, and revisit Carr’s iconic work below:

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.