Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Real Talk With Rachel: Band Aid; Note of Thanks

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I am a bass player in a rock band during my free time. I learned about the group through a roommate, who is friends with the drummer. The two founders of the band are the lead guitarist and the vocalist. Those two write all of the songs and have creative control over the band. They are also best friends.

I like the songs we play, and the drummer and lead guitarist are great musicians, but the lead vocalist is *really* bad. When my friends come to see me at gigs, they’ve admitted it’s the first thing they notice. Honestly, it’s hard not to notice.

I don’t expect this band to hit the big time or anything, but the vocalist is definitely holding us back. Once, after a really frustrating practice, I talked to the lead guitarist about it. While he agreed at the time, the next time we spoke he backtracked and said that his friend was an invaluable part of the band. Is there anything else I can do?

Out of Tune

Dear Out of Tune,

I can understand your frustration and, frankly, your embarrassment. You invite your friends to your concert, only to have their ears assaulted by someone's squawking. One would think that a person writing his own songs might write them in the right key for his range.

It seems to me like you’ve exhausted most of your options for improving the band as you see fit, considering you have no creative control over it. You even suggested mutiny to one of the people who does have power. While it seems like you briefly tempted the lead guitarist into a new vision for the band, he ultimately pulled away out of loyalty for his friend.

One thing you haven’t done: speak directly to the singer. Now, of course, don’t tell him what you told me (“You are terrible!” isn’t very constructive). Instead, try and provide criticism on a song-by-song basis. Provide a constructive, “Hey, maybe try and go low instead of high,” at the most glass-breaking moments and hope he listens.

This strategy depends on how he reacts to your advice. What if he chooses to ignore your critiques? That leaves you with two choices: you can keep strumming that bass line and try to ignore the shrieking at the front of the stage. Or, you can start your own band. You’ve got to decide what you can withstand.



Dear Rachel,

I am in my mid-twenties, currently working at a job I don’t like, so I’ve been applying to new jobs. I just had an interview at my dream job. My mom told me to write the person who interviewed me a handwritten thank-you note. But I want to make sure that the thank you arrives quickly. Should I send an email instead?

Sending the Right Message

Dear Sending the Right Message,

For the sake of integrity, I should disclose that I am a huge fan of handwritten thank-you cards -- both sending and receiving. They feel more meaningful and are worth every cent paid to the post office.

Like anything regarding job interviews, though, you need to carefully calibrate your actions to your potential new employer. Are you applying to a tech company? If so, handwritten thank-yous might make you seem more anachronistic than thoughtful. Is the application process rushed? That would make it hard for your note to arrive on time. They don’t call it snail mail for nothing.

You might want to send a quick email thank-you to the people who interviewed you, just as a common courtesy. They’ll receive it, and probably forget about it, quickly. Then, send a handwritten thank you note that will arrive a few days later. It’ll get you back on their radar amidst interviews with other candidates.

Good luck with the application process. I hope that you get the job. Speaking as a person who hasn’t gotten a number of dream jobs I’ve applied for, however, I advise you to try not to get too attached (I’ve gotta say it, even though I know how difficult that advice is to follow). You never know what new dream job might pop up and change the narrative of your life.


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via

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