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Life in the Band: Q&A with Hayden Fritzlaff

It’s an average Wednesday morning in Canberra. You wake up, grab your bags and board a plane for a Melbourne to record some new songs with your band. Thirteen hours have passed when you finish. The next day you fly to North Queensland for a few days to play shows on tour with rock band DZ Deathrays. By Monday you are home and get a chance to breathe, have a beer, hang out with your partner and family – for a moment at least, until a photoshoot in the afternoon. Back in the office on Tuesday and a sit-down dinner with family is a distant thought as you have rehearsals later. Finally… Wednesday comes and you have a moment to yourself. You would think tomorrow brings calm after a busy past week, but your flight to Brisbane leaves in the morning and the plane won’t wait for you. Time to pack again.

This is the past week for Hayden Fritzlaff. Best known as the drummer for Canberra’s alternative rock band Moaning Lisa and indie group Helena Pop. Otherwise known as the marketing and events coordinator at the University of Canberra. It’s a hectic life – and we had the luxury of getting an inside look into how he manages it all.

So you’re in a band, what is your secret to balancing band life with work life?

I think the secret is actually that things often aren’t in balance. The music industry in general can be mega demanding in terms of out-of-hours work and emotional investment in the projects you work on. If you’re giving 110% to two or three projects at once, there’s really no version of that that’s ‘in balance’. Things often work in cycles though, and understanding that they exist and how they work can be really important to keeping your different lives sustainable.

How would you describe your typical week with these ongoing commitments?

I feel like saying that this week has been a particularly crazy one, or that this is just a particularly busy period. But if I’m honest, most weeks are looking more like this these days and less like a typical nine-to-five work week. Every week throws up something different to be sure, but the constants at the moment are working with incredible people and travel.

What is the best part about it?

Honestly, there are just too many best parts to mention. When I’m at home, I get to work as part of this incredible team putting together rock concerts for uni students. When I’m away I get to travel all around the country playing music with my best friends in the world.

“For me, I never feel more at home than when I’m sleeping on someone’s couch and living out of a backpack.”

One of my favourite days came last year. I woke up in Melbourne, dropped by the studio, flew to Sydney, had a quick lunch meeting, drove to Wollongong for a show and then drove home to Canberra and climbed into bed. So many surreal things have happened in the past couple of years, but working in four cities in one day is right up there.

On a scale of one to ten how tired/stressed do you get?

For me, the most stressful days, the ten out of ten ones, generally aren’t event days. It’s the ones two weeks out where you’re watching the ticket sales creep along a little too slowly and the promoter and the artist are starting to feel the heat too. Those are the ones where you just want to curl up in a ball on the floor. When it comes to the actual show, you kind of go into ‘show mode’, and if something needs to happen, you just to it.

For the record, a zero is floating in a pool at Airlie Beach after a show looking up at the stars.

Can you tell us about a time where it has been challenging to manage this kind of lifestyle?

It can definitely take a toll on your personal relationships. My partner and I both work in events, and so we both go in and out of these intense work periods. It can make it more difficult to be the supportive, ever-present partner you want to be. Having to put personal things to the side to focus on work can feel like such a sacrifice sometimes, and…

“I think those are the moments that can really feel tough, when your energy kind of gets sucked away because you feel like you’re doing it all wrong.”

What is the worst?

Hayden Fritzlaff accepting an award for Moaning Lisa at the National Live Music Awards, Canberra 2018. (Supplied for publication by Tori Heron of Tawz Imagery)

The worst parts of living multiple double lives come when they come into conflict with one another. It all happens behind the scenes, but I’ve had to cancel or move concerts because of double bookings, letting down friends and colleagues in the process. I’ve missed so many important events at work that it isn’t funny and the only way I can make it work is because the team I’m a part of is so supportive and understanding (not to mention talented, creative, brilliant, visionary and inspiring).

The lowest times were the ones where I had to give up or take time away from the projects I was working on to take care of my mental health. I’m so glad that I did though.

What is your position on young people getting into the music industry these days?

To me, music is one of those areas where people make progress and build careers because they make friends in the industry and they try new things and they take risks and they learn from mistakes.

These are all things that come much more easily to people in positions of privilege, and so one of the most important things to consider with regard to encouraging and empowering young people to enter the music industry is to make sure we focus that energy on the people who aren’t necessarily in a position to break into it on their own.

Has it been hard for you?

It’s been hard in the sense that there are hard days and hard weeks and difficult decisions to make. There are strained relationships and health problems and sacrifices. But ultimately, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve always been surrounded by supportive people, be that family or friends or professional relationships, and I’ve been built up every step of the way. So yes, there have been hard times, but I don’t think I can say that I’ve had it hard.

What would you say to someone else in a similar position, maybe needing a bit of advice on how to balance things well?

I guess I’d say to remember that things aren’t always going to be in balance (at least not in a conventional sense) and that’s okay. That’s not to say you shouldn’t strive for a healthy work/life/creative balance, but just keep in mind that what constitutes balance for you might not fit with what balance means to others.

If things are ever hard, I try and remind myself that I get to work at rock concerts for a living, and that usually helps.

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