University life is a stressful and time-consuming experience for all students. Exams, living alone and managing part time jobs or work experience is more than enough for anyone. For the guys at Radio Charmers, a Birmingham indie band, all of those stresses have to sit alongside touring the gig scene, recording albums and performing at festivals.
I join the guys, Lerelle, Kieran, Paul and Dan, backstage at the O2 Academy in Birmingham, shortly before their headline act. On the surface it’s a typical band scene, laughing and joking at who’s most feminine (Apparently not Lerelle, their female vocalist, but bassist Paul) and mild nervousness at how the crowd outside are feeling. Beyond their thoughts of getting their set list right and not having too much to drink, however, there’s the thoughts of upcoming music exams or events management coursework. The four of them don’t just have their music, they have their careers to build as a student.
Lerelle informs me that she’s an events management student at Birmingham University. She has her standard university life, a place to live with friends and even a part time job at Nando’s. The other guys have their exams approaching for various music based activities. I ask how they cope with the lives of music and education, and if such a busy schedule affects their work, and get a resounding ‘no’.
‘It’s actually a drive for us, having this band’ states Paul, alongside being proud of his hat. ‘By having this experience together then we have more focus to work hard for the future.’ Lerelle agrees, and says that because they’re always together they can help each other. They’re a mixed bunch of four individual people, but together they’re completely relaxed with each other and can mock one another freely. It’s clear that the level of friendship they have with each other can rub off into helping get rid of the stress.
It’s not an additional job for them, it’s more like a hobby. A hobby that involves writing two albums, reinventing popular songs as covers and screaming at the crowd to get them as lively as possible. It’s clear just from watching them all that this is the exact meaning of the phrase ‘If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life’, and this is replicated in their choice of courses. Paul and Kieran, the brothers of the band, have chosen music based courses because it’s what they’ve loved since performing at family barbecues, and Lerelle’s thoughts are they if she can’t make it headlining events, she’d like to be managing them.
The moral is clear. Picking the right course, participating in the right hobbies, and surrounding yourself with the right people are the easiest ways to combat university stress. Not everyone will be headlining the major stages of their cities or recording their own album, but there’s an almost infinite range of courses and activities to be passionate about, and it’s important to work out what you really want.
I leave the guys to watch the other acts as many other people fill the backstage room, making any further conversation impossible. One of the guitarists of another band informs me that he nearly punched a girl by mistake, and I take that as my cue to leave them to it. On stage, they’re brilliant. Everything they displayed backstage shines to the audience and they provide the liveliest atmosphere in the room that night.