When they’re not working in their “day jobs”, these familiar local professionals can often be found on a stage somewhere nearby, indulging their passion for music via their group, “The Band with No Name”. We spoke with a few of the band members recently, and here’s what they had to say …
Whilst many of our readers will likely know you by sight, can you please introduce yourselves and tell us what instruments you play, and what you do in your “day” job?
The band consists of the following members: Vern Munnings – GP at Wynter St Medical Centre – guitar (electric, acoustic and bass); Lyn Munnings – retired RN – saxophone; Donald Hood – veterinary surgeon at Taree Veterinary Hospital – keyboard; Greg Cuttance – dentist at Manning Valley Dental – guitar; Alan Pedersen – doctor – guitar; Jodie Williams – Hospital Assistant/Diet Aide – drums.
How and when did “The Band with No Name” form … and what’s with the name?
Vern: The band had its first public appearance in 2006, following on from a few jams with the Pedersens. My practice staff at the Wynter St Medical Centre were hosting the Medical Secretaries’ Dinner – an annual fundraising event hosted by a different practice each year. They were looking at hiring a band, or a juke box at considerable expense, which would have eaten into the fundraising activity.
We helped them out, playing as the “Fit ins”. It was a good night, and probably set the mould for our support for various community group/fundraisers. However, that name was specific for that particular gig, and then we basically could not agree on a name. At that stage we had about seven members – with our son Ed, and Alan’s son, Tim, playing with us. (I think we gave them excellent training – both went on to bigger musical things.)
Competitions to find a name for the band have raised a bit for charity – but we still can’t decide … hence not “A“ Band, it’s “The” Band With No Name.
What genre of music do you play, and/or love to play?
Greg: Well, I suppose we are largely a bunch of old rockers – I hope the others don’t mind me saying that – and Australian rock and roll is a favourite. But good music is good music, wherever it comes from. We do a lot of popular covers; there’s even a bit of country creeping in these days. However, we do enjoy playing quite a variety. Basically, if people like it, we play it.
Donald: We have not as yet played any ABBA music – much to Greg’s disgust. I personally love to play newer music from this century, but we do play music from the ’60s through to the present.
Vern: Our rule was everyone should sing a song – so we would learn whatever the band member wanted, and back them. This had two effects: one – a very wide range of music, I certainly play stuff I’d never considered before … and – two – once people start singing, you can’t shut them up, which has grown into some pretty big multi-part harmonies.
There’s a rumour that you often perform free for charities – it sounds like this is a labour of love, if that’s the case? If that’s true, can you tell us why you choose to donate your services?
Vern: Why the charitable thing? Do you need a reason? It just seemed to happen. We have always played for fun … we are amateurs. It’s good to help out those groups/charities that are making an effort … and it’s still fun.
Jodie: It’s nice to be able to give back to the community – a great opportunity to get together.
Greg: Personally, music is my passion, not my job. It doesn’t seem right to charge for something I enjoy so much … besides, it feels good to help out whenever we can. We try not to compete for gigs that working musicians need. There’s not enough live music out there as it is. But if we can help a club, a charity, anyone really who needs music for a good cause, then we are happy to help out.
You’re already very busy in your respective careers … how much time do you set aside for performing, and how do you juggle your time between work commitments, time spent rehearsing, and playing gigs?
Vern: We are all busy, hence practice is a rare thing. We do about four – six gigs a year lately, but used to do more in the early days. We’re lucky to do that many practices in a year. I’m not sure rehearsing is really the right word – when we do get together, it’s rare to play a song twice! I’m always surprised how we sound, considering the lack of practice as a band!
Donald: Getting time to rehearse, and even play gigs, can be difficult with a heavy work schedule. I often practice by singing while performing surgery or pregnancy testing cows. I find my vocal range improves dramatically when I’m delivering calves.
What do you love most about performing together?
Greg: I suppose it’s a cliché, but just the joy of music … it’s a pretty wonderful thing. When you play music with great people who share the passion, it’s even better. So, I’m lucky to know these guys. Also, the people we play for are always very grateful, and that always warms the heart.
Vern: I like playing music, and it’s always better to play with someone else, and the more the merrier. I think the voice is the original instrument, and the harmonies are the thing I enjoy most. Performing helps lift your game. I‘m always just a bit terrified getting up in front of people, but being in a band is all about supporting each other. You’ve got to depend on each other.
Is there a “favourite” gig you’ve played? Can you share with our readers?
Jodie: I was in awe just watching all the staff and clients come together for a wonderful evening at the Dundaloo 65th Anniversary. There was so much love and respect for each other. I couldn’t keep the smile of my face watching everyone having a fabulous time.
Donald: We played a wedding for one of my nurses a few years ago, and Greg and I spent weeks learning a very difficult country song – which we just couldn’t get right. Greg and I were extremely worried about performing the song, which was to be the couple’s bridal waltz.
When we played the first chords of the song, the whole crowd at the wedding burst into song, and Greg and I couldn’t hear ourselves singing at all throughout. It was the greatest performance ever. Greg and I may have sung extremely wonderfully, or extremely badly, but it didn’t matter. No one heard us for the crowd. It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. That was a great moment in a great gig.
Greg: I suppose whenever you see people rocking along on the dance floor with smiles on their faces or hear them singing along with you … that makes me happy. I gather that means we are doing something right.
It’s been enlightening – thanks guys!
Interview: Ingrid Bayer.