Tyler McMahon | How the Mistakes Were Made (St. Martin’s Griffin)

book mistakesHow the Mistakes Were Made gets it all right: the gritty underground music scene, the big-name label games, the discord that invariably springs from band members.

 

I always love music-industry fiction. Having written about, booked, and worked with an exponential number of bands over PLAYBACK:stl’s nearly 10 years, I’ve learned a lot about the biz, including interpersonal relationships between band members. Tyler McMahon’s How the Mistakes Were Made does an excellent job of capturing that scene.

The book is told from the point of view of Seattle musician Laura Loss, who will soon become the drummer of hot new band The Mistakes. As we meet her, she is playing uninspired bass guitar in a band that is not her own. Years ago, Laura achieved success—and widespread recognition—for her role in the (fictional) seminal hardcore punk band Second Class Citizens. At a show in Montana, two teenaged boys from the opening band recognize her and offer the requisite amount of fawning. Laura offhandedly tells them to look her up if they’re ever in Seattle.

A few months later, the boys surprise her by moving to Seattle and crashing at her place, an arrangement that continues. Soon, the three form a band—The Mistakes—and quickly progress from opening act to big-time headliner. Sean, the band’s guitarist, is afflicted with synesthesia, a neurological condition that causes him to see music in colors. Nathan proves himself to be a brilliant singer and songwriter.

Despite the age difference, Laura begins a sexual relationship with Sean, who grows increasingly uncontrolled and uncontrollable. The Mistakes sign to a major label, go on international tours—and self-destruct.

This is not a spoiler by any means, as the narrative is interspersed with Laura’s present-day recognition of being blamed and vilified for the band’s demise; she seeks redemption by setting the record straight through this story.

How the Mistakes Were Made gets it all right: the gritty underground music scene, the big-name label games, the discord that invariably springs from band members’ overly close quarters and constant companionship. McMahon does a great job preserving the suspense, too; you may think you know what’s coming—and you may be partially right—but the band’s breakup will still come as a shock. Music aficionados owe it to themselves to read this book. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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