Do not suggest: what if we tried playing in the style of reggae? The extraordinary and modest lives of unofficial members of the band.

Estimated read time 9 min read


Wayne Murray has been a part of the identical group for 18 years. He has strummed the guitar in giant venues and fields. He has taken first billing at festivals. He has traveled the globe and experienced the admiration of numerous fans. However, despite his lengthy tenure and numerous performances, he is still not recognized as a formal member of the band Manic Street Preachers. And he is content with that.

Murray expresses, “I have the best of both situations. I reside in Brighton and share a studio with a fellow musician where we create music for movies and television. This allows me to keep pursuing singing and songwriting through my career aside from the Manics. Yet, when we go on tour, I am still included within the group. It truly is a perfect arrangement.”

The touring member has an honourable history. Some of the world’s biggest bands have long relied on extra musicians to complete their sound: Darryl Jones has played bass with the Rolling Stones for 31 years without ever becoming a full member; Ted Sablay has spent 18 years playing guitar and keyboards with the Killers, and for the last two of those he has been their live musical director; guitarist Jason White has spent 25 years as the unofficial fourth member of Green Day.

Darryl Jones (right) play with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards on the opening night of the band’s 1997 Bridges to Babylon tour.View image in fullscreen

Joining a band as a new member can be a daunting experience, especially when they have their own unique way of communicating that can be difficult for outsiders to understand. This was the situation for Daryl Stuermer, an American musician who became a touring guitarist and bassist for Genesis in 1977 and remained with them until their final tour in 2021 and 2022.

Stuermer explained that when he joined the band, he had to closely watch and learn from the other members during the final tour. He and drummer Chester Thompson, who had also been touring with Genesis for a long time, discussed how the original members (Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins) have a strong understanding between them that can be difficult for others to grasp. Stuermer noted that this wasn’t just because they were British, but that it took him a few tours before he fully understood their dynamic.

Sarah Brown, a member of Simple Minds for 15 years, faced similar challenges. She was originally trained in gospel choir and was not exposed to pop music in her youth. Brown also struggled with lead singer Jim Kerr’s thick Scottish accent. “The first time Jim left me a voicemail, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. I ignored it, but he called again. I had my partner listen to the message, and I said, ‘Someone wants to hire me, but I have no idea who.’ My partner replied, ‘Sarah, do you know who this is? It’s Jim Kerr from Simple Minds.’ I realized, ‘Oh, right.’ My partner then asked if I knew about the band, and I didn’t.”

She traveled to Copenhagen to join the band’s sound check and watch the performance to determine if she was interested in the job. Kerr suggested that she become a member of the band that night. She stood between the drummer Mel Gaynor and guitarist Charlie Burchill and was amazed by the strong sound. She thought to herself, “How can I contribute to this performance? What can I bring to it?” As a backing vocalist, her job was to add color to the music. She initially believed she couldn’t add anything to the show. However, after 15 years, she has a better understanding of Jim’s voice and Simple Minds, and their unique styles.

Ted Sablay with the Killers in concert at Macron Stadium, Bolton, in July 2018.View image in fullscreen

You may think that touring musicians have the most unexciting tasks in their job, like playing barre chords or root notes. However, that is not always the case. According to Murray, his role has evolved over the 18 years he has been with the band. James [Dean Bradfield], the lead guitarist, has entrusted him with more iconic guitar parts, such as playing the arpeggios in “A Design for Life” for the past eight years. Sometimes, Murray finds himself being unintentionally creative. When a new album is released, he receives the new songs and transposes them himself. Occasionally, he may make a mistake, which can lead to a positive outcome. If James hears his mistake and likes it, he may suggest incorporating it into the final version of the song. However, ultimately, the primary songwriting is done by the band.

According to Banks, Stuermer played a vital role in Genesis’ touring preparations by thoroughly learning their songs, even more so than the original band members. As a result, the band often relies on him for reminders during rehearsals and performances.

Previously a supporting singer, Brown now holds a more prominent role in Simple Minds. In addition to singing lead on the track “Book of Brilliant Things,” she has greater freedom compared to other band members. During her time with Roxy Music, she was responsible for providing backing vocals for Bryan Ferry, meticulously following his precise rhythm and timing. However with Jim, the approach is more fluid, with moments of pushing and pulling and the occasional need to regulate herself. This stands in contrast to the consistency of the guitarist and bassist, who play the same part every night with unwavering intensity.

Daryl Stuermer with Phil Collins in 1983 as Genesis perform on stage at the Rosemont Horizon, Illinois.View image in fullscreen

Not everyone has the opportunity to join a band on tour from obscurity, whether it be a relative or another connection. Dan Boeckner, lead singer of Wolf Parade, was also a member of the early Arcade Fire lineup, but ultimately decided to focus on his own band when both groups gained popularity in the early 2000s. However, he has recently returned to touring with Arcade Fire, which has been a refreshing change for him. Boeckner explains, “There’s less pressure when it comes to performing. You don’t have to be the one at the mic, engaging with the audience and creating a energetic atmosphere. Instead, you can focus more on the music and be in a less all-consuming, trance-like state.”

Even though he has been with the band for a long time, he understands that his role is to assist rather than take charge. He is aware that experienced bands often struggle when new members join and it can be awkward to see them seeking attention.

Some musicians become members of a band temporarily for tour purposes, but end up becoming permanent members. This is what happened to Vaccines drummer Yoann Intonti. He was part of indie band Spector when he was asked to fill in for the Vaccines’ last three shows of their 2016 tour, including performances at Reading and Leeds music festivals. Initially, he was just helping out the Vaccines, as his focus was on Spector. However, towards the end of the summer, he found that he really enjoyed playing with the Vaccines. His drumming style was also a great fit for their music. The Vaccines kept looking for a permanent member, but ended up asking Intonti to join them in the studio to record their album Combat Sports. This marked the beginning of his official membership in the band.

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Intonti received a monthly wage for his recording contributions. However, as auxiliary musicians are only paid for their time touring with the band, his earnings decreased when the Manics began touring less frequently. In May 2017, Intonti and touring keyboard player Timothy Lanham were given a share of the profits, but were not granted full membership in the band. Intonti expressed a desire to be more involved in the creative process and exchange ideas, leading to a realization among all members, including Intonti and Lanham, that they either needed to commit fully to the band or return to being session musicians.

Why change course? “What I adored about being with Spector was the sense of camaraderie and working towards the same objective. However, the Vaccines were much more committed to creating music and going on tours. That’s the difference – being surrounded by ambitious individuals.”

Despite this, it still took some time to establish a comfortable dynamic – particularly for French-born Intonti, who also had the added challenge of adapting to a new country. “Due to English not being my native language, effective communication was initially a major hurdle to overcome. Everyone has their own individual history and I did not want to disrupt the band’s balance. In the early days, I struggled to find my role, but now I am confident in expressing my opinions and am willing to engage in disagreements.”

Brown had to go through a journey of at least eleven years to truly feel comfortable with Simple Minds. She shares that she has now overcome the initial discomfort and fear that she had. She mentions how lead singer Jim has called her to join him on stage, but it took some time for the audience to warm up to her and appreciate her. However, she now feels like a part of the family and is confident that if she plays a wrong note, it won’t affect her as much. She credits Kerr and Burchill for becoming her mentors and assisting her in creating her first solo album, Sarah Brown Sings Mahalia Jackson.

Wayne Murray performs with Manic Street Preachers during the 2017 Mad Cool festival in Madrid.View image in fullscreen

All of the musicians are confident they have chosen the correct path. They are aware of their duties and are content with experiencing success. These moments of success can be incredibly rewarding. One notable moment was the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Everything Must Go, where two sold-out nights at Albert Hall were attended by Murray’s family. Additionally, the Manics were included in a fan experience tour during a rugby tour in Australia that left a lasting impact.

However, it is important to remember one crucial aspect among all of this: these musicians are not close friends with the lead singer and they weren’t there from the start. They are employed musicians, and if they start to lose sight of that, problems will arise. “I am constantly aware of this,” says Brown. “I never forget that my colleagues are just that – colleagues. I strongly believe in boundaries, which is why I continue to work in this industry. If I acted differently, I wouldn’t have a job.” They may be a part of the band, but they are also separate from it.


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