Tell us about your tour vehicle.
Our current tour vehicle is a 94′ Ford E-350 15-Passenger Clubwagon with 196k miles. We also pull a trailer so our gas mileage is terrible; about 10mpg on a good day. The only major repair we’ve had to make came from an incompetent tow truck driver. In January of 2014 there was a terrible snow storm in New York. We drove 13 hours in a blizzard from Brooklyn to Richmond, VA to a friends house. We park at our friends apartment building the best we could (remember we have a trailer so it was not easy). The next morning, we wake up to find our van and trailer gone, find out that it was towed, walked 4 miles (still in the snow) to pick it up to discover that the jack stand on our trailer was damaged beyond repair. We pay a shit-ton of money to get it back, drive away and the van starts shaking out of control. We take it to a mechanic and the drive shaft is bent. Pay another shit-ton of cash to get the drive shaft rebuilt. 2 days and 3 cancelled shows later, we’re finally back on the road. I think I can speak for all bands when I say “fuck tow trucks”.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
We bring a cooler on the road. We eat a lot of sandwiches and keep whatever we can in the cooler. We try to stay away from fast food whenever we can but every now and then you get a late night craving for some Steak n’ Shake. Most of the venues we play are usually pretty accommodating and will feed us that night.
How many strings and cymbals do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
I play bass and after 13 years of playing I’ve never broken a string. I know, in the band’s history, Randy (drums) has never broken a cymbal. However, guitars and banjo break a good bit of strings. Banjo less than guitar but it happens. They’re usually pretty good about changing worn out strings before shows. We typically buy strings in bulk to save some money. A string endorsement is on our agenda so that should help with some costs.
Where do you rehearse?
Last year we were on the road for over 200 days out of the year. We usually just practice when we have a day off during a tour in whatever space will have us. We never know where that’s going to be. Up until last year we all lived in a really big house in Nashville and had a pretty decent rehearsal space. I think we really took that for granted but not knowing when you’re going to able to rehearse again makes the practices that you do have really worth while… sometimes.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
I’m a bass player… I don’t write lyrics. But for real, my first band was with the singer/guitarist of Banditos, Corey. We actually had two bands at the time (high school). One was a screamo-ish/hardcore-ish band that was pretty bad and a grindcore-ish band called JIAH that could probably still hold up to any other grindcore band.
Describe your first gig.
My first gig was with the screamo-ish band. We played a small gig in the basement of our singer’s house while his parents were out of town. We had about 5 originals and the rest were Norma Jean and Senses Fail songs. We invited a lot of friends and it was actually a lot of fun. Playing any show back then was fun.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
My last day job was managing the warehouse for a local music store. It was a very laid back job but unchallenging and therefore boring. Other members of the band have semi-day jobs when we’re home. My life has a very low overhead so anytime I’m at home I’m mostly doing business stuff for the band. This has been my favorite job. Everything else has sucked for the most part.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
I never started making money from music until this band started and even then we didn’t take any personal money until very recently. Being in a rock-n-roll band is pretty much the polar opposite of a get-rich-quick scheme. You really have to do it for the love of music and the road. And you have to really love the road. Hopefully in 5-10 years from now things will be better than I can imagine but who knows.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
If I would have known that I would be choosing a career as a travelling musician, I would have apprenticed as a mechanic for all of my teenage years.
My suggestion to all of the future bands out there is to learn how to use spreadsheets. Because, at a certain level, there will be a lot of business and finances involved. I know that’s not very rock-n-roll but just trust me on that.
Another piece of advice is to be kind to everyone you meet on your way up. Your band most likely sucks and anyone that genuinely wants to help you further your music career is going to be your best asset.