Tell us about your tour vehicle.
You could say that our first touring vehicle was the New York City subway, which served not only as a mode of transportation but also a performance venue for us for years. As far as getting out of the city, we’ve been relying on rentals for our tours, and each time it’s been getting better.
Our first European tour was in a sprinter van that barely fit all of us, and we were in that van for several hours a day so it wasn’t easy! Our more recent US tour was in a more spacious and comfortable sprinter van, which was a huge help. We’re planning to take a bandwagon for our next US tour and a tour bus when we go back to Europe in the fall, and we’re really looking forward to that. It really helps to have a consistent place to sleep and hang out and work while on the road.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
That’s a tough one, since there are always exciting eating experiences to be had while traveling and it can be hard to resist the more expensive and less healthy options. I’ve found that it’s really helpful to include fresh fruits and vegetables on your rider so you can be sure to have easy access to healthy foods. Granola bars are easy to take with you if you don’t finish them, unlike perishable foods which are less transportable.
The way we eat has a very tangible impact on the environment, and being on the road can also be a challenge for the environmentally conscious eater. I’m looking forward to preparing my own meals on our bus in the fall to stay healthy, save money, and reduce my carbon footprint. All it takes is a hot plate, a big pot, a whole bunch of greens, maybe some beans, onions, and a little bit of seasoning and your whole band can stay healthy, happy, and environmentally friendly for just a few bucks.
I play music to nourish the soul, and it helps to have my body nourished in order to do my best. I also draw energy from the earth when I play music, and I want make sure to honor the planet and its people when I eat so I can carry that spirit into my playing.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
We don’t have any guitars so we don’t have to worry about breaking strings, but Leo P and I (the saxophone section) go through quite a few reeds, sometimes even multiple reeds per performance. We play really intensely and use a lot of air, and there’s only so much a thin piece of cane can handle before it’s time to move on to the next one.
Where do you rehearse?
We spent years rehearsing in Josh H’s family’s garage in Queens. It’s full of strange musical knick knacks and we have some fond memories of that place. We recently starting rehearsing in proper rehearsal spaces with mirrors so we can make sure to stay on top of the visual component of our show.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
The first song we wrote together, this was probably in 2009 or 2010, was “Buyo,” which we recently released along with an in-studio video. It goes “da da da da/da da/da da da da/da da da da/da da/da daa daa” 😉
Describe your first gig.
Our first gig took place shortly after we formed in the summer of 2006. We were still in high school and had a lot more members than we do today. It was at a cool little place on the Lower East Side. A bunch of our friends came out to cheer us on as we rocked out on some Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and traditional New Orleans tunes. I think someone has a video of it somewhere…
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
My last day job was working as a receptionist at a labor law firm. It was cool, I actually got to learn a few things about labor law and workers’ rights. My favorite one was working as a fire guard, which sometimes meant staying overnight in empty buildings to make sure there were no fires. I really had to overcome my fear of staying overnight in empty buildings to do that one, and it took me to some pretty random places around the city.
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?
Five years ago I was in college studying anthropology with no idea that I would make any money as a musician. Now, thanks to the work that we’ve all put into this band, I’m able to support myself playing music. For me, one of the best things about being a musician is constantly growing and sharing that with others, and if I can continue supporting myself doing what I love, I’ll consider myself extremely fortunate.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
It’s hard to say. For me, there is no distinction between being a person and being a musician. Everything I’ve learned about life I’ve learned through music, and vice versa. Things like how to listen, how to love myself, how to love others, how to stop letting fear get in my way, how to support others and accept support from others. Deep, valuable lessons that shape who I am in life and music.
I’m so grateful for the process that brought me to the understandings that I have today and I wouldn’t change anything. Each new insight presented itself to me at just the right time.
One thing I could say is that I wasn’t aware of how many amazing resources are available online that provide a lot of help and guidance to young musicians trying to sort out the logistics of starting a career in music. As I’ve become more aware of these resources I’ve learned a great deal about what to expect from the music industry, and I’m sure it would have been helpful to have some of that knowledge earlier on.