Interview: Mike Greenlees from Tar

Joe McRedmond interviewed Mike Greenlees, drummer from Tar (Chicago), about their touring vessel. (Top photo is Tom Zaluckyj, John Mohr, Mike Greenlees, Mark Zablocki, & Whitney O’Keeffe. “Somewhere in Canada in front of somebody’s apartment where we had stayed. March 1993”. Photo courtesy of Tar).

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically?

In the spring of 1989, we thought we were ready to start stringing shows together and tour. John (Mohr – Tar guitarist) had the good job, compared to everybody else, and offered to buy a van. The agreement was that during periods where the van was being used by the band, the band would pick up the payments/maintenance. John would retain ownership, as he made the downpayment, and paid for most of the year, etc. He thinks we split stuff like tires (went through a lot of those, obviously).

Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?

Our van was purchased at Elmhurst Ford in Elmhurst, Illinois in the spring of 1989. 

Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY, build a loft, etc.? Did you give it a name?

The “touring vessel” was a white 1988 Econoline 150 cargo van with 22K miles on it. $8500, John thinks. Manual transmission. No a/c. It had two aftermarket sun roofs already installed, which were nice for ventilation, but they leaked when it rained hard enough. I think we beefed up the suspension/leaf springs whatever. John and maybe Mark (Zablocki, guitar) built a loft in the cargo area. Gear below, futon on top, which was the standard. We attached a heavy duty cable, looped through the sliding door and one of the legs of the loft, thus disabling the sliding door, which was not opened again for the duration of the touring years. This meant that the only way to get the gear out was through the back doors, which had one of those hockey puck heavy duty locks.

Tar van circa 1990. Photo courtesy of Mike Greenlees.

Did the van have any funny or unique features?

Not that I recall…John put a cassette system in it, and had a portable cd player that hooked up to it via a cassette contraption. It got stolen once from our practice space, which was in a saucy area at the time.

“30 per cent of the time spent on tour looked like this.” Photo courtesy of Tar.

What did you typically listen to in the van?

A sample of Tar van tunes is: Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, Neil Young’s Ragged Glory, a Led Zeppelin mix tape, Wipers’ first 3 albums, Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady, Big Star’s first 2 records, the Stones’ Exile of Main Street, and NPR Radio.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?

First trip was down to Champaign, Illinois in March 1989. The loft wasn’t built yet. I remember sitting on the floor in the cargo area with the gear as we brought a friend or two with us, Iain Burgess, and I think Bruce Adams.

The longest drive between shows – technically, Minneapolis to Spokane, though we had a day off to make the drive. We left Minneapolis after the show, drove 15 hours to Butte Montana, got a hotel room. This made the drive the following day to Spokane a short one. The longest drive we ever did for gigs on consecutive nights was Edmonton, AB to Winnipeg MB. 13 hours.

“John Mohr driving the 1988E-150. Arcwelder is in the other van, an E-250. Barreling down the highway in Florida in the summer of 1993. This photo was used many years later on a 7″”. Photo courtesy of John Mohr.

“March, 1993. Trans Canada Hwy. Seemed like we toured Canada every winter, and the US deep South and Southwest every summer.” Photo courtesy of Tar.

How did you kill time on long drives?

Reading books, playing scrabble, sleeping, and for John (and sometimes Tom Zaluckyj) driving.

Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or hotels?

All of the above. We almost never stayed in hotels, and almost never had days off when touring the US, which is when we would typically spring for a hotel, if we weren’t somewhere we could stay for a couple of days. I was allergic to cats and dogs, and we would never leave the gear unattended ever, so I slept out in the van whenever we were staying at somebody’s place who had pets. And in general, everybody who put us up had pets. Winter, summer, whenever, wherever I was out in the van, which suited me and my socially awkward ways. Other members occasionally slept in the van as well. The main advantage to that was not having to dump all the gear into somebody’s living room, then pack it all up again the next morning.

Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general?

We didn’t have any behavior rules. The only rules I can remember had to do with the gear. Never leave the gear unattended. If nobody sleeps out in the van, the gear is to be unloaded into the room where we are sleeping. Always pack the gear the same way. This makes loading and unloading more efficient, and since we had that rule of emptying the van whenever it was left unattended, we were loading and unloading the van more than once a day sometimes. John did about 99% of the driving, but that wasn’t really a hard and fast rule. I remember driving once on the heavily under construction (always) PA turnpike with semis riding our ass, and not ever driving again, except for a few times I moved the van, or parked it or something.

Parallel parking our van full of gear, with the manual transmission, on a steep incline in San Francisco one night after a gig was the crowning achievement, probably, of my life. We don’t have hills out here…

– Mike Greenlees

We tended to not give people a break if they didn’t want to pay us a guarantee due to poor turnout. Getting paid was sort of a rule.

Lastly, we never brought extra helpers on tour, and in fact, very seldom allowed anybody we didn’t know well in the van. We did one tour of the US with a soundman, split his pay with Jawbox, but he rode with us because we didn’t care if he smoked in the van. Beyond that, we pretty much pegged the capacity of the van at the 4 band members.

“March 23, 1993, en route to Tucson, Arizona from San Diego, California. Stopping for a ‘rest.'” Photo courtesy of Tar.

Do you have a classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire story from tour or any other shows?

Nothing too bad. We hit a deer outside of Detroit the first night of a tour. Took out the front end, and we had just enough power/momentum to limp up an exit ramp to a gas station. Got towed to a Ford dealership and we all slept in the van, and spent much of the next day in a diner across from the dealership waiting for it to be repaired. 

We got pulled over speeding near El Paso, and said the magic words “rock band”, so we had to empty out the van so the cops could make a half-hearted effort to find drugs or whatever. They didn’t really look through much but our personal bags.

The van got towed in Brooklyn once. We would always park it on the sidewalk in front of our friend’s storefront apartment on Flatbush, and then on our 4th or 5th time there, it finally got towed. We had all the gear with us inside (see “rules of the van” section), so we just had to go to the yard, and pony up $150 bucks.

“Mark Zablocki and Tom Zaluckyj with the van approximately 2am October 30, 1991 right after they hit a deer outside of Detroit on the first night of their 1991 tour”. Photo courtesy of Mike Greenlees.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

Nothing extraordinary comes to mind. We were not crazy, wild, party dudes. We played music. We played scrabble. We read books. We made friends.

We had recurring in-jokes involving taking credit for preposterous feats such as building roads. 

“Man, this is a nice stretch of road.” 

“Thanks.” 

I would like to point out that in the photo at the beginning of this interview, with the four of us standing in front of the van with our soundman, “Sweet Knees” O’Keeffe, that is not my hair. I had on a ridiculous winter flap-hat, which I lost somewhere in the ensuing years. Which is unfortunate, as The Kids in the Hall autographed the underside of the bill. Retroactive shout out to Don Pyle for getting us in to see a taping earlier on that tour. We blew off a soundcheck to attend the earlier taping – they did the same show twice for two different audiences, I think. Don Pyle, the drummer for Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, who did the music for Kids in the Hall live at the tapings, got us front row seats. The main sketch I remember involved a father, played by Bruce McCulloch, taking his son out to the traditional rock where the men of the family get blind drunk or something like that.

Kids in the Hall – Drunk Dad Advice

“Tar and Arcwelder hit the South pretty hard in the summer of 1993 for a coupla two-tree weeks. And look, here are some band members milling around in front of their touring vessels at a Florida rest area”. Photo courtesy of Tar.

Where did the van end up? 

John sold it in 1996 with about 220K miles on it. He thinks he got about $1200 for it.

“Tar on tour, 2018 edition. Heading to Birmingham, AL for a show at Saturn with Arcwelder and Man, or Astroman”. Photo courtesy of Tar.
Tar – Land Luck
Tar – Mach Song
Tar – Billow My Sail

Keep up with what Tar is up to here at:

Tar’s Facebook page

Tar’s Bandcamp

Tar’s “1988-1995” release with Chunklet Industries

Interview: Mike “Wid” Middleton from The Neptunes (TX/DC), and Mojo Nixon & The Toadliquors

Joe McRedmond interviewed Mike “Wid” Middleton, drummer for The Neptunes (TX/DC), and Mojo Nixon & The Toadliquors, about his hard travelin’ days in touring vehicles.

Tell us about yourself?

I am Mike “Wid” Middleton. My nickname “Wid” came from a band mate who noticed it was my conjunction for ‘we would’ (we’d), as in “Wid go downtown”. I was the drummer for a band from DC called The Neptunes. As a punk tie in, I graduated Wilson high school in DC in 1985 (where Ian Mckaye /Fugazi  went), and was a contemporary of the guys in Soulside/Girls against Boys , Citizen Cope, and a bunch of other punk/go-go/rockabilly musicians. We were primarily a roots rock band along the lines of NRBQ.

The Neptunes. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.


In 1987, we decided to move to Austin, TX to immerse ourselves in the growing scene down in Central Texas. We were fans of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Joe Ely, as well as knowing other DC rockers who had moved down there, most notably Evan Johns from the H-Bombs.
The theory behind the move was that it was easier to tour both coasts, and our first house we rented was a 3/2 for $450.

What was your van situation?

I bought a 1985 B-350 15 passenger Dodge van from a church in Montgomery County, Md. I think it was $7500 with 50k miles on it. It had the Prospector package, and while I don’t know what that is, we always said we were digging for gold. 

We drove down in the fall of 1987, and immediately started touring. None of us wanted jobs, so a $200 gig was enough to keep us fed, with a roof over our heads, and enough to fill the thirsty Ram 360 cu. in. V8. The Neptunes toured constantly year round, logging 75k miles a year. We laughed at the time, that we would drive anywhere for $250, even if it was Austin-New Orleans- Houston- New Jersey- back to DC, etc. I think our booking agent (Davis McLarty, Joe Ely’s drummer) threw darts over his shoulder backwards, and blindfolded, at a US map.

“We were 20 years old. It was the time of Arena Rock. It made sense to us at the time.”

– Mike Middleton


The combination of the van being “mine”, and me not drinking much (at the time), meant that I drove 98% of the time. We had installed plywood over the windows in back, and taken all the seats out, except for the first row, leaving us enough room to carry all the gear, including a Yamaha CP-70, in ATA flight cases. Come to think of it, all of our gear was in flight cases. The San Diego rockabilly legends The Paladins once said they remembered us because of our “heavy blue cases”. We were 20 years old. It was the time of Arena Rock. It made sense to us at the time.

I hauled down my ’55 Buick from DC to Austin after Xmas one year  behind the van. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.


With all of the touring we did, we met musicians all over the country. Played bills with Guadalcanal Diary, Scruffy the Cat, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Dash Rip Rock, and hundreds of other gigs. Our original Texas bass player was Sean Mencher, who went on to start High Noon. Second bass player was Miles Zuniga, who later formed Fastball. Our final bass player was Steve Watson, who was still in high school in Virginia when we moved to Austin. Fun side note: Steve’s dad is Bugsy Watson, who at the time was in the Guinness Book for most NHL penalty minutes in a career.

Steve Watson and I hanging at the back of the van. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.

Here we stopped for a requisite photo in Happy, Tx. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.

Did you give your van a name?

I don’t recall it having a name. It did have it’s own gang sign. It was a hand gesture that roughly translated into the crossed pick and shovel of the Ram Prospector.

More at the back of the van. You can see the plywood over the rear windows. Photo by Mike Middleton.

Can you describe any difficulties you had on the road?

We never missed a gig because of mechanical failures, BUT it did overheat in Waco (a hundred miles north of Austin), and we got towed to a gig riding in the van.

I won’t name any names, but on one member’s birthday, I couldn’t find a good place to stop, and that guy shat himself by the side of the road. Another incident was when we were driving across a bridge in Philadelphia. Steve started throwing gum balls, or jellybeans, or something in the back of my head. For some reason I got mad, and kicked the rear view mirror off, before pulling over and fighting by the side of I-95.

The pic below is of us after spending the night in Gunnison, Colorado, where it got down to something like negative 40. Some hillbilly lit a fire under the van to get the oil moving. The pic is actually of us chiseling the snow and ice out of the wheel wells that would build up, and every time we would hit a bump, it would physically hit the tire and “brake” for us.

I have no idea what somebody used silly string to write on the van, but clearly I was shocked. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.
Jake, Steve and Pete before a show. I was driving and somebody else took the shot from between the front seats.  You can see our hanging rod that we hung fancy gig shirts on behind those three. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.

Young me (artistic shot) Driving… again. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.
Outside the Coyote Club in Wichita Kansas (I think?). Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.

How did you end up playing with Mojo Nixon?

Ok, so The Neptunes traveled all over the US, playing 46 states with tons of different bands. After three years, Steve and our guitarist/singer Jake Flack decide they have had enough, so the band is breaking up (summer 1990).


Since Pete “Wet Dawg” Gordon (future co-owner/manager of the famous Continental Club in Houston) and I wanted nothing to do with real life or real jobs, we started putting gig feelers out. Coincidentally, at the same time Mojo Nixon was breaking up with Skid Roper and wanted a band. We had never met each other, but all of our band friends told Mojo that an insane piano player, and hard hitting drummer were available.

…We met in Austin on a Thursday, ran through a set of Mojo tunes, and played at the University of Arizona baseball stadium for 10,000 people on that Saturday…

In the Fall of 1990, Pete and I officially became the Toadliquors. The first tour we played was a triple bill of Enigma Records bands: Mojo, the Dead Milkmen, and the Cavedogs (Boston, Ma). In a very non-punk way, the tour was sponsored by Fuji Film. They were already famous for cassette tapes, but I guess they were expanding. Here’s the kicker. Fuji paid for two buses.

It started out as the “Smoking Bus” and the “Non-smoking Bus”. By the middle of the tour, the smoking bus turned into the nobody sleeps bus, and it turned into just the Mojo and the Toadliquors bus. Remember when I said I didn’t drink earlier? Well, with a bus driver I didn’t have to drive anymore, and I only had to be cognizant enough to beat the shit out of the drums for an hour a night.


With Mojo, we did similar long touring schedules, usually 6 weeks on, maybe a month off. We continued using the old Neptune van for merch during the Fuji tour, and local Texas shows. By this time, the van was at around 225k miles.

I sold it to Wet Dawg, who kept it for maybe a year, and then sold it to a local tile guy. Last I saw it, it was headed south on IH 35, still with the Redskins bumper sticker on the back.

The Fuji bus driver in a Neptunes helmet. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.
The crew loading the bus. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.

What is your favorite memory of playing with Mojo?

Playing in the Pleasure Barons. I got to play with Dave Alvin (from the Blasters), Country Dick Montana (Beat Farmers), Mojo, John Doe (X) along with a superstar cast of Americana musicians, playing Tom Jones and other Vegas hits.

On the Pleasure Barons’ bus, the “destination scroll“ on the front of the old tour bus had numerous names. One was “John Denver” and one was “Shousurtitz”. I didn’t know where that city was until the bus driver said to say it out loud.

I don’t have any pics of Jello Biafra, who we did a record with, near a van or bus.

The Pleasure Barons next to the bus. Photo courtesy of Mike Middleton.

Any funny tour stories?

Earl Freedom (Matt Eskey/Freedom Records/Mojo Manifesto) joined the Toadliquors as a bass player in around 1994. He may have stories about van stuff too. The one story about him is that we would stop for gas, and then take off down the road. Once we hit the highway, I would hear a plastic bottle filling with pee. He preferred peeing in water bottles to the Flying J bathrooms.

During “Don Henley must Die” (Mojo Song), Wet Dawg would beer fuck an inflatable “Luv Ewe” sheep. Somebody brought their own one night, and it got popped. I am sure we did it, but I don’t remember how.

The owner of the dead sheep carved “YOU KILLED OUR SHEEP” into the hood of the rental van. That is hard to explain.

We had to pay $500 for that one.

We were a party band. We didn’t rehearse. EVER.  The sex, drugs and rock and roll happened in the van. Except we didn’t play rock and roll in the van. We listened to Bill Hicks before anybody had heard of him. We listened to Richard Pryor, Rudy Ray Moore, Robin Harris, Chris Rock on tape and later CD. We had a portable TV/VCR combo between the front two seats. Since I was always driving, I never got to watch the movies, but I can quote line for line all of Trading Places, Animal House, Caddyshack, and the Blues Brothers.
 

Somewhere along the way, we stopped carrying around the anvil flight cases, but we still hauled around the two piece piano.

What ever happened to the original van?

After I sold the Neptune van, we rented vans from Capps Rentals in Austin. We always got the Ford Chateau factory conversion. Kept the four captain chairs, and pulled the bench so we could put gear back there. They complained about that, but never said anything about how much I smoked in them. Different times.

Very rare The Neptunes 12 inch record “Nocturnal Habit”.

Jello Biafra with Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors – Prairie Home Invasion

Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon – Convoy In The Sky

Mojo Nixon & the Toadliquors – ¡Sock Ray Blue!

MOJO NIXON & THE TOADLIQUORS – Redneck Rampage

Listen to Mike’s current band, The Mooks from Austin, TX.

The Mooks – She Ain’t Got No Windows


Follow Mike “Wid” Middleton here:

Midtown Restorations

Midtown Drums

Stay up to date on the upcoming Mojo Nixon documentary at Mojo Manifesto

THE MOJO MANIFESTO: The Life & Times of Mojo Nixon – teaser #1
THE MOJO MANIFESTO: The Life & Times of Mojo Nixon – teaser #2

Interview: Zeke McKinney from idle threat

Joe McRedmond interviewed Zeke McKinney, bass guitarist and vocalist from idle threat from Nashville, TN, about touring in their 1997 Dodge Ram Van 1500.

What was the motivation for getting a van in the first place, specifically?

Well we really wanted to start touring more often, but it was also because I needed a new vehicle. Two birds with one stone kind of thing.

Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?

I found it on craigslist, and before it belonged to me, it was the property of an organization in Murfreesboro, TN called Greenhouse Ministries. I think that they used it to take the kids on camping trips, and stuff like that. Before them, it was owned by an elderly couple who used it to take road trips.

Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY, build a loft, etc.? Did you give it a name?

It was a black 1997 Dodge Ram Van 1500. It really didn’t need that much work, and we really didn’t do much customizing to it, besides taking the back bench seat out so we could fit more gear in it. But it was still our road home, and it’s name was “Turk” (yes, that’s a Scrubs reference).

idle threat’s 1997 Dodge Ram Van 1500 “Turk” Photo courtesy of Zeke McKinney.

Did the van have any funny or unique features?

It had a TV and a VHS player. The TV worked, but we wanted to see if the VHS player did, too. So one time, we got “Space Jam” and “Liar, Liar” at a Goodwill to test it out. We decided to put “Liar, Liar” in first just in case something went wrong. It’s still stuck in there today.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?

One time we started off a tour in Johnstown, PA, and so in one day, we drove all the way there from Nashville, TN. It ended up taking us around 10 or 11 hours. The first trip that we ever took in “Turk” was a spring tour in early March of 2017. The second show was in Birmingham, AL, so that was the first real drive of the tour.

Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or motels/hotels?

All of the above, but more often than not we were blessed enough to have friends and people that we met on the road offer up their homes for us to sleep in.

“Someone always stays up with the driver, to help them stay awake, and driver controls the tunes.”

– Zeke McKinney

Do you have any van rules? Or band rules in general?

Only a couple, but nothing crazy. Just things like “someone always stays up with the driver, to help them stay awake” and “driver controls the tunes”; AKA Ernie and I do the driving, and JJ either sleeps in the back, or just acts a complete fool.

idle threat on “Turk”. Photo by Rebecca Johnson.

Tell us about a nightmare van story from a tour or any other shows?

We were driving through Michigan at the end of last year, when our back left tire started losing air so quickly that it eventually lost it all. We had to pull off on the side of the road, but not before the tire was completely shredded. We were only like 30 minutes away from the venue. Luckily, we know some amazing people in Michigan that we are honored to call our friends. They picked us up, and took us to the show in a couple of vehicles in which we crammed all the gear that we absolutely needed. Since we had to leave the van behind, we had to go get it after the show. I have AAA, so we called them following our set to see when they could come tow the van. They said they would be there to get the van in about 30 to 40 minutes. So Ernie’s now-wife took us to meet them. Long story short, AAA ended up taking about 2 to 3 hours to meet us there. By that time, it was about 3:30 am and we were all delirious. To top it all off, when they were towing the van onto the truck at 3:30 am, they popped the other back tire.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

In the summer of 2017, we went on a month-long tour up to Boston, MA and back down the east coast. The first half of the tour was with a band called Native Tongue, and one night after our show in Pittsburgh we decided to ask for help via FB for a place to stay in Buffalo. Our next show was in Syracuse, NY, so we wanted to cut the drive. The tour party was so large that half of us ended up at one host home, and our band ended up at another. We rolled up to the guy’s house at 1 AM, a complete stranger to us, and
he was giving weird vibes from the start.

…We quickly realized that he was a drug dealer, and he and his roommates were strangely interested in our gear…

At about 4 AM, we decided to quietly pack up, and just drive to Niagara Falls. We “slept” in a Tim Horton’s parking lot, woke up at sunrise, and saw the Falls.
Never talked to that guy again.

Ernie Fabian (vocalist/guitarist) flipping bottles & dabbing in “Turk “.

Where did the van end up?

It is right now sitting on the lot of a shop in Smyrna, TN. It just kept having problem after problem earlier this summer, and I financially couldn’t keep up with it. So, I am trying to see just what I can get for it.

How can we help promote any releases?

Our new EP, “Nothing is Broken for Good”, is set to release via Tooth & Nail Records on August 21, 2020.
You can pre-order the record at Tooth & Nail Records.

The following is from a press release issued by Atom Splitter PR on July 21, 2020:

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the trio idle threat have signed to Tooth & Nail Records, and will release their label debut, the Nothing Is Broken For Good EP, on August 21st.

Listen to the first track, “Cement,” below.

“Nothing is Broken For Good is about temporal pain and suffering and the endurance that it takes to remain hopeful that it will come to pass,” the band says. “‘Cement’ is a song about keeping faith through the loss of loved ones with the promise that death, too, is only but a moment.”

If you are a fan of Title Fight, Defeater, Balance & Composure, La Dispute you’ll enjoy this.

Formed in 2014 by Zeke McKinney, Justin Jones, and Ernie Fabian, idle threat began by smashing sounds together from emo to post hardcore and punk rock.

The band previously released the Grown Tired EP in 2016.

Their upcoming EP offers a response to Grown Tired’s air of lament. It channels hope and optimism in both lyric and instrumentation.

For over half-a-decade, idle threat have organized and hosted the two-day musical festival, Threat Fest. Their goal is to bring artists together via collaboration, not competition, and allow musicians the chance to feel both inspired and supported. Unfortunately, they announced on Facebook on June 19 that this year’s Threat Fest in cancelled due to the current health concerns.

The group have played alongside an array of bands – The Devil Wears Prada, ‘68, Gideon, Greyhaven, Birds In Row, and more.

Follow idle threat on:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Bandcamp

Interview with Doug Carrion from Field Day

Joe McRedmond interviewed Doug Carrion, bass guitarist with Field Day, Humble Gods, Descendents, and Dag Nasty, about a few of the vans he’s used to travel with bands over the last 35 years.

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically? 

I’ve had several vans over the years. Generally speaking, there’s one specific theme they all have in common: how to get the band and crew from point A to point B with all the gear safely, and within a certain time frame. On the surface that sounds easy, but it can be tricky, and there are a few things I learned along the way that might be helpful to someone starting out, or considering getting a van. These are not hard fast rules, but valid information I’ve stumbled upon after spending decades bouncing around from town to town, city to city, doing punk shows.

What is your budget?
How many people are traveling?
How much gear do we have?
To trailer or not to trailer, that is the question.

Budget:
Here is the philosophy I adopted after a conversation with Keith from Circle Jerks. Get a van that costs $3,000, and drive it until it dies. Take the plates off, rinse and repeat.
The idea is getting a mid-priced van. If you get a beater van, you’re likely to miss shows, and/or be dealing with breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. Which sucks (believe me, I know). Or if you get a van that’s too new, you’ll get killed on payments when you’re not touring. Basically, get one right in the middle, price range wise.

“My idea is to be as stealth as humanly possible at ALL times. It should look like a family van going to church.”

– Doug Carrion

It’s a work vehicle, so keep that in mind. I’m adding a wrinkle to this. If you get a van that looks like a beater, you’re gonna get hassled by the cops when you travel into small towns. I was always amazed that COC (Corrosion of Conformity), in the early days, traveled in a van with graffiti. I’d never do that. I never want to draw ANY attention to the band. On the other side, getting a van that is new, will get broken into when you travel to big cities. We all know crackheads love to rip off vans. My idea is to be as stealth as humanly possible at ALL times. It should look like a family van going to church. Very, very low key. In fact, I only wash the van once a week while on tour. I want it to look clean, but not too clean, and not so dirty that people think you’re the Manson family traveling around in a creeper van. Ultimately, what you want is a van that looks very average, but can drive from California to New York tonight, without any worry of breaking down.

How many people are traveling:
I like as much space as possible. I always aim for enough room where everyone can have a seat, and you have enough room for 2 people to sleep at the same time. Example: driver and co-pilot up front (2), one bench seat will fit another 2 people comfortably. A second bench seat will fit another 2 people comfortably. If 2 are in the loft sleeping, that’s 8 people in a traditional 15 passenger van. Why? On some days, you might spend more time in the van than actually out of the van. So make sure it’s set up the right way for comfort, or reduce your crew. On average, you’re gonna spend 6 hours or more in the van everyday. As of late, I’ve been wanting ALL the gear in the van, and try not to use a trailer. This brings up the question of how are you gonna build out the van?

There are a few ways to do this, you can research this on the net, but overall these are the go to designs:

  • The Firewall – Some way all the gear is behind a wall of some kind, built within the van.
  • The Loft – Also known as “the scratch stack.” All the gear goes underneath, and people sleep on top.
  • Using a Trailer – (more on that later).

I’ve used all these designs several times, and this changes depending on how much gear, and how many people are traveling.

The Dag Nasty bus was a loft at first, then became a firewall setup.
Dag Nasty Bonneville van – We used a trailer.
Descendents Econoline van – Scratch stack, gear underneath.
Descendents Dodge Ram van – Firewall with a mid-level loft in the back.

The last van I built out was 2 front seats, 1 bench seat, and a loft, with all the gear hidden underneath. I went as far as painting the windows in the back, and the last 2 side windows flat black. This van traveled 4 people comfortably, with zero way of seeing any gear at all times. Everything was hidden, and the dark windows made it easy to sleep during the day, because it blocked out a reasonable amount of light.

The van life…

If you’re a mid-range band playing 400 cap rooms, you can get away with a 15 passenger van for a while. If you all of a sudden start opening for a bigger band playing 1500 cap rooms, and that band is in a bus, you’ll be doing lots and lots of all night drives. Remember before, when I was talking about space to sleep and sit up? Here comes some advice from Eric of Die Kreuzen, “When we do overnight drives, everyone drives 100 miles and we rotate.”  Why? There is always some lazy bastard in the band that will pretend they can’t drive at night, forget their license, or whatever bullshit excuse to not be a team player, or wanna help out. So you gotta squash that shit right out of the gate. Everyone drives 100 miles on all-nighters. This way nobody is exhausted the next day. Even if you bring along someone to help drive/crew, you should rotate drivers for your own safety. Field Day rarely do overnight drives; we avoid them if possible.

A quick note on trailers. Don’t do it! I’ve come full circle on this a few times over the years, but in 2020, I’m firmly against them. Why? Trailers get stolen, are a bitch to park in a big city, suck in the snow, have speed limit requirements, and draw too much attention to you as a band. 

Believe it or not, you might be better off with 2 vans. One for gear and merchandise, and the other one for people.  To get more detailed, most insurance only covers the vehicle, not the trailer. So if it gets broken into, you’re out several thousand dollars, and stuck with no way to perform. I’ve noticed that places in the South with a border close to Mexico, like California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, have a higher rate of trailers being snatched.  I’ve heard the gear ends up going to Mexico, to be sold on the black market.

“This is the Descendents 71 Econoline. 
Taken the same night as the one with the band. In Memphis 1985. Never before seen. Photo by my dad, Bill Carrion.”

What vans did you use, and where did you get them? Did you know the background of the vans at the time of purchase?

Descendents – 1971 Ford Econoline.
Bill got this from the Recycler. He and Chuck from Black Flag did the original inspection to check the engine. The van was a beater, but all we could afford at the time. No AC, no frills, with a wooden loft – scratch stack, no padding or mattress, just plywood. A cargo van with added skylight, and side windows that leaked 🙂 The van was so overloaded with gear, there was something like 15 inches between the loft and the hot ceiling. I was small enough to be able to flip over while sleeping, but Bill and Milo had to decide if they wanted to sleep on their stomachs or backs for the next 8 hours. With all that extra weight, the van went through 3 or 4 transmissions on the first tour. At one point the van died, and was towed to Lomita, where we rehearsed and lived, and was parked in the back of our small parking lot. While we were on tour with our second van, a Dodge Ram, the cops towed the Econoline away, and we got charged an arm and a leg to get it out of impound. Not cool. I have no idea what happened to it.

Descendents Second Van – 1985 Dodge Ram Van Extended.
Worked well, had the “firewall wall/low loft” set up. After I left the group, they continued using it. I think it ended with 300,000 miles on it. RAD 🙂
You’d have to ask Bill what happened to it.

Dag Nasty – School Bus (short version) wanna say it was a GMC.
I have no clue where Brian got it. I remember it was “3-on-the-tree.”
We had a few versions of the build, firewall and scratch stack.
At one point there was a mattress in the back, and Peter slept and read most of the time.

The second Dag van was a late 70’s used Chevy Bonneville.
This one had windows, and we opted to travel with a trailer.
We did a bunch of tours with this one.  It ended up back in
Los Angeles, and Brian used it as his main ride after Dag broke up.
I’d imagine he sold it here in LA, best guess 1989.

Humble Gods – 1995 new Chevy Starcraft conversion van with a trailer.

Field Day – We do mostly fly dates, so we rent 15 passenger studio vans.

Descendents 71 Econoline. Outside City Gardens. Photo by Ron Gregorio. 

Did the vans have any funny or unique features?

Descendents Van 1 – Radio with a cassette player, usually shorted out, and caught fire once. There was a small wooden bench seat that had a trapdoor. I used to put my hair products there 🙂

Dag Bus – No radio, no features. The school bus door was cool. Grab a lever and open the door.

Dag Bonneville – Very stock.

Humble GodsStarcraft – That had a DVD/TV set up. Electric folding bed. Kinda cool for a conversion van.

Dag bus. Photo courtesy of Dag Nasty.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows?

I wanna say an overnight drive from El Paso to Dallas, which is only about 9 hours, but in the older Descendents van it took almost 12 hours.
The other one was in the Descendents Dodge Ram, going from Toronto to Chicago in the snow, which ended up being about 15 hours.

Noteworthy: When we can, we route shows around the weather.
Example: in the winter we try to stay below Interstate 40.
You’d think that was something we would have learned sooner. Nope. Only in the last few years, especially with Field Day, do we route around the weather, trying to avoid missing shows because of snow.

Dag bus. Photo courtesy of Dag Nasty.

Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or hotels?

Descendents – Mostly overnight drives, and at people’s houses. I slept in the van a zillion times.
Dag Nasty – Mostly people’s houses, and an occasional 5 guys to a room at a Motel 6.
Humble Gods – Hotels, 2 people per room.
Field Day – Hotels, 2 people per room.

I saw the Dag Nasty School Bus at this show at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA in 1987, where my band was an opener. Flyer by Jeremy Weiss, from the Ronn Mann flyer collection.

Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general? For example, the last band I was in had the following rule: “Don’t freak out, and don’t fuck up.” You?

Punkers don’t follow rules, you know that. No rules beyond “don’t crash”.  Overall, the van is a traveling locker room with funky sleeping options. Think about 7 roommates living on top of each other, for months at a time, in a tiny space. You don’t wanna be a prick, but there has to be some mutual balance and respect between the people traveling, or shit hits the fan. Oddly enough, van drama has a way of sorting itself out. For example,

…if you bring 8 pairs of chucks on tour, and leave your shoes on the floor of the van, chances are they will get kicked out accidentally, or on purpose…

at some point, because band member 1 is mad at band member 2 for not helping load out.  This happens 🙂 Most touring musicians know the basics of van etiquette. Be cool and be respectful or you get called out.

Descendents – Wet clothes in trash bags in the back. Other than that, no rules needed. Really easy guys to work with.

Dag – No rules needed, with the exception of Brian’s and Peter’s books. Brian would read a book a day, so we always had to manage what to do with all the grocery store best sellers on the floor. Ha ha. Peter was a bit more contained with his books and materials.

You have to be really self-contained to tour, or everyone gets pissed, and the drama builds up. I say, “Don’t be that guy”, and don’t create drama. I guess it’s about common sense, and reasonable behavior toward the group.  I have an interesting perspective that follows a 90%/10% rule. 10% of the time, you have to be a monster player, punctual professional, and all that, but the other 90% is how you are as a human being. Are you easy to get along with, are you nice to bartenders, servers, other bands, promoters, etc?  We’re gonna spend lots and lots of time in airports, venues, hotels, and vans together, so if you’re a spoiled, overly entitled person that is rude, or has a hard time making do and being flexible, it’s gonna be a bummer for everyone. Mainly you. As Bruce Lee says, “Be the water, not the rock.”

When you pull up to a gas station, and see trash cans, throw out all the trash. Taco Bell bags, old coffee cups, Subway sandwich remains need to go.

There will be tons of time you have to eat in the van while driving, and trash builds up. The other thing is, sometimes people need a ride from the venue to the hotel or whatever. It’s gross to get into a band van that smells like death, with food and god knows what all over the place 🙂 Ugh.
Also, you’re gonna get pulled over by the cops. If they see a van that looks like a frat house bar on wheels, you’re gonna get fucked with.

Anything that’s illegal, like drugs, weed, pills, firearms…whatever…if we get stopped, you own up to it.  

Dag Nasty and their Chevy Bonneville, Photo courtesy of Doug Carrion.

Do you have a classic nightmare van story from tour or any other shows?

Too many to tell. But what comes to mind is a drive with Descendents from Syracuse to NYC to play CBGB’s in the winter. We slid off the road 3 times during that drive. It was a “white-knuckler” for sure.  Dag getting snowed in on the 95 coming from Boston to DC, and having to sleep under a bridge in the school bus van. Got hassled by the cops for stopping.  One time, doing a snowboard festival in Utah with Humble Gods, and it started to snow, and the weather dropped, so the roads were icy. We opted to drive down the mountain at night after the show. Maybe slide our way down the hill is a better depiction of the situation. That sucked. Peter and I just had one with
Field Day in November 2019. We played St. Louis, and had to get to Chicago for a flight. There was a storm, and we crept our way through the snow for hours, sliding and driving into the storm. Kevin and I made our flights west, but Peter got stuck in Chicago, and had to overnight there. Ugh.

Where did the vans end up? 

Descendents Van 1 – Died, no clue what happened to it.
Descendents Van 2 – They continued to use.
Dag Bus – Died. Brian sold it in DC.
Dag Bonneville – Brian used for a while, and it sold in LA.
Humble Gods Starcraft – Brad kept it, and it was the first van Kottonmouth Kings used.

Are you working on any new releases? 

We have a new 7″ called “Field Day 2.0” that came out on Unity Worldwide June 5. You can get vinyl at Cortex if you’re in Europe or at RevHQ if you’re in the states.  The digital is everywhere…Amazon, Spotify, iTunes.

Field Day is mixing a new release called “Opposite Land” slated to come out November 2020. The vinyl will be available via Cortex and from our web store and digitally in all the usual places.

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FIELD DAY – SEARCHING FOR THE ANSWERS – HARDCORE WORLDWIDE (OFFICIAL LYRIC HD VERSION HCWW)

FIELD DAY – WE ARE THE CHANGE – HARDCORE WORLDWIDE (OFFICIAL LYRIC HD VERSION HCWW)

Interview with Ceci dit

Joe McRedmond interviewed Ceci dit, a punk rock band from Troyes, France, via email about their travels over the last two years.

Published on July 18, 2020

Thanks for agreeing to an interview with me!

Hello! We are Ceci dit (“That being said” in English). We are a three men punk rock band which has been formed in February 2018. In our songs we are dealing with our relation to other people, to ourselves, and to the world. At the moment we have released a demo and a EP, and played nearly 40 shows mainly in the east of  France. It is a pleasure to share our experience with other people. Thanks Joe for having us!

Tell us what the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for traveling outside of your hometown in the first place, specifically?

We have begun to play in other cities because we wanted to share our music with new people in new places. It allows us to meet great people and to go to some places we’ve never been before. We are often playing in our hometown because we are organizing shows here, so it is always nice to get off the beaten track.

When you travel out of town, what is your main method of transportation? Did you know the background of this vehicle when you purchased it?

For our first summer of touring, 6 months after we created the band, we had the chance to pick the old van from Lucas’ cousin, but most of the time we are using Lucas’ car to travel.

Tell us about these vehicles; year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY, build a loft, etc.?

Our van was a Renault Trafic T1000 from 1989 used to carry tools and workers in vineyards, so we had a lot of space at the back, but only 3 seats. As we said before, at the moment our main tour vehicle was Lucas’ car, a tiny Peugeot 206, but we are always surprised by the amount of instruments and personal stuff this car can carry. 

Ceci dit’s 1989 Renault Trafic T1000. Photo courtesy of Ceci dit.

Any funny or unique features?

The back of our first van was modified so we could sleep in it with a mattress to make it even more comfortable. Lucas’ cousin also added extra storage, batteries to plug electrical stuff, and a ventilation system to improve the quality of the inside.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?

The longest drive we made in our van was between Dijon (well known for the mustard) and Romilly-sur-Seine (a tiny town near our hometown). Because of taking wrong directions, and the tiny motor for this big van, it took us 4 hours to go to the show instead of 2h30. The first trip we had with the van was less complicated. We didn’t take too much time to go to the venue in Reims (well known for its champagne), but we had some scare when we had to park the van in the big avenue where the venue was located. But finally, after a risky half turn realized by our trucker drummer Stann’, we made it.

Officially, the longest trip we have done was last year when we played in Belgium. It took us 4 hours to drive to the venue, and we had a big hangover. Not a great time, but a great memory. If we are right, the first time we have toured as a band with a car was when we went to Metz (another big city of Eastern France). As usual, when Lucas is driving, we made some detours, but we have played in the best place we’ve ever been. It was at an associative venue called ‘La chaouée’. We had the chance to sleep upstairs the venue. Good party and partial memories. 

Did you sleep in the vehicle, people’s houses, or hotels?

Our van was modified to welcome some mattresses at the back, but we were not able to use this feature because the space was taken by the gears. So most of the time we sleep in people’s houses, often in the promoter’s house. We really like it because we can have some chill time with people and discuss more easily than in the crowded and noisy venue.

Are there any vehicle rules you have? Or band rules in general?

The only rule we have when we are traveling is “no smoking inside the vehicle”. Except that we didn’t have any explicit rules. By touring we have learned how to know each other, and now we know how to adapt our behavior in the tour life to avoid tensions, and keep a good vibe in the band.

Do you have a classic nightmare vehicle/police/mechanical/crash/fire story from tour or any other shows?

We are not touring all the time, so when we know we will have to travel more than usual, we take time to check all the parts of the vehicle to make sure we can go to the shows safely. By chance our families have mechanical skills, so we can fix issues really quickly when we have some troubles. 

Ceci Dit with Marée Basse (RIP)

Where did the Renault end up?

Unfortunately, the van we used during our first tour is not usable anymore, because it didn’t pass road worthiness testing. It is now used as a garden van to go through all the land owned by Lucas’ cousin.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

Yes for sure! During our first tour days we have forgotten to think about a place to sleep, so we have planned to sleep outside in our tent in an abandoned skate park. At the last moment we found someone in the audience who welcomed us in his apartment. Good after-party with weird songs. It depicts well our lack of experience at the time, and all the troubles a band can face in their tour life.

How can we help promote any releases?

The way you did by giving us some space on the internet to speak about our passion is a good way to help. We have a Facebook page we often used to update back in the time we were able to play shows. Our last record “Il s’agirait de grandir” which means “It would be about growing up” is available on every streaming platform, but we are suggesting to people to listen to our songs on bandcamp. As you will notice, we are singing in French, but don’t worry, you can find all the lyrics on the bandcamp site, and translate the song easily by copying and pasting texts on a translator. 

On our EP you can find two songs dealing with our tour life and the choice we have made to play punk rock. The first one is “1247”. This song is about the emptiness we feel every time we come back home after touring and how to use all those memories to fight the struggles of routine. The second one is called “Echec subjectif” which means “Subjective failure”. In that song , we are speaking of the fact that we sometimes have some troubles to explain our passion to other people, because they don’t understand how we can find pleasure in it, and also because they feel that it is not a rational choice to cross the country just to play in front of few people for little money. That one has a video clip that you can find on our YouTube channel and where you can spot our main tour car.

If you like it you can share it with your friends and spread our music on social networks by doing all the things we are not really at ease with.

Ceci dit – 1247
Ceci Dit – Echec Subjectif 

Interview with Adam McGrath from Cave In

Joe McRedmond interviewed Adam McGrath, guitarist from Cave In from Methuen, MA, via email about two of the vans they have used over the years.

Published July 13, 2020

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically?

Specifically, the band Piebald from Andover, MA was the catalyst for Cave In to take our band to a more serious level. They were close to our age and were already playing shows around and outside New England before Cave In got it together to do the same. They had purchased an old small school bus (named Melvin) and “successfully” toured down to Florida and back which was a mind blowing achievement to us back then. They literally and figuratively gave us the road map on how to take our band out of Methuen and into basements, living rooms and small DIY clubs down the east coast and eventually around America.

Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?

Our first van was purchased from Harpoon Brewery Boston for $1200 via the old analog want ads. It had been previously used by Harpoon for promotional purposes at early nineties beer festivals. The brewery wanted the RV off their property day of sale, so I remember we stupidly drove the unregistered and unplated RV through downtown Boston and back to Allston (Where we had lived at the time) via Sorrow Drive, barely clearing the low hanging bridges. We almost tore the roof off within minutes of owning it.

First Cave In van/RV purchased from Harpoon Brewery. Photo courtesy of Adam McGrath.

Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY?

1978 Ford V8 RV black with red trim. The RV interior had been gutted and left with only a captain’s chair and van bench seat that could fold out into a bed. Large windows had been added along the exterior of the RV box, making it almost like a hot greenhouse on wheels. None of these giant windows opened, and the only air flow came from the driver and passenger windows. My uncle had to fix the drive shaft, and three of the eight cylinders immediately, before we could actually travel with it. My uncle also thought I was insane to have purchased the monstrosity I had brought before him to fix. We made some DIY wooden gear storage lockers inside that also had a loft bed at the top.

Any funny or unique features?

The 1978 RV camper had a CB/intercom system that was very entertaining while it worked. We would dramatically announce our entrance or departure at the venues. Or sometimes just yell or say random shit on the intercom and watch people look around wondering where the voice of god came from.

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?

Berkeley, CA to Syracuse, NY was the longest drive we ever did. I can’t remember the actual first trip, but the 1978 Ford RV only lasted one complete summer US tour (which was Cave In’s first full US tour with the Canadian band IRE).

Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general?

We always insisted drivers had a co-pilot to keep them company and awake especially on night drives.

It was your responsibility to throw away your own bottle of urine. We learned the hard way it’s a terrible idea to toss an open container of liquid out of a moving vehicle, because it will just blow back in. So don’t do it.

In the early days our drummer JR would only drive if he could listen to Motley Crue the entire time. 

Do you have a classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire story from tour or any other shows?

We had a van fire with a ’91 Ford Econoline baby blue van at a rest area fifty miles west of Philadelphia which ended our 1999 US tour with ISIS (the band). We pretty much lost everything except some luggage and a few guitars. $6000 in cash burned under the driver seat. We had been plagued with overheating problems with that particular van the entire time of owning it. We also concluded later that there must have been some sort of gas or oil leak. We pulled over to the rest area and all went inside to use the restroom and grab snacks. It was supposed to be a quick stop as we were supposed to play Philadelphia that evening. People started stirring around the rest area food court saying there was a van smoking outside and right away we knew it was us. Some of our crew ran outside, and tried to pop the hood and get access to the smoking engine, but they were unable as the hood was already dangerously hot. The rest of us ran around the food court pleading for someone to call the fire department, or tried to find a fire extinguisher to put the fire out ourselves. The fire engulfed the entire front of the van very fast, and soon we realized there was nothing we could do to stop it. Our stash of fireworks blasted out the exploding windows. Tires popping like gunshots one by one from the extreme heat. We got home by renting a U-haul box truck with whatever we salvaged from the burnt gear. To this day I still have the Gibson SG that was pulled out of the van still on fire and put out with the fire hose.

Aftermath of the van fire at a PA rest stop. Photos by Jason Hellmann courtesy of Adam McGrath.
Charred remains of Adam’s Gibson SG saved from the van fire. Photo courtesy of Adam McGrath.

Where did the vans end up? 

The 1978 RV was never the same once we came home from the first US tour with it. We attempted one last trip to Canada but the RV died on the side of 93-N in New Hampshire to the sound of loud backfiring. It was then towed to our drummer’s then girlfriend’s back yard lot where it would then rot for the next couple of years. It was then junked with a dead engine and RV’s roof had eventually caved in. The ’91 Econoline that burned was abandoned in the rest area.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

IRE stuck a bag of feces in the RV air conditioner, which led to days of everyone wondering what smelled so rank and foul. The smell made our eyes water. We all searched corner to corner of the RV, trying to figure out what and where the smell was coming from, to later find a plastic bag of shit jammed in the air conditioner. To be young and derelict!

How can we help promote any releases?

Cave In is currently wood shedding riffs, ideas, and songs to remotely try and piece together a new record. In the uncertainty of current times, there is no definitive timeline for completion, but it feels good to still be moving forward with the band after so many years together. 

Thanks Adam for doing this interview!

Thanks for the interview. Full disclosure: HOOVER was and still is one of my favorite Dischord bands. Hoover/Lincoln split is legendary in my circle of friends. Every time I pick up a bass I play Electrolux! THANK YOU!

Cave In -Juggernaut

Cave In – On the Prowl

Cave In – Night Crawler

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Interview with Kyle McKnight from Goddamnit

Joe McRedmond interviewed Kyle McKnight, bassist from Goddamnit from the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, via email about their faithful yellow monstrosity known as “Goddamn Van Damme”.

Published July 3, 2020


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What was the catalyst for getting a van, specifically? Was the yellow van the band’s first van?

Shows. Totally needed one for shows.  We played a lot of shows the first few years. For a few months we were just packing shit into our cars and taking 3-4 cars every time we played. It was a really pain in the ass way to go about it. And then all of sudden one day in November 2011, our guitarist (guy who started the whole band), Jeff Kelly, texted us and said he had just bought us a van from a local school for $300. We all kinda thought he was fucking with us until a few days later when we were all sitting around in it drinking beers. And yes to date he was our only van. As soon as shows are a thing again we’ll be seeking out his replacement. 


Day we got him

Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?

Jeff stumbled across it somehow at a school near his house and just went and got it. It was the van the maintenance department used. We never took the stickers off in hopes it made us less desirable to local law authorities on tour.  As far as we know it was just used for doing random stuff around the school and was constantly maintained so it was a great score. 

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Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY?

Don’t remember the exact year. Early 2000’s Chevrolet Express 3500. Mustard Yellow.  It was a pretty odd van. Drivers door only opened from the inside. The passenger side door didn’t open at all, nor did it have a seat on that side when we got it. We immediately got one at a junkyard and installed it very poorly. It moved all over the place and didn’t have a seat belt.  Aside from that, I put some shitty curtains in and built a wall in place of the last bench seat to keep our gear safe. It worked great unless a certain drummer (Arik) was driving and then all bets were off and guitar heads were flying through windows!

undefinedPost-guitar head flying through the window 

What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?

Austin I’d imagine was the longest. 1700 miles. We drove straight there from Philadelphia for SXSW one year and then maybe played a few shows on the way back. Outside of that probably hauling ass to Gainesville to get to Fest on time. I’m not sure what the first trip was though. Probably New York. 

undefinedParking garage in Austin during SXSW

Do you have a classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire story from tour or any other shows?

First time going to Fest. 2013 I think.  The plan was to drive straight down and then play shows on the way home. Left ourselves 2 full days to get there. Our van started acting weird in Virginia, and ultimately broke down in the hell on earth known as Santee, South Carolina. It was fairly early in the morning, and luckily we had AAA, so a nice gentleman who looked just like Busta Rhymes towed us to what looked like the gas station from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Jamison Auto Repair. Half burnt down from an arson attempt weeks before, and being powered off of generators. Waited hours for someone to show up. Finally the owner showed up and the rest is kind of a blur. All I know is he took all our money and sent us on our way only to break down miles down the road, and then have his driver threaten us. Old guitarist chased him around with a hammer for a second. A new tow truck, new mechanic, and a $35 part later, we were on our way just in time to miss our set at Fest. Saw some great bands though, and played some good shows on the way home. But seriously fuck you Jamison if you’re out there. 

undefinedThe second and much more honest mechanic we encountered in South Carolina

Where did the van end up? 

I think the Philadelphia Parking Authority impound lot? Sometime in 2019 it began breaking down and running pretty crappy. It was parked near our studio in North Philly, and at some point while we were in Europe for 3 weeks, the neighbor who got stuck looking at it took matters into his own hands. He took the tag off, and then reported it to have it towed. We didn’t even get to say a proper goodbye. 

Any funny or unique features with this van?

No not really, aside from the almost ejector passenger seat, we always had these really obnoxious drum machine toys that we bought at some random store. People were constantly fucking with them or accidentally setting them off. And every once in a while you’d hear a synth beat or “yeah boi” come from the glove compartment.

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Much annoying

Any other entertaining tour stories?

Oh man. So many. We loved fucking around in the van. We actively and successfully trolled David Drayman from Disturbed. Joke was on us though, cause he turned out to be a really nice guy. Unsuccessfully trolled the Steve Harvey Show for a whole mid-western tour once to try and get on as a musical guest.  And we used to film all these ridiculous internet shows including our own YouTube show called “Snacks With Arik”.
 
Snacks with Arik episode
Goddamnit-No Sleep Til Fishtown- Static Sessions
Photos courtesy of Kyle McKnight

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They have a new full length release out soon!