I interviewed Chriss Sutherland (bass guitar, vocals), and Tom Rogers (drums) of Cerberus Shoal from Boston/Portland, Maine, about van touring. Cerberus Shoal was active from 1994 through the mid-2000s.
What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically?
Chriss – We wanted to tour the U.S. and therefore needed a van to do so. There really isn’t much more to it.
Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?
Chriss – The first van came from a used car dealership up in central Maine where some of us were from. I had my uncle look at it, and he gave me the skinny as to what he thought it might need for repair.
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? Who maintained it?
Chriss – The van was a white GMC painter’s vans with a sliding door and no side windows. It only had two seats up front. It was probably an ’84 or something like that. We weren’t talented enough to make a loft so we just stuck the gear in the back loose and really unsafe like… we plunked a soft shitty couch/futon type of thing in the middle facing the sliding door and that was it. The van was in my name and I maintained it though we used collective funds. It had no name… we weren’t like that.
Any funny or unique features?, – for example, we had a band member make a jumbo cup holder, and installed the stereo into the glove compartment, so it was hidden.
Chriss – Nothing really. It had three gears on the steering column (“three on the tree”). We put some weird posters and stickers inside, but it was all utility baby.
What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?
Chriss – The longest was probably Yellowstone to Chicago or something like that. It’s hard to remember as it was twenty five years ago.
Tom – or possibly Richmond, VA to Miami, FL…during our first tour in the summer of 1995, only Chriss and I had our licenses out of the four of us, Chriss doing a majority of the driving.
Chriss – The first trip was to NYC to play at ABC No Rio.
What did you listen to in the van?
Chriss – Not much because it didn’t have a stereo system. We brought a little battery power tape player and would jam Neurosis and Iconoclast.
What did you do for entertainment on drives between shows?
Chriss – We did a lot of talking. We were friends and we would discuss stuff… like our feelings, dreams, hopes, fears, etc.
Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or motels/hotels?
Chriss – We did it all: slept in, on top, and around the van.. we slept in every type of house and apartment you can think of, but at that time rarely motels/hotels as that was not punk and we had no money.
Tom – I’ll never forget the time we pulled over on the highway in Texas at night on our way from San Antonio to El Paso, and two of us slept on top of the van, the others inside the van. Another time waking up in our sleeping bags at a rest area in the grass in Wisconsin, bystanders looking at us like we were crazy.
Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general?
Chriss – No rules as that was not who we were. We tried to take care of each other and do everything possible to get to the show.
Do you have a classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire story from tour or any other shows?
Chriss – At that particular time, and with that particular van, we were very blessed, and it seemed that we had someone watching over us. I think that the intense boredom of downtime between shows in tiny rural zones with no money sticks out most in my mind. It was very adventurous… we once broke into Thermopolis Hot Spring Park and went swimming at night… definitely shouldn’t have been swimming there… we would swim anywhere.
Tom – Yes! Haha, Thermopolis, Wyoming. We had 8 days off and decided to see how far we could go out west and make it back to our next show in Wisconsin. We ended up spending one day in Sturgis, South Dakota, entertained at the world’s largest biker rally, visited Badlands National Park, SD, sightseeing in Yellowstone National Park, seeing Devil’s Tower, WY & as Chriss stated, sneaking into Thermopolis to swim in the world’s largest hot spring.
Where did the van end up?
Chriss – I can’t exactly remember. We sold it to buy another newer van.
Any other entertaining tour stories?
Chriss – We sweated a lot in that van, and brought the real punk stuff to many states in the mid nineties when emocore wasn’t popular and young men struggled to make their feelings known. Our band was amazing!
Tom – One of our Los Angeles shows was eventful, we played the Silver Lake Lounge and met the actor Vincent Gallo and Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante. They were there together to see one of the other bands on the bill, but caught our set and loved it. Vincent invited us to party at his place in the Hollywood Hills, but we didn’t end up going…can’t remember why!
We were always searched & questioned (sometimes separately) when trying to cross the border from the States into Canada. During that first tour in 1995, we didn’t have the work permit to perform in Canada and I’m still flagged to this day, 25 years later because of that.
European tour of 2001: our rental van was broken into twice, once in Aarhus, Denmark and once in Marseille, France. Fortunately, all of our equipment was already inside the venue and only some records/CD’s, & my camera was stolen.
How can we help promote any releases?
Chriss – You can shout out SNAEX (Tom Rogers and I are in this band now) and our new vinyl record “The Nameless and The Named” on El Gran E. Records!
Tom – on Instagram, can be found at SNAEX