I interviewed Sam Treber from Short Fictions about touring in vans.
“Short Fictions is an indie/emo band from Pittsburgh PA. We like to get heavy, but we also love to have fun. We are a band of friends.– Sam Treber
In our tenure as a band, we’ve toured in about five different vans by my count. To answer each question, we chose the funniest, most interesting, or most applicable van to talk about.”
Short Fictions is Sam Treber, Shimpei Blackriver, Ryan Veith, Alex Barkley, Alex Martin, and Nick Bursick.
What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place?
We’re a six-piece band haha. We couldn’t even tour in a sedan or SUV if we wanted to for sheer lack of seats. We have toured in the past in a mini-van, but it’s been incredibly cramped.
For a long time we were renting a decommissioned school transit van from our friend. It was yellow, and where it originally had stickers reading out “SCHOOL STUDENTS,” it had been picked apart to read “ C OOL STUD S.”
That was a pretty decent ride, but once we started touring upwards of 90 days a year, it became more economical for us to own a van, since we were paying a daily rental fee. Perhaps more so than that though, was the fact that this van didn’t have working AC, which on top of its having leather upholstery, made for some absolutely unbearable summer tours.
Interestingly, the band Mover Shaker owns that van now.
Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?
I’m going to transition now to talking about the first van that we bought for ourselves, and continue to refer to this one, because it is far and away the funniest van we’ve ever toured in, and also the worst.
I bought it on Facebook Marketplace from two very sketchy, albeit friendly guys who lived about 40 minutes outside of the city. They said they ran a lawn care service, and I believe them, because to this day it has an ineradicable smell of gasoline and cut-grass.
I bought it for $800, but they said that we could tell the notary that I only spent $100, so that the sales tax would be lowered. They had a preferred notary that we went to first thing in the morning.
It was super weird because I pulled up to the destination, and it was very clearly just some guy’s house. There were a thousand wind chimes and lawn gnomes on his porch leading to the entrance. We knocked on his door, and a woman next door leaned out her window and yelled, “He ain’t in yet.”
Okay. Eventually, he comes out and we step into his office, which is straight up just the mud room of his house. Sale goes off without a hitch.
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?
It was a 1992 Chevy G20, and despite being 27 years old, it only had about 120K miles on it, which isn’t terrible. It was a cargo van though, not a passenger van, so the first DIY I did was add seats.
I was looking for seats on Craigslist and honestly, they were surprisingly expensive, but by some miracle, the very next day I found a bench seat just sitting in the parking lot at our practice space. It was covered in dirt and there were no seat belt connections. Of course, I had no ability to actually install a bench seat, so I kinda just stuck it in there loose, and leaned it against the side wall.
We called it “The Mustard Mobile” because it had one yellow door, and because you have to “give it (the gas pedal) a little mustard” or else it stalls out haha!
Any funny or unique features?
Not sure if “feature” is the right word, but I will list its quirks:
First, it has a security system that doesn’t actually do anything other than periodically (about every 15 minutes) a red light will flash, a clicking sound happens, and the hazard lights blink.
There is no way to turn it off.
If you turn on the heat, it starts an electrical fire and smoke comes out of the dashboard.
The transmission is set up such that at absolutely no point can you exceed 55 mph.
It has a functioning cigarette lighter and cassette tape player. The windows are crank operated, and there are no cup holders. The side door does not work. The rear door does not lock.
What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?
In that van, a drive we did to New Jersey that should have taken 6 hours turned into about 10.
For better or for worse I’m an optimist when it comes to shows. If ten people are there, or if anybody buys merch, or if I just get to have a fun time with my friends, I leave satisfied so I guess it’s almost always worth it.
What do you listen to in the van?
In that van we could only listen to tapes, so I brought a handful from my collection. Some that I remember listening to a bit include Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”, Smash Mouth – “Astro Lounge”, Aaron Carter – “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)”, Sioux Falls – “Rot Forever”, and Slick Rick’s “The Adventures of Slick Rick”.
Now that we have a van with a Bluetooth connection, we listen to a lot of classic rock, and also podcasts such as “No Such Thing as a Fish”, “Car Talk,” and “Beep Beep Lettuce”.
What do you do for entertainment on drives between shows?
I love just chit-chatting with my band mates, and recounting old tour stories. We also stop a lot to eat snacks and steal from gas stations.
Do you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or motels/hotels?
All three haha. People’s houses is obviously the best option, but isn’t always possible. Hotels are fun, but we don’t often have the budget to do that more than a few times each tour.
I’m a big proponent of sleeping in the van, but everybody hates me for it. Sometimes I drive until everyone’s asleep, and then just pull over.
Any van rules? Or band rules in general?
Try to throw your thrash away, open a window if you fart.
Also no texting and driving, and no speeding, but pretty much no one obeys the rules except me.
Do you have any crazy stories from tour or any other shows?
We had a tour where we drove through the night in the dead of winter, and the road was so slick that we spun out on the highway. We landed in the median without flipping over thank god, but we were stuck in about half a foot of snow. We spent like two hours treating the median like a half-pipe, trying to get enough momentum to propel ourselves out of it, and back onto the highway.
This was in Iowa, and very forebodingly, we wrecked just a stone’s throw from where Buddy Holly’s plane had crashed in the 1950s. Super weird.
Where did that van end up?
The Chevy is still in my backyard haha. It still runs, but I don’t ever leave the city in it, or even go on the highway.
My mechanic said it will never pass a state inspection, so I kinda have to
drive it in stealth mode. It’s good for moving furniture and that’s about it.
Any other entertaining tour stories?
I was so feverishly ill and dehydrated in California that my pee was neon orange for like a week.
Shimp came in his pants once.
How can we help promote any releases?
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