Interview with Charlie DeBolt from Upsetting

I interviewed Charlie DeBolt, the drummer/vocalist of Upsetting from Denton, Texas, after learning of their tragic van fire that occurred a couple of weeks ago.

Upsetting is a 4-piece sub-pop/sad rock band from Denton, Texas, made up of Caleb Lewis (Guitar/Vocals), Charlie DeBolt (Drums/Vocals), Drew Kee (Lead Guitar), and Kevin Adkins (Bass/Vocals). 

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically? How long were you a band before you got one?

Actually, we were pretty fortunate to land our first van thanks to our first record deal. Our debut album, “Everything I’ve Done So Far” was released through local record label State Fair Records (Dallas, TX) in 2018, and shortly after its release they signed the title for an old 1998 church van they had through the years for other bands to tour in over to Kevin.

Before that, we had gone on a couple tours in a van a friend rented to me. But renting vans can be stupid expensive, so we probably would have looked at buying a van sooner or later either way. So as old and used as it was, getting that first van was a huge step for us and I’m pretty sure we had our next tour booked 2-3 weeks after receiving the new wheels. 

Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it? Were you looking for a specific make and model?

We’re not exactly sure how many bands had used it before us… the label never mentioned exactly how long ago they purchased it (from the First Baptist Church of Azle, TX), but we know that The Vandoliers, a pretty popular “cow-punk” band from Dallas, were the last to use it before us. It’s also very possible that The Old 97’s had it at one point (State Fair worked with them in their earlier years).

We just needed something that could get us around comfortably, honestly we never had more than 4-5 people ever ride in it at a time on tour so a 15 passenger van was a little excessive, but the extra elbow room was nice.

What was the year, make, model, color? Did it need work, and did you do any DIY? Did you give it a name? Who maintained it?

The van was a maroon red 1998 Dodge 3500. Shortly after the first tour, we ran with it, the computer started gradually failing, which meant that some of our gauges wouldn’t read correctly… then the windows stopped rolling up… at it’s worst state we lost the speedometer (which is scary) and the AC (which in Texas is pretty rough).

We got pretty crafty with swapping out fuses and at one point Kevin did this crazy shit where he tied a wire from one fuse to the AC fuse to help give that extra power. When we were still with State Fair Records, they helped us with a lot of repairs when we needed it, but the past year or so Kevin was taking care of the maintenance.

We named the van Ruby “Van” Akroyd… I think Caleb and I had watched Blues Brothers some time around when we got it, so Dan was just on our mind, lol.

Photo by Erin Devany, All Hallows Productions.

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

Our longest drive between shows was easily a short West Coast run where we decided to just start out at the farthest point. We played a show in Dallas, then the next morning at like 5 am drove 23 hours straight to Bakersfield, CA. The next day we had a show in Pacifica, CA.

It was honestly really nice getting the big drive out of the way the day before, because we were able to spend the whole next day enjoying the coast around the Bay Area. That whole part of California is beautiful, and Pacifica is a chill smaller town that we took a lot of fun band photos around.

Photo by Garrett Smith

What do you listen to in the van?

I’m very glad that our group has a pretty wide range of music tastes with the occasional podcast listen to mix things up. Musically, I’d say our top 5 played artists would be Modern Baseball, Modest Mouse, Mark Morrison (but really just “Return of the Mack” over and over), Mimisiku, and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.

We also listen to the podcast “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” as much as any of those artists. The whole band is big on the McElroy brothers.

When my partner, Erin Devany (All Hallows Productions), comes with us on the road (she handles almost all of our photography/music videos), we also get to listen to some fun spooky podcasts like “My Favorite Murder” and “Last Podcast on the Left”.

Photo by Erin Devany, All Hallows Productions.

What else do you do for entertainment on drives between shows?

When we’re not just vibing out on music, we each have our other forms of entertainment. I bought these fun little silicone hand puppets that looked like Labrador Retriever heads… they got real silly real quick.

I normally bring an acoustic guitar for anyone to fiddle around with, and I’ve actually written a song or two for my side project (Springtime and the Changes) while on the road with Upsetting.

Normally, if we have a photographer with us, the road is their main opportunity to edit photos so we can post them during our travels. And we’ve gotten better over the last year or so about keeping an eye out for any fun regional sights we can take time to check out in between stops.

One of my favorite places we’ve checked out is Bishop Castle out near Rye, CO. Its this crazy castle this dude named Jim Bishop hand built, and its sturdy enough to walk around inside of. If you ever get the chance I highly recommend it.

Photo by Garrett Smith

Do you have any songs that reference touring or about the van?

Our song “Donnie” actually references the van quite a bit. That song is about a cat of mine that got hit by a car during Thanksgiving of 2018. I didn’t have a car at the time, so Kevin let me use the van to visit my family on Thanksgiving, I got home pretty late and the next morning found out about my cat, Donnie. I’m pretty sure the van makes a brief appearance off in the background about 40 seconds into the music video.

Upsetting – “DONNIE” Official Music Video

There’s also a brief moment about a minute into the “Family Tradition Plays Quietly in the Background” music video where we include a little footage of us having fun inside the van on a tour we went on with our local goth-rock homies, Rosegarden Funeral Party.

Upsetting – “Family Tradition Plays Quietly in the Backgroud” OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO
Upsetting / Rosegarden Funeral Party Tour 2019

And the recent music video we put out for “Eye of a Needle” turned into a bit of a tribute to Ruby since our recent van fire happened on our way back from filming the video.

Upsetting – Eye of a Needle (Official Video)

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

I’d say our sleeping arrangements on tour were roughly 60% friend’s/people’s houses, 20% Air B’n’Bs, 10% motels/hotels, and 10% sleeping in the van. Everyone in the band is kinda big, so those van benches don’t quite fit the same, but we’ve made it work when we need to.

My favorite place we’ve ever crashed though, was this tiny little cabin out in Zanesville, Ohio. It rented for $36, and had 4 comfy places to sleep, a fire pit, and little solar powered appliances inside. It was incredibly cozy for how cheap it was, for anyone looking for a good option to crash in between Pittsburgh & Columbus.

Do you have any van rules? 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?

Haha, I think one of the only van rules we had to implement after our first few runs was no smoking weed in the van while its moving. We’ve never had a real encounter with the cops aside from the occasional speeding warning, but on some of our routes near the border we’ve come across a checkpoint a little too soon after boofing a joint.

Other than that, we try to keep the band rules reasonable. A couple of us have had bad experiences with hard drugs in the past so we avoid those altogether as a band, and we’ve learned our limits as far as drinking before a set. And, you know, don’t be a creep. There’s too many of those already.

What’s your craziest van story?

Our crazy van story was actually very recent and still something I think about daily. On September 6th, we were heading home from Kirvin, TX (kind of near Waco) after shooting the music video for “Eye of a Needle” out on Caleb’s mom’s property. Kevin was driving with Caleb riding shotgun, my partner Erin (who was filming for us) and I were in the first bench, and Drew was in the second row. This was actually Drew’s first real outing with us as a band, since he joined as the lead guitar player for our band after the pandemic hit.

30 miles into our trip, right outside of Corsicana, TX, I felt something bottom out from right underneath where I was sitting, and we all heard/felt it drag while we were going 60mph on the highway. Fortunately, there was an exit ramp near us, so Kevin got off the main road and pulled over.

Before he even fully came to a stop, flames came up the side of the van in front of the passenger doors. We immediately hopped out of the driver side door, and I’ll never forget the panic everyone felt as we were screaming to get out.

Video courtesy of Charlie DeBolt

After we all made it out okay, there had to be 2 solid minutes where we all just stood there frozen, not sure how to process seeing the van we were just occupying quickly being consumed by flames.

Before it was completely engulfed, Kevin and I acted quick and threw the back door open to salvage what we could, including mine and Erin’s phones which were the last things he grabbed before the flames got too bad.

Video courtesy of Charlie DeBolt
Photo Courtesy of Charlie DeBolt

It couldn’t have been more than 15-20 minutes after we pulled over that the van was completely torched.

I don’t ever want to experience some of the sights and sounds I witnessed that day… windows getting so hot they pop and shatter… the tires expanding until the air inside starts squealing as it tears the rubber apart to escape… that will hopefully remain the scariest day of my life.

Photo courtesy of Charlie Debolt
Video Courtesy of Charlie DeBolt

We’re glad everyone is okay. Where is the van now? 

There was nothing to salvage of the van, so a tow truck in Corsicana picked it up and took it away. I made sure there was nothing we needed to sign or anything like that, but I think we knew seconds after getting out of the van that we weren’t going to be riding in it ever again.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

Man… a lot of tour stories to pick from. I guess I’ll use this opportunity to thank Ceremony for that one time they guest-listed 9 of us for their sold out show at The Crocodile in Seattle. We had a day off and saw they were playing, so I messaged them on Facebook saying we were too broke but wanted to see them… I did not expect them to even reply, let alone get us into the show. But they did, and that was one CRAZY day off.

We also had the good fortune of making friends with a band from Monterrey named Local Champion, and had a fun little mini-tour in Mexico last October thanks to them.

We played one night in Torreon, at a new bar called Ojo De Tigre. The owner is incredibly passionate about music, and to celebrate her first year of operation, she had a mural artist paint the names of every band that played there in the first year, so our name’s up on a bar wall in Torreon… which sounds pretty epic. 

“Eye of a Needle”
out 9/27/2020
artwork by Alz Garcia

How can we help promote any releases? 

Our music is up on most major streaming platforms, you can check out our latest single, “Eye of a Needle”, anywhere you usually listen to music. And we’ve got our last single, “In November on Normal St.”, coming out in November, so keep your eyes peeled for that one! Social media & additional links below:

Bandcamp

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

GoFundMe for New Van Fund

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