I interviewed Simon Fabela, bass player of Nuzzle from Santa Cruz, California, who were active during the 1990s.
Tell us who you are?
My name is Simon Fabela. I played bass in the band Nuzzle. The other members of the band were Andrew Dalton (vocals), Nathan Dalton (guitar), and Ricardo Reano (drums).
“First thing we needed was a van!”– Simon Fabela
What was your motivation for getting a van in the first place? How long were you a band before you got one? Did a particular band inspire you?
In the early 90s, it really wasn’t too difficult for someone in their late teens to actually go out and buy a van. Gas was cheap and old vans were not hard to find.
Nuzzle began to take shape somewhere between 1990-1992. Like so many other bands, it was just four high school friends getting together and making some noise after school or on the weekends.
It was around this time in the early 90s that we began to uncover the underground music scene in and around where we lived in Los Angeles. Going to records stores and buying anything that was out on K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Touch & Go, Dischord, Merge, etc…then seeing flyers for shows and going out to Jabberjaw, Claremont College, Macondo, countless house shows, and just absorbing it all.
When our own songs started to take shape and we recorded our first 7″, it was bands like Lync and Some Velvet Sidewalk from Olympia that we made contacts with when they were on tour in Los Angeles, and encouraged us to come up to Oly or Portland, and they could help us get a show, place to stay and so on. That was really the impetus of us giving it all a go and realizing we can actually do this beyond our own back yard.
First thing we needed was a van!
What kind of van did you get and where did you get it?
Andy Dalton was the main force initially behind pretty much everything we did as a band, so he took it upon himself to sell off the old beat up car he had at the time, and buy a gray late 70s Dodge Tradesman that became the band van.
It was a real beater, not sure how much he paid for it, but it couldn’t have been more than maybe a few hundred dollars. It had some issues. It leaked oil like mad and we had to keep several bottles of oil in the van at all times to refill periodically. But we didn’t care, we just wanted to build a loft and get on the road! Which we did.
What is the first trip you took with it?
Our first real tour was in that van up the west coast for a two week jaunt in the summer of 1994, that coincided with the first Yo Yo A Go Go in Olympia – which we ended up playing at because of a cancellation!
We had begun trying to “book” a tour that summer only a few months prior to Yo Yo not realizing that these sort of things need to be done way in advance.
So after being told that the Fest was already booked, the amazing folks at Yo Yo agreed to keep us in mind if something opened up.
We bought passes with the intention of just staying in Olympia for the week and going to see the Yo Yo Festival everyday, which we did, but when Antioch Arrow ran into van issues in Colorado and couldn’t make it, we got the call!
Do you have any classic mechanical issue stories from being on tour?
Rewind a few days…
After playing a show in Seattle the day before heading to Olympia, our gray van ran into some issues. While laying down in the loft after the show, en route to where we were supposed to be staying, Ricardo noticed a long streak of liquid behind the van that seemed to be following us around every turn.
When we stopped to see what was up, we noticed a sizable crack in the gas tank under the back of the van just pouring out gas. I remember someone grabbing a Styrofoam cup to try and save some of the gas that was pouring out, and just watching the Styrofoam disintegrate.
The van ended up at a mechanics for a few days in Seattle (with all our equipment still in it!) to get repaired while we hitched rides to Olympia with some friends. When we got the call that we were actually going to be playing the Yo Yo later that night we were ecstatic! Then we quickly realized all of our gear was in Seattle, in the back of the van, in a mechanic’s garage!
We called the garage and were told we could come get it if we got there before they close at 5 pm. Luckily, a friend’s band lent us their van to make a mad dash down to Seattle to gather our gear.
While speeding back to Olympia, with all our gear strewn about the back of this borrowed van, Andy gets pulled over for speeding. How crazy is this situation – speeding van, sweating nervous guy driving, music equipment all hazardously thrown into the back. Andy honesty explains the situation and the cop asks “Who’s van is this?” Andy says “Gillies” Cop: “Gillie who?” Andy: “I don’t know her last name.” Cop goes back to his car for a little bit, then comes back and says, “OK Andy. You can get going, but you need to slow down.”
WTF!! Lots of “THANK YOU’s” and back off to Oly just in time to load straight onto the stage at the Capitol Theater and play.
Any other entertaining tour stories?
In 1995, we borrowed a friend’s late 70s yellow Dodge Tradesman 201 to tour the US for 6 weeks with the amazing Fisticuffs Bluff.
Another van with major issues that broke down at least twice. Once leaving us stranded in Chambers, AZ for a couple days (had to replace the water pump), and another time in the South, I want to say Mississippi, when the radiator blew.
When we took it to a garage and the guys working on it (one guy named “Thrash” and the other “Hub”) told us we could either wait a few days and spend a good amount of money on a new radiator, or they can just plug up those holes and take our chances. We rolled the dice and it worked!
I do also recall removing the “doghouse” inside the van – the center piece that covers the engine and sits in between the driver and the passenger – while we were driving and probably late to a show, and feeding oil into the engine to keep it going. So, so dangerous, what the fuck were we thinking!?
The van made it back home after that 6 week endurance test, but died a sad death several months after we got back and was sold for scraps.
Any funny or unique features with your vans?
In 1998, I personally bought a mid 80s white Dodge Ram 15 Passenger van that we used for several years. Like the majority of vans bands used at the time, we took out the back two rows and built a stellar loft.
My mom even made curtains for the back windows.
We used this for our Summer of 1999 US Tour. It was a bare bones van inside and out. There were a couple of small portions of the floor, near the driver’s left foot, that were missing, and you could see the road blurring by.
No paneling inside, so just metal, and in the middle of summer it was fucking roasting in there. No radio either, so we took a bungee cord and looped it around one of the beams on the ceiling and hung a boom box from it, connected it to the cigarette lighter, and blasted tapes as loud as we could.
Most of the time the noise inside the van, from driving and not being insulated, was louder than the music. I loved this van and had a big childhood poster of mine of Fernando Valenzuela taped to the inside “roof”.
I ended up selling it to another local band from Oakland.
Did you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or motels/hotels?
Our vans were always the place we slept if we could not find a floor to crash on. Rarely did we rent a motel because we just didn’t have the money.
Four or five humans sleeping in a van in the south in the middle of summer was insane!
Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general?
There weren’t any specific van rules, though usually whoever was driving got to choose the music. We all ended up getting tired of each other’s musical tastes once we’d got past whatever current obsession we all had at the time (Unwound, Sonic Youth, Neil Young, etc.) so we listened to a lot of comedy tapes – one specific David Sedaris box set of tapes was worn out.
What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows?
We had some pretty insane drives back then, I distinctly remember a hellish, roughly 13 hour drive from Seattle to Lake Tahoe, and one from Montana to Minnesota.
The van was like our own traveling living room and even when not on tour, we’d often just hang out in it and dream of the next tour.
Reminisce with Nuzzle here: