Interview with Brandon Butler from Boys Life

I interviewed Brandon Butler from Boys Life (KC), The Farewell Bend (KC/DC), Canyon (DC), The Vicars of Dickroy (DC), and Six Bells (KY), etc., about Boys Life’s first van and touring.

Boys Life:

Brandon Butler – Guitar/Vocals

Joe Winkle – Guitar

John Rejba – Bass

John Anderson – Drums


Why did you get a van in the first place?

We needed one for a few shows we booked. We had our first drummer, I was just days out of high school, and our cars weren’t going to do the trick. We figured we’d sleep in the van since we had no real contacts yet.

Did a particular band or event inspire you?

Nah, no particular bands inspired us, just that we needed one. Well, maybe “Tour Song” by Jawbreaker.

Where did you get it? Did you know the its background when you purchased it?

Joe worked with a guy who had an old church van. We had $250 in the band fund, and Joe threw in a bicycle. We did four U.S. tours in it with very little maintenance.

“When we would hit a good gust of wind it could change lanes on its own.”

– Brandon Butler

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

It was a Ford short body from the early 80s. It had a GOOD straight six in it that you just couldn’t kill. It was light blue, and the paint was all chalky like all those old Fords get.

I waxed it, and we built the most insane loft inside. There was just the two front seats, and then the loft, extended the whole length of the van so you had to sit cross legged, or on a stack of pillows, but never could your legs hang down unless you sat between the two front seats.

The whole thing was carpeted to the nines because Joe’s old man was a master carpet installer. Honestly,  that van was the best running vehicle I have ever driven, or been in, except that the steering linkage was badly worn.  When we would hit a good gust of wind it could change lanes on its own.

Photo by John Rejba.

Any funny or unique features?

We had no place for our spare tire so we tied it to the top of the van. We also had a heart spray painted on the back door.

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

The longest drive we ever did was between Kansas City and San Diego when we recorded our first record.  We did manage to jump on a show while in California.

That was the infamous trip where we decided to steal gas the entire way. We made it past Sante Fe on Highway 40 before we got caught. It all went down on a reservation, so the cop was not a state trooper, and let us go after a bullshit story along with my willingness to let him search the van. He didn’t. I think after he saw our van, and the loft set-up, he felt sorry for us and let us go.

We made it all the way to San Diego after that. Coming back home, we would experience another such encounter with police in Nebraska.

Joe Winkle. Photo by Paul Drake.

Who maintained the van?

At that point in the band, Joe and I did all the maintenance. Oil changes, cap and rotor, etc. The van was on point mechanically, and even though it was rusty, we washed it when we could.

Brandon working on the Canyon van. Photos by Evan Berodt.

I woke up in Bellingham one time with kitty litter stuck to my cheek.

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

We always slept on people’s floors. We played the punk house circuit, and they were all super cool, even if the house was super gross. Most of the houses were nasty as fuck.

I woke up in Bellingham one time with kitty litter stuck to my cheek. Joe found chicken bones in a borrowed pillow one time too.

I preferred the van. It sucked, but it was a suck level I could deal with.

John and John. Photo by Paul Drake.

Did you have any van rules, or band rules in general?

The van was lawless. We would drink, smoke, brawl (like really brawl), make up, bitch about music selections, have fun. It was the Wild West in our van. Riding in the Boys Life and Canyon van was raucous stuff.

Dirty deeds done by Brandon to the Giants Chair van. Photo courtesy of Brandon Butler.

The Farewell Bend van was chill, but that band was different. We were on a mission. It was about delivering the goods. Nobody got too whacked out. That band was the rebound girlfriend for us, we needed it at the time, and finally realized we needed to move on. Both Giants Chair and Boys Life split at about the same time… I’m mean c’mon, like I’m not asking Paul (Ackerman) to do a band? We probably recorded the best sleeper “emo” album of the 90s from that group. That record will hold up forever.  

Now wouldn’t it be cool if that record came out on vinyl? Hmm… 

The Farewell Bend – Service Engine Soon

The Farewell Bend – Live at The Granada, Lawrence, KS 05.31.97

What is your craziest tour story?

Well… on tour coming back to Kansas City on an all night drive, we pulled into a rest area so Paul Drake could pee, and get a break from driving. We were all asleep in the back, including Eric (Richter, Christie Front Drive).

I woke to the smell of electricity similar to a Marshall amp just before it dies. I opened my eyes, and there was a thick green smoke emanating from the front A/C vents. I knew shit was about to hit the fan. “Everybody out, get the fuck out of the van now” I was yelling. Everybody bailed out. Because at this point the dash had caught fire, we didn’t even grab our shoes or anything. We all had to take our turn, literally jumping through flames, because the fire was coming out of the dash rolling up the windshield.

I went to the back doors, slung them open, and all of us started throwing guitar cases, amps, speaker cabinets on the ground. Drums were rolling about the parking area, and all of the semi trucks were starting to bail out.

I’d say the flames at that point were at least forty feet tall. The heat was so intense while we moved the salvaged gear to a safe distance, my eyeballs dried, and my hoodie hurt when it touched my skin, that fucking HOT.

Tires were exploding, and the fiberglass dome that had once made the van such an attractive option to tour in was melting like a giant picnic cup in a camp fire. Finally, the gas tank lit up and heaved a giant plume of bright yellow flame that ran out into the parking lot, all over the remaining chassis, exploding the rear tires, every color of the rainbow was present in that fire.

It burned so fast that by the time the two fire trucks arrived they were just wetting it for safety.

We ended up loading our sorry asses, broke, cold, and shoe-less in a giant Ryder truck, one of those really big ones. We were so fucking over it. We played our final show of the tour in KC, at The Daily Grin with The Get Up Kids.

We didn’t practice or talk about band stuff for a month. I was sure as a band we were finished.  I really think that was the moment we changed our view of touring.  We wouldn’t play shows without a guarantee, and we tried to play clubs more than punk space/house shows.

But as insane as this story sounds, we had so many weird ass experiences on tour. Those dangerous and surreal moments were why I wanted to keep touring. 

Photo by Paul Drake.

Where did the van end up?

All of the vans we ever owned got junked. Joe traded the last van he owned in for a good Honda hatchback that he drove to San Francisco after the band broke up.

Boys Life. Photo by Paul Drake.

Photo by Paul Drake.

Photo by Paul Drake.

I started to think this guy might be some Buffalo Bill wanting to put lotion in my basket, and these “films” might be a way to get the ball rolling.

Any other entertaining tour stories?

I could write a book just on Boys Life tour stories. Here’s a quick one, and I warn you its gross.

We played Milwaukee this one time, and a guy at the show offered us a place to stay. He said he lived in an old theater with a working film projector, one of the big ones. He said he had a bunch of couches, and a fire pit inside the space. I was fucking sold!

So when we got there, it was a warehouse. Yes, he had a projector, and films, and a bunch of couches. The fire pit was a 55 gallon drum, but it all seemed like it could work out to be cool place to hang out. We had a few beers, and he wanted to show us some “films.”

Photo by Paul Drake.
Photo by Paul Drake.

The films ended up to be porn…? 1970s German stuff that had really pasty white people, lots of hair, ball gags, and whips. Some gross looking shit that you know is about to go sideways. It didn’t freak us out right away, but I started to think this guy might be some Buffalo Bill wanting to put lotion in my basket, and these “films” might be a way to get the ball rolling. I was like 22 at the time.

Things went south when the guy in the movie made a stinky on his lady friend. Rejba made an audible groan. None of us was watching this train wreck anymore. Anderson rolled up in his sleeping bag and checked out. I think Rejba and I were messing around the fire barrel. We could see the guys interest level growing in the film.

Right about then, the dude who made number two earlier brought in one of those miniature ponies… we bailed with the quickness.  We told the guy we needed something from the van long enough for that gross ass crime against nature to be over. Rejba gagged outside a few times, and I was afraid to go to sleep.

Eventually, I was banned from voting on where to stay. 

Boys Life and The Crownhate Ruin in front of Camelot in Higginsville, Missouri. Photo courtesy of Boys Life.
The Farewell Bend with Kerosene 454 at the Amish Cheese House in Chouteau, OK. Photo by Paul Drake.
Brandon sitting in with The Boom. Photo courtesy of Brandon Butler.

How can we help promote any releases?

Look up Rejba’s band Wet Tropics, they’re great.

I have put up a lot of free music on my bandcamp page.

Joe hangs out and jams with John Wall from Kerosene 454, from what i hear through the grape vine. I’m not sure if they are a thing, or just having fun, but yeah.

Anderson is a wicked drummer, and I wish he lived closer to me.

Boys Life Instagram

Boys Life Facebook

The Farewell Bend Facebook

Wet Tropics Instagram

Wet Tropics Facebook

Boys Life – “Fire Engine Red”

Canyon – Drive All Night

Brandon Butler performs Dear Assassin. Red Palace, DC. 7/24/11

The Vicars of Dickroy – Iota, Arlington 1.24.13

Six Bells perform “Silver Seed”

Tragic Accidents by Wet Tropics (Live at DZ Records)

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.

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