Interview with Short Fictions

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.
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.”

– Sam Treber

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.

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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!

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions
Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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.

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions
Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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.

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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”.

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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.

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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.

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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.

Photo courtesy of Short Fictions

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? 

Have your followers stream us or have them add our songs to their playlists! We drop merch every so often, so follow us on bandcamp. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Insta. “Fates Worse than Death” is available everywhere, new music is on the horizon!

Short Fictions – Really Like You (Music Video)
Short Fictions – Living In Places Like These Can Be Bad For Your Health
Short Fictions – Cities Under Water
Crazy Ryan in “Short Fictions Coffee Mug & Ash Tray set”
“Howdy folks! Like a lot of other people we got kinda boned by having half of our tour canceled so we’ve restocked our Bandcamp store with everything we have including more FWTD records, a new T-Shirt, and a couple of misc things; if you have some spare cash in these trying times, here would be a great place to spend it lol. But don’t take it from me, let Crazy Ryan tell ya about it!

Interview with The Clancy Six

Joe McRedmond interviewed The Clancy Six, a noisy hardcore/metal band from Baltimore, MD/York, PA, that existed from 1998-2005. 

During the band’s existence, its members experienced a lot of highs, and plenty of lows, trying to navigate the world of being a DIY band in the American punk/hardcore underground. We had the opportunity to meet and work with a ton of great people, but also, on many occasions, question why we were putting ourselves through all the bullshit associated with this same DIY scene. 

The questions below were answered to the best of our ability. We’d like to thank everyone who is taking the time to read this. Also, thanks to Joe for the interview and doing this great blog!

The Clancy Six

What was the catalyst, motivation, or inspiration for getting a van in the first place, specifically? 

I think with most bands just starting out, you’re traveling to shows in a caravan of cars. You’re likely playing locally, so everyone hops in their respective vehicle with their gear, or maybe you borrow your parent’s SUV and load up and go that way. When we started playing out more frequently, and going out of town, it just made sense to purchase a van and travel that way. 

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? Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?

We had three main vans during our existence: 

  1. 1997 white Chevy conversion van
  2. 1990 blue Chevy Suburban 
  3. 2001 blue Dodge Ram Van

The conversion van belonged to our guitarists’ parents, and they were gracious enough to let us use it, as long we maintained the upkeep, and paid the insurance. Luckily, the van needed no work, and had a built in loft. This was by far our most favorite and comfortable ride. We nicknamed this van “Van Halen’s Reunion”. 

The Chevy Suburban was used in a pinch for a tour when our conversion van took a shit right before a tour. Again, this belonged to our guitarists’ parents, and they saved our asses with this vehicle. Only work it needed was a new starter.

The final vehicle was a 1999 blue Dodge Ram van that we bought off some random dude from Craigslist. I don’t really remember it being that expensive. Maybe around $4,000? It was priced to move and I’m pretty sure it needed some work done, but don’t remember what. At this time, for reasons unknown now, we had a pretty good chunk of money saved up so we were able to pay for most of the van, and its repairs, without having to dip too much into our personal money. 

As anyone who’s been in a band can tell you, maintaining and paying for vans can certainly take its toll on your psyche and make you question being in a band altogether. 

Summer 2002 – Standing in front of our Chevy Suburban with no working air conditioner and a busted tape deck. Why no one bothered to get any of these things fixed is still a mystery to this day. So many stupid things would happen to us on this trip. Had we known better we would’ve just broken up then.  Photo courtesy of The Clancy Six.

Did the vans have any funny or unique features?

There weren’t really any unique features of any of our vehicles. They were better defined by their non-working features actually.

The worst of them was the Chevy Suburban with a non-working radio/tape deck, and a busted air conditioning unit. We were smart enough to take that out on a summer East Coast tour. 

Photo courtesy of The Clancy Six

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

We did a lot of long drives, that sometimes seemed to stretch on forever, with endless expanses of nothing. You realize all towns seem to look the same. 

Whenever we would hit the road for tours, or long weekends, we would try our best to space out shows with at most 4-5 hour drives in between. I think the longest drive we ever did was about 10 hours straight to Dayton, OH to play Not Much More Than Music Fest in either 2004 or 2005(?). We took a hit on that one, but felt it was worth it since our friend, James Downing, was helping to set it up, and we would be playing with a lot of great bands. 

The look of disgust on our bassist’s face along with his hideous farmers tan & flip flops should be reason enough to just stay home and quit music. Photo courtesy of The Clancy Six.

What did you listen to in the van? 

Between the 5 of us, we pretty much listened to everything. Also, for the style of music we played, we hardly listened to anything “heavy” in the van. After all, we’d be playing with those types of bands all night long, so it made no sense to fatigue ourselves with noisy music with lots of screaming. The bands/artists on constant rotation in the van from what I can remember were: Pixies/Frank Black, Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, & Rolling Stones. 

If certain members of the band were in a cranky or cantankerous mood, the Pied Piper of R&B would be invoked. Yes, R. Kelly’s “Greatest Hits” album would be deployed, to further aggravate these certain members, simply to watch them get even more irate.

What did you do for entertainment on drives between shows? 

Usually, we would sit in silence and read. This was before smart phones, so you really didn’t have much in the way of entertainment . If we weren’t reading, you could usually find one or two of the guys ganging up on our drummer Denny. He was younger than all of us, and would be the butt of many of our cruel jokes. He was constantly blamed for us getting lost on the way to shows, even though he wasn’t driving. He earned the nickname “Sweat Box”, for the simple fact that no matter the temperature, or climate, he would profusely sweat. By simply existing, he incurred our wrath and ire. Aren’t all drummers dumb anyway?

Nothing quite like the boredom of long drives and trying to avoid eye contact with everyone around you.
Photo courtesy of The Clancy Six.

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

We usually did a mix of all 3. If people were nice enough to let us stay at their pad, we were very thankful.

The unfortunate thing is that the places we’d be offered to stay at were hell-holes of depravity. If the people weren’t scumbags, then the environment was. Cat piss stained carpets, faulty plumbing, and unnecessarily loud music playing all night, with no one listening, seemed to be par for the course. 

Motels were the saving grace most of the time, though. We did not mind splurging on them if we had the cash. They were usually decrepit, but not on the scale the local “punk house” was. You had a pot to piss in, a bed to sleep on, and if you were a sweaty version of Bigfoot, like our drummer was, you could temporarily clean the stink off your body in a somewhat functional shower. 

Sleeping in the van happened maybe once or twice, for reasons I don’t remember. Though, no matter where we stayed, one of us always had to sleep in the van overnight to guard the equipment. Luckily, nothing was ever taken, but one night our singer scared someone off that was rattling the doors trying to get in.

Denny the Sweatbox in his natural habitat. Broken down somewhere in North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of The Clancy Six.

Were there any van rules you had? Or band rules in general?

There weren’t really any hard or fast rules we stuck to. The only one of importance was that if we did overnight drives, whoever was riding shotgun was the co-pilot, and helped the driver navigate, and they couldn’t fall asleep. There was hell to pay if you fell asleep as the co-pilot, and it did happen more than once. I’m sure you can guess who that sweaty person was. Let’s just say “lessons were learned” when that stuff happened. 

Band rules in general were that you announced your presence to the show promoter upon arrival, and exchanged pleasantries. Also, everybody was expected to load in/out the gear. Just regular things you do as a human that plays in a band.

Tracy pointing a cap gun to no one in particular. Many times we wished this gun was real as we would often put it to our temples or in our mouth in a feeble attempt to end it all.
Photo courtesy of The Clancy Six.

Do you have any classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire stories from tour or any other shows?

Believe it or not, for the entirety of our existence, we didn’t have any traumatic van experiences. Other than the occasional flat tire, we managed to escape things unscathed. I can remember being pulled over a total of 3 times. Twice for speeding, and one for running a red light in downtown Daytona Beach. 

Usually, a cloud of bad omens would follow us around, but when it came to the actual driving part, the Van Gods smiled down upon us.

That’s not to say that stupid shit didn’t happen INSIDE the van. People would throw up occasionally, and sometimes not make it outside. Insane arguments would break out over the most mundane things, and just general riff-raff associated with idiots in their early 20’s.

Where did the vans end up? 

Where they all end up in…junkyards. 

Though the previously mentioned Chevy conversion van sits in the front yard of Chas & Barney’s parent’s house. It is filled to the brim with canned goods. So if a zombie apocalypse breaks out, the Ruths will not go hungry.

Photo courtesy of The Clancy Six

Any other entertaining tour stories?

There are far too many. Most of them involved alcohol and/or drugs so memories get fuzzy. 

One that comes to mind is Binghamton, NY. We arrived to the venue, 123 Fake Street. We meet the girl doing the show. She informs us that she “didn’t really” put up any fliers for the show. Ok?! So there’s 3 out of town bands essentially playing for each other. Whatever. It’s punk rock, right? 

There’s a bar across the street where we can at least drown our sorrows. 3/5 of the band proceed to get hammered. Our guitarist, Barney, has the great idea of prank calling this comic book store in Columbus, Ohio. The place was called Midgard Comics. He found their business card in his wallet. You see, we had tried playing there 2 weeks earlier. We showed up to play a show at this comic book shop, but when we rolled up, there was an honest to goodness Magic: The Gathering tournament happening. Obviously, the promoter flaked, but there was a PA there, and the guy running the store said we could play, but it’d have to be while this Magic card tournament was happening. We didn’t have the heart to ruin these kid’s tournament so we bailed. 

So anyway, Barney proceeds to prank call this store. He was already three sheets to the wind, but he was berating the guy about how his Magic: The Gathering cards were making him lose all his matches, and that he wanted a refund of his purchase. The guy hung up on him right away the first time, but Barney called back, and kept screaming how he was ripped off, and wanted a refund. I can only imagine what the comic store guy was thinking. The other patrons in the bar were all looking at us with total contempt.

Eventually, the dude tells Barney to fuck off, and we go play this show where half the set we are all playing 3 different songs at once. I asked the girl doing the show for gas money afterwards, and she scoffed, and asked who was going to pay for her 2 microphones that we broke. I told her to charge it to “the game” and we bounced. 

How can we help promote any releases? 

There really isn’t much to promote besides an LP we’re working on. During the initial phase of quarantine, we had the idea to do an LP of our previously released 7” tracks, along with some unreleased recordings. During the existence of the band, there were multiple line up changes, and each configuration recorded a bunch. We figured it would be a neat project to work on, and we’ll only be pressing about 200-300 copies. We’re hoping to have it out by the end of the year, or early 2021. Everyone is busy with work & families, but we’ll eventually find time to work on it, and release it. 

Clancy Six live @ BassMint Reading, PA 2002
Clancy Six @Nolo House York, PA

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