I interviewed Tyler Fieldhouse, vocalist/guitarist of GILT, from Jacksonville, Florida, about their vans and traveling.
Tyler Fieldhouse – Vocals/Guitar
Nico Bacigalupo – Vocals/Bass
Tristan Komorny – Lead Guitar
Ash Locke – Drums
What was the motivation for getting a van in the first place?
We’ve had two vans, the first was my family’s ‘94 Chevy Astro, and it was just there. My old band had used it before a little bit, my parents were cool with it being used, and GILT wanted to get on the road immediately. There’s just not that much in North Florida. You have to go on tour.
Where/from whom did you get it? Did you know the background of this van when you purchased it?
Our current van we got from a seller I found online. It’s an old church van (you can still see the Presbyterian Church sticker residue on the side), and when we got to his house, he had it running, and it had some wear and tear, but seemed great. He did fail to inform me of some issues, like that it doesn’t start right up when you crank it. But that’s my fault for getting distracted by his life story about adopting 14 kids, and not being religious.
Tell us about the van, year, make, model, color – did it need work, and did you do any DIY, build a loft, etc.? Does it have a name? Who maintains it?
The current one is a 2000 Chevy Express. Basic white. It’s the super extra heavy version, so it gets 11mpg whether it’s full to the brim or empty. Not only did it need work when we got it 2ish years ago, but it still does! The back panel is gone, as is the inner handle to that door, so the entire thing opens with an elaborate zip-tie system from inside. The driver’s outdoor door handle broke off almost immediately, so the driver (me) has to crawl in the passenger side. The speedometer runs about 10mph over the actual speed until you hit around 40, where it becomes 20 over. Most of the outlets don’t work. The windshield shattered and we got it replaced, but ever since, the weather stripping likes to fly off periodically.
We tried to build a loft, but didn’t allot enough time, so we just went on tour with this massive plank of wood we sat on top of the gear. It has foam glued to it that the ice cream cones at my job get shipped in, and we just call it the bed. When we sleep in the van, we move the bed on top of the middle two rows of seats, and I sleep on top of it. Everyone hates it because they wake up, and are staring at the exposed screws on the bottom, but it’s comfy. Sometimes we just leave it on the gear, and I sleep at whatever slant the way we packed the gear leads to, and wake up with different limbs going numb.
Does the Express have any funny or unique features?
Because only the passenger speaker and one far back speaker work, we never use the radio. We bring a bluetooth speaker, and honestly it’s much easier than passing around the aux chord. Plus, if I don’t like what’s playing, I just hand it back to the middle row and it’s a lot quieter.
Other than that, we tried to install curtains, which was really funny, but only because we did it so poorly, and all the Velcro we mounted fell apart over the course of the trip.
I think the best feature is the missing driver door handle honestly, because it’s such a good theft deterrent. Also, it’s got an issue with a fuel leak in the cylinders, so if you drive it at all, next time you go to start it, it won’t crank until you give it two or three tries, unless you let it sit for about 24 hours. It’s basically impossible to steal.
What’s the longest drive you ever did between shows? What was the first trip you took with it?
When we tour, we go on ridiculously long trips, so the drives aren’t ever horrible. But there sure isn’t a lot between Portland, Boise, and Salt Lake City.
The first trip we took was a quick run down to Miami for our first Snipfest (charity festival we run across Florida to provide funds for gender-affirming surgeries). The kickoff show was at home, and Nico (bass/vox) split their knee open on stage, and it was too late to go anywhere but the ER, so we just patched it up and went home. The next morning, the doctor said too much time had passed for stitches, so Nico had to take that first drive all the way down the state with their leg up on the dash to keep it from splitting back open.
What do you listen to in the van?
When we pick individual things, Tristan picks Pile or Modest Mouse a lot. Ash picks metalcore stuff that I generally mentally tune out. Nico has been known to play Twin Falls Idaho on repeat for entire states, only to switch to Pinback’s “Loro” for the next two straight days.
I wait till everyone falls asleep, and listen to my old classic albums in their entirety: Thursday – “War All The Time/Common Existence”, Fall Out Boy – (everything up until “Save Rock n Roll”), Lydia – “Illuminate”, Margot and The Nuclear So And So’s – “Not Animal”, Iron And Wine – “Around The Well”.
The albums we all agree on collectively are Great Grandpa – “Plastic Cough”, Idles (any), Kevin Devine – “Brother’s Blood”, and Mewithoutyou – “Pale Horse”.
What do you do for entertainment on drives between shows?
Ash and Nico have Switches, so there’s lots of Smash Bros, and Ash loves to rope everyone into playing Uno. Sometimes we’ll pick an album and just completely dissect it together, which is kind of cool to not only see everyone’s taste, but see what parts of anything we might use in our own music. But mostly Smash Bros.
Do you sleep in the van, people’s houses, or motels/hotels?
We always assume we’re going to sleep in the van, but usually we get offered a house! It’s always great to stay with people, just to make friends. People bond really quickly when you’re in their home because they feel safe and comfortable I think.
In all our years, we’ve only gotten a hotel twice. Once because it was a snowstorm, and we physically couldn’t sleep in the van, and the other because it was the only way to avoid the cops getting called. Neither hotel was that great. The only good hotel is the Wyndham at FEST and we just sleep in their parking lot.
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?
We’re constantly fucking up, so maybe we should consider making that a rule not too. I like to ask people not to vape in the van, because Nico has asthma, and I just don’t want my van to smell like Raspberry Mint Cotton Candy Supreme, but it hasn’t stopped people.
Mostly the rule is if we’re stopping for food, we’re ALL stopping, so our eating schedules stay aligned. Which means we have to agree on either one place we can all enjoy, or at least one part of town.
Do you have a classic nightmare van/police/mechanical/crash/fire story from tour or any other shows?
Oh definitely! On our last 2 month run across the country (and into Mexico and Canada) we paid about $2k to get the van fixed up and ready, which was a lot but at least we knew how much we had to recoup on the road. About half way through the water heater crapped out among with some other things and it was another $2k. It’s still not completely fixed, full disclosure.
My favorite cop story was from the above-mentioned hotel. We couldn’t find a Wal-Mart and I was dead tired so for the first time ever (outside of FEST) I parked us in a hotel parking lot to sleep. Turns out it was one of the major hotels with shuttles to Anaheim Disney. I got woken up to a security guard yelling at us to leave, and when I tried to crank the van up, it wouldn’t start. I started to call AAA, but before I could even get a tow-truck, he was calling the cops. So the only thing I could to do to avoid the situation was to walk inside and get a room on the spot. I have to admit, it did feel good to see him hang up the phone pissed off that he couldn’t get us in trouble. But that room sucked. Didn’t even have a TV and it was EXPENSIVE.
Otherwise, it’s just a montage of us getting parking tickets in California because the roads are confusingly labeled, and there’s no Wal-Marts. If you tour California and aren’t independently wealthy, I’m sorry.
Where is the van now?
Whenever stuff goes wrong with the van we get it fixed asap. But I do think it’s fitting that on our first big 3 month trip around the U.S., our first van crapped out on us about 45 minutes from home, so we got towed home. It was definitely a fitting end to that trip.
Any other entertaining tour stories?
We were playing a show in Houston at a very strange house that was run by some sort of new-agey tai chi/monk style person who said he was in charge of rehabilitating people with brain injuries. (Turns out he just made/sold drugs to them and people in the area). Our friends were sitting in the front seat of their car, which was parked next to our van, and they watched the guy who had been running door casually walk over, try to open our van, and move on to their car because ours was locked.
He entered the back of their car because it was unlocked, not noticing them, and when they asked him what he was doing as he was picking up their gear to steal it he just paused, looked at them blankly and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t usually do this.”
Obviously, the situation didn’t go too well, but as far as reactions to getting caught committing a crime go, that’s my absolute favorite.
How can we help promote any releases?
We just put out our first LP ‘Ignore What’s Missing’ and we’d love if anyone reading this wanted to check it out on Spotify / Apple / Bandcamp, and all the other usual platforms. We’ll be promoting merch and live streams until we can resume touring and we announce that stuff on all our social medias, which all use the @giltfl handle.