While compiling information, images, music, and updates from local bands for this year's music issue — The 2009 Music Guide — City Paper asked a few musicians about their experiences on the recent tours and road trips. Their advice and tips on touring work as good advice in life as well.
Joel Timmons of Sol Driven Train
The grittiness, exhaustion, chaos, confusion, and perspiration involved in traveling around the country in a van with your bandmates can be a mighty challenge. Here's a tip from Joel Timmons — a pro singer/guitarist who's already played over 150 shows in the southeast, up north, and out west with Sol Driven Train.
• Learn your vehicle. "We've changed tires, fuel filters, fan belts, starters, an AC compressor, a throttle spring, a fuel injector, and an alternator on the side of the highway. Having a mechanic in the band or one you can call for advice is invaluable."
• Be kind to your bandmates. "Don't get discouraged by a small crowd or a bad show. There can be no hits without an occasional miss."
• Be courteous and polite to the venue staff. "The sound techs and bartenders have a lot of say about which bands get invited back to many clubs."
• Stay hydrated.
• Get out to explore the towns you play. "Have adventures on your days off. This is great for morale and helps ward off 'each town looks the same'-itis."
• Bring a cooler for snacks. "And get your meals at grocery stores instead of fast food. This will save your budget and your digestive tract."
• Remember that you are playing music. "Enjoy it!"
Sadler Vaden of Leslie
Singer/guitarist Sadler Vaden fronts local rock trio Leslie, a touring machine that made its way up the East Coast, through the Midwest, over to California, and back across Texas. The band performed at South by Southwest in Austin, gigged in Hollywood, jammed on the Lynyrd Skynyrd Cruise, and opened for Bang Camaro, The Avett Brothers, and Drivin' 'N Cryin'.
• Do carry around a huge Gatorade bottle to pee in (in the van).
• Don't fart in the van without claiming it.
• Do learn how to survive on soup, bread, and sleeping on people's floors. Fast food will ruin your wallet and your life, and hotels will make you itchy and poor.
• Don't trust someone who says, "Yeah, my house is just up the road from here." It will be 50 miles away.
Lindsay Holler of the Western Polaroids
Singer/guitarist and songwriter Lindsay Holler claims that the "keys to success" are still a mystery to her, but she and her new band, The Western Polaroids, have successfully put a cool batch of melodic and beautiful songs together and traveled up and down the highways on several northeastern road trips. She and her mates accept that money and time are super-tight, so they make the most of their touring adventures. As she puts it, "I've had some of the best times of my life while I've been out on tour, and I'm very grateful for each opportunity that I've had to go and do that."
• Flexibility. "One piece of advice I would give is to go into it with measured expectations and an open mind. Things are going to go wrong and get weird ... the best thing is to try and be is flexible."
• Comedy. "On a more tangible note, I suggest bringing some stand-up comedy for the car-ride. I'm a Mitch Hedberg fan myself."
• Whiskey. "Also, Jack goes down smoother than Makers. At least, in the backseat of the van."
Jason Brewer of The Explorers Club
Since the 2008 release of Freedom Wind, their full-length debut on the Dead Oceans label, Charleston pop/rock outfit The Explorers Club have toured several times up the East Coast and out west. They opened for Lightspeed Champion during one leg, and, despite a series of "van disasters," managed to hit Toronto, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and "everywhere in between." Singer/guitarist Jason Brewer has fond memories of a snow-filled Midwestern road trip last winter.
Hotel Booking: "One thing that has really helped us on the road is Priceline's 'name your own price' hotel booking. We have stayed in four-star hotels for under 50 bucks! It's a great way to boost morale on the road and feel really accomplished, just to be honest. A clean bed, food, showers, rest on those days off. We have done entire U.S. tours, and right in the middle, we would have a day or two off, and the best thing ever was to have a home-base where you can sleep in, work on the setlist, catch a good meal, and regroup. Searching for the good deal on a hotel room really was a key to making our tours comfortable."