The Day Ben Died

Tour Diary: Day Three (9/12/15)

Saturday morning was extra special because moments after waking up, propping myself up in our disgusting hotel room on our very old, thin, stained sheets, Ben walked over and offered me a spoon full of something. I looked at it. It resembled some kind of oatmeal mixed with other goopy substances. I accepted the spoonful. Almost immediately, I knew something was wrong. Something in my mouth wasn’t goopy. There was a hair. And that’s how Ben died. Thankfully, Tommy agreed to drum for both bands the rest of the tour, and we found a pretty easy spot to bury Ben’s soft shitty body in the sandy soil behind the HOJO. I like to think it was his passive aggressive way of punishing me for all the times I’ve been late to band practice, one last time.

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We had a very long drive that day. After a hair-free yogurt and free-raisin-bran breakfast we took off and slowly watched the high desert landscape transform into actual sand dunes. The temperatures reached 105, and the van struggled to keep us cool as we drove through Yuma. Once we got into California and started north things gradually began to cool off (down to 90 at least) and we got to see some really cool sights.

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First it was palm date farms. Acres upon acres of fruit trees, vineyards, and farms. In 1905 engineers from the California Development Company were diverting the Colorado River into the Coachella Valley to increase irrigation for farmland. The amount of water that came in was overwhelming and flooded the valley for two years before they were able to complete all the repairs to stop the massive flow. A giant lake was created that they named the Salton Sea due to the high salinity levels (more salt concentration than the Pacific!). This was one of the coolest things we drove past. The layers of mountains above the massive light blue lake with a combination of desert and farmland surrounding it is stunning.

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Then came the windmill farms. Miles of natural beauty covered in modern sculptures in perfect rows was like something out of a Ray Bradbury book. We saw oil pipelines, a magnificent sunset, and Chico deejay-ed so we had a fantastic soundtrack to the entire drive. Danny, Tommy and I had all never been to California before so we were extra excited, and I annoyed everyone by constantly standing up, leaning against windows, and taking roughly 1000 photos.

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When we pulled up to our destination – The Britisher in Lancaster, California, we were a little hesitant. The bar was in the corner of a strip mall next to a massage parlor, an Auto Zone, and a liquor store. Inside, there was no real stage – just an area set aside with a small PA and no monitors. Little did I know this would be the best night of the tour so far. This dude Carlos does the booking there and goes by Burger Wolf. He is AWESOME. We played with three other local acts – one covered popular songs while the drunk bar sang along at the end of the night, the other opened the show singing hilarious folk songs through a megaphone with a fiddle player. We played in the middle with a local prog rock band, Litaoa, who kicked ass and brought in a crowd. We sold merch, drank free beer, made new friends, and the bartender loved me so much she gave me some of her tips (which, being in service industry myself really meant a lot to me). It was a fantastic night. We love you Lancaster!

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Keep Shit Talk In The Van

Tour Diary: Day Two (9/11/15)

Currently driving to Tucson through sage brush desert, mountains, and big big skies. This morning we woke up to the CUTEST PUPPY IN THE WORLD.  She’s a chihuahua/catahoula mix (dubbed a “cholula” by Gory) named Sally who never stopped squirming and making tiny adorable puppy sounds.

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Gory then took us to Marfa Burritos and introduced us to Ramona, who quickly became our favorite, as she called us “chicos guapos” and lovingly made us delicious breakfast burritos (they’re just breakfast tacos, but bigger – who knew?!).

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Gory owns the spectacular Marfa Recording Company, so we took a quick studio tour after breakfast to nerd out, and then hit the road.

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Freight trains roll by and occasionally we pass acres and acres of tomato greenhouses or pecan tree orchards. I keep wishing my mom was here because I know she would be geeking out taking tons of pictures and wanting to paint everything (she’s an artist who mainly does impressionistic landscapes).

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(The Mexican border in El Paso – that’s the Rio Grande, and Juarez, Mexico)

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(New moccasin boots I bought at a rest stop in New Mexico)

We arrived late in Tucson to a spectacular mystical view.  The entire city is nestled into these huge purple mountains. The light was low, and the Howard Johnson was a total shit hole, but Hotwire deals are awesome, so we sucked it up. After rushing to get ready, we headed to 4th Street to find The Surly Wench Pub. From what we were told, 4th Street is similar to Austin’s 6th Street, in the aspect that one end is full of douche-bros, and the other is full of hipsters. Surly Wench is right in the middle, and has a really great little venue area. The staff at this place was AWESOME. They were so accommodating and friendly that they really made our night. The headlining band was a metal band who rocked crazy face paint and masks, and definitely knew how to put on a good show. They were really nice, and we enjoyed meeting them.

The opening band was really young. They didn’t say shit about the rest of the bands, didn’t stay for the other bands sets, then showed back up at the end of the night after the club closed to ask for their share of the money (To be clear, this was 2/3 of the band – the drummer was cool and stuck around). This is so bad on several levels. I’ve already talked about traveling bands, and how the cool thing to do is give touring bands the cash if the payout is low (just be cool, man). But really that’s just a nicety. The major thing is the leaving part. You don’t play a show and not stick around for the other bands sets. You just don’t. I think the best thing would have been for one of us to tell them that, in a nice way. Like hey, if you keep doing this, people aren’t gonna wanna play shows with you. And maybe a much more mature thing to do than bitching about it on my blog. That whole experience made me realize how cool Austin is. I know we whine about the negatives, but for a musician (or any kind of artist), the sense of community we have there is such a special thing that too many of us take for granted.

While i’m touching on rules, I’ll share something else I’ve learned: “Keep shit talk in the van”. I’ve always been bad at following that one.

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There’s us playing in Tucson.  And here’s me modeling my baller fanny pack:
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It wasn’t a bad night. We didn’t make much money, but we played an excellent show (my new boots are very flexible and I can move more on stage!) and there’s always tomorrow…

Marfa Bound

Tour Diary: Day One (9/10/15)

The day had finally arrived. We packed up Heidi (SkyAcre’s van) and headed west.  The next series of blog posts will be a documentation of our experiences on the road.

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(Danny, Marcos, Ben, and Tommy)

Day One: As you might think, a day like this started with some anxiety. What did we forget? Probably everything important. Probably my keyboard. Probably underwear (Shut up, Jen). Miraculously, we left within an hour of when we wanted to, and after a frantic night of little sleep, went to sleep almost immediately. My instructions were to wake me up when there were cacti. After a very long car nap, a break for lunch, and another long car nap, I woke up to West Texas. I’ve lived in Central Texas the majority of my life but have only traveled west once when I was younger, and guess I don’t remember the drive. It was incredible. Absolutely beautiful topography. I think the most surprising thing was that it reminded me so much of Waimea (Hawaiian cowboy country) on the Big Island of Hawaii, which felt like such a special place to me…something taken out of history, that needs to be savored. The sky stretches on for what seems like forever, filled with massive moving clouds, and always mountains in the distance. MOUNTAINS, GANDALF!

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Our first tour stop was Marfa, so on the way we stopped to swim at Balmorhea State Park. They have this incredible 1.75 acre fresh spring fed pool, called San Solomon, which – dare I say it – is even better than Barton Springs. The temperature was much more comfortable, multiple diving boards, fish and turtles swimming everywhere, turquoise waters, with gorgeous mountains and native plants surrounding it. The park ranger even brought us some baby bunnies that he rescued and was going to start taking care of!

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I abandoned my beautiful pre-show hair and jumped off the high dive. We used the GoPro to be big dorks and jump in the water with the camera and film each other underwater. It was only 45 minutes of bliss, but it made the first day even better. I dried myself off with a hand dryer and paper towels in the bathroom (Yes Chico, you were right, we should have brought beach towels) and jumped back in the van.  We started down highway 17 and were suddenly in the Davis Mountains, which were completely surreal. I realize this is my second Lord of the Rings reference in a very short time, but it was like driving through a winding road on the way to Mordor. This crazy combination of sage desert and huge gorgeous mountains looming up around you. We pulled over and strapped one of the GoPros to the hood of the van to try and capture the drive. Hopefully it got a shot of the apple-sized tarantula we passed in the middle of the road. As you can see below, Chico hates taking pictures.

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I don’t know if it was the jumping from the high dive into cold water, extra sleep, excitement for something new or getting to spend 17 straight days with Chico playing music but WHAT A RUSH! My spirits could not have been higher. We drove through Fort Davis – a tiny little town established in 1854 that looks like a movie set- and then finally rolled in to Marfa. Marfa is one of those places that has been mysticized (a word I just made up!) so much by the Austin community that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

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It ended up being a great start to the tour – a chill show at Padre’s with our friend Gory running sound, giving us a place to stay, and hanging out. The crowd consisted of locals who had been watching a football game that spilled into our set, which made me nervous at first, but the response we got seemed to be genuine and appreciative (like, they didn’t leave). We made enough money to pay for a day of gas, had a sort of green room, and drank for free all night. I slightly electrocuted myself right before we played with our shitty old merch cliplight, so I felt a little weird and sluggish on stage, but I think it was a decent set. Someone apparently emptied a trashcan into a toilet in between our sets, and the manager threatened them over the PA which was a little weird, but all in all it was a fun night.

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After the show we wandered over to The Lost Horse for a chips-and-queso-and-whiskey dinner, and we got to see how fucking cool Marfa is. Like, you walk into a bar, and the bartender is sitting at the bar hanging out with her friends, so people are just going behind the bar, pouring their own drinks, and paying for it themselves. Dogs wander in and out, everyone knows everyone, and sometimes businesses are closed just because they feel like being closed. I grew up in a small town, but this is something completely unique. It has so much character and beauty. It’s pretty much the perfect place to be if you’re tired of the city life.

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Marfa, we’ll be back. Tucson, you’re next.

Austin Missed Connections

You:  Most likely on some really strong uppers, dancing your ass off (literally) in a denim button up with red corduroy pants, even though it was 95 degrees.  Screamed like a fan girl at a Nickelback concert after most of our songs, showering the rest of the crowd with your drug-filled sweat.

Me:  Performing at Holy Mountain.

If you wanna be our official front row dancer/crowd energizer, give me a call.  We can’t pay you or feed you, but we can let you sleep in the van and help carry our gear.

Love, Boss Battle

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Rainbows Coming Out Of Our Butts

OH MY GOD.

You know when you anticipate something for so long and get so excited for it that you start to feel nauseous?  So to counter-act the anxiety you start to downplay it a LOT in your head? No one’s gonna be there.  It’s going to be a totally lame show.  You’ll sell 2 CDs.  The venue will be like K thanks, never come back.  Your voice will give out three songs in.  People will notice you gained weight and stop wanting to watch you jump around like a crazy person (I’m still a girl, okay?)

Friday morning I woke up with as low expectations as possible.  I slept in.  I went to yoga.  I found out my friend went into labor 3.5 weeks early and tried not to panic.  I warmed up, and waited.

Evening rolled around, and the show (to my surprise) went….great.  Like, FULL of people – who were really into our music, happy to be there, happy to see us and excited to hear our new record.  The lineup was STELLAR.  The sound was perfect.  The visuals were rad.  We had so many friends come and the support was so genuine and positive.  We had merch for the first time EVER – (look at this merch suitcase I made!) and sold 37 copies of Attack Time.

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The following day was spent with a big stupid grin on my face, and some much needed momentum was added to the getting-ready-for-tour chaos.  All in all our local pre-release show was a big success, rainbows are coming out of our butts, and we owe a huge thanks to Did You See Those Bats?, COSMS, Videoing, Night Visuals, Cheer Up Charlies, and everyone who made it out.  We love you all!!!

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If you missed our pre-release party, you can catch us (and buy a copy of Attack Time) at our last Austin show before tourHAAM Benefit Day 2015 @ Holy Mountain!  This will be my first show ever at Holy Mountain (and last, since they are sadly closing in October) so don’t miss it!haam flier

PS – Baby Alvin is doing well, and super cute.  Congratulations John & Karli!

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We Know You’re Excited. We Are Too.

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Yesterday 500 copies of Attack Time arrived at our front door, so it looks like nobody’s getting murdered (I get violent when hungry and/or stressed).  This Friday night we are going to celebrate the lack of blood-shed with a FREE local pre-release show at one of our favorite Austin venues, Cheer Up Charlie’s, with our friends in Videoing, COSMS, and Did You See Those Bats? Music starts at 9, and you’ll be able to pick up a copy of Attack Time before anyone else, for just $5.

For the first time ever since we started planning, I am actually getting excited to go on tour.  Still feeling a little apprehensive since I’ll be spending 3 weeks in an almost-windowless van with 5 (probably sweaty) dudes, but I am finally feeling giddy with anticipation as September 10th approaches.

The record will be officially released everywhere (iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, etc) for you to buy/stream/run over with your car on 9/11/2015. Our main goal is to get our music out there.  Period.  BUT the money we make goes directly towards making more music, touring more, and creating cool merch – so if you can support us, we appreciate it.

Now that we have the CDs in hand my stress level has decreased about 1000%.  We still have to finish shirts for tour (and if I get my way, gold and silver temporary tattoos), but as we design all this merch, what I want to know is, what do YOU wanna see on our merch table?  Buttons? Stickers? Patches? Fanny Packs? Plastic Vampire Teeth? Let us know so we can get you what you want. And as always, if you are – or know – a graphic designer/artist you think we should work with, contact us!

See you Friday!!!

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No New Knife Wounds

Last time we played out of town Heather (Ben’s girlfriend) sliced her leg open with a paring knife while trying to cut herself a slice of cheese at 3am in the backseat – forgetting her flesh doesn’t work quite as well as a cutting board, from sheer exhaustion.  This trip, we made it home with much less blood and much higher spirits.

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We played at Double Wide (white trash themed bar/venue with a signature alcoholic Yoohoo drink) in Dallas last night, which turned out to be a really fun show. Since Van Halen (The Invincible Czars‘ van that we normally use) is in the shop, we took SkyAcre‘s big fancy Mercedes van to Dallas, stayed with our friends Joy & Alec (WHO HAVE A POOL AND LOTS OF WHISKEY), AND actually got paid for the gig,  which made for an awesome Saturday.

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I’m compelled to explain why this experience was so great (besides the lack of blood) compared to other shows, because it seems that so many people are shocked when they find out that we don’t make money playing shows.  I am admittedly pretty new to this scene – this is only the third band I’ve been in that plays real shows.  And I wouldn’t say I was particularly surprised when I found out I wasn’t going to make several hundred dollars per show, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the $20 and $0 gigs (to split between three people).  Free week and SXSW are one thing – because you are prepared and expect to make nothing.  But when you own your own studio, or wait tables, etc – you are actively losing money when you take off work to play a show.  You end up spending money to:

  • load a bunch of heavy equipment into a van
  • unload the heavy equipment at a venue
  • scramble to get it on stage quickly
  • HAVE THE BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE FOR 30-45 MINUTES
  • scramble to get it off stage quickly
  • wait until 2am to get paid
  • load it all back into your van
  • drive home, and unload it all back into your practice space (or if you’re on the road, drive to your hotel and leave one person sleeping in the van so all your gear doesn’t get stolen)

Keep your fingers crossed that you don’t have car trouble, that traffic doesn’t suck, that there’s a place to pull over and load in, and a place to park.

The cool thing about playing out of town shows (besides widening your fan base) is that etiquette is to give a bigger cut of the money to travelers, so they can pay for gas.  Last night after we played a really fun show we were given more than we needed for gas, had a secure place to park our van, and a comfortable place to sleep (did I mention the pool and the whiskey?).

Some nights, you end up in the emergency room from slicing your leg open in the backseat of a van.  Some nights, a sexist club owner yells at you to leave the green room because BAND MEMBERS ONLY, NO GIRLFRIENDS ALLOWED!  Other nights, you get a flat tire and the venue doesn’t give you any drink tickets.  But occasionally, you find yourself a unicorn of a night where you get to do what you REALLY love to do, and all the lifting and carrying and waiting is totally fine and worth it because you can afford to eat some tacos, drive home the next day, and a couple of people seemed to give a shit about your music.

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