Pazz & Jop: Travel Tips From Touring Bands


For the past two years, I’ve been asking bands returning from tours the same questions about their experience. They are, in no particular order: 1) What do you usually travel in? 2) Where are the best and/or worst and/or strangest places you’ve ever slept? 3) What makes a bad show? 4) What makes a good show? 5) What merch did you bring, and what sells best? 6) What advice do you have for other bands heading out on tour?

The interviewees range widely in every way, from six-month-old indie rock bands on their first tour to people who have spent time atop the Billboard charts (Evan Sult, now of Sleepy Kitty but formerly of Bound Stems and Harvey Danger). There are rappers who have been profiled in Rolling Stone (Khaled M) and punk bands who have made the cover of Maximum Rocknroll (Drew Ailes of Brain Tumors). Several have appeared right here in the rankings of Pazz & Jop, in years past (Philip Dickey of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin) or right now (Daniel Pujol of PUJOL). Here I’ve picked quotes that best represent the most insightful commentary and widest range of voice on the life of a band on the road today. May you never have to sleep in the home of a man with a machete stuck in his bedroom door and whose pillows are covered in blood.

“Greyhound bus.” — Chad Matheny, Emperor X

“Taco Bell gave us $500 in gift cards last year. Do the math.” — Philip Dickey, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

“The worst place was a hotel in Baton Rouge. I’m almost positive they were cooking meth in the room next to me.” — Snipes, rapper

“At the Grand Canyon, we wrapped chorizo, potatoes, and onions up in tinfoil and cooked it in the fire. Delicious and cheap.” — Beth Bombara, singer-songwriter

“College kids who lived with one of their moms as a roommate. Also someone was ‘doing it’ with someone’s sister in the attic. There is a darkness.” — Daniel Pujol, PUJOL

“We sell panties that say ‘Lick it’ on the front and ‘God-Des and She’ on the ass. ‘Lick it’ panties sell like hotcakes.” — She, God-Des and She

“Mini Cooper. It’s a tricky game of Tetris getting all our equipment to fit, but it’s worth it because of great gas mileage and relatively easy parking wherever we go. ” — Mabel Suen, Spelling Bee

“Ford E-150. No windows on the sides. Keeping it nice and creepy. Basically, we like to be pulled over by random law enforcement in every town across the country.” — Nicole Barielle and Sam Meister, Mr. Gnome

“Get a mechanic to join your band. Also, win the lottery.” — Kenny Snarzyk, Fister

“Make sure someone in your band has a prescription to Valium. Be nice to everyone, and, most important, treat people well when they come to your city. Prepare for everything to go to shit, and don’t flip out unless you might actually die.” — Drew Ailes, Brain Tumors

“The most underrated merch item is business cards. Make sure they look dope and have your name, social-networking sites, website, and booking e-mail. This is pivotal. Gives showgoers something to remember you by. I remember performing at Lollapalooza and witnessing a rock band that was the best live act I’ve ever seen. I was blown away. Usually I go to shows just to watch and study, but I was giddy that night. It was amazing. And guess what? I couldn’t tell you their name. Time passed, and now I have nothing to remember them by.” — Khaled M, rapper

“A park bench at a highway rest area. Under a bridge. And in a five-star hotel. That was fucking weird.” — Ben Crew, In Defence

“Those two hits of acid that some random fan fed us. We weren’t hungry for quite some time after ingesting those tiny treats.” — Mr. Gnome

“No one owes the band anything at all, and the most repellent band is one that feels visibly underappreciated.” — Evan Sult, Sleepy Kitty

“I’d rather play to 100 engaged people than 1,000 disconnected ones,” — She, God-Des and She

“Don’t. It’s hard work. Leave it up to us.” — Ben Crew

“T-shirts always outsell CDs and records. We’re testing the tank top and coffee mug market. Jury is still out. Temporary tattoos are always a good idea, but the profit margin totally sucks.” — Philip Dickey, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

“Learn to walk away from people who are making you feel uncomfortable. Learn to confront people who are making you feel uncomfortable. Bring money. Don’t go home with people you just met. Learn to function on little to no sleep. Learn to love PBR. Bring lots of bottled water. Learn to fight, learn to love, trust no one, and, last but not least, have fun.” — Mr. Gnome

“Once you catch on, it becomes apparent that most serious touring bands say this: Eat healthy and get some sleep. Sounds so simple, but so does a lot of the important stuff. Treat everyone at the club like a potential friend, because we’re all part of the same insular world, and we’re probably more alike than different, and we’d all like to have a good show. If you hate touring, don’t tour—it’s hard enough when it’s going well. The only reason to do this stuff is if you love it.” — Evan Sult, Sleepy Kitty

“Never give up; never surrender. Watch Galaxy Quest before every tour.” — Philip Dickey, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

“I’ve slept on pool tables sometimes. Also slept on the floor in a nice house in Nashville that had dishes filling the sink and a machete sticking out of the owner’s bedroom door. Dude had been trying to beat someone with a pool cue earlier in the night. Also pillows covered in blood for some reason. Very nice guy.” — Drew Ailes, Brain Tumors