GRAVELROAD News On the Road – Miles, Shows, Friends & Down-home Promo

On the Road – Miles, Shows, Friends & Down-home Promo

August 27, 2014

It’s surprisingly cool for the last days of August. We are, however, hovering through the northern two-thirds of the United States of America right now.  If it’s going to be 55 degrees at this time of year, it makes sense that we feel it in Montana and North Dakota.

Last night we played the first out-of-town show on this short tour.  Bayport, Minnesota – home of the Johnson family’s Bayport BBQ – was the site.  It’s kind of weird to travel 1800 miles from Seattle before playing our first show but that’s how we drew it up.

This tour is really about three things:

  1. play the Muddy Roots festival in Cookeville, Tennessee on Labor Day weekend
  2. promote our upcoming album, El Scuerpo
  3. hang out with friends along a very long road-trip

The Muddy Roots festival is one that we really wanted to play years ago when it first started.  We would’ve done with T-Model Ford back in 2010 but we’d already committed to playing All Tomorrow’s Parties in upstate New York that year.  Jim Jarmusch invited T and us to that event and we weren’t going to let that opportunity pass.

We almost made it happen in 2012 too, minus T-Model, but there was no way we could work it logistically.  All the while we kept getting stories from our friends about what happened at Muddy Roots every year.  This was our priority US festival for 2014.

We’re only playing a handful of shows because there wasn’t a way for us to work out more than 10 days on the road this time due to other life obligations.  We were going to do a short run with our buds in Left Lane Cruiser but it ended up just being a single show in Fort Wayne on the way from Minneapolis to Tennessee.  No worries because we are totally cool with enjoying the road for a change.

This is such a unique tour for us.  We really see this as a “promotional” tour for our upcoming album El Scuerpo (Knick Knack Records), that will drop in mid-December. This is our best album yet.  Yes we are biased but it is. The songs are great and varied.  We have guest vocalists with completely different styles blowing up the mics. Lisa Kekaula of the BellRays helps us cover Junior Kimbrough’s “Lord, Have Mercy” with powerful soul and Andrew Chapman (Princess, the Keeper) throws down some heavy vocals on the huge track “DD Amin.” The album also has some heavyweights working the knobs.  El Scuerpo needs to be heard! Consequently, we gotta preach the gospel.

Like many bands, initially we didn’t understand the importance of spending the time of promoting albums far in advance of their release.  We‘ve been talking about this album for months. The more we spread the word in person all around the world the better.  I guess we could hire an indie PR person or throw some hard-earned cash into something to try to spread the word but we think we have a better way by simply going out to the people and telling them personally.

When we were in Europe a couple of months ago we started to tell people about El Scuerpo and playing select tracks from the album. We continued to add more songs to our live set from the new album for our summer shows in the Pacific Northwest.  Now we have images & artwork as well as the music (CD-R’s and digital download info) to share with people in advance of the release as we cover about 3000 miles through the US over these 9-10 days to tell the people personally.

We love getting feedback on the songs.  Our friends like Al Lucken and Kari Potter in Minneapolis get to share with us in person that they like that we are getting weirder. Our friends that know our music get to tell us in person what they hear on these new songs.  People who never heard of us before get to see and hear something that is – hopefully – unique.

If anyone asks where we’re spending any promo money for El Scuerpo, I point to the gas tank of Black Mamba, our van.

We left Seattle on August 23 and drove east through Washington and Idaho to the Missoula, Montana area.  Then a couple of long drives through the great states of Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota put those 1800 miles on the van before the first show in Bayport.

We pulled into Bayport about 24 hours before our gig.  We got to see friends old and new.  We saw Bob Log III and Jaw Knee Vee play Bayport BBQ the night before we played.  Thankfully, our tour includes seeing other bands on the way … that’s definitely part of the plan for Muddy Roots festival-going.  We will be at the festival camping and rocking with the other folks hanging out there. If you see people that look like us right up front for the Calamity Cubes, Goddamn Gallows, Mudhoney, or someone else, yes that’s us.

We all have enjoyed hitting the road for the sake of just getting out of town. We have all traveled to see & hear live music over the years. We love seeing our friends in all the US time zones.  And of course we love to gig too. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to roll it all together in one relatively short trip.

Talking to Bob Log the other night he was in the final week of a 5 week tour.  No days off … and two days he added an afternoon show as requested by a friend.  It is something like a 37 shows in 35 days for Bob.  Bless that man. We’ve got a helluva lot of respect for that schedule.  I’ve been there. 5 weeks on the road is tough.  I’ve witnessed 2-3 weeks breaking some people.  We’re so fortunate to be able to do what we are doing right now.

The hardest touring was the work with T-Model.  It was non-stop.  The music was only part of it. We toured with him when he was in his late-80’s and early-90’s.  We were on 24/7. Even the short tours were work.  The month I spent with him in Europe was worth it, but a tremendous amount of effort and responsibility too.

This is not that.  We are cruising down south where it will be hot.  We get to rock out at the festival, leave the van at my friend’s house for use in 6 weeks (Deep Blues Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi will bring us back south in mid-October and it’s easier to do one-way flights than to drive).  That’s how we do it. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing right now.

Bring on the next thousand miles.