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“Back On Your Heads”

November 26, 2010

With the band about to embark on an extended tour in support of The Grand Theatre, Volume 1, I thought it would be fun to check in with the guys and ask them some questions as they prepare for their 2+ months on the road together.

I sent the same 17 queries to Rhett, Murry, Ken and Philip. Murry was brave enough to shoot first. Enjoy!

1. The energy and intensity of TGTV1 has been compared to Too Far To Care. Thirteen years down the road, how does touring life now stack up to the touring life from the TFTC era–Still a rowdy, whiskey-soaked frat bus or more of a quiet, herbal-tea-drinking Christian Science Reading Room?

It still reeks of liquor and loud, excited talking, but we *have* added chamomile tea, so there’s been some evolution.

2. I overpack for weekends away let alone a two-month trek. How in the world do you pack enough clothes for that long an absence? Seriously, who owns that many pairs of gutchies? How do you deal with the laundry issue?

We all do it differently. Rhett and Philip are jonesing for a laundry just days into a trip, while Ken never packs enough and hits the Wal-Mart when there’s a Wal-Mart stop. I take it all with me — there’s boxers and socks jammed in every possbile cranny in my suitcase and bass case on the flight out.

3. Speaking of gutchies: Boxers, Briefs or Commando?

Boxers, but occasionally commando just to have a naughty little secret as I walk around town.

4. What are three things you absolutely must have with you on tour?

Computer for me and for the sake of my boy Tex, my camera phone and some of his pictures for my bunk.

5. You can’t have four guys living on a bus together for weeks without some kind of hijinx. Are you the prankster or the punk’d? What are some of the best pranks ever pulled on you, by you, in general?

Never the punk’d, but might prankster a tiny bit. Hmm, if there’s granny porn available for instance, it’s definitely going to show up on someone’s bunk. Perhaps under someone’s mattress after the tour’s over – let the bus driver leave the tour thinking that so’n’so was one sick little puppy.

6. In Juliana Hatfield’s autobiography, she talks at length about the horrors of backstage dressing rooms: the ubiquitous mystery-stained furniture, horrifying toilets, membrane-melting odors. At this point in your career, you’ve played in just about every club in America. Surely you’ve experienced some hellish environs. Can you share with us the best of the absolute worst in dressing rooms or clubs?

The stains are beer, coffee and bong water, period. It’s not pee pee, let’s just all calm down. House of Blues tend to have the best situations — the bathroom is like what you’d have in a motel room, showers, etc… but then so do clubs like 9:30 in D.C. — a great club with great clean amenities. The worst? That would always be that one club whose dressing room is also their janitor and sound storage closet, and your bathroom is the public one with the missing door on the one stall. You and the fans get to know each other pretty good in those.

7. Riders. What are some of your must-haves? Have you ever thrown in a completely ridiculous demand, ala Van Halen’s green M&M’s only clause just to see if the owner has read it? If not, please do and entertain us with how that goes.

Must haves beyond the waters and juices and beer that sort of thing, for me is Red Bull or God bless ’em – those 5-hour things. Sometimes you just want to simply wake up, and get “that look” off your face. I’ve no doubt some wise guy has thrown something on there that is beyond reasonableness and decency, but I can’t recall what it is…hmmm. Remember when I mentioned “granny porn”, I can see our tour manager Mike slipping that one in occasionally.

8. Regarding chicken and women, leg or breast man?

Love, love, love the legs…

9. Which cities are givens on your touring schedule and why? Any place you haven’t ventured that’s on your wish list?

College towns of all varieties… some we haven’t been to, some we have and need to visit again… we get to do Oxford again in December, and we haven’t been back to Ann Arbor in forever, and we hope to make that happen… and there’s a couple dozen Oxfords and Ann Arbors that we hope to permanently ink in on the map. Also, the UK… and Europe… one of these days… *sigh*

10. What are some of the craziest things to have happened on tour, either on or off stage?

I passed completely out from the heat during the middle of my own song “West Texas Teardrops.” I think I made it to the first chorus, and next thing I know, I’m laying on my back looking up at a terrified Ken Bethea. Also saw Rhett vomit sushi into a trashcan during an encore, literally seconds before he sauntered back out to do Question in French.

11. Okay, so who’s the one most likely to funk up the bus?

There is one, but I’m going to blame it on one of the crew, which is not even true. Sorry, crew-man, it’s politics, you understand. I have to be in a band with that other guy.

12. All of you are married with young children. It’s got to be very difficult to leave them for an extended period of time. Is there anything special you always do with the kids before you set sail?

Before the trip, I just make sure I have some hardcore Daddy/boy time. We’re close to Disneyland and we have season tickets, so that’s often a stop. After the trip I always bring him specific toys that I know he’s been chomping at the bit for. Last time it was a Superman action figure, and all during the trip, he’d get videos of just Superman talking to him. He ate it up, and it really gave him something to look forward to, and it took the sting out of my absence.

13. Come on. You’re a Texan. Fess up. How many cowboy hats and boots do you own?

A pair of cowboy boots. No cowboy hats, just a railroad cap, which is just a ball cap with a company logo for “Texas & Pacific” on it. That’s under the redneck column, so I figure it counts. :p

14. Let’s say you accidentally knock over your on-stage drink when you’re kicking it up during a particularly energetic part of the set. A sad, sad sight indeed. What beverage might one purchase to replenish your toppled glass?

Sam Adams if it was a beer, and Jack for whiskey is fine. I like the Texas beers, too, but always seem to end up ordering Sam.

15. Is there anything you miss about the lean years traveling in a broke-down van?

Lots! Mostly, the feeling of those days. Pure hope and potential and lots of male bonding. Good days…

16. Your fans will agree nothing beats cranking Old 97’s songs on long road trips. What are your favorite touring tunes to make the miles motor along?

If I have to drive long hours, I’ve found that I love “wordless” music… a lot of spacey ambient stuff like Eno or Stars of the Lid. There’s also truly out-of-this-world psychedelic things like throat singing by David Hykes or Jim Cole which are all drone-y chant kind of stuff. But you know, a good David Sedaris audio book will zap those miles like nobody’s business.

17. And finally, Dude, are you stoked? The McRib is back!

I actually had one the other day, I pulled in just for coffee and decided what the hell. The ol’ McRib hasn’t changed much. It hit the spot well enough, but I think I’ll just stay with the coffee from now on. Coffee’s good for you. 🙂

There you have it. A little insight into touring with Old 97’s. Thanks for taking the time to play along, Murry! Great answers. I’m not exactly sure what “granny porn” is, but then again I’m not sure I want to know either. HaHa!

Keep watching to see what Rhett, Ken and Philip have to say. Will one of them answer #11 truthfully? We shall see. 😉