This is pretty much the pre-tour for our brand new album, RTFM. We are driving down to Austin, TX, for a music convention known as SXSW. We've played this convention many times; it's a lot of fun because Austin is a fun city and during this time it's filled with great bands and music industry people from all over the world. Our purpose is to show people we're going to have a new album out, meet with people from our record label, maybe do some interviews, and give people a taste of what our new music sounds like. We also have another purpose - to play a Salaryman (our secret techno-ambient side-project) show in another state!
Tornado Damage in Arkansas
We stopped somewhere along the highway and rested Wednesday night instead of driving the 18-20 hour drive. We wanted to be well-rested for the South By Southwest Convention fun. We drove past Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where a very strong tornado hit a week or two ago, and along the highway, we saw tornado damage. There was a path of destroyed trees, their tops ripped from their trunks, and alongside the path, trees bending in towards the path! That was the most excitement so far. For food, we've been trying to eat in buffets, shoveling food into our mouths until we can't even stand up.
Atari Teenage Riot
We didn't play tonight, we just finally made it into town about an hour before the band I have chosen to be one of my next favorite bands played. The band is a German band, called Atari Teenage Riot, and I discovered them through MTV playing a great video by them on the show AMP, the new alternative underground show (it plays mosty techno bands.) It turns out that ATR's record is going to be re-released on Grand Royal, which packed the show at the Electric Lounge. We had been waiting about a half-hour in a huge non-moving line, just to get into the show, when all of the sudden, a bulk-load of people left, and the bouncer started allowing more people to enter the club. I could only guess that ATR had played their "hit" MTV song (which I hear is an older song of theirs) and people were leaving because they heard what they came to hear. Anyway, we got in and it was amazing. Rick hit a perfect description of them - it sounds like Big Black, only much faster. Since I miss Big Black, I enjoyed this show immensely.
The philosophy of interviews
We woke up as early as possible today to meet our new Press Person from Reprise. He seems really eager and enthusiastic, which is very refreshing! It will be his job to try to get people to want to interview us for this next record. Today he took us around to some interviews, the first RTFM interviews, which went really well, considering we are pretty out-of-practice! Our philosophy on interviews is that there are no bad interviews, just bad interviewees. If the interviewer doesn't ask the right questions, you just act like he/she did, and answer what you want to answer. I believe this works for politics as well. The only hard part is making yourself clear enough so the interviewer understands your motives; and a lot of the time, you just can't help being misunderstood. But any publicity is good publicity.
Not as Enthusiastic as Dr. Who fans
We walked around the convention floor of SXSW today, checked out the Apple Exhibit which I sort of had to turn away from and almost shed a tear. Looking at an Apple Exhibit is like looking at a Betamax exhibit, or an 8-track tape exhibit. There was a table with a guy selling a CD-R burner that burned 3 discs at once, but no one was looking at that table. The convention floor reminded me of a gaming convention I went a couple of times, except the people were not as enthusiastic. My guess is that the really hip people are afraid of looking schmoozy, so they slink around the convention floor and try to look nonchalant.
We interviewed at a great radio station called KCRW, which was broadcasting on the web. Here we discovered that our promo CDs are incorrectly titled "*69" - the old name. Just a bit scary. I wonder how confusing that's going to be to people.
Rick is getting very sick again. We're staying at a friend of Howie's house today; we stayed in tonight and watched TV and sulked about missing the 70mm showing of 2001 back in Champaign-Urbana, with Roger Ebert hosting. But it's all going to be worth it because we have a Salaryman show tomorrow, along with a PC show.
Ultra-Hip Looking People at Emo's during the Salaryman show
Today we woke up to have breakfast with our A&R person and then were almost late to our load-in for our secret Salaryman show at Emo's in the afternoon, put on by Rave Booking, Steel Pole Bath Tub's agent. An incredible band named 16 Deluxe was the headliner, and we set up in the back of Emo's outside next to some picnic tables. As we were setting up I noticed tables of food, and later, tons of ultra hip-looking people, and I was actually pretty scared. All these people were looking sideways at us, just as I'd be doing if I saw a band with about 6 keyboards laying on picnic tables and dusty ground, with a drumset setup in the middle. Once we started playing, I glanced up once to see people standing and watching us. It wasn't too bad - and the songs seemed to work really well this show! We played 3 sets, believe it or not - and sold about 40 Salaryman CDs. Yes, the street date on the Salaryman CD is April 1st, but we have some advance copies of it. Then we cruised over to Electric Lounge, where we were playing that evening as Poster Children.
We have a new van
I guess it's time to talk about our new van! The old van has 189,000 miles on it, and although it's working ok now, we don't know what the future holds. So we have a brand new Chevy cargo van, converted into a Band van by some place in Elkhart, IN. Thank you, Reprise. This goes on our tab; we owe it to the label; it's 100% recoupable, and will be taken out of our record sales, but we need it to tour! The van is gorgeous. We've never owned a new car in all our lives. It's very, very minimal, still no tape deck, but it has reading lights. It's a dream to be able to read at night, while we're traveling!
Poster Children Show
We left Champaign in 60 degree weather, only to arrive in southern Texas to 40 degree weather. It's gross, freezing cold and rainy here, and we're playing outside. Actually by the time it was 1am, when we were to play, it wasn't too windy, and there were so many people around that it was bearable. I'd assume most people were pretty sauced, too, so they probably didn't feel the cold. The only problem tonight was that Rick couldn't even talk. He croaked through 12 songs tonight, but somehow, we pulled off a show! It's been a long time since we've played live. It's going to take some getting used to, but from what I hear, the show was a success. I handed out Reprise samplers that our label forgot to have distributed in the SXSW bags - brilliant I thought, because that way we could hand them out to people who whould really want them. There are two scary-pop sogs on there from our new album.
Magnolia Cafe and Onward
We ate at the Magnolia Cafe, one of our favorite Austin restaurants on the way out of town and then took off for the great unknown of Arkansas, one of the 7 or 8 states we've never played. Tonight we have a night off, and we're probably going to stop somewhere along the drive and watch a movie. We want to see Lost Highway, if not for the fact that it's the new David Lynch movie, then for the fact that Robert Blake is in it.
Rick had been complaining about the technical manual that came with the new van, I remember him saying the manual used the word "THINGS" a lot. I attempted to read this manual today and I found it terribly written, and we had a whole discussion about it in the van. Not only is the word "things" used (I learned in grammar school to never use that word; find a more descriptive word) but there are contractions, and ambiguous sentences. Our conclusion was that the manual was aimed for idiots, but I still wasn't convinced that lowest common denominator-writing should be insulting to people who actually have graduated from grade school. I have allowed the manual to remain in the van only after convincing myself that in order to make the manual "readable", it was necessary to use as few words as possible. I suppose I just got insulted because I remember going through hell during highschool, learning all these rules, and now I've just paid US$25K for a van with a technical manual that wouldn't make it past my 1st grade teacher.
We stopped somewhere along the 35E near Dallas, in Edge City that contained a restaurant called "Chow Line," and watched Sling Blade at a Neon MoviePlex. I had to keep reminding myself that it was an indie movie in order to enjoy it. I just had this image of a writer pitching a studio guy somewhere, "I got a great idea for you- Forrest Gump, with KILLING! what do you think?"
Sling Blade review:
Howie: I liked it because it was morally ambiguous.
Rick: Because Howie's a morally ambiguous guy.
Howie: I found it touching
Rick: (imitating Howie, sarcastically) I found myself touching myself during it.
Howie: (getting in on the sarcasm now) John Ritter was delightful as the store manager
Jim: The music got a little distracting at times
We found this movie a cut above Forrest Gump and Dead Man Walking, but missing something; the characters were not totally believable, especially Dwight Yoakam's character. Certain scenes (like a scene with a band) seemed terribly forced. I liked the ambiguity of it in certain places, and Jim brought up the fact that the pace of the movie was really slow, which was refreshing. Rick thought that it seemed like they were possibly trying to say that Billy T. wasn't really retarded; just demented from his tragic life, something I'd like to believe, but there were other parts of the movie that were so obvious that it just seemed that this undercurrent would be too subtle for this movie; if they wanted us to think it, we would have been hit over the head a little harder about it. I find Fargo to be a better movie than Sling Blade. I really hope Fargo wins a bunch of awards.
En route to Arkansas
Saturday I saw a couple of Cows at our Salaryman show, jealous because they had been thinking of doing the same thing - boy, that would be something to see, wouldn't it? A Cows Electronica project?!! - and I told them we'd never played Arkansas before. They answered, "Either have we!" Hoo boy... I have no idea what's in store for us tonight.
All 3 guys are sniffling and coughing, but I'm not sick yet. Rick's popping Zinc tablets, which are supposed to alieviate the symptoms of the common cold. Early spring Oklahoma is a great yellow expanse of grasslands, wheat fields, clumps of brown trees, rusty farmhouses with grass parking lots full of old pickups, and small towns featuring aluminum-sided grey WalMarts, brand new Taco Bells and WhataBurger knock-offs.
Well, we apparently played to a Music Haters Convention tonight. The poor people stuck in the bar were expecting Alternative Music, you know, like The Smashing Pumpkins and Hootie And The Blowfish, and instead, they got us and the Cows. I thought we played ok, but the other guys say the show wasn't very good. We got absolutely no crowd response - the 15-30 people stood and watched us like we were televised open-heart surgery. People danced during the Cows, but they were like parents, normal people out for a drink on St. Patrick's Day, not Amphetamine Reptile (the Cow's label) fans. Even Shannon Cow, who you remember I respect as a Teacher, seemed upset after the show. He said something about getting sick of scaring people each night. What I should have told him was that those people scared me a lot more than he did.
A new Movie we made up
This is a triple buddy movie which began with the idea of having a buddy movie starring Christopher Walken and Gary Oldman as two escaped convicts. After discussing what it would be like to be trapped in an elevator with Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise (Rick says they'd be talking to each other on their cellulars), we decided they'd be perfect for the buddy-cops who are chasing the convicts. There has to be a token female in the movie and it has to be Patricia Arquette, just because she's in every movie this year. Howie suggests that Walken and Oldman have escaped and have to hide in a nunnery, dressed as nuns. The old Reverend mother is that fat woman who played Trixie in the Flintstones movie, and I want to cast Charles Durning in it somewhere. Now it is suggested that Demi Moore plays The Bad Nun, (Jim: "she wears lingerie under her habit"); you know, the nun who has to compete with Patricia Arquette all the time. Howie wants De Niro to do a cameo as a priest.
Later, we saw a real movie
It's so hard to have a day off during a tour, especially when you've only played two shows. We stopped in Springfield Missouri, debating whether or not to stay overnight there or drive on to St. Louis. Finally we hunted for a movie theater and ended up watching Lost Highway, the new David Lynch movie. I expected to not like it, so I was pretty pleased with it. If you just pretend you are watching a song, or a display of moving pictures as Jim put it, then you will enjoy the film. Rick didn't like the movie, and Howie seemed OK with it. I thought Patricia Arquette was gorgeous, and I liked the cinematography - it was a dark movie, and all the lights were sort of foggy. There were a bunch of sex scenes in it though that I could have done without, especially the slow-motion shots of Patty's naked boobs bobbling up and down as she made love.
Discovery of Route 66
After driving for what seemed like 20 miles along the largest stretch of fast-food mall highway we'd ever seen (past at least 3 KFCs in 10 minutes), we discovered a gorgeous Steak And Shake restaurant straight from the 1930s! It was all decked out in Neon and flashing lights. Down the street was an Osco with a 50's Space-Age roof - Jim realized we were driving on the old Route 66! I still am marvelling at how many Thai restaurants there were. And only 2 Wal-Marts, if I remember correctly. Wow.
Conversation with 1-800-800-8000
me: I'd like a room for 4 at the Super 8 in Wentzville, MO
kid:That's the Super 8 at 4 Pantera Drive?
me: (laughing) I guess that's right.
kid: You know, I have a Pantera record.
me: I know, that's why I'm laughing
kid:You know what Pantera stands for, don't you?
kid:Marijuana! Pot! It's another name for Marijuana!
me:No way! In what language?
What we did today
We spent 2 hours spent in St. Louis Art Museum, 3 hours spent in Barnes & Noble, 2 hours spent looking for a Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant with Buffet.
Wow, we just talked to Jason Pettigrew from Alternative Press about Salaryman! We are so happy - there may actually be a mention of Salaryman in AP next month! Now if we could only get them to possibly mention Poster Children! It always seems pretty rare for us to get press.
The one thing that always stumps me is that in Indianapolis, there always seems to be an abundance of really nice, normal-looking people at punk-rock shows. It's like the town is devoid of the indie-slacker fashion, or just that nobody is afraid to look really Nice, like they work in a bank or something. Maybe urban-professional is the new punk-rock camouflage; the new style. Somehow I doubt it.
This show went well. It takes this many shows before we "click." On our way off the stage, Randy, the wondrous Cows soundguy goes, "What the hell is going on up here?" At the end of the last song, all four of us connected psychically and knew to play our Fun Coda Jam, which basically means we make up a song on the stage. Hopefully we'll have more oppurtunities to do this.