New blood in the minivan always serves to remind me just how kind the world is.
Wednesday was a stranger to me. See, I moved to Anderson, IN, when I was a fresh-faced, fauxhawked 18-year-old, and she and I have been involved ever since. After four years of pretending that scholastic channels would unearth the keys of success in the entertainment industry, I left Anderson to drift for a year and a half, kicking along coasts, slinging hammocks in the redwoods, discovering that I didn’t much care for the Delta, and making friends in most of America’s cities. Then I came back to Anderson two years ago to reign in our touring focus to a regional spiral, reintegrate myself into my alma mater with hopes of teaching younger people that scholastic channels did not necessarily unearth those keys to industry success, and otherwise appreciate the benefits of having an address. And then on Wednesday, I left her again.
I still own less than your average bear, but damned if you don’t find every knick-knack you’ve ever owned in every crevasse of every room you’ve ever inhabited on move-out day. I scrambled to leave electric guitars in one friend’s home, things less affected by summer mildew in my brother’s cellar, and my motorcycle in the garage of the house I was leaving with hopes that Kyle would extend grace once more to his ghost of a roommate. Adam, Ryan, Jason (to whom we’ve affectionally bestowed the title of “Temp”) and I met for a final rehearsal before passing through the screen door and into the blazing humidity of the vernal onset. Old Lady Science, my 2002 Nissan Quest, has never been so packed to the gills.
Kalamazoo blended contentment with an introductory grace note of bleakness. The drive was smooth, the lakeside picnic from Save-A-Lot was filling, and the venue was weirdly clean and huge. I can only do so much of my job though—when early social promotion, hard fliers on the walls, and a bill with three local indie acts aren’t enough to draw more than a half dozen people out, you can only throw up your hands. “Wednesdays are hard here,” the show producer says. My friend: Wednesdays are hard everywhere.
Lucky for us, K-zoo is close to Grand Rapids, and we have road family in Grand Rapids. My friends Ricky and Hannah graciously took us in where we immediately set about establishing the habits I optimistically hope we maintain all summer long: going for morning runs, eating home-cooked food, watching horror movies. We’d had a last-minute cancellation in suburban Wisco that night, but our friend Jonny Carroll set us up as the featured band on a hip-to-death GR open mic, and we played a stripped down set of some of our more mellow material (yes, it gets even sadder sometimes).
On the way to Milwaukee, we made a quick layover in Williams Bay to see some of my favorite cousins. I always stop at Dan and Kristin’s because I enjoy in equal measure talking to them about grownup stuff and dueling their wild little sons with battery-powered lightsabers. I got to meet and hold their fourth and final, Austin, while Kristin handed us beers and Dan marinated kebabs on the grill. 5-year-old Hunter asked me if I knew who The Resistance was. Kid, please.
Bremen Cafe is an old haunt for me in Riverwest. Once when I was on tour with my brother there we had a shouting match that set decibel records. I ended up losing my voice that night and bowing out after two miserable songs with apologies to the bar staff and have ever since referred to it as The Night the Lord Shut My Mouth. And maybe this trip wasn’t as spiritually revelatory, but it was certainly more successful for the band. There’s this harebrained theory in the touring community that if you keep coming back to the same cities, you’ll see audience growth. For a long time I thought this was just the naive conjecture of starry-eyed idealists, but hot dang if Milwaukee didn’t show up last night. It was sweaty as hell and happier even than that.
So while I sit in the bumpy back of this ramshackle van on my computer, I feel very fulfilled in a transitional season. Anderson means a lot to me and I’m happy that Indianapolis is not so very far away. The summer’s tour schedule is bursting at the seams. I have an excellent team. People have shown us in an interminable feedback loop of charity that they care about our band. And we’re only three shows into it.
It’s Spring Break. It’s at least 1/4 Spring Break. These arbitrary forays into leisure are ghost memories from many moons ago to the like of Cody and Ryan and me. But Adam has another month and a half left of his institutional academic pursuits, so Spring Break remains a construct inside the Train Robbing scoundrels’ paradigm.
We decided to take full advantage of this reprieve to cover some easterly ground. Before we left though, we made a stop at the oldest of stomping grounds: the campus coffeeshop at Anderson University, Mocha Joe’s. It’s where JP>R played our first show ever, opening for Mike Mains & the Branches on Halloween of 2011, before there was ever a record to promote. We figured it’s been long enough since we were on campus that we’d be old and irrelevant now, and we wanted to reconnect with the student population at 3/4 of us’ alma mater. While there, we did a live interview with our brilliant friend Matt Panfill, who directed our official music video for “Cave of Clouds.” That was followed by a live showing thereof. But now everyone can watch it. Right here!
Friday, we played The Comet with our friends, Royal Holland. I ate the spiciest burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life and learned to not do that when you’re living out of the van. There are so many food lessons to learn. The next night, we were supposed to be playing at Canal Street Saloon, but they informed me earlier in the week that they were closing their doors. Our buddy Charles from the Dayton band OldNews hooked us up with a last-minute show at South Park Tavern, where we had a blast playing and watching the incredible Salvadore Ross. We got to see our good buddies Michael and Hannah, with whom we ate tacos and went hiking on some beautiful, understated nature trails just outside the city.
We also got to talk about our songs and do an interview on the Gem City Podcast. That episode will air soon!
I don’t know if y’all saw it on social media, but we also got to go record at Audiotree last month! That was truly a dream come true and a milestone for us. You can see the whole session on Youtube or the Audiotree website, or listen to/buy the session on Spotify and Bandcamp!
In other news, our licensing agent is a beast and continues to do a ton of excellent work for us. Tonight, “Cave of Clouds,” will be featured in an episode of “The Fosters” on Freeform, formerly ABC Family. And on March 21st, we’ll have a song on the premiere of MTV’s “Teen Mom 2.” You read that right. Teen Mom 2. The song? “Birth Control.” Glorious irony.
We have a new t-shirt for sale! All of us in this band grew up playing heavier style of music. Adam was into KISS and ACDC, Ryan was/is a Breaking Benjamin type, I was digging Underoath and Comeback Kid, and Cody listened to bands that have words like “decapitation” in their names. I loved the nostalgic aesthetics of the “tough guy” hardcore shirts, so we recruited talented Indianapolis illustrator Daniel Jewett to create a metal-inspired tee for our folky little band. He came up with this shirt that we absolutely love and that you can buy from our online store.
The last bit of news is concerning a lineup change. As much as we absolutely adore Cody Ray, he’s moving on to other things. He’ll be managing Heirloom, a dope little farm-to-table restaurant in Lafayette and spending more time with his family. In his place, we’re happy to recruit our good friends Jason Boucouras, who will be starting in April and accompanying us on a long summer’s worth of heavy touring. Welcome Jason. And we love you Cody. You’ll be missed.
We’ve got 100+ shows coming up. Most of them are up on Bandsintown. We can’t wait to see y’all! Covering as much ground as we know how.
Love you all. We’ll keep working. Keep in touch.