Most creative rockers know the adage, as articulated by singer and writer Henry Rollins: Get in the van. If you want to build an audience, make connections and share your music with the world, you've got to hit the road, Jack.
It's easier said than done. Touring the nation as an independent, largely unknown rock band can be expensive, frustrating, even dangerous. So, maybe it's no wonder that so few groups take that giant leap.
Uglyography, a quirky, punky rock band from Hampton took the plunge earlier this month. On March 4, the band packed up the van and set off to do shows in Richmond, Brooklyn, Columbus, Ohio; Charleston, W.Va; Johnson City, Tenn.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Charleston, S.C. With seven shows in as many days, it was an ambitious schedule.
Here are a few thoughts from Uglyography founder, singer and bassist Matt Thomas about experience. Below, you'll find video shot at one of the band's gigs.
I understand this was the first regional tour for Uglyography as a full band. Why take that step now?
I’ve got three other guys who are excellent players and all around friendly and hilarious. Everyone seems grounded and serious about the band so it seemed like the right time to do this. During planning I realized how many ways this would benefit us. We met a lot of other bands and made great connections and fans regionally. We realized we wouldn’t kill each other after a week and we’re all still friends, better ones. And perhaps best of all, it made us very tight as a band to perform seven nights in a row. It was like clockwork by the end, never felt better. We have stepped up our game. We were very close before and maybe the tour is what we needed to get us there.
What was the major obstacle to touring?
I think the continuous killer has been the sheer amount of planning and frustration involved in so many aspects. There were literally hundreds of emails and phone calls and voice messages involved and that was just for the booking. Unreturned calls and messages, detail conflicts, routing, finding local support, it all becomes frustrating and you find clumps of hair in your fist. Then there’s the transportation, pre-promotion (an attempt to make it worthwhile), and many other logistics. The tour itself costs money despite the money that comes at the end of some nights. I have actually booked one other tour for myself solo as Uglyography back in 2009, but lessons I learned from that still didn’t make it much easier this time around. Since 2009 I have attempted to book a couple of other tours but quickly lost steam over of the volume of work. I felt confident enough with these guys to take it all on this time around.
[Uglyography performing "Universal (It's You)" at The Empty Glass in Charleston, W.Va. on March 7, 2012.]
Where did you get the best response?
I believe our best response was in Raleigh NC at Deep South The Bar. We were lucky enough to be squeezed into the beginning of a 4 band local show for a quick 30 minute slot. So we kept it high energy, the crowd was decent sized enough for a first act, and their response and attention was most warm. We also sold a decent amount of merch that night. So we wanna go back to Deep South and Raleigh in general soon, it is only 3 hours away.
Any painful misfortune strike the band during the trip?
Actually the opposite! We were very lucky on our entire trip. A mistake in our van rental reservation got us upgraded for free to a brand-new 12 seater so we had none of that van-breakdown stuff you hear about all the time and plenty of room. There was little to no traffic, no troubles whatsoever with any venue or band, and everyone at every location was very accommodating. If there was a painful misfortune … The Trash Bar in Brooklyn had an 8–9 p.m. open bar before our performance to an audience of three. Not our most shining moment but a memorable one (to some of us).
Describe the smell of the van after a week on the road.
Hmmm, well that depends on how accustomed we may or may not have become to it! It didn’t seem to smell so bad actually. That being said there was one point where none of us had showered for three days. Did the van smell? Not to us! And, Jack had the mind to spray febreeze every now and then (which he was constantly scorned for).
What do you think you learned from the experience?
Well, one word everyone can agree on is “exhausting.” Touring is extremely taxing in many ways, at least without high dollar management and big busses involved. That being said, I think everyone can also agree it was a lot of fun. We learned how welcoming so many people can be and that it isn’t always the size that matters … the crowd that is. We had great crowds even if there were only 10 – 15 people watching us.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times