Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rules of the Road: A Female Perspective

What Happens on the Road Always Comes Home: The Female Perspective

In light of the latest installment of Grant's Tomb, I thought that it would be fun to provide a female perspective to the "rules of touring" conversation. After all, touring in a band is not just a guy thing... Girl bands seem to be more popular now than ever before and also, it's not uncommon to find a band who's front person is a female. Like their male counterparts, these bands certainly tour, and they obviously have adopted their own parameters of what's acceptable behavior while on the road.

I asked three female musicians to provide to me their own top ten rules of touring, and all were happy to do so.

They are: Moon Chaplin, Jamie Holm, and Tamra Spivey.

In a lot of ways, the lists that these girls provided to me have similarities to the lists that the guys provided to Grant for his article. But obviously, there are also glaring differences that come from the female point of view.

To accomplish a successful tour, each person in a band needs to do his or her part to ensure that it's as smooth a ride as possible. There needs to be a high level of common sense and each member needs to be gracious to a shot or two of  wisdom along the way... I think that these three ladies demonstrate that.

Taking nothing away from the guys that Grant used in his article, I think that you will enjoy what these women came up with.

Moon Chaplin
Moon Chaplin  - Vocalist for Moon Chaplin and the Magic Men

Moon Chaplin and the Magic Men Official Website

1. Remember that you are in the presence of a lady. Don't make or let her carry heavy equipment even if she offers. Open the doors for her and go to the bar to order her drink first. You should know her favorite drink without being told. Be polite, considerate and make subtle comments like, "I don't know how you perform in those heels, but I'm impressed!" If she is a smoker, light her cigarette. If she chews her nails, keep quiet about it. And at the end of the night, tell her how great her hair looks no matter how sweaty it is.

2. Keep the creeps away! Creeps sneak up on you fast and linger forever. Take charge! No need to be macho about it, but nonetheless, the creep needs to go away. Interrupt the creep if he/she is forcing a conversation with your female band mate and she is clearly annoyed by the situation. If a creep rushes the stage, have a back up plan ready. You don't want to piss off a creep, because, after all, they are still a fan and they could turn aggressive or the situation could get worse with violence. So remember, don't be macho. Just find a way to keep the creeps away.

3. Are you trying to save money by cramming the entire band into a hotel room with one bed? Then this requires healthy boundaries. Remember your manners...Ladies first! Lady gets the bed, first shower that night and in the morning! Don't invite people to the hotel for an after party so that even more people can be crammed into that room.

4. Don't take your girlfriends to the van to get hot and heavy or to a show and have public displays of affection. It's just....gross. And don't ever let any girlfriend carry the money bag. That's not ever cool. Girlfriends or significant others (unless they are in the band) should have no responsibilities or given responsibilities in the business of band matters.

5. If you're going to pee in a bottle in the van, it better an emergency and it better be removed right away. And you better not brag about it! There's nothing more disgusting than pulling up to a stop sign and having a bottle of pee roll under the seats of the van right onto your feet. Total yucko!

6. Belching and farting are not as funny as you think they are. Just sayin.  Excuse yourself when you belch. And just go outside alone if you need to pass gas.

7. Bathing and hygiene are vital for touring! Shower everyday, brush your teeth, and take the time in every city to wash your clothes. And for crying out loud, don't leave your sweaty clothes from the show all over the van for days.

8.8) iPods. If you don't have one, get one! Keep it charged at all times. And use your headphones. When playing a show until 2am requires packing up right away and driving through the night to get to the show the next day by 2pm, we all want some peace and quiet.

9. Women love feedback! Compliments are always welcome and enhance the self esteem and confidence of the female(s) in your band. Compliments should be frequent, genuine and assist your female band mate in polishing her performance in the group. It's a win/win for everyone.

10. Women operate and function better by establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. Acknowledging this is key for chemistry of the band. A band is like a family really and women enjoy this. Bands, I believe, operate better when friendship is the priority. You have more fun, you play better, you listen to each other and you don't have to worry about "the rules", because people understand and respect each other. Be good to each other whatever the gender. And know that a disagreement doesn't mean the band has to break up or things will forever be awkward. It's just how people learn from one another really. I have learned more about meaningful relationships by playing in a band. It takes a lot of compromise and a lot of work. The Magic Men bring out the best in me and make me want to do better. They're not just my band mates, they are my friends and just as they respect me and my wishes, I honor theirs as well. You know James Brown said, "This is a man's world, but it wouldn't be nothing without a woman or a girl." I say, this world wouldn't be worth it without my Magic Men. They're my boys. They always will be.


Jamie Holm
Jamie Holm - Bassist for Sick of Sarah

Sick of Sarah Official Website

1. Only sign boobs with someone else's Sharpie. It ruins them.

2. No long phone conversations in the van.

3. If you are driving the music selection is your choice. Even if it means a 3 disc country collection.

4. Wake your ass up and pee every time you stop at a gas station.

5. Don't invite anyone into the van until all band members are informed.

6. Shower time is your only alone time. if you have to pee...Hold it.

7. If you make an ass of yourself you are required to pull more weight for at least 3 shows.

8. If you stray from the group it is your absolute responsibility to find your way back. On time.

9. Clothes are community. So is hairspray.

10. Everyone is required to be a therapist.


Tamra Spivey
Tamra Spivey - Vocalist for Lucid Nation

Lucid Nation Official Website

1. Do not tour with vintage gear. Not only do people want to steal it because they want to sell it for big bucks, some want to possess it and they know you are moving on and too poor to matter to the cops. Most vintage gear is hard to repair (rare parts). Find a good sound in gear that's so easy to replace you barely care if it gets broken or stolen. New Les Pauls, for example, may not sound as holy as vintage ones, but no one including you will be able to tell the difference live.

2. You're going to see ugly shit out there, literally and metaphorically. Territorial pissings is more than a song title. This is not limited to bodily functions. People may take liberties with gear, lighting, sound, food, significant others. Sometimes it's like a frat haze. If you take it in stride you might make some friends. Other times it's just downright mean. You will be moving on. They will not. You win.

3. I want to tell a Spitboy story. An all female punk band touring the world, they were pretty inspiring to a beginner. They showed up hours late for the show I went to but everybody stayed anyway. When they finally arrived they were stained with tire rubber and car grease. It looked like war paint, and the lesson was clear: self sufficiency. When the van broke down Spitboy fixed it themselves. So go recruit a mechanic who plays something to join your band or learn automotive repair because there's long empty highways in the US of A.

4. Sometimes a bad surprise can turn out to be a good one. So don't overreact. We were told Sleater Kinney was headlining and there would be a full stage and PA. Instead we found a concrete square in a park with a combo bass amp for a PA. The kids seemed surprised we actually showed up. Most of us didn't want to play. We were pissed. Driving way out into the Ozarks for what we thought was going to be a well paid gig. But we decided to play anyway. We got to see the locals play and met some cool people stranded in a dry town in Arkansas. We encouraged the kid who booked us and his band to follow their dreams and move to Olympia. You know them as The Gossip.

5. You're going to want to get drunk, stay up all night and get laid. Everyone knows all the worst case scenarios involved, but they always forget the band cold. Once one of you gets it most of you are doomed. As a singer I can tell you the first sniffle makes me want to toss the guilty party out the window. Band camaraderie just isn't the same when everyone is sick. Singers must pack a supply of whatever legal substances help them to sing with a cold. It's more important than your lucky shirt and personal mic cozy. So don't just spazz out. Get healthier before you tour, do some healthy things to counterbalance the unhealthy things. Otherwise most of your tour memories will involve snot.

6. Salt. Yes, salt. Earth's gift to touring musicians and other humans. A wise grande taught me salt is Mexican penicillin. Got a sore tooth? Hot salt water. Sore finger or wrist or elbow? Soak em in hot salt water. Sore feet? Want to sweat out sick? Hot salt water, you're soaking in it. Sore throat? Gargle. Cuts? It stings but it keeps em clean.

7. Keep a tour journal, blog your tour, take pictures, create a place for your friends to share their pictures of the tour with you and each other, flip cam the tour. Driving, eating, surviving, unloading, setting up, playing, tearing down, loading and all the unexpected distractions good and bad can make it really hard to do this. You're going to want to just pay attention to what's right in front of you. But somebody needs to become official keeper of the records. You know who you are.

8. If at all possible do not tour with Oregon plates. Washington State isn't much better. We toured with Oregon plates and got to meet officers of the law all over this great land of ours. But that was nothing compared to the trouble magnet that is California plates. Look at me, I'm in a band, I'm from California, dude! Hey man, that's a prescription! I expect to get that back!

9. Remember this is your next wave of ideas, songs, riffs, beats. This is your inspiration. The adventures and misadventures, the people you meet, the things you discover about yourself and your band mates, the stupid drunken moments and the sublime dawn over a green field on the road. Makes one wax almost poetic, huh?

10.  Let me assure you, take it from me, this won't be the last time you quit music. So try not to take anything too seriously. If I may speak Californian, tours are sped up karma, you can learn things in weeks that would have taken years at home. And be careful. This is a far different world than the world Kurt Cobain and co. travelled in Nirvanavan. Be careful. Watch out for violence. Don't do things that could end you up in jail. It's way easier to get in trouble than it's ever been before.

Thanks to Moon, Jamie and Tamra. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

Cheers... And happy touring!



Jen Allen said...

THANK YOU! I was thinking of doing the same thing. :D

Bernard Yin said...

Ahhh the band cold. THE worst.