The Road (SPEAK TAKEOVER)

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In hindsight, when you zoom in on the jagged but contiguous lines representing a typical tour routing it’s incredible how quickly they granulate into distinct points with massive temporal and spacial gaps in between. The 1,000 miles from Minneapolis to Austin become one point: “the Subway at the gas station in Oklahoma that had the surprisingly fresh vegetables.” Colorado is represented by the killer comped meal at the restaurant next to the Hi-Dive in Denver; the week you spent trudging up the West Coast is a view of Mt. Shasta or Mt. Rainier. A cross-country month-long stint is remembered as the one incredible show in San Francisco or Virgina… the rest is hard to recall clearly. A grueling tour is like a trip to the moon: you get in your shuttle somewhere, travel through a lot of empty space, and end up in a very alien and unfamiliar landscape full of possibility (and, in the case of Denver, slightly less gravity and a considerably thinner atmosphere). To replicate the psychological effects of touring, I decided to write this post in the form of nonlinear vignettes. This is as close as I can get to the actual memories. They are rendered as poorly here as they are in my own head.

We’re on our way to our first show with Tegan and Sara, September of 2012. 2,200 miles from Austin to Vancouver to play the biggest show we’ve played at this point — obviously we’re all excited and nervous beyond imagining. Considering this is a 36 hour drive we stocked up on new music pretty heavily, and before we left I grabbed Grizzly Bear’s Shields which had just come out. We’re in the desert somewhere, nondescript but stark and beautiful, and the album finally earns its spot on the rotation. Our van has no aux-in and radio is spotty, so full albums rule the soundsystem. Initial impressions of this one are positive and we’re all attentive since no one is exhausted from the rigors of touring yet. This is really good in fact… we’re all into it and opinions on Grizzly Bear have been historically divided. But by God they’re flexing more and writing stronger songs than they ever have before. No one seems to be offended by the notion that these guys are the next Beatles when it’s brought up. Then the final track, Sun In Your Eyes, comes on and we get to 1:22, a moment, a chord progression so ostentatious it beggars belief. It’s probably the most transcendent experience I’ve had listening to music and I think the feeling is shared in the van. These guys are DEFINITELY the next Beatles. And I don’t think we’ve driven more than a few hundred miles without listening to this song since.

My friend Jasper recommended I listen to the latest Knife record. It’s hard for me to remember a time before I knew Jasper: I don’t think it was that long ago but the nature of touring and recording can really warp your perception of chronology and it seems like we’ve been friends for ages. Damn, I guess the first time we met was actually in Vancouver — he was playing bass with Tegan and Sara — but that was only 8 or so months ago? Well, ol’ Jaz hasn’t lead me astray with his music recommendations yet, so I’m excited to get into this album. We’re on our way back from playing a couple shows with Ra Ra Riot and feeling incredibly inspired — things are really looking up on the touring front lately! We’ve channeled some of that energy into an all-night drive back home but my shift is over… it’s probably 10:00am or 11:00am and I’m extremely caffeinated but trying to get to sleep on the floor between the middle row of seats in the van. This Knife record is pretty insane but I’m digging it so far. Actually, I think I may have dozed off because I feel like I heard a lengthy period of silence. The album must have ended and started over. It’s pretty heavy stuff, I mean… it’s kind of crazed. If it hasn’t started over it’s insanely long — how many hours has it been… two? Three? Six? I can’t really tell what just happened honestly but I’m definitely awake now and I want to listen to “Ready to Lose” again, and again, and again….

We’re somewhere dark… a Motel 6 maybe. Actually that was a few nights ago, tonight we’re crashing on the floor of our friend’s house in Seattle. AH right no, we’re on the Eastern seaboard and we’ve just played a killer show but I’m exhausted and I’m trying to catch an extra hour of sleep as we drive to a relative’s place outside of town. I had the late-night driving duty the previous day and we didn’t get to the motel until after 3am, so I’ve got a moment of respite tonight and I’d better not squander it. I’m in the back of the van listening to my sleeping soundtrack, A Strangely Isolated Place by Ulrich Schnauss. “In All the Wrong Places” comes on. I know the music but the not the title. Insomnia and touring don’t mix, and I always hate it when I’m awake by the time I get to this song… it means I’ve been failing to fall asleep for 44 minutes. I may as well be throwing our guarantee from the previous nights’ show out the window of the van as we cruise down the highway — sleep is as precious as gold on the road. I’m frustrated, but damn if I don’t love this song. I always forget to look up what it’s called but it’s beautiful… and you know… there’s actually something great about not knowing… if I listened during the day it might… ruin it… and this really is a great album… and…. song…. and it’s definitely making me…. drowsy….. and…..

…And then five minutes later, we usually arrive.

This post was written by Troupe Gammage of SPEAK, as part of their Takeover of Indie Music Filter.  Follow them on twitter here and look for them at the Drake Hotel in Toronto this Friday.