Keeping your cool on tour

A few helpful tips from the pros about a musician’s life on the road

Sights & Sounds guitarist Dave Grabowski (far right) says that while touring has its difficulties, ultimately it’s worth it. Supplied

Whether a band is touring for the first time or already has a few tours under its belt, a tour always undoubtedly has its challenges - one of which is distance.

“In Canada, it’s lots of long drives,” says keyboardist and vocalist Dan Moxon of Vancouver-based road veterans Bend Sinister.

“Canada has roughly the same population as all of California, or for that matter Mexico City alone. But what makes it successful is playing to rooms that actually have people in them all across the country. If a band plays a string of shows to empty rooms then that definitely puts stress on the tour.”

It’s not just the long distances and unpredictable attendance that can stress a band out.

“It’s easy to get stuck in the stress of waiting around,” says vocalist Marti Sarbit of local indie-pop darlings Imaginary Cities. “Touring is a lot of waiting, then 45 minutes of adrenaline, then back to waiting. It can get pretty lonely and trying sometimes.”

Even with your closest friends by your side.

“You learn a lot about people when you’re spending 24 hours a day together and sometimes you can grow apart,” says Sights & Sounds guitarist Dave Grabowski via email from Glasgow. “Out on the road is really where you’ll find out if the band is compatible and can last the test of time.”

Sarbit agrees.

It’s always nice to sit and connect with people other than the four assholes you see and smell everyday.

Dave Grabowski, Sights & Sounds

“You spend so much time with the same people that they become your family and we all know that it’s easiest to take out anger on the ones you love the most,” she says. “But touring can teach you a lot about patience and working at keeping strong relationships.”

So how does a band cope while out on the road?

“Going rogue from the group every now and then,” Grabowski says. “It’s always good to give yourself some space to stay sane - and hanging with the locals gives you a bit more of the full experience of the city you’re in.”

Thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, connection to home is far more easily accessible.

“I don’t know how people toured without those social mediums before,” Sarbit says. “If I ever need to talk to someone who isn’t in the band and I feel like I need to get away I can Skype my parents or a friend.  Getting that little piece of home is crucial. It’s the closest thing to home when you’re not.”

Grabowski feels the same way.

“It’s always nice to sit and connect with people other than the four assholes you see and smell everyday,” he says.

When it comes to keeping your cool, Sarbit and Grabowski have some sound advice for any newcomers.

“Things are bound to go wrong with all the travelling and pressures,” Sarbit says. “But it’s never the end of the world - life and touring goes on.”

“Laugh it off,” Grabowski adds. “You’re out there doing something most people would kill to be doing.”

Published in Volume 66, Number 18 of The Uniter (February 1, 2012)

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