Tales of the young, drunk, and reckless…and other random thoughts

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Another Successful West Coast Tour…

We got back last week from our first (mini)tour of the West Coast in 8 years. Denver, San Diego, and Pomona did not let us down. I’d like to extend a special thanks to all the fans and friends that came out and supported us. They certainly knew how to make us feel welcome. It was a relatively uneventful tour, with the exception of a brief hiccup while flying out of Denver. My innocent absent-mindedness led me into one of the worst customer service experiences of my life.

We rented a car for our 36 hour adventure in the mile high city. I booked the rental online with a company called EZ Car Rental because they were the cheapest. We picked up the car and were extremely pleased to find a new and very clean Volkswagon Jetta. The key fob was a little too large to simply keep in my pocket so I attached it to the carabiner on which I keep my personal keys. Since I always keep my keys hooked on my belt loop, I figured this way the rental key wouldn’t get lost.

On our way out of Denver, Scottie and I were scheduled to leave for San Diego about two hours before Kyle and Face. Our plan was that Scott and I would drop off the rental car on the way to the airport and the other two would simply take the shuttle from the hotel. Around 9am, Scottie and I left the hotel and drove to the rental facility to drop off the car. A massive snowstorm had blown through Denver the night before and everything was covered in six inches of snow. The roads were mostly clear though, and we were able to make it to the rental place without any problems.

The rental car parking lot had not been plowed and the path to the drop off site wasn’t clear. I inched my way through the lot of parked cars towards what looked like the main building. As I got closer, I came upon what appeared to be a parking area marked by a stop sign and outlined with parking cones. It seemed like a reasonable place for a rental drop-off so I parked and left the car idling. We waited in the car for a minute, not exactly sure what to do next. A minute later a woman drove up beside us in an SUV, rolled her window down and asked me for the last name on the rental. I gave her the name and watched as she made some notes on a clipboard. She told us to leave the car where it was, so Scottie and I gathered our gear and dragged it over to the waiting shuttle bus. We hopped on and took off for the airport.

About five minutes into the shuttle ride to the airport, I realized with a gut wrenching agony that I left my personal keys attached to the rental. I grumbled a few obscenities and mentally chastised myself before I got on the phone and called Kyle to see if he could hail a cab and swing by the rental place to get my keys before his flight. He assured me it was no problem so I made a call to the rental company to let them know what happened. I spoke with the same woman who had earlier checked us out and explained to her my situation. I told her my friend was going to come by to pick up the keys and her exact words to me were, “Ok, we’ll worry about it when he gets here.”
I thought that was a bit of a strange response considering my dilemma, but I assumed since so little time had passed since I dropped off the car that everything would be fine.

I was waiting at the gate with about 10 minutes to board my flight to San Diego when Kyle called from the car rental facility. “They don’t have your keys,” he said. “What do you mean they don’t have my keys?” I replied. “I don’t know man, she’s telling me they don’t have your keys.” I was thoroughly confused. “Put the woman on the phone,” I told Kyle. He handed the phone over to her. The conversation went something like this…

“Hello sir? I’m sorry we don’t have your keys,” she told me.

“What do you mean you don’t have my keys? I just dropped off the car.”

“I’m very sorry sir but we just don’t have them.”

“Do you have the keys to the rental car?” I asked.

“Yes, we have the rental car keys.”

“Well then you have my keys because they were attached to the rental key.”

“I’m sorry sir we don’t have your keys.”

“So you’re telling me that you have the rental car key but you don’t have my personal keys that were physically attached to the rental key?”

“That’s right sir.”

“How can that possibly be? What happened to my keys?”

“I don’t know sir. People leave keys behind all the time and we can’t be responsible for all of them.”

“My keys were ATTACHED to the rental key and I called you five minutes after I dropped off the car to let you know. Where the hell are my keys?!”

I was pissed. This lady was doing absolutely nothing to help. After a few more words I was able to get her to concede that the valet had driven the car around to the back bay to get washed and vacuumed.

“Can you call back to the valet and ask if he has my keys please?” I asked her.

“He doesn’t have them sir. Keys that get left behind are thrown into a giant bin full of 600 other keys. We can’t search the whole bin looking for one key,” she smirked.

“You don’t have to search the whole bin because mine WILL BE THE ONES RIGHT ON TOP!!!” I yelled at her. The whole situation was completely ridiculous. I talked to this same lady five minutes after I had originally dropped off the car and now she was being a complete bitch.

As her and I were having words on the phone, I could hear Kyle in the background now talking to a man, presumably another customer service agent who had just stepped to the desk. Kyle explained the situation to him and the guy knew exactly what he was talking about. Within thirty seconds, the guy produced my keys and I was verifying the description of them to him over the phone. I was stoked that they were able to get my keys but I was also completely dumbfounded to know that there is actually a customer service agent out there who went out of her way to NOT help me. A customer service rep’s entire job revolves around helping people out of situations like mine. Truly ridiculous.

Hot Alice and a new beginning….

A lot has happened over the last 8 months of my life, most of which was so chaotic and excruciatingly tiresome that I will probably not be wasting even more time posting about it here. However, there are a few good and exciting things happening, and I will finally have some free time on my hands to update this page more than once every 7 months. The first (and really the only thing to discuss right now) is that I have a new band. We are called Hot Alice and you can follow us on twitter, @HotAliceBand. The band consists of myself, my brother Chris, our buddy Pickles on bass, and our good friend Nate Thruman on drums. I won’t waste time explaining what we sound like because we’re too fucking good to be pigeonholed into some sub-genre of rock music. Come check us out at the Beat Kitchen on August 3rd and see for yourself. We’re in the beginning stages of laying down some tracks in a studio so we should have something for y’all to listen to within the next few months. In the meantime, we’ll have t-shirts available at the Beat Kitchen show which you should buy and then brag to your friends about how you bought the shirt at the very first Hot Alice show. They will all be jealous. I promise you.

Last Stop Suburbia 10 year Anniversary Show….

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated this blog with anything even remotely interesting, but today I’m excited to announce Allister’s first Chicago show in over 2 years.  Back in 2002, we recorded and released an album called “Last Stop Suburbia” which went on to sell fairly well and somehow became our most popular record.  At the time, we had no idea that songs like “Somewhere on Fullerton,” “Overrated,” or “Flypaper” would become permanent staples in our set list.  We were (and still are) just a dumb little suburban band writing dumb little suburban punk rock songs in our garage.

It’s been ten years since the record was released and we’ve decided to book a show and play “Last Stop Suburbia” from start to finish.  As with all band decisions, we made this one after a few too many beers and few too many drunken trips down memory lane.  So, for better or for worse, come and check out the show, buy us a beer, or simply throw rotten tomatoes at us.  Either way it should be fun…

WHAT?:  Allister performing “Last Stop Suburbia” in its entirety.

WHEN?: Saturday, March 9, 2013 – 6pm All ages

WHERE?:  Reggie’s Rock Club – 2105 South State Street – Chicago, IL

TICKETS?: http://www.reggieslive.com/show/allister/

Life Behind Machines….

I finally have something worthwhile to mention here so without any adieu, I am very excited to announce that the new Allister record, “Life Behind Machines,” is complete.  Comprised of 11 songs, it’s definitely the most dynamic and diverse record we’ve made as a band.  Although it’s taken quite awhile for everything to come together, I feel more than comfortable saying it has all been worth it.  We had a lot of fun over the last five months writing, rehearsing, and recording, and we did a little bit of experimenting with this record too, giving a small twist to the prototypical Allister sound.

We made sure to include a few standard three chord punk rock tunes, but we also added synthesizers, horns, and new-age electronica to a few tracks.  We certainly haven’t reinvented the wheel or anything, but I’d like to think we’ve musically progressed as a band.  You can’t just keep churning out the same record over and over again or you’ll quickly become dull and irrelevant.  And, let’s be honest, as much as we’re in this because we love creating music for ourselves, it’s silly to think that we wouldn’t want as many people as possible to hear it as well.  The record isn’t as crazy as it may sound though.  It’s still the same old Allister, just a little more mature, a little more…modern.  The new stylings in no way detract from the quality of the songs; in fact, I think the entire record sounds even better than it would have otherwise.  But I guess the listener will ultimately be the one to decide, eh?  I’m proud of it though and that’s really all that matters.

We know the record will be released by Universal Japan at some point over the summer but we don’t actually have a specific release date.  We’re hoping to have it out by the middle of July.  It will take some time to finish the artwork and get everything pressed but I feel pretty confident that we can get it all done relatively quickly.  As of now, we’re thinking about doing a digital only release in the US but we’ll see what kind of demand there is for actual physical copies.  Once I have some definitive information on release dates and upcoming supporting shows I’ll be sure to post it here.  That’s about all the news I have for the moment.  Hopefully soon I can once again tap into the stockpile of tour stories for your reading pleasure.  Until then, keep drinking….

Tokyo Sunrise….

We are leaving Thursday morning for a brief, one-stop weekend show in Tokyo.  It’s been almost two years since Allister was last in Japan and, although we’ll spend almost as much time in the air as we will on the ground, I am extremely excited.  People frequently ask me what it is that makes Japan so special; why it is that we tour over there more than we do in the U.S.  The obvious answer, I think, is because we can.  We’ve toured there enough that we are able to sell out small clubs, drawing a few hundred kids to our shows and making it financially worthwhile for us to continue to play and release records there.   The more subtle reason, though, is one built more on friendship, camaraderie, and an appreciation of cultural differences.

In 2006 we did a three month tour of Japan with the Japanese band, Ellegarden.  To this day, I think we still hold the record for the longest Japanese tour by an American band.  We played in every major city from Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, down to the far southern city of Fukuoka, and the rarely traveled islands of Kyushu and Shikoku.  We played in a myriad of small towns and completely immersed ourselves in a climate and culture that was vastly different from the one we were used to.  Although it wasn’t the first time we had been in Japan (it was perhaps the fifth or sixth time), it was the first time we truly got to experience the people and the culture.  And as contrived and cliched as it sounds, that trip changed my life.

Most bands that tour Japan play shows in only three or four major cities before they turn right around and fly home.  They barely have time to take a breath before they get back on the plane.  Sure, they’ll most likely be taken out to local restaurants to sample traditional cuisine, or get a chance to ride the bullet train from one city to the next, but they’ll never really get to know the people or the local customs.  Our tour in 2006 allowed us to actually spend time getting to know the more traditional parts of Japan, as well as getting to know the people.

Ellegarden, at the time, was THE biggest band in Japan.  Japanese radio was playing them non-stop and their record was flying off the shelves, yet they were some of the most humble guys I’ve ever met.   With the exception of maybe six or seven shows, every venue we played held no more than four hundred.  Kids were lined up for blocks outside the clubs, most without tickets, just for a chance to get an autograph or a picture with them.   While the band could have played every night to three or four thousand, Ellegarden chose the intimacy of small venues because they wanted to be able to connect with their fans.  It was a breath of fresh air in the world of “mainstream” punk rock and it was an attitude I respected a great deal.

They traveled with a crew of about twelve people, none of whom we had met prior to the tour.  Slowly, over the course of three months, we got a chance to know all of them.  We spent a good portion of every day working with them and, at night, I found myself quite often at the local izakayas (bars) drinking beer and sampling various flavors of Sake with them.  The mutual respect we had for each other was evident as they did their best to speak and learn English, and we did our best to speak and learn Japanese.  We would stay up well into the early morning hours, drinking and telling stories by drawing pictures or looking up words and phrases in our pocket dictionaries.

We also shared quite a few new experiences.  We conquered the Japanese tradition of Wanko Soba together in the town of Morioka, a few of us got tattooed together by a Japanese tattoo master in Shikoku, and, perhaps most poignantly, we toured the WWII museum together in Hiroshima, collectively moved almost to tears by the magnitude of destruction caused by the atomic bomb.

Throughout those three months, we learned quite a lot about our new Japanese friends’ lives and culture, and we developed an extraordinarily close bond with some of them in a relatively short time.  We discovered that many of them shared some of the same ideals and beliefs that we did, whether it was about music or life.   Their generosity and hospitality was unparalleled.  Not once during that trip did we ever feel like outsiders.  In fact, the bond was so strong between us that almost the entire band and crew drove us to the airport on our last day.  There, in the middle of the airport, stood twelve grown men, crying and hugging goodbye.

Inside Tokyo’s Narita airport, there are escalators that descend to the departure gates.  Above these escalators is a line of tall glass windows.  It is customary for people to stand behind these windows and wave last goodbyes to their loved ones as they disappear down to the lower level.  I will never forget the image of our new friends that day, waving and saluting goodbye to us as we rode down those escalators.  I suppose this is one of the main reasons I love touring in Japan.  That intense feeling of kinship and camaraderie always seems to get rekindled every time I return.  And I don’t think this time will be any different. Kampai!

Halfway There….

This past weekend we officially wrapped up laying down tracks for almost half of the new Allister record.  It’s a shame that we have to take three weeks off due to scheduling conflicts, but things will eventually resume and we’ll have this thing cranked out in no time.

It gives us an interesting perspective on these new songs, though, which could be both good and bad.  Three weeks away from the studio gives us an exorbitant amount of time to critique, analyze, and (if possible) objectively listen to everything that we have recorded.  It’s a double edged sword because on one hand we have time to write and restructure the songs to make them even better, yet, on the other, we have more than enough time to over-think the songs, thereby potentially diluting them and miring them in mediocrity.  Since all of our previous records have been recorded in one continuous block of time, we’ve never come across this situation before.

I’d like to think that we’ll spend the time making the songs even better.  But let’s be honest here, even though we’re trying out some new things and experimenting “outside of the box,” at our core we’re still a punk rock band playing songs with only three or four chords.  There isn’t a whole lot you can really do to change things.  Most of our songs are completely written in about 20 minutes.  We’ll tinker with some ideas, add a few guitar lines, and probably come up with some alternate harmonies and melodies, hopefully making the whole record better.  I suppose there’s always an outside chance that one of us will write an earth-shattering new song during these next three weeks that we’ll be able to include as well.  We’ll see…

Right now, I gotta rehearse for the shows coming up this weekend.  Hope to see everyone there.

Brand New Allister record….

So we’re a little more than a week into recording a new Allister album and things are coming along nicely.  Its easy to forget just how much fun the entire process can be now that it’s no longer a full time job.  Our conflicting job schedules though have mandated a somewhat unconventional recording session. We’re putting the album together in pieces; recording a few days here, a few days there, and we’re hoping to have it all finished by mid-April.

Most albums are generally recorded in this order: drums, bass, guitars, vocals, keyboards/effects, etc.  Bands typically spend around four weeks putting a record together, working straight through without any days off.  It can be a long and arduous process, especially when working with time constraints or working under a budget.

What’s great about this session is that we don’t really have any time constraints.  We know when we’d like to be finished, but if it goes longer than expected it certainly won’t effect a label’s release schedule or throw a serious wrench into any touring plans.  We’ll obviously do our best to reach the goal that we’ve set for ourselves but we have the freedom to extend things if necessary.  And we DO have a budget, but we’re pretty confident it won’t be an issue.  The entire record (except drums) is comfortably being recorded and produced in the home of our good friend, Marc McCluskey, who has worked on records for Weezer, Bad Religion, and Ludo. He’s a fucking brilliant producer, button pusher, and knob twister, and he makes shit sound GOOD.

Another interesting thing about this session is that we’re essentially doing things backwards; recording all the guitars, bass, and vocals first, and then laying down the drums to all the songs (Marc creates fake drum tracks that we play along to).  Its a simple enough process and it really seems to be working well, especially when sorting out the arrangements for the songs.  Because we’re not locked into a drum track, we have the liberty to simply cut and paste different sections of the songs into an arrangement that we’re 100% happy with.  We can easily try out new ideas without having to commit to anything.  Purists may consider it cheating but, what the hell, it’s our fifth full length record and I think we’ve earned the right to do what we want.  The results so far have been awesome.  We’ve finished about 4 songs and each one is a million times better than the original demo.  The first demos were simple, rinky-dink melodies that were thrown together in a basement.  The final versions, though, have now completely taken on new life and have exploded into something far better than I could have imagined.  They’re big.  They’re powerful.  And a lot of the credit goes to Marc.

One of the things that most people don’t realize is just how much songs change throughout the production and recording process.  Out of all the original songs that we have written and recorded (I’ve never actually counted but I’d guess it to be somewhere around 75 or so), there are perhaps seven of them that were actually recorded exactly as they were written (In all honesty, I suppose you might have to exclude our first record, “Dead Ends and Girlfriends” here.  That entire album was recorded and mixed in 4 days and so, by default, we had to record the songs exactly as they were written since there was no time to do otherwise).  And with the exception of maybe two or three songs, the final album version has ALWAYS been better than the demo.  And I’m not talking about the sound of the song.  I’m talking about the actual arrangement.

It’s a testament to how well the band and producer work together.  Its the producer’s job to get the sounds and tones, but it’s also his job to bring a fresh ear to the songs.  A good producer will always find a way to make a song better.  Take any of your favorite songs from almost any popular band and I guarantee the song is at least 25% different than how it was originally written. Not many bands are able to craft #1 hit songs from start to finish without any editing.  Hell, even the Beatles had George Martin to arrange most of their material.

Anyways, if these first four songs are any indication of what’s to come, I have a feeling this record may well be our best yet.  I like all of the songs already and, considering Marc will most likely make them even better, it’s easy to get excited.  It’s shaping up to be a nice mix of the old sound (circa “Last Stop Suburbia”) and the more recent “Countdown To Nowhere.”  We’re trying some new things and expanding our minds, so to speak, and we just might even throw some electronica/synthesizers on the record.  You’ll just have to wait to find out….

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