227 1500

What Day is it Tonight?

Thrill Jockey
thrill 227 - 2009

What Day Is It Tonight? includes over 70 minutes of professional live recordings spread out on 2LPs + a full length DVD all presented in a gatefold LP jacket with an MP3 download coupon!

The DVD contains 7 edited videos each composed of several different live shows and incidental tour footage. Also included is two complete live shows. Over 2 Hours in total!

The release is limited to 1,500 copies worldwide

Set Up The Scene For Me. It’s 1993. Why Start a Band?

Good question.

Um...We didn’t really start playing together right then. That was earlier. But we did all live together in a real shit-shack in Chapel Hill that summer. Seb’s room was infested with fleas. Phil and I worked at a cafeteria for minimum wage and minimum hours. We were broke. I started stealing cereal boxes and apples from work. Our landlord's dog, Ginger Snap, sometimes came over and stole tampons and condoms out of our garbage. It was hot. Seb became vegan. But we wrote the first Trans Am songs then and played our first live shows.

Advice: Start a band when you are young and have lots of time to waste. But remember that you are actually wasting it.

Where were these shows?

A frat house. It was summer and not many people were around. Fortunately, the keg was in the audience. I broke a bass string – E, the lowest, fattest string – on the first note of the first song. This is something I could never, ever do again if I tried. Also, my amp head blew up. I’m not sure how the other guys did.

Our second show was later that summer at a bar called The Cavern. Phil (age 20) got carded. I didn’t drink because I was scared of getting carded.

When Was Your First Real Tour?

That was a self-booked loop into the Mid-West. I remember leaving the Pennsylvania Turnpike - always cause for celebration - and seeing a sign that said “Ohio and West.” We are from the East Coast. I felt like a pioneer.

On that tour we drank a lot. We slept on filthy floors next to dried dishes of cat food and beer cans stuffed with cigarette butts. We played in basements and small clubs. In Detroit, while we sat on the front stoop of the club drinking, a big, insanely drunk guy wandered past us. He happened to be Native American, although Detroit has the potential to turn people of all ethnicities, religions, and races into fuck-ups.

Anyway, he started causing trouble and the guy from behind the bar jumped out with a baseball bat. I forget exactly what happened, but we ended up sitting on top of the guy waiting for the Wayne State University cops. They seemed to have a pretty good sense of humor - cynical but joking the whole time. I guess you gotta laugh if you’re a cop in downtown Detroit. They ended up macing the guy and putting him in handcuffs.

Advice: Trading 10% or 15% of your show income for having someone book your tour is the best thing you’ll ever do. Unless your booking agent is insane or a thief or forces you to open for bands you hate.

Where is Europe?

Somewhere past England...

Anyway, in winter of 1996 Tortoise were on a super-long, super-successful bus tour of Europe and they invited us to open for them. To them, I guess we were like a combination of slightly annoying little brothers and wind up toys. We were loud and they wanted to sleep. We got the remaining bunks near the toilet, which, predictably, was backed up and smelled and sounded exactly like several gallons of sloshing urine. Tortoise’s soundman kept plying us with hash, which was really unnecessary.

One day, their tour manager asked to talk to me privately. I thought she was hitting on me, but actually she just wanted us to stop drinking all of Tortoise’s beer while they were on stage.

Two of my remaining memories: After a show in Germany, I stuck my head out of the top of the bus and saw Dave Pajo – at the front of the bus – almost get decapitated by a traffic light. Then, before our show in London, we wondered around and got completely wasted because it was England and they have those cool pint glasses and it just seemed right. Our show was awesome - and everyone knew it.

Advice: That was our peak of popularity in London. Our next show was decimated in print by their hateful, inaccurate, but sometimes funny, music journalism machine. So enjoy it while you can.

What’s Wrong With England?

When you drive around the country, every single town has birthed at least one band that you love. And that’s the problem, too many bands. It’s like being traded on a commodities market – nobody gives a shit about musicians and they get paid and treated accordingly.

In October 2001, we did a three-week tour of the UK and Ireland with The Champs. Our plane actually went right over the gaping hole and floodlights where the World Trade Tower had been. I love Indian food, beer, socialized medicine, and New Order but it’s fair to say that Ireland was the highlight.

Advice: It turns out that “New England” was named after “England.” OK. Now imagine a three-week tour of Connecticut and Massachusetts. OK. Now imagine that you’re paying for everything on the tour in the rupees you made at your uncle’s car wash outside of Mumbai. That’s about right.

Is There Anything Good About England?

The crowds are good. Also, breakfast.

Once, when we used to light Seb’s cymbals on fire, things got a little out of hand in Liverpool. The lighter fluid container itself caught on fire and then fell behind his kit. We could see it burning right next to some long, plush curtains and a power strip. Fortunately, we had lots of beer on stage, so we doused the fire without Seb even dropping a beat. When you’re 27 and beer comes in that handy, it gives you a brief feeling of universal harmony.

Advice: The fact that Phil never burned his hands off while lighting Seb’s cymbals on fire proves that lighter fluid isn’t really that dangerous. I think we even flew with the container in our luggage a few times by mistake. It’s completely safe.

What Do “Soundmen” Really Do?

Well, sometimes they just decide to sing and play out-of-tune keyboard over your show without telling you. Sometimes they fix your otherwise totally broken amp. Sometimes they are incredibly bummed out on your entire tour. Sometimes they tell the nagging promoter who is worried about the decibel limit, “Fuck off. I don’t get paid to turn it down.”

Advice: Soundmen/women are pretty important. Invest in a good one.

Why Do You Always Get into Fights With Each Other in Minneapolis?

There are a couple of theories. One is that, of course, there is some kind of negative spiritual vortex there. Like a site of harmonic divergence. The other, which seems pretty farfetched, is that no matter which way you are heading, Minneapolis is a long drive which either precedes or follows two super-long days of driving and you’re just tired of everything - especially those unbelievable assholes you’ve been on the road with for three weeks.

Advice: You can’t avoid Minneapolis, so just suck it up.

Why Do You Get Along So Well in the Southwest?

Lots of sun. Plus in Albuquerque, Seb, our soundman, and I once got pulled over by a bunch of cops and then individually ordered out of our van at gunpoint, handcuffed, Mirandized, and put in squad cars. Then we all had a big laugh when it turned out they wanted a different white van - except Seb, me and our soundman.

In Phoenix, we decided to leave a particularly sketchy Motel 6. There was a big party going on at 3 AM when we got there. I think it was basically an open-air drug market, but we didn’t stick around to find out what they had.

While I was getting the cash refunded outside the night window, some big guy got out of his Camaro and repeatedly offered to kick my ass. It was the Futureworld tour - maybe he didn’t like my Mexican Nike gold sweatsuit and hightops? Anyway, you got to play it cool down there and stick together.

How Many Times Have You Pissed Yourself on Stage?

Hard to say. It’s the sort of thing where you hope your memory will be really spotty. More than once, less than 10, and not since 2000?

Advice: Keep beer or water around so you can pour it all over yourself as a cover-up. It’s a lot more attractive than piss - which isn’t saying much.

Remember When Seb Was Doing that GWAR Thing in Pittsburgh?

Yes. Seb was really sick and by the time we got to Carnegie Mellon, he ran straight to the bathroom. He had tried to re-hydrate with some sort of sports drink so his vomit was this perilous, almost radioactive shade of green. It was all over the floor. The bathroom looked like the set of an alien slasher flick.

Eventually, a university security officer came in. She looked at Seb and then asked calmly, “Is he the drummer?”

Anyway, Seb went to the hospital and we played with the drummer from Zombi, Tony, in a steeply terraced lecture hall.

When Can You Trust Airlines?

Only when they answer in the positive. When they say “No” - or especially when they cite “The Rules” - they are not being truthful. There are no rules. They are just being lazy or overworked – probably both. They could fix everything and charge you nothing if they really wanted to.

Advice: Just get past the ticketing counter. Those people are useless for everything but disputes over baggage charges. The real power lies with the gate attendants. They are magical.

Is Any International Border Less Pleasant Than America’s?

Not so far.

However, Britain does deserve mention. Unlike the rest of the EU, they have work permits. Also, their border agents can be quite snooty and overzealous. Once, we had two young agents parading a bag of Seb’s vegan protein powder around border control. I guess they thought we had just forgotten about that pound of heroin sitting on the floor of the van?

So they took apart our van – like unscrewed the door panels and such – while they ran some tests. Eventually, I was informed in a very grave manner that, “We’ve run several tests and one said ‘well perhaps it is [drugs]’ and one said ‘probably not.’ So we’re giving you the benefit of the doubt.” Then they asked for some posters or other promotional materials.

Also, the award for Single Most Intimidating Border Guard goes to “Serbian Guy.” Thanks again for not shooting us, by the way.

Advice: Wear glasses. Cover all tattoos. In the US, always have a football clearly visible and hide Frisbees (hippy disks) and hacky sacks. Tell anyone who asks that you sound “sort of like AC/DC.” Don’t mention acid jazz. Wipe your Facebook and Wikipedia entry of any drug references.

Why Don’t More Famous People Come To Trans Am Shows?

It is surprising, but they probably wouldn’t pay anyway.

At an early Thrill Jockey festival in New York, I remember “Fred” from the B-52s stepping over Seb doing push-ups backstage. He wasn’t there for us and didn’t seem excited that Seb was in his way.

I also remember an all-ages show we played with Braniac in LA where Mark Hamill’s kid was hanging out with John Ritter’s kid. That was sort of perfect. They were there for Braniac.

What Band is the Most Annoying to Tour With?

Depends what you mean. Is it annoying or funny when Six Finger Satellite kicks a stink bomb into the middle of your already tiny audience in Charlotte, NC? What about if later on they do a drive by – shooting bottle rockets out of PVC pipe - while you’re carrying an 80-pound amp head? What about when a no-talent, cashing-in-on-her-name wanker like Kelley Deal call you out in St. Louis for being “stage hogs”?

Also, there’s the question of blame. Is it Soul Coughing’s fault that out of 1,500 people who politely watched us open for them in 1996, only one person bought a CD? Is it the Fucking Champs’ fault that one of their guitarist’s feet could stink up an entire room of sleeping guys? Is it Tortoise’s fault that they all snore, thus earning the name “Snortoise”?

And really, who is being annoyed? We annoyed a lot of promoters by cashing in on an otherwise financially disasterous mid-December co-headlining tour of the Midwest with Har Mar Superstar. During a split bill with Don Caballero, our mere existence on stage seemed to antagonize the entire city of Cleveland as the Indians lost the World Series, but we were fine with it. Was it just annoying to Canadian border agents that someone traveling with Zombi tried to cross with an enormously small quantity of weed? They did lecture him that, “you can buy better weed here.”

What’s the Most Extreme Thing You Ever Did on Tour? Like, Have You Died?

Yes. Seb and I were once killed in Iceland. It was on the way to the airport. We later learned that the driver was really depressed because his mom had just died. He was coping in classic Nordic fashion by getting completely wasted (wasted even by Icelandic standards). Unfortunately, we didn’t notice any of the warning signs – like when he asked us if we had any drugs for the 45 minute drive to the airport. It was snowing heavily and things got shaky and then we spun around in the middle of the highway a few times. I could see some oncoming headlights (the ones that had been behind us). Then that was it.

Fortunately, Tim Soete from The Champs was also in the car and he led us to an ancient taxi driver who kept his fingers just barely on the steering wheel and made constant incremental adjustments for the snow. So we were dead, but we didn’t miss our flight.

Speaking of which, I successfully fought depression on the TA tour through regular doses of the Extreme Combination of Red Bull, Mountain Dew Code Red, and Vodka … and then any other uppers that were around.

Advice: It didn’t really work. At nine in the morning after our final show, I was walking home in DC. I was asked to sign a petition. Then, later, I had a debilitating panic attack. It was a very strong effort, though.



  • 1 Conspiracy of the Gods
  • 2 Outmoder
  • 3 Futureworld
  • 4 Shrigley
  • 5 Firepoker
  • 6 Idea Machine
  • 7 Positive People
  • 8 First Words
  • 9 June
  • 10 Tesco v. Sainsbury's
  • 11 Television Eyes
  • 12 Slow Response
  • 13 Play in the Summer
  • 14 Köln
  • 15 Don't Bundle Me
  • 16 Simulacrum
  • 17 City in Flames

Related Albums