Below is our list of the Hardest Working DIY Touring bands of 2018 keeping the DIY dream alive! We asked each band about their favorite moments, what they have learned, and/or are most proud of from this past year.
North By North (Chicago, IL)
I caught North By North at a Women that Rock showcase at Knitting Factory and couldn’t believe that they have been on the road for the past 10 months and have played 446 shows in total since January 2017. They snuck under my radar for last year’s list, so I’m happy to have them kick off this year’s Hardest Working DIY Touring Bands list!
“The main thing we’ve learned is that waiting around for a big opportunity generally isn’t worth it. It seems that it’s better to take charge of the shows that you’re booking – by seeking out other talented bands both in your hometown and in other markets, and by putting together and curating the best events you possibly can. Basically, no one else is going to make it happen for you – you have to create your own opportunities, otherwise you’ll be stuck waiting around for a long time.
It’s just the two of us, and we each put in over 60 hours/week between booking, writing, rehearsing, performing, and marketing, so it’s definitely a lot of work. But we’re constantly seeing the benefits of this as we continue growing our fanbase and name recognition around the country, and it feels really good knowing that it’s because of the hard work that we’ve put in. That being said, we have made solid friends and connections over the past two years who have helped us out and who continue to help us out, but it generally takes a couple times coming through each city before that can happen. People need to see that you’re putting in the work – assembling good lineups, getting good venues attached, and inserting yourselves into the local scene – before they’re really willing to go out on a limb for you.
Basically, DIY is a lot of work, but we’ve found that it’s more than worth it. See you all in 2019!”
Stuyedeyed (Brooklyn, NY)
This year I’ve been lucky enough to share bills with New York’s loudest psych/garage band Stuyedeyed in Nashville, Austin, Saratoga Springs and Brooklyn. At our show in Rockaway Beach they had to leave right after their set to play another show at a brewery down the street (and we moved the whole party there). Even after all that, I still can’t confidently spell their band name, but it looks like they are quickly teaching the rest of America how to pronounce it.
“Favorite show had to have been Chicago at Empty Bottle. Playing on the floor, in the round, was something so special to us. We set up as if we were in a rehearsal with everyone surrounding us, as if they were listening in on a conversation. It made it that much more personal. Because that’s what it’s all about, connectivity. Breaking that wall and having everyone be a part of the show is empowering not only for us or the audience, but for the songs themselves. Break that wall. Destroy the idea of putting the artist on a pedestal with your other idols. With this show, and tour, it felt like complete vulnerability. No one is cooler than the other, no one is more important than the next. We’re right there on the floor with you watching you as much as you are watching us. It took us a few years of shows to figure out that this is our most efficient way to exist in the world we are creating and continuously redefining.”
Glove (Tampa, FL)
Glove have only been a band for one year and already have seven tours under their belt. They played New York so many times that I thought they were a Brooklyn band at first. You can catch their new wave garage jam sound in Brooklyn again at Baby’s All Right on February 3rd!
“Jeez, ridiculous things happen to us constantly but we definitely had every band’s worst nightmare happen to us this year… On our way to LA from San Antonio we broke down in the middle of nowhere Texas off I-10. From a 45 minute tow-truck ride to a mechanic shop in Iran, Texas, where we thought Rod got abducted by one of the mechanics there (they went missing for an hour), to breaking down again and sleeping on the side of the road that night. We did end up getting a brand new radiator from really nice folks at a mechanic shop that had miniature donkeys to hang out with and Bud Light to drink. Made it to LA just in the nick of time for our show. Throughout all the shenanigans we laughed everything off and stayed determined to make it to the show and not let the series of mishaps get us down.”
Thelma and The Sleaze (Nashville, TN)
My first experience seeing TATS was at Hotel Vegas at SXSW 2016 and I fell in love with LG’s stage presence. After the set I got a taco and nervously gave her my band’s sticker while fawning over her authentic, hilarious and sexy rock ‘n’ roll attitude. You can experience it for yourself on her new podcast, Queen of Shit Mountain.
“Thanks to our fans for making this year another success. Kansas City is a hard nut to crack and keep cracked. The best breakfast in America is at Lucky’s Cafe in Cleveland Ohio.”
Pete Mouton has been touring his jangly alternative tunes around the U.S. all year. He has a wonderful sense of humor despite the year’s rough rides and will be able to turn the ups and downs into more great feeling lo-fi tracks. Hopefully he will make it back to NYC soon!
“My friend Sharp, who I wrote “Real Boy” for, lent me Great Jones Street by Don Delillo and there’s a line that goes, “There’s nothing more boring than a well traveled person.” I’ll give the quick and dirty.
2018 was a long year. I played 80 something shows, most of them with somebody else’s guitar because mine was stolen at a house show in February. That same month in Carbondale, IL, we woke up in house that was on fire. In April, Parquet Courts offered me molly in Oklahoma. Later that night, I stayed in, like, one of the five motel rooms I would stay in all year. In May, we found our dear friends Hayden and Dylan on a farm in Ragtown, Arkansas, but we had a show in Memphis that night, so after deliberating on whether or not to actually cancel our show, we decided to book it to Memphis. We weren’t five minutes down this dirt road when the venue calls saying that the show’s canceled. So we whipped one back for Ragtown and had a day off on a farm in East Arkansas with our buds. Let it be known that I put Dylan Earl on on his back, not once, but twice that night. Like a week later we were in Brooklyn for Northside, which was my first time New York. I can’t afford to look at that shit on a map.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have spent almost a quarter of my year in and out of a Toyota minivan with some of the funniest and most brilliant musicians I know. It wouldn’t have been possible or half as fun without my incredibly talented band: Daniel Orndorff, Cole Simmons, Matt Jemes, and also Bennett Jones, who recently passed. His relentless humor and knack for making his friends and strangers laugh left a tremendous impact on me; especially in the short time that we spent waking up on each other in deflating air mattresses and making each other laugh to tears in cities and on highways across the country. Tell your friends you love them.”
Lola Tried (Austin, TX)
Singer/Songwriter Lauren Burton started Lola Tried in Austin in 2015 and have toured nationally in support of their EP Popscicle Queen, opening for bands like Speedy Ortiz, A Giant Dog, and Tera Melos.
“Our favorite show on our most recent [tour] definitely had to be Baton Rouge, as we played a beautiful venue called the Spanish Moon with some very good friends of ours, Particle Devotion. The crowd was fantastic and all of the bands on the bill were so great.
Things we’ve learned on tour/as a band this year: I think the most valuable thing that tour teaches you is learning to play to any kind of room. Tour is incredibly humbling, because you go into it with expectations that definitely get swept away when you leave your hometown. You never know what you’re walking into when you get to a venue in a different city, so just constantly reminding yourself that this is a learning experience, and teaching yourself how to work a room and play the best show you’ve ever played – even if it was in front of five people, even if you didn’t sleep the night before, even if someone ate the burrito you’d been saving to eat at the venue. You learn to toss away whatever happened that day, and you learn how to perform as a team in any kind of space. I also really enjoy exploring how other bands, bookers, and promoters function in their respective scenes in different cities as it brings a completely different perspective to the table. Tour is work, tour is smelly, tour is exhausting, but it’s the most fulfilling thing in the world.
Also, another tidbit of advice: Don’t eat hot fried chicken in Nashville an hour before you play.”
Top Nachos (New Paltz, NY)
Top Nachos are embarking on a west coast tour this upcoming year with our previous hard touring band Lola Tried. They played about 70 shows this year despite both their members playing in four other very active bands: Teenage Halloween, Schmave, Winnebago Vacation, and Dolly Spartans!
“We played a bunch of amazing shows! The highlights have to be our newpalspalooza show (a fest we put on in New Paltz) with Bethlehem Steel and Yazan, Punk Island, our LP release show at Snug’s in New Paltz, and most recently nachofest, which was the final show at our house venue NACHOHOUSE.
The funniest/strangest thing that happened to us this year was witnessing a Bud Light Lime butt chug after our show at the house we played at in Charlotte, NC. Weirdest place we played was a kitchen in Savannah, GA. People were standing on the cabinets, the fridge, any available surface.
This was our most active year as a band for sure! We went on several tours, a wild amount of weekenders, played with some amazing bands like Speedy Ortiz and Rozwell Kid, released music on vinyl for the first time ever (in any project we’ve been in) and released our first full length albums DANK SIDE OF THE MOON. Learned a lot, laughed a lot, smoked a lot.”
The RocknRoll HiFives (New Jersey)
Can you imagine growing up and your family vacations double as rock ‘n’ roll tours? That’s the life of New Jersey’s RocknRoll HiFives, who released a vinyl on Little Dickman Records this year and toured Japan for the first time. They brought CoolDad along with them, who was nicknamed Grandpa while they were in Japan.
“This entire RocknRoll HiFives experience has not followed the normal band dynamics because we are a family (mom, dad, daughter, son) that tours, records and writes while managing all that comes with family life. Our rock ‘n’ roll story is different than most. We had so many stand out performances this year it’s really hard to pick one. Every show in Japan was amazing, playing on the Todd-o-Phonic Todd radio show WFMU was legendary, opening for Rye Coalition at the White Eagle Hall 1st Anniversary show was an honor, a last minute invite to open for a sold-out Snail Mail show was tons of fun and how could we not mention our very first television appearance on the super funny The Special Without Brett Davis show!
If we were forced to pick one show though, it would have to be opening for the legendary band the Tweezers in Tokyo, Japan. The show was incredible, and even more incredible was having them at the front of the stage with fists flying while we rocked and then having them greet us with an after party at the Poor Cow with a standing ovation in our honor. 2018 is going to be a hard one to beat!
We learned that what works best for us as a touring family is to turn our tours into Tourcations. When we are on tour we try to play 3-4 days in a row and then have a few days off to enjoy the road (national parks, traipsing through cities, visiting friends). We found that this keeps us balanced in that we have equal amounts of rock and fun while making the most of being a family on tour. (By the way, we learned that too many days off isn’t good either. Balance here is key to our happiness!)”
Toward Space (Richmond, VA)
David Patton and Seyla Hossaini, the founding members of bluesy power pop band Toward Space, met when they were 11 years old and have been living the rock ‘n’ roll dream ever since. This past September they released their full length Gently With A Chainsaw, met God, and traveled the country with their newfound voodoo magic.
“We met God in Tuscon, AZ. He owns a bar with a built-in sex dungeon, and we watched him eat a raw egg. We stayed in a hippy house in San Francisco where David tripped on shrooms in a tiny basement full of candles and Santa Muerte statues, and in New Orleans we hung out with voodoo practitioners who warned us about the smell of blood in the streets before we went out to the strip club. On tour we learned that I could easily become addicted to gambling, that Ben isn’t going to leave the band no matter how much David and I fight, and that it’s extremely important to keep in mind that you will be constipated for days if you eat a pizza every night.” – Seyla Hossaini
Lunch Duchess (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Lunch Duchess have been using their time on tour in 2018 to refine their grunge-pop songs for their debut full length, which will be out in the summer of 2019! They also released a single called “Ride or Die” this past summer.
“What I learned on tour in 2018 – if you and your bandmates are fun people who love each other, you can pretty much get through anything together.”
Honorable Mention: The following bands also appeared on 2017’s Hardest Working DIY Touring Bands List, and while we wanted to shout out some fresh faces, we gotta hand it to bands that would’ve made the list this year based on sheer numbers alone.
A Deer A Horse (Brooklyn, NY)
“Our favorite tour moment of 2018 was probably playing Berserker V in Michigan. This was our first time ever playing a metal festival, and since we’re a band that slides between genres, we were kind of anxious about playing on the same lineup as the dude from Pantera. It went over better than we could have hoped for, and it felt amazing to be accepted by all these metal fanatics. Plus we got to see mindblowing performances by Negative Approach, Child Bite, and Bloodiest, which was just so much fun.”
Vanessa Silberman (Los Angeles, CA)
“My favorite moment (which I feel lucky I have had a few) has probably been when I have played some very small towns / markets around the U.S. and had a couple fans come out who follow me who I hadn’t met before. A lot of them have said that what I have been doing has been inspiring them to do their music or go for their dream. I think that is so unbelievably cool. It means so much to hear that from fans and people – like I’m fulfilling my purpose, getting them to say to themselves ‘hey, she’s doing it, I can do that too’ when they see me out there doing it. I truly want to change peoples lives in a positive way – so that’s cool.”