PET POLITICS: Randy Ojeda of Cigar City Proves Every Manager Needs a Little Mojo

Randy Ojeda is the laid-back guy wearing glasses and a baseball cap at all the rock shows, whose warm presence is most acutely felt as he entices you to grab a beer with him even though you just met. He’s is an easy-going, music-loving people person through and through. But Randy is also a shrewd businessman. Along with his business partner and long-time friend Jason, Randy spearheads Cigar City Management – a music management company based out of Tampa, Florida – and works with acts from all over, including right here in Brooklyn. Randy’s business savvy paired with his gregarious nature also landed him a role recruiting artists for Symphonic, a digital music distribution company. However, Randy started his role in the music industry as a musician himself, picking up bass as a kid. Afterwards he went on to get a degree in – brace yourself – law. There is also another demanding role he fills daily, which is that of a Dog Dad for a little papillion named Mojo.

Randy & Mojo (All photos courtesy of Randy Ojeda unless otherwise noted).

AF: Please introduce us to your pup.

RO: Meet my best friend, Mr. Mojo Risin. Mojo is an 11-year-old Papillon. He loves long walks, roughhousing, and tennis balls. He also has a bit of a foot fetish, as Sharkmuffin’s Tara Thiessen can attest to, but we don’t like to kinkshame him. He’s the perfect dog. I always say he’s got the heart of a large dog in the body of a small one. He’s a great cuddler, but he’s not just a lap dog. He loves to play, loves to be chased, and makes friends everywhere he goes. At the dog park they call him “the Mayor” because he runs up to the fence to greet every new dog that enters. He has his own Instagram.

AF: How did you find your Mojo?

RO: I got him from a breeder who had a litter of Papillons. I’ve always been obsessed with characters and creatures with big ears, like Dumbo. A neighbor had just gotten a Papillon (which means “butterfly” in French) and I thought a dog with those big, butterfly ears was the most adorable thing. I set out to find one of my own, and when I met this particular litter, there was one dog who wouldn’t leave me alone, who kept wanting to play and be near me. That was Mojo. We bonded right away. He’s been my little buddy ever since.

If I were to do it over again, though, I would definitely get a rescue pup. As great as Mojo’s breeder was (and of course I’m happy with the dog Mojo has become), there are so many amazing rescues and dogs who really need homes. I just wasn’t educated on the rescue system at the time, but now my cousin Amanda does a lot of work with rescues in Tampa, and she’s taught me a lot. If you want to get a Papillon, there are two great national rescues that I recommend: Papillon Haven and Pap 911 Rescue.

AF: Did you have previous pets?

RO: Growing up, we had an adorable teacup chihuahua named Candy. She was a pretty classic chihuahua, so she was very loving and protective with her family, but rather standoffish around everybody else. Most of my friends were scared of her. Have you ever seen a grown adult run from a 3-pound dog? I have and it’s hilarious.

We also had a cat named Fluffy, popularly known as Fluff Daddy. Fluff Daddy later changed their name to P Kitty, before eventually dropping the P and just going, simply, with Kitty. Fluffy was a few years older than Mojo and was pretty settled into our home when I first brought Mojo. Mojo, ever the socialite, was immediately drawn to Fluffy, who swatted at him right away. It set the tone for their relationship. Fluffy would often hunt Mojo for the fun of it, never hurting him but just being a cat. Fluffy also never used a litter box! Instead they went to the bathroom outside like a dog. The world was Fluffy’s litter box! Fluffy would have been right at home in New York, where anywhere can be a bathroom if you’re really determined.

AF: When did you start playing music?

RO: My dad gave me a box of his old vinyl records when I was in middle school. Typical “dad rock” – The Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, etc. I thought it was cool that some of the Zeppelin records were numbered, like comic books, so that’s where I started. By the time I got to “Dazed and Confused” I was hooked. At the same time, we had just gotten broadband internet, replacing our dial-up connection (just saying that makes me feel so old), so I got really into downloading music. I became obsessed with finding new bands, learning about new genres, and just discovering as much music as possible. Playing music just became the natural evolution of that obsession.

AF: Why did you choose the bass as your first instrument?

RO: I started with bass and a little guitar, mostly because sick basslines were my favorite part of any song. But also, I really wanted to be in a band, and I had friends who were already really good at the other instruments – nobody else wanted to play bass, though, so I was just trying to fill what was needed.

AF: What was the name of your first band and how did it come about?

RO: My first band was called Car Full of Midgets, named after a really obscure reference from the short-lived Clerks animated series. I’m not sure if that name would be allowed today. We formed because we really wanted to play in the middle school talent show so we learned “Back in Black” by AC/DC. I did the Brian Johnson part, so I was on vocals and became the de facto front man. After the talent show, we kept playing together and learned more songs that we liked, while attempting to write our own songs. Eventually we decided to try and book a gig. We literally looked up music venues in the phone book (remember those?) and called each one. Whoever actually answered didn’t take a couple kids seriously at all, so we asked my dad to call back the venues that did answer. I guess he became the band’s manager. He talked a local dive bar, The Brass Mug, into letting us play a short set during an Open Mic Night. We weren’t old enough to get into the bar, but they let us load right onto the stage, play three or four songs, and load immediately back out. It was a Monday night, so my dad had to convince all the other parents to let us stay out on a school night, and we all had to promise we would get our homework done before our set. It was basically just my dad and a few regular, very drunk bar patrons, but it meant everything to us.

AF: When did you decide to switch from playing music to the business side of the industry?

RO: I kept playing in bands throughout high school and into college, but kind of called it quits when I decided to go to law school. I honestly thought I was done with music – I wanted to work in the tech industry, and went from reading Pitchfork to reading Fast Company, for example. But I went to law school in Chicago, at the same time that Chicago was having this musical renaissance. Chance the Rapper had just dropped his first mixtape, and I was really tuned into the hip hop scene there at the time. So I got pulled back in. I started working with hip hop artists and producers, just trying to help and gain experience. Through my school’s network, I connected with some entertainment lawyers, and thought maybe that was the path for me, but I didn’t really vibe with the role that a lawyer plays in an artist’s career. The industry has changed a lot recently, and now managers do so much – a manager is really critical in developing an artist. You’re not just involved in the business or negotiating a deal, like a lawyer is, but you’re involved in creative decisions, branding, and all the day-to-day stuff that really makes this business exciting and rewarding. It leaves a lot of room for creativity and sometimes you have to throw out the rule book. I love that.

AF: Tell us about the history of Cigar City Management, and how the company came to be.

RO: I was working in hip hop for a bit, and although I loved the music, hip hop has a lot of misogyny, violence, and a bad drug culture that at times left me feeling ashamed of the type of work I was doing. I needed something that was more me, something I could be proud of, and I really wanted to put a spotlight on artists who were doing something unique. I wanted to support diverse voices – women and non-binary musicians, people of color, immigrants, members of marginalized groups, etc., and I wanted to find artists who believed in the type of causes that I believe in. There are so many awful people in the music industry, so my mission was to find people who are good, who genuinely care about more than just sex, drugs, and rock & roll. That is essentially the mission statement of Cigar City Management: Music Should Be Good. I formed the company with my business partner, Jason. He’s our CFO and does all the math. I don’t math. He’ll deflect all the credit, but I really couldn’t do this without him. I like connecting with people and making things happen, but I hate dealing with the financial part of the business, and it’s just not how my brain works. So, in many ways, Jason helps me keep the lights on. Because we work with a lot of emerging bands, the margins are very important. You have to keep track of every dollar and where money is coming and going, or else you’ll never actually make money. The bands that survive are the ones who understand that and take it seriously. If you want music to be your business, you have to treat it like a business. If you don’t keep an eye on it, it’s funny how easily money disappears.

Photo Credit: Rachel Angel

AF: How did you become friends with your partner, Jason?

RO: We met in high school. We both attended an all boys’ Catholic school and most of the people we went to school with were exactly the type of person you’d expect to go to an expensive private school. Some of us had started forming our own little clique of weirdos and loners, the people who didn’t fit the mold. We’d hang out during free periods and lunch, and our mutual friend Matt Roberts, who I was in a band with at the time, started bringing his guitar to school so we could write and jam. One day Jason picked up the guitar, and effortlessly played some Stevie Ray Vaughn licks. I had no idea he even played guitar, but I knew right away that he was definitely the best guitarist at our school. Matt and I asked him to join our band, and for a couple years we seriously underutilized Jason’s talent – we were this scrappy metal band and wanted Jason to play chugga-chugga riffs, but he was a bluesman at heart. After the metal band broke up, Jason and I continued to play and write together and over time he became my best friend (besides Mojo, of course). I don’t know anybody who does more for their friends and the people he cares about than Jason. He’s the guy who will drop everything to help you move, help solve a problem, or just be there when you need it. He was the best man in my wedding, and I wouldn’t want to be in this business with anybody else.

AF: Who are some of the bands you are currently working with?

RO: We have a pretty excellent roster – Big Bliss, A Deer A Horse, Fruit & Flowers, Jackson Boone, Kino Kimino, Parrot Dream, Pecas, The Fantastic Plastics, and this one band called Sharkmuffin. Have you heard of them?

Randy and Sharkmuffin on the way to play an acoustic set at the TIDAL offices. Photo Credit: Steven Anselm.

We also just added two really cool bands – Ganser, from Chicago, and Fever Beam, which is the first band from my hometown that I’ve managed. I’ve got links to everybody and to our Spotify Playlist on our website.

AF: Any shows or other events coming up with your roster?

RO: There are always a ton of great shows coming up. Big Bliss is playing the Grim Streaker album release show on May 16th at Alphaville. Fruit & Flowers is playing with City of the Sun at Webster Hall on June 15th. On June 28th, Ganser is playing the Flipper 40th Anniversary Show at Reggie’s in Chicago. Fever Beam is going to be on tour in April and A Deer A Horse is hitting the road again this summer. Also, both Parrot Dream and Sharkmuffin are playing Waking Windows Festival in Vermont on Saturday, May 4th. And you can catch The Fantastic Plastics every Wednesday night at 9pm Eastern on their very own Twitch Channel, which is totally the most futuristic way to tour.

AF: Tell us about your role in Symphonic.

RO: I do Artist & Label Outreach for Symphonic. It’s an invite only platform, so I seek out artists and labels that I think would be a good fit for the services Symphonic provides and I connect them with the rest of the team. So far, I’ve brought in some really cool artists and labels. It’s a great gig – they certainly take care of me, give me plenty of autonomy, and it’s perfect for me because I can bounce between the Tampa and Brooklyn offices.

AF: Are there any new Symphonic events or products we should check out?

RO: Expect to see Symphonic NYC continue to grow. There are some events planned throughout the year in New York, but nothing that I can mention right now. I can say that the New York Office hosts charcuterie Fridays for artists, so hit me up if you want an invite for free cheese.

AF: What is your spirit animal?

RO: My spirit animal, specifically, is Kermit the Frog. He’s pretty responsible but surrounds himself with a bunch of troublemakers. He’s constantly trying to wrangle everything together and hone the team in, because he knows there’s genius there, but yet he remains calm when all hell inevitably breaks loose. That’s pretty much me. I think Kermit could probably drop the Muppets altogether and get a real job – I’m sure he’d be an asset to any company. But how could he live without the Muppets? Could you imagine Kermit with a 401k?

AF: If Mojo was a musician, what instrument would he play and what genre of music would he write?

RO: I’ve actually thought about this fairly often over the years. He’s named after Jim Morrison, so you’d expect him to be a psychedelic crooner; however, I think Mojo is actually more into early electronic music, so he’d probably start like a synth pop or krautrock group. Maybe he’d be on vocals or synth. When I first got Mojo, I was listening to a lot of Kraftwerk and some of their cuts, like “Computer Love” in particular, would typically calm him and lull Mojo to sleep. So, I think he’d be on that wave. I think his project would have a strong visual aesthetic; however, for such a cute dog, he’s very weary of photos, though. So, he wouldn’t tour very much and would only give the occasional rare interview. He’d be like the Burial of dog-fronted bands.

AF: Does Mojo have a favorite food?

RO: Mojo has never met a food that he doesn’t like. He actually goes really crazy for ice, though. Straight ice, right from the ice maker. We live in Florida and Mojo has quite a lot of fur, so on hot days I give him an ice cube after our walk and he loves it. It’s definitely a low-cost dog treat, and it cools him down. If he even hears the sound of ice, he’ll come running. We give him a lot of fruit, too. On special days we’ll take him to Twistee Treat, where they serve a Pup Cup ice cream. He eats it so fast.

AF: How does Mojo inspire you in your career day-to-day?

RO: We have a screened-in patio, which can be essential in Florida. Mojo likes to hang out there and “chase” lizards, but the only problem, for him, is that most of the time these lizards are on the outside of the screen. So, he never actually catches these lizards because it’s basically impossible. Yet every day he goes out to the patio and tries his hardest to catch a lizard. One day, an unsuspecting lizard somehow made its way to Mojo’s side of the screen and Mojo captured the lizard in his mouth. He brought it right up to me, so I could see what he had accomplished. He didn’t hurt the lizard, he immediately dropped it and let it run away, but I could tell he was proud of himself. He did it. Being successful is all about finding the perfect mix of timing, perseverance, and luck. Mojo knows to never give up.

AF: How was your SXSW?

RO: This was definitely the best SXSW I’ve been to, from a professional standpoint. I think all of our artists really stepped up. I sit behind my computer all day, so sometimes it can be hard to objectively see how well we’re doing, but at SXSW you can very visibly see the growth. In many ways, it’s a stress test for artists. Everything about being in the industry, being in a band, is exacerbated – so you can figure out in one crazy week whether you have the stomach for this business or not. I’ve seen bands both rise and fall at SXSW. This year was pretty smooth: no meltdowns, no mediations, no interventions. Just a lot of great music and some incredible nights. Knock on wood for next year.

AF: What do you miss most about Mojo when you are on tour?

RO: My wife and I don’t have kids yet, so Mojo is pretty much our baby at the moment and the three of us make up our nuclear family. There’s something about just being all together – having my wife, Liz, next to me in our bed, with Mojo laying by our feet. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and reminds me that the love we have is worth more than any concert or music video. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really grateful for getting to do the work that I do and I’m thankful that because of music I’ve been able to see so much and do a lot of really, really cool things. But I’m not at home unless I’m with my family – and along with my amazing wife, Mojo is a very big part of my family. When we’re together everything feels right.

Family Photo: Mojo and his parents, Liz and Randy.

PET POLITICS: Ana Becker gets CATTY with Bruce Kittowitz and a New Band

Ana Asnes Becker has been a staple in the Brooklyn music scene for quite some time now. Like many of our interviewees, Ana is quite Renaissance woman: beauty, brains, a big personality, and loads of talent. A few years ago, she left her job at The Wall Street Journal to pursue her music career full time. You have most likely heard Ana shredding up a storm with the vocals to match it on stage with garage stars Fruit & Flowers, or on their debut release Drug Tax. She has also whipped up some wicked guitar lines with post-punk heroes Big Bliss, dream poppers Holy Tunics, The Hum series, and in a few guest sets with Sharkmuffin. Ana is also an excellent illustrator and graphic designer. In the midst of all these projects, Ana picked up an additional role: adoring cat mom. And Ana just launched a new musical endeavor: CATTY.

AF: Please introduce us to your kitty!

AB: This is Bruce Squiggleman Kittowitz! He’s almost a year old, and super-affectionate. He’s a purr machine with a huge personality. He loves to snuggle, play fetch, steal human food, chase a laser, run the length of the apartment and back at full zoomy speed, and drink from the bathroom sink. Whenever Tim or I comes home he greets us at the door and meows at us until we give him hugs. He’s an excellent conversationalist. He sleeps next to my head every night. He’s Jewish, like his mom, and we’re looking forward to giving him a bar mitzvah when he turns 13 (which is around 2 in cat years).

Bruce with his namesake. All photos courtesy Ana Asnes Becker.

AF: Did Bruce choose you or did you choose him? How did he come to be a part of your family?

AB: Tim [of Big Bliss] and I went to an adoption event in Union Square, flirting with the idea of adopting a cat. It was set up like a green market, except instead of fruit and vegetable stands there were rows and rows of stands from different pet adoption agencies, each with kittens and/or puppies. It was an unseasonably balmy day in September, and the animals were in cramped cages, in close quarters, in a very noisy, hot, and stressful place, getting poked and prodded. Most of the cats were VERY grumpy, understandably so. We walked around and held our hands out to kitties to sniff to try to make friends, but most of them just wanted to be left alone. When we came over to Bruce’s cage and I held out my hand, he sauntered right over and put his little paw in my palm. And then he did the same with Tim. We fell in love right away. He was the chillest little dude, totally unbothered, with such a sweet temperament. Also, Tim’s all-time favorite superhero is Batman, and Bruce, then named “Midnight,” had “I am the night, I am Batman” on the back of his name tag. We took it as a sign. (And then after some deliberation renamed him Bruce after Bruce Wayne.)

AF: Did you have pets growing up?

AB: I had a golden retriever named Jessie at my dad’s house, and a cat named Herman at my mom’s house. I miss them both. Jessie was the best. Excitable and kind of dumb and just a big ol’ fuzzy love bucket. Herman was my homeboy. He was declawed in the front (before we adopted him) and he still managed to be quite a formidable hunter.

AF: When did you start playing music and what was your inspiration to start?

AB: I got my first guitar for an early 14th birthday present from my dad. He was a guitarist – never did it professionally but he was an incredible player. I was a freshman in high school, and he had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I wanted to learn to play so that I’d have something to connect me to him after he died. It worked. I also wanted to impress a boy. That part didn’t work.

Ana on the road with Big Bliss.

AF: What was your very first instrument?

AB: My first instrument, after recorder that is, was trombone. I got it for school band in 4th grade. Trombone was my first-pick instrument so I was super excited, but we quickly realized that my arms were too short to play it. So the school gave me a baritone… which is like a half-sized tuba. It was ridiculous. I swear they gave the smallest kid a huge instrument just for a laugh. I quit band as soon as I could.

AF: How did Fruit & Flowers come to be?

AB: Caroline and our original drummer Shaw came up with the name of the project and started jamming with the idea of starting a band. Caroline met our original rhythm guitarist Lyzi at a Sharkmuffin show and invited her to play. I was friends with Shaw, he’d seen my band City Mice so he knew I could play, and he invited me to come to a practice. The four of us got together as Fruit & Flowers and had to race to write and practice a set before our first show, which had already been booked, and was only a month away. After a few months Shaw went off to pursue career goals, and we were joined by the excellent Jose Berrio on drums. We’ve also recently added Claire Wardlaw on saxophone and synth. Fruit & Flowers owes so much to Sharkmuffin – you’ve helped us out so much along the way, and who knows what the band would’ve wound up like without you!

Fruit & Flowers rocking SXSW 2019 (Photo Credit: Natalie Kirch)

AF: I know Fruit & Flowers is a collaborative effort. Can you tell us about your writing process?

AB: Most of the time, songs start organically, from a riff or beat someone is playing in the practice space, and we build the songs from there. Lately I have also been bringing in some material that I’ve written on my own, and we’ve finished the songs up as a group.

AF: Can you tell us a little about your new project CATTY?

AB: Sure! It started by complete accident. Matt Sklar from Parrot Dream put together a band lottery on January 5th – an all-day endeavor wherein random bands were formed at noon by picking names out of a hat, and then everyone went off to write a couple of songs together, and then the bands regrouped to play a show that same night. I wound up in a group with Don Lavis, also from Parrot Dream, Manny Nomikos from Gracie Mansion, and Bryan Thornton from Holy Tunics. It was an EXTREMELY lucky match up. We enjoyed playing and writing together so much that we decided to keep it going!

AF: Is it safe to say you identify with cats as your spirit animal?

AB: Hmm, I think I’m personally more like a dog than like a cat, but I could be wrong about that. Maybe something like a coyote or fox (canine but with some cat-like qualities). Or a starling. Jose says llama, because I’ve recently become very attached to a stuffed animal llama that I made Tim buy me in Austin for $5. I named it Brimothy, Bruce + Timothy, because those are the boys I miss most.

AF: You are on the road with Fruit & Flowers right now. Any funny stories to share?

AB: We were just driving on the way from Austin to Santa Fe, and we saw a church van next to us. Caroline wondered aloud if maybe it was a band that had rented the church van, and we waved at them. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, she got a phone call from her friend Sam: “Am I on acid, or are you driving next to a church van right now?” The van was not only holding a band, but a band of Caroline’s buds. That was pretty surreal. We haven’t been on tour long enough yet for the really ridiculous situations to start accumulating. Any day now!

AF: Any past tour escapades?

AB: Where do I even start?!?!

Fruit & Flowers pitstop in the deserts of the USA to pose with their tour bus Sylvia.

AF: Where can we catch you on the way back up from SXSW?

AB: Fruit & Flowers is heading to Treefort fest in Boise, Idaho, then doing a run down the west coast.

AF: If Bruce was a musician, what instrument would he play?

AB: Hmm, maybe the recorder, because he’s still a little kid in cat years.

AF: What genre of music do you think Bruce would write?

AB: Lullabies.

AF: What is your favorite song about (non-human) animals?

AB: “Blackbird,” by The Beatles. It’s usually my general favorite song, regardless of non-human associations.

AF: Have you ever written a song about (non-human) animals?

AB: I wrote a series of songs about Greco-Roman mythology, through the eyes of the women in the myths. Those involved a couple of odd transformations, monsters, and other non-human creatures. I think that’s about as close as I’ve gotten to writing a song about animals.

AF: What do you miss the most about Bruce when you are on tour?

AB: I miss his fuzzy fuzzy cuddly face and his little paws and his expressive meows and his fluffy belly and his sweet head nuzzles and scratchy kitty kisses and the way he hugs your hand if you pet him while he’s sleepy. When Tim or I are home he is like our shadow, always following us from room to room, next to us or under our feet. I miss that special Brucey brand of loving companionship.

AF: Does he have any favorite foods?

AB: Bruce’s favorite food is whatever Tim or I happen to be eating at any given moment.

AF: What is on the horizon for CATTY and Fruit & Flowers when you return from tour?

AB: Fruit & Flowers’ homecoming show is on 4/10 at Our Wicked Lady, with Veronica Bianqui and Miranda & the Beat. Catty is playing Sharkmuffin’s EP release show on 4/5 at Alphaville, with Gustaf and Haybaby, and we can’t wait!

NEWS ROUNDUP: Webster Hall Reopening, R. Kelly Arrested, and MORE

Webster Hall is Reopening!

It’s always sad when an iconic New York venue closes, but Webster Hall’s story has a happy update. The 130-year-old venue was shuttered in August 2017 for renovations when longtime owners the Ballingers sold it to AEG. That means Bowery Presents will be handling bookings, and the show schedule looks pretty sick, starting with a christening from punk poet laureate Patti Smith on May 1. Broken Social Scene, MGMT, Sharon Van Etten, Big Thief and Built to Spill are some of the acts slated to play over the next six months or so, and that’s just the initial announcement. The New York Times got a sneak peek into the renovations, and it seems like the $10 million plus project focused mostly on accessibility, with a revamped entryway and the addition of an elevator, as well as updates to the bathroom and soundsystem. Much of the characteristic fixtures in the ballroom were left unscathed, though we’re guessing the floor will no longer feel like it’s about to cave in when the mosh pit gets too rowdy. The Marlin Room will become a lounge, and there’s no word yet on what’s going on with the basement stage. The venue will still have a capacity of about 1,400 – making it an essential part of downtown nightlife once again.

R. Kelly Arrested, Bond Set at $1M

Following increased scrutiny after Lifetime doc Surviving R. Kelly aired earlier this year, the R&B star was arrested in Chicago on Friday and charged with ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four separate victims, three of whom were minors when the abuse occurred. One of the most disturbing pieces of information to emerge in Saturday’s bond hearing was that Kelly met one of these victims at his 2008 trial for child pornography, of which he was acquitted; like the trial a decade ago, some of these charges stem from the discovery of a sex tape in which Kelly appears to perform sex acts with an underage girl. His bond was set at $1 million, and that may be the tip of the iceberg – Kelly is also under investigation by multiple federal agencies for sex trafficking, and it looks likely that there are more victims who have yet to come forward. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of their nightmare.

That New New

Audiofemme favorites Sharkmuffin shared rollicking new single “Serpentina,” the first single from their Gamma Gardening EP, out April 5 via Exploding In Sound. We couldn’t be more excited – love you, Tarra & Nat!!!!

While this video for Kate Bush’s cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” isn’t exactly new, it hadn’t been released since its recording in 1991. The video comes with the announcement of a four-disc rarities and b-sides compilation called The Other Sides, which will be available March 22. In other Elton John news, his biopic, starring Taron Egerton, comes out May 22.

Tierra Whack is back with single “Only Child,” her first release since blowing up with Whack World.

Helado Negro is currently on tour with Beirut as he prepares for the March 8 release of This is How You Smile; he shared a video for single “Running” this week.

Ella Vos shared an intimate self-directed video for “Empty Hands,” which follows her through the last day of two years of treatment for lymphoma. The single appears on her latest EP, Watch & Wait.

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will release Gnomes & Badgers, their first album in five years, on March 8. The TG Herrington-directed clip opens a poignant dialogue about the family separation crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Marissa Nadler released two new songs – including a duet with John Cale – via new imprint KRO Records, who will release the single on heart-shaped vinyl this spring.

CHROMATICS are back with “Time Rider” and a slew of tour dates, but no official release date for an album, which they’ve been teasing for some time now.

Priests released a lyric video for “Good Time Charlie” from their upcoming album The Seduction of Kansas, out April 5 via Sister Polygon.

Empath have announced their debut LP Active Listening: Night on Earth (out April 2 via Get Better Records), and shared its first single, “Soft Shape.”

Alex Lahey will finally release a follow-up to 2017’s excellent I Love You Like a Brother. It’s called The Best of Luck Club and is slated for release via Dead Oceans on May 17; “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” is the first single.

TEEN are streaming Good Fruit ahead of its March 1 release over at NPR, and have shared a video for “Pretend.”

With her band Wax Idols on an indefinite hiatus, Hether Fortune has shifted to solo work with the release of single “Sister.”

Shady Bug shared “Whining” from their sophomore album Lemon Lime, out March 8.

Los Angeles noiseniks HEALTH have released their fourth collaborative single since September, this time featuring JPEGMAFIA.

We’re obsessed with “TGM” from 18-year-old newcomer Ebhoni, who reps her Toronto home and West Indian roots all at once.

Palehound kicked off their tour with Cherry Glazerr by releasing a new single called “Killer.”

Indie poppers Pure Bathing Culture  shared a lyric video for “Devotion,” the first single from their forthcoming LP Night Pass, out April 26.

If you’ve ever wondered what Mountain Man’s Molly Sarlé sounds like on her own, take a listen to her debut single, produced by Sam Evian. She’ll play some shows with Mountain Man cohort Amelia Meath when she joins Sylvan Esso for a few shows in their recently-announced WITH tour.

Nilüfer Yanya’s debut album Miss Universe drops March 22. Her latest single “Tears” follows alt-pop bops “In Your Head” and “Heavyweight Champion of the Year.”

Former Shudder to Think frontman Craig Wedren has had an illustrious career scoring film and television, so it’s no wonder the clip for his vibey rework of “2Priests” (from last year’s Adult Desire Expanded) is so gorgeous.

We have a feeling Aldous Harding’s low-key pilgrim dance from “The Barrel” video might catch on well before Designer arrives via 4AD April 26.

Legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr shared a video for latest single “Armatopia” to promote his upcoming North American tour in support of 2018’s Call The Comet.

End Notes

  • Breakdancing could become an Olympic event by 2024.
  • Moogfest has announced the “first wave” of its 2019 lineup, featuring Kimbra, Martin Gore, Matthew Dear, Lucrecia Dalt, GAS, Ela Minus and more.
  • Wilco have also announced the lineup for their bi-annual Solid Sound Festival, taking place June 28-30 in Massachusetts. There will be several sets from Jeff Tweedy solo and with the band, as well as appearances by Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Tortoise, Jonathan Richman and more.
  • Detroit musicians will be the first recipients of Tidal’s new $1 million endowment program.
  • The 1975 took home British Album of The Year at the BRIT Awards for A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, and called out music industry misogyny in their acceptance speech for Best British Band.
  • Stereolab have added a ton of reunion tour dates to their Primavera Sound and Desert Daze appearances, and announced reissues for seven of their records. The band has been on hiatus for a decade.
  • Tom Krell of How To Dress Well launched his label Helpful Music with an EP from Calgary’s Overland.
  • W Hotels have also recently launched a label, releasing two songs with Perfume Genius to benefit Immigration Equality. Watch a mini-doc about the collaboration here.
  • Lydia Loveless took to Instagram to detail sexual harassment she has suffered since signing to her label Bloodshot Records; her abuser doesn’t work at the label, but attended all social events having to do with it as the partner of one of the label’s founders, who has since left the imprint.
  • Someone decapitated Puff Daddy’s wax figure at Madame Tussauds in Times Square.
  • Michael Jackson’s estate is seeking to block the production of HBO’s Leaving Neverland with a $100 million lawsuit; the two-part doc follows the story of two men who say their were abused by the King of Pop as children and is set to air March 3rd & 4th. Watch the trailer here.
  • Stereogum published this handy rundown on the drama that’s dogged Royal Trux’s reunion tour, as well as the release of White Stuff, still scheduled to come out March 1.
  • My favorite Eric Andre gag is getting his own TV special. Thanks Adult Swim!

CHECK THE SPREADSHEET: Touring Across the Pond

Sharkmuffin charms Robert Plant

The story goes that Jimi Hendrix was unknown in the States before he traveled to the U.K. It was only after his time across the pond that he returned as our beloved shredding icon. It can happen to you too! His spirit is still there, and Sharkmuffin may have encountered it on our first trip to the U.K. in 2017.

After one of our sets, I placed my Gibson Les Paul upside down against the guitar amp and left it there for too long, cracking the wood between the neck and the headstock. When I packed up my gear I thought that I had only broken a couple strings. The following day when we arrived at Mello Festival, security told us that Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin would be hanging around the back of our smaller stage; we all freaked out realizing he might watch our set.

When I went to change my guitar strings I discovered my guitar was irreparably damaged, but we strangely had an extra guitar case in our van. Inside was a sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a bunch of burn marks on it. We had no idea where it came from and I wasn’t even sure it would work. The only obvious logical explanation was that the ghost of Jimi Hendrix sent me one of the strats he sacrificed to the guitar gods in my time of rock ‘n’ roll need. We successfully played our set and even awkwardly said hello to Plant. Then he drove his green convertible jaguar over the hills into the sunset wailing “Been a long time since I rock n rollllll’d.”

Though it may seem daunting, an overseas tour isn’t out of reach for a DIY band. We talked to Miss Eaves, Bodega and my bandmates in Sharkmuffin about their tips and experiences touring the magical lands of the United Kingdom. 

Photo credit: Sarah Jacobs

Miss Eaves

“Having a well-paying ‘anchor gig’ is good if you can land one (like a festival or a big club night) and that way you have a date that you can plan all of the rest of your dates around. I made a map of cities that were no more than a 3-4 hour train ride and then locked in dates around that. Once I identified the cities I reached out to spaces where I thought my fan base would hang out (mostly queer/DIY/feminist spaces & bookers) It is really important to be very specific when reaching out because its easier to sell yourself when you are not sending a generic spam email. When I was promoting my shows I ran some Facebook ads in the different cities and I also made this silly promo video. Booking my own tour was very challenging but also rewarding.”

Photo credit: Kevin W Condon



One of the more unique shows we’ve ever played was at a library in Birkenhead. Surrounded by books underneath a skylight on a blistering hot afternoon, I tried to channel a literary energy, citing quotations from a text and finding new associations within the BODEGA words. After the show, we met a wonderful Birkenheadian family that let us stay at their home for two days. The parents and children were all loving and devout music fans – later that night they took us over the river into Liverpool to show us Beatle sites and took us drinking at a local pub. The next day we had a bit of a jam session (Beatles and Velvets) and their son smoked us all in video games. It was very inspiring to see rock culture celebrated and shared by an entire family.


When we travel, we often book separate connecting flights in order to save money. However, in July, this backfired on us. After a flight from Spain was delayed by several hours, four of us missed a connecting flight in London back to NYC and were thus down several thousand pounds and stuck in London. Luckily we were able to crash at a good friend’s house (our London promoter). The next day we bought super cheap tix online only to find out at the airport that this third party website scammed us (this is why they were so cheap…) and this flight to NYC did not exist. We eventually got refunded and made it back to NYC and are now much more cautious when booking band flights. The silver lining of this fiasco was hearing a track of ours on BBC6 in a taxicab driving back from the airport after missing the first flight. What a thrill to hear yourself over the air!


  • Hydrate! Pedialite helps.
  • Eat healthy. Veggies are important.
  • Be wiling to explore (physically and mentally). Try to walk around whatever town you are in. Try new music in the van. Read new books. Listen more than you talk. Enjoy the ride.


Photo credit: Nick Gough


Natalie Kirch’s tour tips:

  • Always remember the worth of a pound is not the same as a dollar! Keep up-to-date on conversion rates to make sure you’re being smart with your money and reasonable with your merch sales.
  • Pack as lightly as possible on any tour, but especially overseas where you have luggage fees.
  • Loosen the strings on your instruments before boarding with them or sending them off in the luggage!
  • Bring a handheld fan because the U.K. is not used to heat waves. If you find yourselves stuck in the rare one like we did, there is no AC anywhere.
  • Bring heavy duty earplugs if you’re a light sleeper. You never know when you’ll end up with a snorer in the group.

Jordyn Blakely:

I don’t think I drank tea once, and I don’t think I saw any crumpets, but I did see hot dogs ‘ready to eat’ in a can, buns not included. This trip changed a lot of my perceptions of what Americans assume everyday life in the U.K. can be. Being in different regions of the country besides the big cities and hearing how the dialect and slang varies tells you a lot about what the people are like and what they care about. Nottingham was a rowdy show, with a lot of energetic people who wanted to participate and interact, and party late after into the night. This wasn’t as common at other shows where people sometimes seemed more polite or maybe shy. One of their beloved expressions is “‘choo on about?” which is basically supposed to mean “What the hell are you talking about?” Sharkmuffin also adopted the term ‘knackered’, meaning tired, exhausted, or hungover. After doing some research it turns out there are tons of classic Nottingham sayings we missed, all of them sassy but said with love.

I loved the combination of modern life mixed with ancient and classic architecture; old timey pubs turned rock venues, miniature cathedrals turned EDM clubs. It feels like entering a time machine. One of my favorite shows was in Norwich, at Norm’s (named in honor of comedian Norm Macdonald), an event at The Crypt curated by my friend Jason Baldock. It’s in the cellar of the venue, with flying buttresses along the ceiling, very dark and gothic. That’s when you KNOW you’re playing a show in England. We played with Elle Bishop, Peach Club, and Fever Machine, all really great bands with sweet people. We stayed at a farm house in the countryside that has a chicken coop and we got to walk around and look at stars.

Cardiff was another favorite place – it’s just so beautiful, particularly Llandaff Fields – and Welsh culture is very fascinating to me. My mom texted me saying to try a “Welsh cuppa” so on the morning we left we tried ordering it at a cafe, only to get the reply, “A cuppa what, dear?” Apparently that is not a thing; maybe auto-correct is to blame for this one. But we did try Welsh cakes – tiny sand-dollar shaped pancakes with raisins inside.

More tips on how to make your U.K. tour a success…

  • Budget yourself and save up money beforehand. Unless you’ve secured relatively high guarantees, between gear, van rentals and the exchange rate being so steep you will probably go out of pocket for a portion of the trip.
    • Pro Tip: Pretend pounds are pirate money.
  • Visas are relatively cheap. Obtaining a work visa to go to the U.K. as an American is significantly cheaper than the other way around. Our agent referred us to a sponsor who took care of it for 250 pounds a couple weeks prior.
    • Pro Tip: Don’t be a dick at the border, they can easily send you home.
  • When it comes to flights, apps like Hopper or Google Flights are really helpful at tracking the lowest priced flights. Our experience with Virgin Atlantic was amazing. They gave us two free alcoholic beverages and like three meals, plus a free checked back and they didn’t give us any shit for having to carry our guitars on board.
  • Flying with your gear: I will throw a temper tantrum if an airline won’t let me carry my guitar on. Luckily, I haven’t had to do this. Your gear is usually considered a larger “personal item,” and if they don’t have room in a closet or overhead in the flight cabin, they will gate check it (put it under the plane and then return it to you immediately when you get off the plane). When I have a larger road case for my guitar pedals and I pack my pedals into my carry on backpack and pack my clothing into the pedal board and switch the contents of the bags when I arrive. It’s easier to replace clothes than guitar pedals if the airline loses it!  
  • Ask around when finding a rental/tour manager. We were originally quoted almost double the amount of what it cost from a friend’s recommendation. If you don’t know anyone, find bands at your level who have done similar tours and reach out to ask if they know any reliable and affordable TM/van/rental hires.
  • Food
    • Cheapest beer/wine lives at Aldi.
    • Tesco pesto pasta is a Sharkmuffin favorite. We are a fan of their meal deals.
    • Indian food and Thai food are the best! There’s even a “curry mile” in Manchester of only Indian food restaurants.

INTERVIEW: Women That Rock @ Brooklyn Bazaar

Last week on Friday the 13th at Brooklyn Bazaar, Women That Rock put together their first GIG LIKE A GYRL summer extravaganza showcasing women in punk rock & other DIY music scenes, women of color and LGBTQ+ artists & musicians. The stacked lineup included GYMSHORTS, Sharkmuffin, Sister Munch, Monte, Lady Bits, Strange Parts & DJ Jess Louise Dye (of High Waisted), and you also could have gotten your first Friday the 13th tattoo, take goofy (or spooky) photos in the PhotoBooth, and browse through the special pop-up night market featuring apparel, jewelry, art & more creations by local female artists.

We chatted with some of the bands who played below about everything from their bands spirit animal and their favorite release this year to what they would like to change about society today…


What’s your bands spirit animal?

Our bands spirit animal is andy milonakis!!

What’s your favorite single/ep/album to come out in 2018 so far?

lalalala just released a song/video off their new album thats coming out in september and its fucking awesome! Its called destroyer and the album is called the lamb!!!



What was the last CD you ever bought?

Well, I recently bought a CD from this awesome band from Vermont called Clever Girls!  

What’s your favorite NYC venue to play & why?

A lot of the venues I used to love playing no longer exist, but I used to have a lot of fun at Trash Bar.  It was the right amount of grunge, grit, and grime for a Brooklyn punk centric venue. Currently, the new Knitting Factory BK is my new favorite venue.  The room is large,the sound is great and the staff is friendly. All good vibes from the knit!

Monte’s debut single out July 20th!

Lady Bits

If your band were to replace the cast on any television show, which show would it be?

Arrested Development:

Krishanti – Lucille 2

Adriana – Maeby Funke

Kat – George Michael Bluth (I like the way they think…)

What is your favorite part of playing live?

There’s a different energy every time we play, which makes it exciting. The room, the stage, the crowd, the other bands – all of these elements contribute to our performance and make every song feel new and special. Everyone is lost in the moment together at the same time, and it’s exhilarating to create that space.

Stange Bits

If your band were a fast food restaurant, which would it be?

  • Strange Parts is definitely an Arby’s. My bandmate Corey has written several books on the chain and has the hat tattooed on his chest.

What do you think the most important thing that should change in our society/culture right now? 

  • erase all borders

  • dismantle the prison industrial complex

  • pay women of color fair wages

  • eliminate single-use plastic

 DJ Jessica Dye

What’s your favorite meme?

What EP/Album are you most excited about being released in 2018?
The new Sunflower Bean record won my heart over. So in love with “Twenty Two in Blue”


SXSW 2018: Rock or Die V with Little Dickman Records

Chris and Amy Dickman of Jersey Shore Indie label Little Dickman Records have been taking good care of bands in Austin for five years now. Their unofficial events showcase badass touring bands from all over the country as well as the bands with releases on their label. We talked to them about how the festival has changed over the years, the challenges of being a promoter at SXSW and why they keep coming back.

AF: Tell us about your showcases and some of the bands you’re most excited to see this year.

LD: This year is our 5th year in Austin throwing unofficial SXSW Rock or Die showcases and we can’t believe it! We have two unofficial showcases and six bands we have worked with are OFFICIAL SXSW showcasing artists this year!  That’s huge.

We are stoked for Wednesday 3/15, Hard Luck Lounge, nine bands, including Stuyedeyed, Grim Streaker, Pink Mexico, Ex-Girlfriends, Dentist, Gustaf, Old Lady, John Wesley Coleman III, and Shred Flinstone.

Saturday we are teaming up with our favorite friends over at CoolDad Music and Garden State Beardos to bring a killer Day party to Valhalla w/ The Gloomies, Dentist, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, BOYTOY, Kino Kimino, High Waisted, Sharkmuffin, Honduras & Fruit & Flowers.

AF: What’s your favorite food truck at SXSW?

LD: This is gonna sound very lazy, but every year I find one I like, and I either forget the name of it or I remember and when I come back the next year it’s in a totally different place (maybe ’cause its a food TRUCK?) so I don’t make it back. But at least we are finding a new one every year. Just a few I remember: Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Tapas Bravas, the killer breakfast taco truck that used to be on East 6th but now I can’t find….

AF: How did you get started booking showcases at SXSW? Why do you keep coming back?

LD: We just decided to go for it and take the chance. Even though no one really knew us yet, we didn’t care – we wanted to get out and be a part of something, so we said F-it and it paid off! We met many wonderful people down there. If we hadn’t started going our lives would be much different.

AF: What are your favorite and least favorite SXSW memories? Does it get easier or more difficult booking and taking care of so many bands each year at SXSW?

LD: My least favorite memory is showing up to a venue and them not having a sound system when we were told they had a top of the line system, so the fall out that happened after that wasn’t my fav.

A great memory was asking INVSN with Dennis Lyxzen of Refused to play and they showed up and put on a  hell of a surprise show! Also, getting to meet the Mrs. Magician dudes. I think just getting to hang and see people we’ve worked with play great shows is the best feeling ever.

AF: How has the festival changed over the years and what would you like to see more or less of this year or in the future?

LD: The first year we were there it had HUGE acts – I think it was the year Lady Gaga, Kanye, etc. were there. I think it had gotten out of hand. There was also a bad accident that killed someone. Since then I have seen it become a little more more up-and-coming acts instead of trying to pack in the big names, which obviously feels better to us. It also gotten warmer each year….we will see what happens this year!

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Little Dickman SXSW Family Photo 2017[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


I’ve been called a masochist for going to Austin, TX’s South By South West festival so many years in a row. SXSW 2018 will be my eighth return trip and this year I’ll be an official artist with all three of my projects – Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends and Kino Kimino – totaling 17 sets in five days. Aside from the direct coffee IV I’ll be dragging around with me during the week, I’ll be taking my vitamins, (maybe) avoiding day drinking and eating at a lot of food trucks.

Navigating the music industry’s spring break for the first time can seem like a daunting task, so to help ease your South By South Stress, we talked to festival rookies Def.Grls and veterans Dentist, Leggy, and Boytoy, who have each made as many return trips to Austin as me.

Def.Grls (Brooklyn, NY)

AF: What about SXSW are you most excited about?

Mark: I’m most excited for all of the rock and roll, all of the debauchery, for all of the drugs, for all of the emotions and that I’m gonna win the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!

Craig: I’m most excited to visit the city of Austin for the first time. I’m excited for my first ever SXSW experience. I’m excited for Mark to do all the drugs and feel all the emotions. And I can’t wait to win the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!

Hannah: I’m most excited for my first ever tour and that I get to be with the GRLS! I’m also excited to play a house show on the way at Carl Fike’s house in Little Rock!!! I’m also most excited by how Craig is already negative points in the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!

AF: What was booking your first tour like?

Craig: Hannah was the mastermind behind this tour so we’ll let her field this one.

Hannah: It was really confusing and hard and fun! And mostly successful due to the kindness of strangers on the internet. I went to bandcamp and listened to, like, infinity bands in the different cities that would maybe make sense to stop at along the way, and when I found one I really liked, I reached out being like “Hey, you wanna be friends??” And they all put me in touch with a second or third or fourth person who helped us set up all the shows along the way. So freaking cool and friendly.

AF: What SXSW shows are you playing?

Def.GRLS: We’re playing 4 unofficial showcases in Austin! Starting things off with a daytime set on Wednesday the 14th at the 6th annual Uglyfest at Cherrywood Coffeehouse and then playing again that night at the Nochebuena in Space party at Stay Gold! Then on Thursday the 15th, we’re playing on the Midcoast Takeover stage at Shangri-la (where Hannah’s brother is running sound!). Then on Saturday the 17th we’re going to wrap up our time in Austin at the Indicate Interest day party showcase at Hops and Grain!

AF: How are you going to pass the time on the road on your way to Texas?

Craig: We love to do Madlibs, listen to Aqua…

Mark: …pray to Ihop (rule #23 in the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!)

Craig: …gossiping about our frenemies. But mostly participation in the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup is very demanding of our mind, body and soul.

Hannah: So true. The official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup tests each GRL’s mental, physical and psychic strengths. It says so right on the first page:

Mark: Hannah’s in the lead. But I’m gonna win. 4glory!!



Dentist (Asbury Park, NJ)

AF: What’s your favorite food truck / venue in Austin?

Our experience is somewhat limited at this point, but when we were there in 2016 we really enjoyed playing at the Hard Luck Lounge because they had a great outdoor section and a food truck outside with very tasty snacks. We always like playing outside when it’s nice out.

AF: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at SXSW?

One of the days when we were hanging out and drinking, we ended up at some cowboy bar and this older guy, probably in his 60s or 70s, asked me to square dance with him. Turns out he must have been a professional or something. Even though I frequently line danced to “Achy Breaky Heart” in middle school during gym class, I couldn’t keep up and had to sit down after 15 minutes or so.  Not sure how crazy that is, but it’s a funny memory that comes to mind.

AF: What are your tips for surviving SXSW?

I think it’s all about a mindset. Normally at a certain point you would say to yourself, “I’m tired, time to go home,” but you just have to tell yourself that it’s only one week, and you can find time to sleep at some other point in the future.

AF: What showcases are you playing, and what showcases or bands are you the most excited to go see?

Our official showcase is at BD Riley’s on March 15th at 10pm. Then we are playing two awesome unofficial shows with amazing lineups; the first one is March 15th starting at 4pm at Hard Luck Lounge and is presented by Little Dickman Records, the other is presented by Little Dickman Records, CoolDad Music, and Garden State Beards and is at Valhalla on March 17th starting at 11am. We are down to take on more stuff, so if anyone reading is doing a showcase and wants to reach out, go for it! We are really excited to see Wavves, Andrew W.K, Sharkmuffin, Parrot Dream, Fruit and Flowers, Ex Girlfriends, Pink Mexico, Beams, Albert Hammond Jr., Anna Burch, High Waisted, Kino Kimino, Boytoy, Grace Vonderkuhn and a bunch more I’m sure.


Boytoy (Brooklyn, NY)

AF: What’s your favorite food truck / venue in Austin?

Hotel Vegas always has rad stuff going on. If we’re not playing a show we usually end up just hanging around there. We love the Bloody Marys at Rio Rita’s. Cheer Up Charlie’s is always a good show. And Spider House.

AF: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at SXSW?

Chase: I MET MY TOP HEROES IN THE SAME DAY! I woke up and saw Michelle Obama speak on a panel, kissed Iggy Pop’s hand, saw the late Leon Russell play, and ran into Erykah Badu like three times.

Sara: Glenn and I did acid and watched Jacuzzi Boys play at Hotel Vegas. Everyone around us was so drunk and destroying the tree in the yard and that’s where I think it went downhill for Glenn. We went to see Sheer Mag play a show on a foot bridge at like 2am. The bridge was definitely swaying and Glenn kept checking the date the bridge was constructed thinking if it was gonna collapse she had her exit plan.

AF: What are your tips for surviving SXSW?

Adderall and day drinking. Don’t try to overachieve on show hopping. It’s usually better to pick a showcase and stay put for a few hours to avoid all the chaos.

AF: What showcases are you playing and what showcases or bands are you the most excited to go see?

This year is going to be crazy for us! We’re doing Burgerama, Wienermania, Desert Daze, Pond Magazine, Cult Citizen, Quit Your Day Job, Onward Indian, Little Dickman, Siren Sounds, Panache Hangover, and a couple of house parties.

Our schedule is so crazy that I’m not sure we’ll be able to have much free time to see other shows! Basically just the bands that will be playing right around our set times, so it’s cool most of them are our friends. We’ve found it’s better to stumble into thing rather than try to plan a schedule. The random finds are always the most gratifying. Chase wants to catch Princess Nokia.

Leggy (Cincinnati, OH)

AF: What’s your favorite food truck / venue in Austin?

I really like the Whip In! We played there one SXSW – it’s a corner store, bar, venue, and Indian food restaurant combo. Pretty dank. Spider House and Cheer Up Charlies are also really great and beautiful.

AF: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at SXSW?

We once rented a one bedroom apartment with three other bands, and that also included their assorted roadies, pals, and makeout partners. It was something like 22 people in there. Pretty amazing that anyone found a place to smooch! ;)

AF: What are your tips for surviving SXSW?

Go with the flow. Don’t be stressed if you can’t stick to a laid out plan of bands you want to see – things are crazy but fun! Always budget more time than you think you’ll need to make it to shows, especially if you’re playing. Austin is HOT! Bring sunscreen and summer clothes. Talk to everyone and make friends. You’ll probably see them again next year!!!

AF: What showcases are you playing & what showcases / bands are you the most excited to go see?

Shows Leggy is playing:
3/12 Strange Brew at Volstead Lounge @ 5:45pm
3/13 Ground Floor Booking showcase at Love Goat @ 7pm
3/13 Room 484 Showcase at Fine Southern Gentlemen @ 11:45pm
3/14 Outer Orbit Booking Showcase at Stay Gold @ 11pm
3/15 Grey Estates Showcase at Voodoo Donut @ 3:30pm
3/15 That’s What She Said Showcase at 1811 Rosewood @ 8pm
3/15 Howdy Gals Showcase at Hole in the Wall @ 10:30pm
3/16 Escapes House Party @ 5pm
3/17 Burgermania at Hotel Vegas @ 5:45pm
3/17 Howdy Gals Party at Beerland @ 10pm

I’m most excited to check out the Old Flame Records Showcase at Swan Dive on 3/17 to catch some pals from Cincinnati (Lung and Dawg Yawp). I also really want to catch Say Sue Me (from Korea) because we are touring with them next month!

Make your band’s first or fifth trip to SXSW easier by…

  1. Finding your place to crash well in advance. Airbnbs can be $600 (or more!)  a night. If you’re stuck sleeping in your van, there’s a nice lobby at the downtown Hilton where I’ve taken many mid-day naps while charging my phone.
  2. Packing Light. You’ll be out all day, so other than your music equipment you’ll only want a light (possibly free if you’re official) backpack.
  3. Putting your name, phone number and/or some kind of unique look on all your gear. There are so many bands’ shit lying around,  it’s good to be able to easily and quickly identify your own stuff.
  4. Keeping business cards & stickers handy.
  5. Making time to see bands you wouldn’t normally see in your hometown. SXSW is all about the parties, but it’s also a great time to network and connect with folks from DIY scenes in other cities.
  6. Drinking lots of water. SXSW is one massive day drinking contest. You can win if you remember to hydrate!


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Caro reads about her next tour date in Rolling Stone. Photo by Jose Berrio

While I was dancing around my middle school bedroom screaming into a hairbrush dreaming of my future rock stardom, I had no idea how many spreadsheets and e-mails I would have to send to make it happen. Even after you’ve spent hours in front of your laptop booking your tour, it’s not over yet. You may already be a rock star, but now it’s time to make sure the world (or at least the cities you’re touring to) know just how much of a rock star you are! It’s time for the insanely tedious task of tour press.

In college I was lucky enough to intern at Girlie Action and learn how to do basic press for my band Sharkmuffin to help us get off the ground, and I have also done some freelance PR for friends’ bands under the name Sugarmama Bk. It’s frustrating, time consuming, and lonely sending hundreds of emails into the black hole of the internet in hopes of getting even one response. When I hit a wall with my contacts and had some extra funds, Sharkmuffin was able to work with some amazing publicists like Melissa at Citybird PR, Jillian (now at Big Hassle) & Meijin (Rocker Stalker) at EIPR and Debbie at Girlie Action who have helped build the band’s reputation and get more people out to our shows over the years. Here are some of their thoughts on how to do tour promotion successfully.

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Deb Pressman of Girlie Action

“My advice is do your research. Find out who is writing about bands you enjoy/tour with/respect. Follow them on socials to get to know them even more – many of them will have their email address in their bio! Only use one platform to contact them, and email is always best. In your email, have as much information as possible without being too wordy. Make sure your subject line is informative. Do not follow up right away – give the writers/editors time to ingest the music. Don’t follow up too much. Silence might equal a pass. Most importantly, treasure/respect even the small blogs!” – Deb Pressman, Girlie Action

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Jillian Santella of Big Hassle Media

“I’d say that for a band going on the road, if you’re really looking to elevate and make an impact, hiring a publicist is really helpful. Numerous reasons, the most important one being that you want to be able to focus on the music! It can be so daunting to try to do it all, and often when you spread yourself too thin, everything starts to suffer, including your health. And we all know how hard – and important! – it is to stay healthy on the road. Also, we already have a lot of relationships and knowledge of the market.

If it’s a situation where working with a publicist isn’t in the cards, I think the most important thing is to bring your A-game to every opportunity. Treat everything, even an interview with a small local blog, like it’s the cover of Rolling Stone. Treat everyone like they’re Jimmy Fallon, every performance opp (local TV, online sessions, etc.) like it’s your late night debut. Be kind and gracious. Introduce yourself to absolutely everyone – bloggers, influencers, interns! Don’t believe the ‘nice guys finish last’ thing.

All in all, hustle. Take care of yourself, rock your ass off, make enough noise and people will start to pay attention. “ – Jillian Santella, Big Hassle Media

Sugar Mama Bk Tour Promotion Tips

  • DIY Tour Press
      • Research: Find all the newspapers, blogs, and zines in each city you’re heading to and find the writers that cover music that is similar to yours. Stalk them and find their e-mails (usually on the ‘contact’ page).
      • Press Kit: Consists of your band’s photo, bio, music/video links, social media links, tour dates. Check out this example of Sharkmuffin’s presser for handy reference!
      • Canned E-mail: Create a template e-mail pitch that has blank spaces for the writer’s name (“Hey ___”), the name of the publication you’re pitching to and the Date/Venue/City you’re playing in to fill in accordingly. Include a summarized version of your press kit in the body of the e-mail. Try to make these messages as personalized (and as brief) as possible. Writers and editors get hundreds of emails every day so do not be offended if they don’t respond!
      • Know what you’re pitching for. The types of coverage a blog will do can vary, but generally speaking they’ll fall into one of several categories…
        • Feature: One page or longer on the band, usually includes an interview and/or photo shoot, for which you’re responsible for setting up and making happen. Should pitch 3-4 weeks before show.
        • Profile: Longer than a paragraph about the artist, can include an interview/quote from the artist, also use as a preview for the show. Should pitch 2-3 weeks before the show.
        • Preview: More than one sentence about the artist that includes a listing for the show, usually with a photo. Previews can also be linked to features/profiles/mp3 or album reviews.
        • Reviews: A review of your last release or the release you’re touring around, alongside the date you’re playing in their city.
        • Live Reviews: A review of your live set – you can invite writers to your show and give them a guest list spot.
      • Local Radio: Same rules apply for research. You can pitch to have an interview or play an in-studio performance on their show, for them to talk about your show and give away tickets, or to just play one of your songs.
      •  Timing
        • One month before your tour: Send an e-mail blast announcing your dates to give everyone a heads up. Sometimes you’ll get responses right away!
        • Personalized follow-ups start about a week later (3 weeks before your tour).
        • Guest Lists: Usually sent to the venue prior to the show for writers and/or photographers who are interested in doing a live review of your set. Try to also set up an interview with them. Aside from press, guest spots are generally reserved for family members or whoever your bandmate is trying to fuck.

Even if you’re not handling press entirely on your own, you can still be proactive about promotion. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind even if you’ve got help from a professional PR team.

  1. Advancing Shows: Know your schedule (load in, set times, backline) and find out about the other bands playing so you can tag everyone. Make friends with the bands you’re sharing a bill with in advance and make sure they’re inviting their friends, since that will be the main draw you’ll have in a town you’ve never been before.
  2. Social Media: Have your tour dates as easily accessible as possible. Put them on your website, Facebook, Twitter, and Bands in Town (or any other touring app). Make sure that there is a Facebook event for each show and a Facebook event that links all the other events for the entire tour. Promote each show on all your social outlets in advance.
  3. Tour Poster: Is someone in your band a graphic designer? Have them or one of your artistic friends make a poster with all your dates. Print a limited amount on nice card stock to sell on the road and/or print paper ones with space at the bottom to write in the specific date of the specific show to mail to each venue so they can hang them up in the bathroom or window or wherever their regular patrons will see it.

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    Poster by Jose Berrio of Fruit & Flowers
  4. Be nice to your Publicist: If you have the privilege of a budget and can hire a publicist, understand that it’s a ton of work and be respectful and grateful for them. Try not to have crazy expectations. Especially for new bands on their first tour, appreciate every single person that will cover you no matter what the size of the outlet. Try not to get upset with your publicist; they love you and have the best intentions. Remember they’re dealing with the endless void of Internet media and are trying their absolute best for you and your career.
  5. Promoting Press: Don’t forget to promote whatever press, regardless of how small, on all of your social media channels and thank every writer and blog and credit every photographer. Keep in touch! Gratitude really does make a difference.


AF 2017 IN REVIEW: Hardest Working DIY Bands on Tour in 2017

Vanessa Silberman (LA)

Over 200 shows

Vanessa Silberman is nothing less than a super human. She has been on the road since January, totaling about ten tours solo, as a two piece with LA transplant via Madison drummer Dave Boson, and as a three piece (the Vanessa Silverman Band) featuring Reed Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity and musician/producer Mikel Ross. She’s also toured as a two piece with Jimmy Dias of San Francisco band The Love Dimension, featuring their friends and different musicians from around the country.

Silberman only took one week off to record a band in Chicago in February (she’s also an engineer/producer!) and also a few weeks off to write and do pre-production work. Of her 200 shows this year (including TV/radio/press ops), for 75 of them Silberman was on double duty playing drums for The Love Dimension and for a few of those shows she even played a third set backing Boston rocker Carissa Johnson.

Top 3 Cities: That’s hard!! Ok right now Los Angeles, Shreveport & Boston

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Buckeys, Wawa, Cumberland Farms, Loves, Panera Bread, Chipotle

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

There are so so many crazy things that happen on tour… My top crazy story and positive outcome was probably when me and Jimmy played in El Paso and had to get to Fort Worth for a show the next night so we had to drive after the show. We were driving, I fell as sleep and at about 5am Jimmy woke me up and noticed something wrong with the van (it wasn’t going past 50 miles an hour). We ended up finding a mechanic a few hours away in the middle of Texas (praying the car would get there as we drove), slept a few hours til they opened and found out the whole engine needed to be replaced but they couldn’t get the engine ordered and received til four days later. There was no place to rent a car in the entire town! We couldn’t believe it. So we had no choice but to drive the van on the highway as slow as we could and pray we could get to the nearest town with a car rental, leave the van to be fixed and come back and get it. Amazingly we did and just barely made our Fort Worth show (we were supposed to open but instead closed the night!) and then played four other shows the next few days in Texas. We drove back East after the car was fixed and just made it to our Houston show. We never missed one show or had to cancel!

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

I love connecting with people, fans and other artists on a very intimate level when it’s smaller DIY shows. The connection is so direct. It’s also absolutely one of the most fulfilling things I have ever felt because I pretty much do everything myself (booking, driving, marketing, social media, performing, etc.) on my solo tours. When you do it alone, at least for me, I find a belief in my music, in what I do. I’m willing to drive any amount of miles and put in any amount of work to share that. I feel empowered and I hope other artists read this and know if they’re willing to put in the work they can tour too!

The least favorite thing is at times it’s a bit difficult to balance other things in your life – personal time, personal care and relationships – because the work load is unreal, especially if you are constantly touring. It’s such a particular lifestyle and most people aren’t willing to put in the work and you really notice it when you play with other artists around the country when you tour so much. But I’m so grateful and feel lucky every day that I can do this.

Vanessa Silberman Tour Tips

For bands who are just starting out, start with weekend runs around where you live. I recommend planning a tour three months in advance; if you’re gonna do your own press, announce shows four or five weeks in advance. For more info and touring tips, is a great touring database, and you can also check out my artist development label


The Accidentals (MI)

187 shows

30 weeks

The Accidentals have averaged about 240 shows a year for the past 3 years, but even after chilling out a little bit they still are the second highest DIY touring band on this list! They’ve hit every state in the U.S. except Hawaii and Alaska, finding and developing their audiences where their music resonates the most. It takes a while to find where a new band’s biggest support will be and The Accidentals are touring smart by hitting the places who demand them the most!

Top 3 Cities: That’s a tough question.  We have more than three. If we had to choose though, it’d be Denver, Grand Rapids, and Chicago.  We kind of have homes away from home in those cities and people very organically support live music and turn out for our shows. They also have really great restaurants (the food is important to us). The venues in those cities feed us well! Phoenix, Albany, Ann Arbor, Seattle, Boston, Austin, Columbus, Fort Wayne would be in the top ten.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Every time we see a Sheetz, everyone in the van collectively cheers.  They have decent sandwiches and coffee in the dead of night. As far as fast food is concerned, we try to avoid it. We let ourselves have ONE Taco Bell stop for the entire tour.  One really great thing about our fans is that they know we are really trying to stay well on a 70 day tour so they’ll send us Panera gift cards and Whole Foods cards in the mail…so we’ve seen a lot of Panera and Whole Foods – thankful for that.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

We have put 230,000 miles on Black Betty in the last three years. On the last tour she broke down 4 times and we lost our brand new trailer. The craziest breakdown was at the peak of Vail pass, an hour and half from Denver, at midnight. We stopped to cool down before heading down the mountain pass and the van computer shut down the vehicle completely due to overheating. We lost all the power (including the lights). There were semi-trucks flying by us 70mph and they couldn’t see us, because we were in a black van in the middle of the night with no lights. Luckily, we got ahold of a 24 foot bed tow truck, and the driver stuffed all 7 of us (band and crew) into the cab, with the van and trailer and all our gear on the bed and flew down the mountain at 85mph scaring the crap out of our tour manager in the bucket seat. We made it to Denver at 2:30am and then proceeded to drop the van at a GMC dealership to get fixed, only to be swarmed by police who thought we were stealing our own van! We finally made it to our host home an hour or so later. Thankfully, our “host mom” made us pizza and gave our manager tequila (at that point, she really needed it).

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Touring is living in extremes all the time. The best part is definitely traveling the country, seeing amazing landscapes and meeting amazing people. It really allows us the opportunity to experience things we’d never get to do if we didn’t play music full time. Our least favorite things about touring are gas station bathrooms and missing time with people back home. We exist on the opposite schedule of everyone we love, and it can be really hard to maintain your relationships along with keeping yourself emotionally, physically and mentally healthy on and off the road. In the end, it’s really important to prioritize, balance, and manage your time wisely.

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B.Hockensmith Photography

The Accidentals Touring Tips

Here’s a comprehensive bullet list of things you’ll need to bring on tour and prepare ahead of time.

  • EZ Pass – so your van can fly through those tolls with no time to waste.
  • GPS – because we’re directionally challenged.
  • Hotel Chain Memberships – so you can get hotels for a discount or rack up points.
  • AAA Roadside – 8 breakdowns on the last tour.  We’re on a first-name basis with them now.
  • Neck pillow
  • Podcasts – We recommend Song Exploder, RadioLab, 99% Invisible, and Meet the Composer.
  • Books – Start reading a book on the road and make sure you still have some chapters left of it when you get home. It builds consistency from one part of your life to the other.
  • Waze App – This app will show you what kind of construction work and traffic jams are along the route.
  • Expedia App – Adding up these points will get you flight/hotel discounts.
  • AirBNB – Homes away from home!
  • Trip Advisor – They always list the coolest restaurants.
  • Google Maps – Just in case your GPS stops being nice or you’re in Canada.
  • Water bottles – It’s good to have one that you can use over and over, but just in case you lose it, keep a 24 pack of extra waters in the van.
  • Protein bars
  • Some sort of multi-tool – Mine is one I got for $10 at a Cracker Barrel in Pennsylvania. It has a hammer on it!

Some general advice: Book your hotels before midnight. Advance your shows a week out. Check the venues’ websites to make sure your times are right, and to find out who was booked alongside you. Carve out some sight-seeing. Be honest with each other. Ask for what you need. ​

(Interview by Sav Buist)

The Coax (MN/NY)

116 Shows

18 Weeks

I met The Coax  and their incredible purple velvet tour van this year at SXSW. They came to all the Little Dickman Records showcases, stayed on the ranch in Austin with us, and soon after they released a split 7″ with High Waisted on LDR and did another massive six week tour. These guys are the sweetest down-to-Earth dudes who will play slap the bag around a camp fire any day.

Top 3 Cities: We have been fortunate enough to have more cities that we enjoy playing than cities that we don’t. I think New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis are the big three for us, but we have met some of the most amazing people in unassuming towns like Lawrence, KS, Fayetteville, AR, Sioux Falls, SD, Saratoga Springs, NY, Springfield, MO, Denton, TX. 

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Wawa takes the cake on this one. The buffalo chicken mac and cheese has fueled us through quite a few night drives. 

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

I feel like all of the (negative) crazy stuff happened to us in our first year of touring. We were a little more reckless then. Not so experienced on the road. I think it’s crazy how many awesome bands we got to see and become friends with this year. The number of towns we got to explore that we’ve never been to. The amount of burritos we ate. We saw the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Lake Superior… twice! We went to five different Six Flags. We played right AFTER King Gizzard at Mohawk in ATX. Now, that’s fucking crazy.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring? 

The best thing about DIY touring is definitely the intimacy. It’s all about the hang. I feel like that is something that is missed on the bigger stage. The relationships you make with fans, promoters, and other bands doing it yourself are incredibly valuable and satisfying. 

The worst thing about DIY touring is definitely being broke. That shit sucks. 

The Coax Touring Tips

Work hard. Don’t give up. Make it happen. If it’s truly what you love to do then you will find a way. Sleep in the van. Get dirty. Make sacrifices. Make friends. Make rad music. Drink Hamms.

(Interview by Tom Lescovich)


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photo by Christina Salgar Saieh

Fruit & Flowers (NYC)

About 100 shows

11 Weeks

It’s no secret Fruit & Flowers are my buds. We went on tour together last February with my band Ex-Girlfriends, driving from Brooklyn to California in less than four days, touring up the West Coast and then driving straight from our final show in Seattle, WA to Austin, TX (I got off the bus is LA), only making one stop for the night at their drummer’s sister’s house in San Francisco. They’re the only band on this list that is also on Oh My Rockness’ Hardest Working Bands in NYC of 2017 list, which seems like an impossible feat.

Top 3 Cities: Ana Becker: Other than New York? I’d say Athens, GA, Toronto, and either Nashville or Chicago.

Jose Berrio: Austin is also really fun.

Caroline Yoder: Athens Certainly.  Nashville has its moments. Chicago. Canada, at large.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: AB: Favorite gas station chain is Love’s – one time I left my wallet in one, and they found it and mailed it back to me, everything still inside!

CY: Not a big fast food person. Does Waffle House count? Definitely Waffle House. We can usually make Subway or Taco Bell work in desperate measures. Gas stations in old towns are the best. Any gas station with coffee and a decent bathroom must not go unappreciated.

Lyzi Wakefield: Allsups has the best burritos.

JB: My favorite gas stations are always the smaller ones, usually surrounded by trees or old houses in the middle of nowhere. I particularly remember one in a tiny solitary town called Blakesburg, in Iowa. Great characters.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

AB: I’m sure I’m forgetting many crazy moments, but the one that sticks out the most in my memory is when I made a cop shake my hand in the middle of the night in Oklahoma. I won’t get into the surrounding circumstances, but that was a REALLY close call.

LW: Night swimming in Athens. Driving from San Fran to Austin without rest.

JB: Somebody stole my backpack with a lot of stuff in it (including my passport) at a SXSW show. The next day a random woman messaged me on Facebook claiming she had found my passport. We set a meeting at a gas station on a highway near to where I was and I got it back.

Also, on our West Coast Tour the drummer of the other band we were touring with quit in the middle of the trip, so I had to fill in for the remaining shows. It was fun.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

AB: I have so many favorite things. I love the feeling of freedom, and when it’s all going well, feeling like the band is a team and that together we can do anything. Something about seeing a road stretched out ahead is very inspiring in that way. I love playing music in a new city every night, the people you meet, and the special bonds you form that way. My least favorite thing is the significant strain on my mental health. It also makes me sad to be apart from my partner.

LW: Favorite: we do it by our own standards and terms. Seeing old friends across the country. Least favorite: it’s almost impossible to make $$.

JB: I like the uncertainty of not always knowing where you are going to sleep. That usually leads to meeting super nice people and seeing really cool places. Least favorite thing is, as Lyzi said, how hard it is to make money.

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Photo by Jose Berrio Lesmes

Fruit & Flowers Touring Tips

AB: Eat some vegetables occasionally and attempt to exercise. Keep journals. Read books in the van instead of messing around on facebook. Don’t freak out. Check the spreadsheet!!!

JB: If you have an analogue camera, make sure to check if it has batteries before you start taking photos. Last tour I shot four rolls that came out blank after developing. Also, as Ana said, keep journals. Make copies of important documents and put them in safe places (in case somebody steals your backpack).

CY: Go to a good grocery store and stock up on necessary food and beer. Keep extra pillows, batteries, tools and blankets handy. Change the oil on time. Have a decent stereo and listen to good podcasts and explore fresh music, new and old.  

LW: Maintain a good attitude. Read. Take your space if you need it. Do your own thing now and again.

High Waisted

Over 100 Shows

10 Weeks

I was lucky enough to catch High Waisted and The Coax play their the final show of a six-week run together in Saratoga Springs, NY at a small jazz bar called One Caroline. The last day of tour can sometimes be the worst – everyone is exhausted, possibly sick of each other and eager to get home. Even if this were the case, it didn’t affect their fun, high-energy show one bit. They play 100% no matter what. This really comes as no surprise as they’ve been named the ‘Best Party Band’ by GQ and host an annual rock ‘n’ roll booze cruise in NYC that is highly recommended!

Top 3 Cities: We love Austin, D.C. and Chicago. But our favorite state is Ohio!

Favorite Gas Station & Fast Food Chain: I have an unhealthy love for Taco Bell and they have options for all dietary needs. Wawas are the best gas stations!

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

We were never late and managed to stay healthy and happy. But there were other memorable moments. We retired our first tour van after 350,000 miles, we watched the sunset sitting on top of a giant dune in white sands, we saw a man get arrested for assault in Texas, we spent two days in a double-wide trailer in Kentucky when our van broke down (thanks to the kindness of strangers), we went skinny dipping in the Pacific Ocean for my birthday, we survived getting hit by another car going 70 mph at dawn in Alabama and we drove through Death Valley in the summer with no AC.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

My favorite thing is the faith we place in strangers all over the country. Tour is one big trust fall. Perhaps I’m jaded but the kindness and support we’re met with will never cease to amaze me. My least favorite thing about DIY touring is the lack of accountability. If a venue owner or promoter is a total sleazebag there’s not really a network in place to protect you or other bands from facing the same bad fortune.

High Waisted Tour Tips

Bring a cooler and grocery shop. Always have baby wipes and paper towels in the van. Use sites like Priceline to score cheap hotels after shows – bonus if you can book ones with pools and hot tubs. Always bring valuable gear in overnight or have someone sleep in the van. Don’t travel with drugs. Don’t drink and drive.

Pre-download movies and albums to your phone for dead zones. Make yourself read and write every day. Be kind to your bandmates even if you’re cranky – the group morale is always more important than your own. Put the group first and they’ll take care of you. Play every show at 100%, even if there’s only eight people watching – they still deserve your best performance. Treat tour like vacation; find fun things to sightsee in every town so your days are more than just time spent in bars. Take photos and keep a journal. Lastly, stay grateful and appreciative of your opportunity.

(Interview by Jessica Dye)


A Deer A Horse (NYC)

99 Shows Booked and 95 Played

(4 cancellations due to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey)

16 Weeks

I met A Deer A Horse in 2016 in Nashville during the peak of my mid-tour drunken meltdown triggered by leaving my tote bag with my wallet and everything else important to me inside of it at a gas station somewhere between Georgia and Tennessee (which was later sent to my mom’s house by a good samaritan). A Deer A Horse’s music is dark, sludgy and serious but by hanging out with them that night and the following day they helped to cheer me up and pull me out of that unhappy situation. Thanks guys!

Top 3 Cities: We have 4 because we’re too keen….

  • Austin, TX: it’s a great scene filled with close friends. The audiences are always massively supportive, and they really seem dedicated and attentive.

  • Chicago, IL: one of the best scenes in US with crazy spaces to play. You can definitely feel a unique scene when you’re there, which isn’t always the case in big cities.

  • Norfolk, VA: a hidden gem for us. The audiences are always amazing and supportive, and we’ve made a lot of good friends there since we played our first gig in town.

  • St. Louis, MO: STL feels like a city on fire. It’s a city that really comes together in hard times. The city is going through a lot of internal struggles, but when you’re there you feel like part of the scene, which feels like one big family.

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: For gas stations, Tim Horton’s in Canada is a rad hoser delicacy. For food, we normally buy groceries at Trader Joe’s or local markets/co-ops to save money and eat healthy. But we did drunkenly indulge, once or twice, in Taco Bell – except Dylan who was probably eating trail mix.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

It was like the Forrest Gump/current events tour of 2017. We were on the West Coast for the wildfires, in Salem, Oregon for the solar eclipse, Texas for Hurricane Harvey, Florida for Hurricane Irma, and St. Louis for widespread protests against rampant police brutality/corruption.

We also camped at Saddlehorn Canyon at Colorado National Monument.  It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places we have ever been.  We also got to swim in the most beautiful conditions at Pensacola Beach one day before Irma hit Florida.  It was surreal – you would never have known a hurricane was looming just hours off the coast.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Our favorite is the research you get to do into all of the scenes around the country. You learn about so many bands/venues/cities you would never have known about otherwise and you make amazing friends.

Not including the excessive driving, our least favorite part is the sheer amount of work you have to do. You really have to do everything yourself and stay on top of people just to ensure every gig goes smoothly. It’s exhausting. It would be a dream to have a booking agent, but not having one will not stop us from setting up and going on the road.

A Deer A Horse Tour Tips

Do whatever you have to do stay healthy mentally and physically. Get a big cooler and buy groceries and avoid eating road/fast food. Get gym memberships (ours are with Planet Fitness) so you can work out (get those gains, bruh) and (ProTipAlert) utilize their *24 hour* shower services.  Drink the booze in moderation or not at all most nights. And maybe most importantly, understand as a band that it’s important to have alone time on the road – take as much of it as you can, ideally outdoors, and you’ll love yourself and your bandmates more after doing it.

If you are at a place with your band where you want to start touring, start small.  Do weekends and short 5-7 day regional tours in order to build a fanbase close to home. Slowly branch out to 2-3 week tours, a little further away each time. Do a lot of those so you get to know your own and your bandmates’ personal needs. If you have any personal issues, DO NOT let them fester. Talk about them immediately before you develop resentments!

Also, we have learned the hard way many times that the only way to get shit done is to do it yourself – this is where DIY really holds meaning. No one is going to book the tour for you. We no longer rely on anyone we don’t know very very well to set shows up for us. Since having this realization, booking has gone way more smoothly and we have had very few shows fall through.

The Big Drops

61 Shows

5 Weeks

Following the release of  their debut album Time, Color, The Big Drops toured the U.S. and Canada, playing their fair share of hippie festivals, Sofar Sounds gigs, and duo sets. When I went to Canada to tour manage them, I was was quickly re-named tour ‘Mama-ger,’  their drummer caught a bad cold and turned into ‘Baby Grandpa’ (poor Baby Grandma!) and an exceptionally friendly man driving an Ottawa mail truck hit the right side mirror off of my van. But I swear I had a great time…

Top 3 Cities: Savannah GA, Montreal Canada, Harrisonburg VA

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Definitely Couche-Tard in Montreal. It’s a pretty off the chain, and has the best name of any gas station I’ve ever seen.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

During MacRock Festival in Harrisonburg, we walked into a super smokey smoke machine basement bar to some sort of sexually charged jungle music, and saw the frontman wearing a hockey mask and revving a chainsaw. The show was immediately shut down as soon as we got there.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

Being on tour is kind of like being on vacation. If you start working on your tour dates 3+ months in advance, you can typically just pick the cities you want to go to, and find a way to make a show happen there. Getting to experience new places via music is pretty awesome. If possible, try to set aside some time to enjoy the places you go!

Our least favorite thing about DIY touring is the amount of time and energy it takes to schedule, plan, and book all the dates yourself. You think, wouldn’t it be great if being in a band was all about being a musician?? But it is really rewarding to put together a good show, meet other cool bands and people who support your music.

The Big Drops Touring Tips

Tour is difficult for different people in different ways, so try to be extra considerate of your bandmates when on the road. Bring headphones, a book, something to keep you occupied while driving 5+ hours a day.

Getting sick on tour is no fun. Stay healthy! Don’t eat or drink too much garbage-y food. We usually bring a cooler packed with hummus, granola, nuts, apples, bananas, PB&J materials. Everyone in The Big Drops is pretty keen on eating raw garlic to keep us healthy and safe from estranged vampires.

Pack lightly, but bring extra socks. A small towel is useful for washing/ drying your face if you can’t take a shower. We also bring some essential oils like lavender or sage, so we emit a nice, pleasant odor.

(Interview by Greg & Vramshabouh)

Nihiloceros (NYC)

57 shows

4 weeks touring

Singer/guitarist Mike Borchardt of Nihiloceros is not only in one of the most hardworking touring bands, but is also the hardest working show-goer I’ve ever met. I see him at almost every show I attend, he takes 30+ photos of every band and then promptly uploads them to social media and tags everyone, helps promote shows when he can’t make them, and is super helpful in connecting touring musicians to other musicians/promoters/venues around the country when necessary. Thank you Mike, you’re awesome! This year his band transitioned from being Samantha (she’s dead) to Nihiloceros, released an EP, and in between being at every show possible in Brooklyn, also spent four weeks on the road.

Favorite Cities: Chicago IL, Philadelphia PA, Lawrence KS (and obviously Austin TX during SXSW)

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Food in Canada it’s Tim Horton’s, in the U.S. it’s probably Taco Bell, though we seem to hit more Dunkin Donuts than anything else. For gas, it’s whatever is around right before we run outta gas. We do love those big truck stop gas stations that have fast food and big gift shops with silly souvenirs – great time to get out of the car and stretch your legs. I always make a point to stop at the Iowa80 outside of Des Moines and Mars Cheese Castle driving between Chicago and Milwaukee.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year?

The craziest overall thing had to be our SAdpop tour in October where the 3 of us spent 2 weeks driving across the East Coast and Canada jammed into a Mini Cooper with all our stuff. That many miles stuck in a clown car will make everything crazy.

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?

The hardest thing about any DIY tour is the actual booking of it yourself. We use all our vacation and sick days from work for touring, so we really gotta maximize our time. It takes a lot of time working with venues and bands, getting dates confirmed in a geographical route that makes sense to drive, while also trying to book it so you don’t end up with too many wasted days off.

The best part though is meeting new bands and making new fans, exploring new cities, being inspired by new people outside of NYC… and hopefully inspiring something in them as well.

Nihiloceros Touring Tips

If you can share a leg of your tour with another band that is more well known in the area, that can really help a lot with some of the logistics like routing, confirming venues and places to stay. That didn’t end up working out for us on this year’s tours, but we are sharing a stretch of shows in the U.S. and Canada with another band next year which we are pretty excited about.

Oftentimes tours take you across varying temperatures, so bring proper layers for the season, and that extra hoodie or jacket will be better suited on your body or in your lap than taking up wasted space in your bag. Get really good at packing your gear efficiently before you hit the road, and then it’ll be a breeze every night fitting everything in the car. Apart from that, drink way more water than you think you need to, bring plenty of Advil PM which will help you sleep when you do get a chance to crash, and will double assist for the aches that come with playing every night, lugging gear, sleeping on couches/floors, and being crammed in the car for long stretches of time.

(Interview by MikeBorchardt)

Giantology (Chicago)

50  Shows

12 Weeks

I mentioned Giantology in one of my first Check The Spreadsheet columns, because I was so impressed with how their bassist, Gina Davalle, basically just picked up the bass guitar and then decided to go on tour for three months without having any previous touring experience. I also love their space suits and weirdo glasses.

Top 3 Cities: Austin, Portland, and Atlanta

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: LOVES is my favorite gas station/truck stop. McDonald’s would definitely be our fast food chain of choice. McDonald’s was like our home in every city. We drank their coffee every morning and indulged in their free wifi.

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you on tour this year? 

Honestly, I think the craziest thing is what did not happen. During 3 months on the road we never had any serious car troubles, or major set backs. I have heard so many touring horror stories, and being that this was my first tour I didn’t know what to expect. I was fully prepared for things to go awry and to get stranded somewhere in need of a mechanic. We were very lucky in that sense!

What is your most favorite and least favorite thing about DIY touring?  

My favorite thing about DIY touring is meeting new people in every city, wether it be people at the shows or bands we played with, DIY touring would hardly be possible with out these people doing their part to keep their city’s music scene alive. We met a lot of great people, whom we now consider friends.  I think the best thing about touring is getting to visit different cities, and getting to play shows every night.

My least favorite thing about DIY touring is the tole it took on me physically at times from eating too much fast food to sleeping in a van or on a floor every night, not getting quality sleep, it can leave you feeling pretty run down, and exhausted. Definitely, worth it though.

Giantology Tour Tips

Take care of yourself, sleep is so important. Get those hours in when you can!

Don’t drink too much before a show. It’s easy to drink a bit too fast when nervous. (i have learned this the hard way) It is a really shitty feeling to mess up during a show bc you got a little too drunk, but it’ll teach you your limits. Know your limits and stick to them.

Making friends and exchanging contact info with the bands you enjoy playing with is a great tool for booking future shows when looking to play in their city and vise versa. There are no booking agents or guarantees, DIY booking is all about reciprocity.

Do your research before buying a tour van! Take care of said tour van, for with out it, none of this is possible. Sign up for AAA, keep up with oil changes, etc. Always remember where you parked it, don’t stray too far away from it, or leave it unattended for very long.

Leave enough driving time in between shows to account for the unexpected, or spontaneous adventures.

Always play to your best ability even if you’re playing for only a couple of people.

Look out for your bandmates.

(Interview by Gina Davalle)

Ramonda Hammer (LA)

54 Shows

9 Weeks

Ramonda Hammer were the band that made me believe it was possible to book a tour from coast to coast yourself. I met them while playing in LA in 2016 with Sharkmuffin – we had flown out and rented a car to do our west coast tours a couple years in a row. It seems dumb, but when  Ramonda Hammer came to play with us in Brooklyn and I realized had driven the whole way, I was inspired to do the same the next time we planned shows on the west coast!

Top 3 Cities: Los Angeles, Nashville, and Brooklyn

Favorite gas station and fast food chain: Favorite gas station is Kum & Go because we are all children and it’s always funny. Favorite fast food chain will be a band argument probably.

What is the craziest thing that happened on tour?

The GARMP saga!! We were getting ready for our September tour and there was gonna be a show with our homies in Nashville who run the amazing DIY record label Cold Lunch Recordings. They organized a rad house show for us, and at the show there was gonna be a stick and poke tattoo artist so we were stoked to partake in that. In the Facebook event page, the artist had asked people to comment what they were gonna get tattooed, and this one guy Jonathan (who we didn’t know at all) said he’d get any five letter word tattooed on his body. So our bassist Andy made up the word GARMP and was determined to have this random guy get GARMP tattooed on him. It turned into a crazy comment thread of people voting and Andy even made a campaign sign that read “GARMP FOR JONATHAN’S TATTOO 2017”. People were very confused. We thought it was hilarious. Flash forward to Nashville: we’re all anxiously waiting to meet Jonathan. We have no idea who he is. Randomly we see some tattooed bearded dude walking around the party with an actual baby in his arms and we think this is odd. Turns out that was Jonathan, who by the way we’ve just been calling GARMP the whole time because duh. Anyways we meet him, he gets his GARMP tattoo on his “gARMp-pit” (which is extra funny), and then I find out he’s from my hometown in Orange County and knows some of my friends. Super weird. Also, why did he have his baby at a basement kegger? Not sure. But at least he and Andy became best friends on the internet for a second and almost did karate in the garage together.

What is your favorite & least favorite thing about DIY touring?

My most favorite thing about DIY touring is all the love and support we encounter on our travels. It really surprises me and warms my heart every single time. People are so generous with giving us places to stay and making us food and making us feel welcomed. It’s so so so cool. My least favorite thing is being too cold or too hot and also when shows get cancelled.

Ramonda Hammer Touring Tips

Well, I would say plan for EVERYTHING that could go wrong to GO WRONG. That way when shit happens (and it always does), you’ll be prepared. We always bring jumper cables and a gas can and blankets to cover our gear with in the van, and we try to have a cushion of funds to pay for any unplanned hotel stays or van breakdowns. Also, don’t let your drummer and bass player conspire to trick you into watching the re-make of The Mummy with Tom Cruise.

(Interview by Devin Davis)

Note: This list was based on my own experiences with musicians I’ve met by living in Brooklyn and performing and touring for 21 weeks of 2017 with Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends & Kino Kimino. It is not definitive and I would love to hear from and about more bands that book their own tours and/or tour extensively in the U.S. & beyond. Feel free to contact me with your suggestions & stories at[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

CHECK THE SPREADSHEET: Best DIY Promoters, Collectives, & Venues of 2017

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Ex-Girlfriends tour routes by Tine Hill

After spending 21 weeks on tour in 2017 with four bands (playing in Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends, Kino Kimino and tour mama-gering for The Big Drops) in three different countries, here are my picks for the best promoters, collectives and venues that I’ve been lucky enough to experience in 2017 (in no particular order)…

Bitchcraft (Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar

Brighton, England

Sharkmuffin played at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar in Brighton for the Great Escape Festival at about 3 in the morning. English psych rockers PINS kicked off the night and I couldn’t believe people were still around and excited that late. True to its name, the basement venue of Sticky Mike’s is reminiscent of sweaty ’70s LES punk venues, with a fence barricade between the stage and audience that everyone pushes and pulls on. At one point during our set an audience member coaxed me to jump over the barrier and crowd surf. I took the opportunity to do so, but was quickly dropped (don’t worry, I’m used to it) into a puddle of vomit. 

Polly & Ollie, who organized the whole show, put us up in their flat that night, as well as for our return visit to Brighton – the final show of our U.K. tour. Every last Friday, they and a group of friends who “wanted to give themselves and other girls involved in music, art and promoting a more accessible platform in the music industry on their own terms” host BITCH CRAFT at Sticky Mike’s in an effort to create “a safe, friendly and equal environment for girls to come and enjoy themselves and promote what they’re good at,” including behind-the-scenes support. 

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Chris & Amy Dickman. Photo by CoolDad

Little Dickman Records (The Saint, Asbury Park Yacht Club, Asbury Hotel, ect.)

Asbury Park, NJ

Asbury Park, NJ is  a small city by the sea, sandwiched between NYC and Philly. A decade ago, Asbury was a ghost town full of uninspiring classic rock cover bands, making it difficult to convince touring bands to pass through. Little Dickman Records, run by Chris and Amy Dickman, have changed all that with their intent to bring the coolest original touring rock bands to Asbury Park. One of their most memorable shows of the year was when Nashville country duo Birdcloud played at The Saint. “The place was packed and there was a real excitement in the air. Birdcloud came out in diapers and put on quite an amazing show. Probably one of the edgiest and dirtiest shows Asbury Park has seen since the night GG Alllin played Fastlane in ’91,” remembers Chris. 

The Little Dickman team also presents shows at Asbury Park Yacht Club and at the Asbury Hotel – named Best New Hotel in 2016 in a USA Today Readers’ Poll. Fruit & Flowers played there with The Nude Party and High Waisted, two shows that LDR say they’re also most proud of this year. We also played the Little Dickman Records SXSW showcase in Austin, Texas, which included music from LDR artists The Off White, The Blind Shake, Thelma And The Sleaze, Pink Mexico, Dead Coast and more.


Asheville, NC

Fleetwood’s is a brand new rock ‘n’ roll chapel, vintage store, rock venue and bar run by a wonderful woman named Mary and her partner. She put together a great last minute show for Ex-Girlfriends in September and was also able to host A Deer A Horse after their Florida shows were canceled because of the Hurricane Irma. It’s a versatile and cozy space where we felt right at home. 

“Fleetwood’s Rock-n-Roll Wedding Chapel and Vintage in Asheville, NC opened on August 23rd 2017. My partners and I had the opportunity to take over an old pawn shop that we transformed into a vintage store with a bar and a ‘quickie wedding chapel’ (where bands play). Since we’ve been open we’ve hosted over 50 bands from all over the country – mostly punk and rock-n-roll with a couple of old-time country events. We’ve also held two legal weddings (including same sex) and three drunken fake ones. The word has spread fast within the band scene and nearly every touring band is making plans to come back. I think that our unique space coupled with our true love and respect for indie musicians is what makes us so special. We try and create a welcoming environment to all who come through and make sure they are paid well and respected. We’ve run the gamut from unknown bands that have blown our minds to members of bigger groups like TVOTR and The Black Lips. We look forward to every band that plays because we live for Rock-n-Roll.” – Mary

Made in Colombia Presents (Barranquilla DIY Studios & BUST Magazine)

Brooklyn, NY

Janeth Gonda of Made in Colombia Presents has run a DIY venue out of her incredible apartment with basement studio space and backyard since 2014. At Barranquilla, I’ve played anything from a horror movie screening/flea market/record release party to my own joint birthday party with Natalie of Sharkmuffin. She has hosted countless touring bands, Northside events, full moon gatherings and so much more. The event she is most proud of this year at Barranquilla was the BUST Pride Event with Haybaby, New Myths, Parrot Dream, Lost Boy ?, Espejismo (feat. Janeth herself!), See Through Dresses, Hot Curl & Street Rules.

“This year I’ve been super lucky to extend my platform beyond Barranquilla Studios by working with BUST Magazine. It’s so awesome to be able to bring so many amazing people together. I think I’m most stoked on my efforts to help create safer spaces for open discussions and to hopefully foster change. At my most recent event we combined music, crafting, and herbalism with politics and workshops such as how to heal after sexual trauma and consent. I think it’s essential to bring certain issues to light even when we’re just having a good time at a show. In order to create change we sort of have to shove it down people’s throats, raise our voices and let them know we are here.” – Janeth Gonda

We Can Do It Promotions (The Lock Tavern)

London, England

When Sharkmuffin toured the U.K. for the first time in May 2017 we had no idea what to expect. We feel so lucky to have met Kelly of We Can Do It Promotions who put together our amazing first show in London at The Lock Tavern that was way more well-attended and fun than any of us could have imagined. Founded in January 2016, their mission is to support “continuously improving but sometimes overlooked gender equality. In the music industry we are constantly met by male dominated line-ups and We Can Do It Promotions is here to support female and male musicians equally.” Their website includes interviews & photos of a lot of the shows they’ve promoted!


Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Muchmore’s is the last DIY venue of Williamsburg, Brooklyn owned by New Orleans born lawyer Andrew Muchmore. This year he had a major victory with a lawsuit that helped overturn the 89-year-old Cabaret Law, which prohibited dancing at venues that didn’t have a certain license. Muchmore’s current booking manager is Heather Cousins of Ex-Girlfriends and Side Bitch. 

“One thing I love about being a booking manager and also a touring musician is that I get to help bands we’ve played with on the road. We recently had Blaha from Minneapolis; one of their members put us up while we were out there. Today we had Cult Flea Market Twisted Christmas edition which, yes, is a Flea Market for horror and weird cult stuff. It was put on with Mike Hunchback from Co-Op 87 Records (cool record store in Greenpoint). I picked up a Wanda Jackson Record and a weird novel about lust and blood with Cavewomen. I’ve made cocktail menus of women-fronted bands; you can get a Birdcloud or a Sharkmuffin.

We’ve had so many great shows lately, like Hank & Cupcakes from Georgia, and Ute Root from Australia. I love booking all kinds of stuff, from comedy to rock shows and burlesque. We even have a monthly wrestling comedy show! I can’t wait to do more with the art scene – especially comic book artists – and we’re hoping to finally get some rock ‘n’ roll DJs. All in all, being a booker is a rewarding experience even if it can be a little grueling sometimes.” – Heather Cousins

Super Dark Collective (One Caroline)

Saratoga Springs, NY

I was able to play at One Caroline in Saratoga Springs with Kino Kimino and also come back to see a show with The Big Drops, High Waisted and The Coax in November. One Caroline is your typical jazz bar with fancy cocktails and good American bistro styled food. But Super Dark Collective ironically hosts louder shows on Mondays and Thursdays. The block that One Caroline is on gets so crazy on the weekends with all its packed bars, cover bands and college student crowds, but One Caroline is the only place you can here a plethora of genres of rock music as well as interesting touring bands thanks to Super Dark Collective. They also run the independent record labels Super Dark Records and Lo-Fi Kabuki Records and book shows in the Capital Region area.


Los Angeles, CA

GNARBURGER is currently my favorite record store. The joint venture between Gnar Tapes and Burger Records opened their doors in 2015 and have let bands from all over play on their tight floor space ever since. Ex-Girlfriends and Fruit & Flowers played a day show here back in February, thankfully escaping the NYC winter to play music, drink beer, and shop for records & vintage clothes on a lovely afternoon.

Kind Turkey Records (Mickey’s Tavern

Madison, WI

Kind Turkey Records is a garage/punk/pop record label run by Bobby Hussy from The Hussy, whose roster includes Proud Parents, Digital Leather, and Nots among many others. Bobby also books amazing line-ups at Mickey’s Tavern every time we come through town. The venue has a few different velvety rooms, a pool table and great food (plus they have an option to feed bands)! Bobby also has put together Turkey Fest every fall for the past eight years.


Hi Tide

Brooklyn, NY

Hi Tide is a booking company formed by Ana Becker of Fruit & Flowers and Tim Race of Big Bliss (both of whom were recently named the #1 and #2 hardest working bands in NYC by Oh My Rockness).

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photo by Steven Anselm

“Tim and I started Hi Tide after we got back from a joint Big Bliss / Fruit & Flowers tour in March. We booked that tour together, and it was the least painful tour booking experience either of us had ever had. Most of us in DIY touring bands rely on friends in bands in other cities to help us book good shows in their towns. It makes a huge difference when people actually set up a show with care. So as long as we’ve each been in bands, we’ve done our best to return the favor when bands from other cities reach out to us. We figured we could do that part together too, so we stuck a logo on it and Hi Tide was born.”- Ana Becker

Their biggest achievement this year was their Babes All Rock Festival at Baby’s All Right on December 3rd that had a stacked line-up of female-fronted bands featuring Combo ChimbitaPRIMAA Deer A HorseBig QuietDebbie Downer, VerdigrlsEspejismoTreads and more, with proceeds from ticket sales and a raffle donated to the Mount Sinai SAVI Program, which aids survivors of sexual assault in NYC.

“The idea for Babes All Rock started on a Facebook thread. One of the organizers from Color Me Bushwick put out a call for recommendations of women musicians to play CMB. I tagged a ton of people, others chimed in, and it snowballed. A few people thought it’d be a great idea to make that into a fest of its own, and we got to work. Tim was 100% on board; booking diverse lineups has been a part of Hi Tide’s mission from the start. Also crucial to the fest’s organization were Gwynn Galitzer of Suffragette City, Amanda Jun, Rachel Rossen, Janeth Gonda, Josh Meyer & many others.”  – Ana Becker



Booking a tour is basically planning a road trip with the goal of playing music every night and (hopefully) making enough money for gas to your next destination. Booking your first tour is a grind, so it’s helpful to have higher purpose that is fun and motivating. Bands usually plan a tour to promote an EP or album release, but the first “tour” I went on was a 32-hour drive straight to SXSW in 2011 with my two-piece band Pool Sharks (my drummer, Lani now plays in Weeping Icon) in order to play one house party at SXSW that was shut down before our set. I’ve been to SXSW seven years in a row now, so it’s a fun place to start!

You could be really creative with your touring intent. Kino Kimino toured down to the Woman’s March on Washington in January (the house party we played in D.C. post-march was INSANE). This past August, Sharkmuffin toured to see the Total Solar Eclipse in South Carolina with our appropriately named friends Wild Moon.

Garage rock/folk blues guitar goddess Melissa Lucciola (of Wild Moon, Francie Moon, and bassist of Kino Kimino) is one of my tour heroes. She has undertaken DIY tours that have lasted 4 months or more at a time, with small breaks in between. One of her main goals as a musician is to tour and will take every opportunity to do so.

“Touring has always had an array of special purposes in my life. I have toured in bands and acoustically from house shows to art galleries to larger venues and have always found great purpose in any of those situations. I went on my first tour ever because I love to travel and play music every day and fortunately we were asked to join another band that knew how to book it. Later on I was asked to tour solo and acoustically. Even though playing acoustic wasn’t my first choice, I figured since I had the opportunity to do the leg work and learn how to tour, the places to play, and how to make some money while at it that I could one day help all my friends who want to play music full time too. I’m still on that path and was able to bring my full band on the road earlier this year on my most successful tour yet, which was very encouraging for me.

Touring has also made me aware and extremely appreciative of this amazing network of people who constantly help each other out. By touring you eventually find yourself in this very large community of fellow musicians, artists, organizers, and just straight up supportive people who are pushing each other along. I am part of a bunch of groups online that are always assisting each other with booking shows, finding photographers or artists to help with merchandise and posters, website designers, videographers for music videos and just simply sharing their music with each other.

I’m really honored to not only be able to do what I love, but be a part of something bigger than me that continuously helps others be able to do it too.” – Melissa Lucciola

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photo by Jose Berrio

Whether you want to support your release, support a good cause, or are just craving adventure, here are some basics to start booking your tour:

  1. Give yourself enough time. It’s best to start booking tours 3-5 months in advance. If it’s a tour to a festival like SXSW, the earlier you start booking it the better. Keep in mind that you’ll want to start promoting the show at least a month in advance and it could take two months to lock down the date/venue/supporting acts.
  2. Make friends & trade shows. Pay attention to your band’s e-mail/Facebook messages. Musicians you probably have never heard of are looking to play in your town and may have reached out for your help. If you set up a good show for them in your area, they’ll most likely be happy to return the favor in their town!
  3. Take advantage of online DIY communities. The Internet is a beautiful thing sometimes. Do DIY is a great resource of DIY spaces and organizers in many cities across the U.S. There are also Facebook groups for DIY scenes almost every major city that you can join and post in. While reaching out to people, always include links to your music, bio/other press, the dates you’re looking to play, and if you have any friends/know bands in the area.
  4. Google. When all else fails, reach out to every venue & band you like in a certain area. Go to a venue’s contact page on their website or message them on Facebook.
  5. Use your social media network.  You probably have more friends/fans in different places than you would expect! Posting “Can you help us find a show in these places on these dates?” on each of your social media networks could get many unexpected results when you’re stuck.
  6. Stay Organized. It is easy to get confused and double book dates or forget to fill dates all together. Creating a spreadsheet you can share with your bandmates with the dates, cities, bands, venues contacted, and any notes on the progress really helps keep things clear. And then you’ll also be able to yell at your bandmates to CHECK THE SPREADSHEET in the group text when they ask the same question for the thousandth time!


CHECK THE SPREADSHEET: Attitude is Everything

Hello! Thank you for checking the monthly DIY tour guide. I play on tour with three Brooklyn-based bands and have been on the road for at least a week each month this year (aside from one). Going on tour is a goal of many bands and in today’s super connected world it is easier than ever to attain. While being relatively easier to logistically set up, it is still a challenging undertaking on your wallet and  personal and emotional health.

Touring can teach you who your friends are, how strong your relationship is and most importantly who you are. At best, it’s an incredibly fun and hilarious adventure, and at worst, a dehumanizing experience that shoots you straight into an existential crisis the moment you return home. In this monthly column, I will share my experiences and attempt to break down specific aspects of DIY touring so you can more easily hit the road yourself!

I was first introduced to Giantology, a two-piece garage band from Chicago at a show in Long Beach, CA. They’re an inspiring example of a band that just wanted to go on tour and did it. You don’t have to wait until you’re huge in your hometown, have a record on some label or even a booking agent. They were booking their first 3-month tour at the same time as they were writing their first songs. It was their bassist’s first tour ever. If you want to do it, the first step is having the attitude that it is not only possible, but with enough determination and organization it is something you can actually make happen in a matter of a few months.

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Giantology basically jumped straight into touring like a bunch of bosses.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be setbacks; the trick is to not let ’em get you down. In Mobile, Alabama I played in two bands to an audience of exactly one person. The co-singer/guitarist in Ex-Girlfriends got onto the floor and screamed her lungs out to the single middle-aged podcast host from Florida like he was the A&R rep of Universal Music or the editor of the Rolling Stone or something. Personally, I get very discouraged and slightly humiliated when no one shows up after you’ve driven half way across the country and you’ve already played at this exact bar twice before, but she did not give a fuck.

I also felt similarly bummed when I played for the first time in front of a sold out room with Kino Kimino in San Francisco at The Independent. There was one moment when all I had to do was play the riff from “So Fresh and So Clean” as a transition between songs. I messed up and felt like a biggest idiot. Whether you’re playing to one person or 1,000 people, it’s always going to be something.

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photo by Jose Berrio (

Here are some tips to keep your anxiety low, morale high, and generally give zero fucks when things get tough…

  1. Take care of yourself. It’s easy to drink cheaply and/or free every night on tour, but that’s the fastest way to get depressed or sick. You’re probably going to do it anyway, so always keep gummy vitamins on hand in the front of the van. Wellness Formula works in a few days for bad colds, but gives you really smelly burps. Oregano Oil also works, but might make your mouth numb for a few minutes.

Drummers: Bring sandals & hemorrhoid cream (to avoid blood-ass from eating too much gas station food). Take shoes off right after the show and put sandals on – your band mates will thank you.

Beauty Rest: Melatonin /Advil PM and ear plugs can regulate your sleep schedule when you’re trying to crash in bizarre places surrounded by kind (but likely drunk and loud) strangers who let you have their floor, futon, or doggie bed to rest on.

  1. Remember that you’re on the same team. No matter how close you are as friends, being in the same smelly van with the same few people to talk to for 24 hours a day will make you want to murder each other.

Your gear is going to malfunction, you’re probably going to get a cold or an engine mount in your 20 year old mini-van will break, and there’s a chance you’ll end up in the middle of the U.K. somewhere after calling 47 hotels and still end up sleeping in the van. All these things will make you even more on edge with only a few people in your immediate vicinity to take your frustrations out on. Be kind to each other…none of this shit matters. No matter what goes wrong, you’re basically married to the same dream and that is what will inevitably hold you together.

Pro tip: When a bandmate is having a temper tantrum, imagine them as an adorable five-year-old.

  1. Gratitude. Be thankful for everyone who plays, promotes, does sound, feeds you, buys merch, and puts you up. Even if only one person shows up to your show, be thankful that they did. The first time we played in Wilmington, NC only one person came to our show and then the next time we came through town, that one person (Travis of Deadly Lo-Fi) threw us the best show of that whole tour.

I appreciate the bassist in Sharkmuffin so much, because she always appreciates every person involved, and makes it a point to shout out each person in her social media posts after the show. This not only makes a difference the next time we come through town – it really helps you feel more honored to be there and that what you came to share in the first place was worth it when you take the time to feel thankful for everyone individually.

Check back the third Monday of every month for more tips from Tara’s touring life.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

INTERVIEW: Sharkmuffin Flashes Fangs in “Factory”

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Left to Right: Chris Nunez, Natalie Kirch, Drew Adler, Tarra Thiessen. Photo by Thomas Ignatius.

Sharkmuffin have been rocking Brooklyn and beyond for five years now, and plan to commemorate their anniversary with the release of a split EP with their buds The Off White via Little Dickman Records on July 21. Earlier this year, they also put out phenomenal full-length LP “Tsuki”; the record veers through searing rock and roll tunes to more mellow tracks with an underlying darkness.

One of these is “Factory,” and the video reflects that darkness perfectly. It begins in 1904 with guitarist and vocalist Tarra Thiessen and bassist Natalie Kirsch portraying factory girls. In a series of events involving romance and trickery, they become vampire goddesses, turning guitarist Chris Nunez and drummer Drew Adler into vampires as well. Over the course of a century, they have gained more rights and ownership of the factory, meeting with Trump in the present day as he tries to take it over. Without much negotiation, they completely devour him.

Check out the video below and keep scrolling for our interview with Thiessen and Kirch about their latest EP, touring with The Off White, and Vampires vs. Hierarchy.

(Originally premiered via Tidal)

AudioFemme: Who did you work with in the making of the video for “Factory”?

Tarra Thiessen: Eric Durkin shot and edited it, Vramshabouh of The Big Drops and Wild Moon played the first factory owner, Davey Jones of Lost Boy? and The So So Glos played the next victim trying to buy the factory, and Nick Rogers of Holy Tunics and Jordan Bell of GP Strips were also part of our vampire family at the end of the video.

AF: What inspired the message of the video? Do the lyrics also have a political undertone?

TT:  I didn’t intend for the lyrics to have any political message while I was writing them. The song tells a story of a very young woman factory worker who falls in love with her boss. The owner of the factory then crosses professional and personal boundaries in the relationship and it gets complicated.

Natalie Kirch: The video’s theme of female factory workers over the ages and the changing power dynamic between male and female factory workers and business owners were inspired by Tarra’s lyrics. At the turn of the 20th century, many women worked in fabric factories. During World War II, it was mostly canned food and ammunition for the troops, so we played into the historical social themes as well. I am also a horror buff, which is where the gimmick on Nosferatu came into play. It allowed us to maintain the same characters but show how dynamics are changing over the eras. Actually, Jordan, Nick and I are in a Horror Book Club together so they seemed like the perfect friends to ask for the part. Once we had come up with the idea of the women switching roles as business owners, Tarra thought the final victim should be Trump – he matched the prototype: business owner, disrespectful of women, etc.

AF: Do you feel Trump is essentially trying put women out of business and dismiss the effort they have put into equal rights movements over the past century? It seems like you’re saying to him: you can’t buy your way out of acknowledging our struggle?

NK: I don’t know if he is even conscious enough of his decisions to be so pointed in them, but he has definitely shown that he believes women are inferior and not worthy of the same rights as men in our society.

TT: It’s really unfortunate and unbelievable that someone who so obviously doesn’t feel women are equal is our president in 2017. It’s a really strange time and we can’t sit around and let him reverse years of equal rights movements in a few tweets.

AF: Why vampires? Does Trump become a vampire himself or do you devour him without a trace? He is the last person that should ever live for eternity.

NK: He is consumed as feed. We ended the video on that note to imply that he was not going to make an appearance as a vampire.

TT: Don’t worry, we don’t want a Trump vampire to deal with for all of eternity either. Originally, we wanted to keep the fact that it was Trump more vague, so that the final victim’s arrogant hand gestures and weird hair piece could represent any human attempting to change how much women’s rights have improved since the turn of the century.

AF: What’s the most difficult aspect of creating a music video?

TT: Keeping everyone on task enough to get all the necessary shots. It’s easy to get side tracked because it’s so much fun filming videos.

NK: Organizing everyone’s schedules and ideas.

AF: Do you feel touring extensively is still an effective way for musicians to promote themselves? Do you see a difference in your audience and surroundings while on the road with Trump as president?

TT: I personally feel like it’s more important now than ever to be a touring musician, because in many different parts of the US it seems they rarely get to see women musicians like us and it can be really empowering for women who feel more vulnerable in today’s political climate. The biggest compliment we can get from anyone who comes out to see us play is that we inspired them to want to play music and/or start a band.

NK: Absolutely. Especially if you are a band who puts on a strong live act, it encourages more people to develop an interest in your music. It is usually clear what area of the states we are in by the responses and comments we get in different areas. Men will often comment on how they have never seen a “girl shred like Tarra” or how it’s surprising I can play “such a big bass for such a little girl.” However, I don’t think any die-hard Trump fans would be showing up for a Sharkmuffin set.

AF: How was hitting the road with The Off White? When and why did you guys decide to come together for a split EP?

NK: We love those boys so much. They are tons of fun to hang out with and extremely talented musicians. I never get bored of their music; it totally rocks and they put on a killer live set.

TT: They’re so much fun! I think we had been thinking of doing a split together since the fall and finally got enough material together to make it happen.

Sharkmuffin is on tour again in August; check out the dates below and catch a killer show in your area!

8/11 @ Brooklyn Bazaar w/ Hanks Cupcakes

8/12 @ Porta Pizza, Jersey City, NJ w/ The Big Drops

8/16 @ The Meatlocker, Montclair, NJ~

8/19 @ Mad Liberation Fest, Hammington, NJ~

8/20 TBA, Ashville, NC

8/22 @ Snug Harbor, Charlotte, NC~

8/23 @ TBA, Nashville, TN~

8/24 @ Best Friend Bar, Lexington, KY~

8/25 @ Jurassic Park, Chicago IL~

8/26 @ Milkies, Buffalo, NY~

~= w/ Wild Moon[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PLAYLIST: Cassette Store Day 2015


If you want a retro way to play your music, but you don’t have the space for a vinyl collection, Cassette Store Day just might be the holiday for you. Inspired by Record Store Day, Jen Long and Steven Rose created the event to “[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][celebrate] the glory of tape.” This is the event’s third year, and on October 17th, a select number of record stores will be participating. Here are just a few of the best releases that will be out on tape.

Alex G – Beach Music

Alex Giannascoli is a lo-fi, laid-back songwriter from Philly. The next release in his body of self-recorded work is Beach Music, which will be out on 10/9. He was on tour while making most of this seventh record, forcing him to change up his songwriting process. The two tracks available now from Beach Music show his music is taking a more mature, complex direction.

Baby – Comes Alive

Comes Alive by Baby is just as impressive for its content as the fact that it was “originally recorded, mixed, and released within about an hour; including a photoshoot and album cover.” Though all this happened quite awhile ago, it hasn’t been available for purchase until now. The band features Pat Goddard, Dennis Galway, and the deceased Tim Alexander- check out their track “Baby,” some seriously heavy blues music.

Beach Slang – Here, I Made This For You

The pysch-punk rockers Beach Slang have made a mixtape for Cassette Store Day, and while there’s no preview for it, if you like loud, shimmery rock with a hard edge you’ll probably be into it. Not so sure? Check out “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas” from their upcoming album The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.


Expert AlterationsYou Can’t Always Be Liked

Baltimore’s Expert Alterations plays understated, jangly guitar pop. Check out the title track from their upcoming, debut album You Can’t Always Be Liked, which details the pain of growing up: “And when she talks of letters she cannot spell a single thing/ And when she talks of bells she doesn’t know how they ring/ And when she talks of people she doesn’t know that they are full of spite/ But she will learn one day you can’t always be liked.”

Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie

Holding Hands With Jamie is the debut album from the misleadingly-male, Irish group Girl Band (check out our review here).  The record will be available on 9/25, and features “Paul,” a disconcerting, intense track that erupts in noise and rage.

Sharkmuffin – Chartreuse

Sharkmuffin is a garage-rock band from Brooklyn that features guitarist Tarra Theissen and bassist Natalie Kirch. Chartreuse is their first album with drummer Patty Schemel (Hole, Death Valley Girls).  Check out the title track, which starts off with a sleepy, Hawaiian slide guitar intro and then morphs into their high energy, punk sound.

The Prettiots – Stabler

This Spring, the Brooklyn group The Prettiots were the subject of a New York Times article discussing the struggles of emerging bands who travel to SXSW. It looks like the expenses and hard work paid off, though. The trio, led by the ukelele-wielding frontwoman Kay Kasparhauser, played a Tiny Desk Concert this summer and are contributing their upcoming release Stabler to Cassette Store Day.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]