May 20, 2009

AUSTRALIA BLOG #1

Hello from Melbourne. I left for Australia Saturday and arrived on Monday. It's a looooonnnnggg flight but I stayed up late to get onto Australia time.. Sam from the opening band / our Aussie backup band Wherewolves (formerly a Year to Remember) picked me up at the Brisbane airport. We crammed my stuff into his car and dropped it off at his house. Then we got into a train full of commuters and went into town to explore downtown Brisbane. We went to the park and rented two bikes and went on a beautiful ride along the river. My time zone acclimation's pretty discombobulated but we still had fun. We got back and I took a nap and he went to get DJ at the airport.



DJ arrived and we went to rehearse for the afternoon and night. The Wherewolves guys are very talented and write catchy songs, but it took a while to work out some of the more complicated songs (i.e. "This Gigantic Robot Kills", our ska slammer). By the end of the first night, we felt almost prepared. We came back, went to sleep, and got up early the next day to pick up our rented screen and projector and rehearse for nine more hours. What a day. Having DJ in tow is very helpful because he's been taking on the duty of the music director. I have a good ear for beats and hooks, but he has a much better ear for specific notes, chords and harmonies. He was our music director for Failsafe in England, the New York band for the last East Coast tour and now with Wherewolves in Australia. By the end of the day I felt extremely confident. We went out to a bar in Brisbane to celebrate our first "night on tour".



DJ is very good at hollering at ladies because he is so friendly and gregarious. We met some girls from Cairns who had come to Brisbane to see some emo band on tour because apparently not a lot of bands tour up to Northern Queensland. We then went to another bar across the street. By this time, it was pouring rain. Buckets of rain. Sheets. See, it doesn't rain a lot in Australia, but when it does it's torrential. So we crossed the street and got soaked and it was hilarious. We met some people who were apparently big Australia hip-hop fans and apparently knew my music. That's why it's fun to return to a country after you've had a top thirty hit to see how the seeds have germinated - you make friends more easily.




We caught a taxi back to Sam's house. Coincidentally, the cab was number 666 and the driver was blasting heavy metal on the radio station Triple J (government run, which means no Clear Channel fodder). DJ and the cab driver started talking about when you know it's good to buy girls drinks at bars - when it's a good idea and when it's a waste of money.

"Well, make sure they're showing interest in you as a person, not just treating you as a cash machine", the cab drive explicitly said. "Otherwise you will spend all of this money and feel taken advantage of."

The next morning DJ explained how this would apply to his life philosophy. Not to let people take advantage of you and be honest with them. I love DJ because he is a fountain at wisdom. He says next time before he buys a girl a drink he'll say, "I think you're really cute and I want to buy you a drink, but I don't know if you're the type of girl who wants to use me for free drinks all night or if you really want to talk. So A), tell me if you're interested or not really interested, and I'll but you a drink anyway for being honest, or B), if you are interested I'd love to buy you a drink and get to know you better. It's your call, either way if fine with me." That can work in many situations.



The next morning, Sam and the gang picked up the van and trailer and then drove me to the airport. I was going to fly to Melbourne a day earlier to do some press, but because the rain was so incredibly tropically immense, Virgin Airlines suddenly cancelled all of their flights.

"Please get your bag from carousel three and go to windows sixteen through eighteen to get on a later flight."

Just what I wanted. I grabbed my suitcase from the baggage claim and went to wait in line. It was insane. Lines and lines of families and children and suitcases all around the airport and out the door. It was going to be hours to see anyone who worked there, and even longer to get on a flight. I was going to have to stay in Brisbane for the night and leave the next morning.



Luckily, the Wherewolves guys hadn't left, so they picked me up at the airport and we made the twenty plus hour drive down the coast to Melbourne. It's about two thousand kilometers from Brisbane to Melbourne, which is about 1,250 miles. Australian bands are road dogs - they don't stop, they just drive and drive because nothing is close, so you have to be prepared to make the ridiculously long journey. I saw it as a good opportunity to see the beautiful expansive countryside and listen to some good music and get caught up on DVDs and reading. That's my road warrior armor - media. I am also learning how to meditate even in noisy, crowded, loud vans with my Alan Watts book-on-tape. The van has no windows so it got really hot when then sun came up in the morning but we survived.



For those of you in America: Imagine driving from Seattle to San Diego in a day. Distances like these are normal for Australians. Most of the people live in the southeast corner of the country / continent. A few people live in Perth, and even less in the north. I'm reading Bill Bryson's book "In a Sunburned Country", in which he depicts his adventures across the nation, especially in the small country towns. He also talks about the social history and wildlife in an easy to understand way.



Here are some interesting unique aspects about Australia: people don't wear shoes when they go to rest stops. People are incredibly gregarious and welcoming. The people who work in the service industry are generally cheerful and friendly, and when they say "Have a nice day", it feels like they usually mean it. The music scene is so tiny, but if you're good, you can really get ahead with label support. Some of my friends (Something with Numbers and Kisschasey) have had incredible success by being incredible bands who have made name for themselves and succeeded within the old-school label model. Imagine that - a music industry based on local pride and merit that supports a local scene. The Wherewolves guys are going to do well - it seems like every band that opens for us at some point gets hugely famous (Gym Class Heroes, Say Anything etc.). We're happy when that happens because it's good karma.



My Dad's Australian, so I have a lot of cousins in Melbourne. We're here until Monday, so I'm going to try to meet up with them. We are incredibly excited for the first show of the tour tomorrow. It's going to be great. We haven't even started the tour and it's been a really fun time.



Signing out from Down Under,

MC Lars

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