Musician Interview with Shane de Leon of Miss Massive Snowflake
Name: Shane de Leon
Bands: Miss Massive Snowflake
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QRD – What’s a myth about touring you wish people knew wasn’t true?
Shane – That you can’t support yourself doing it. I do well as long as I don’t stop, don’t have a band, & sleep in my van every night. I am basically a homeless person, but with a place to be every night. When I do stop I have to instantly find work. I break even or usually a little a head at this point.
Also that you have to eat fast food.
QRD – How many shows do you do a year & how many would you like to?
Shane – I have been doing around 200 a year for the past 2 years. It seems about right.
QRD – How many shows does it take before you are in a real groove?
Shane – It takes about a week.
QRD – What’s your preferred length of tour?
Shane – I would prefer to play every day. For a US tour I think 3 months is a good length to do the whole country & about the same for Europe I guess.
QRD – Do you use a booking agent or book things yourself & what are the advantages of each?
Shane – I do all my own booking in the US & have some help in Europe. I prefer to do my own booking so I can maximize my money. I guess if the money was rolling in I’d hand it over cause it takes up a lot of time. I am streamlining the process & have actually begun to book other bands.
QRD – With so many venues no longer having an in house promoter & promotions relying so much more on the band themselves how do you get the word out to cities you’ve never been to before or rarely go to?
Shane – I send out email promo to the weeklies with a smattering of reaction. Hit up local radio if I know of some. Pretty much just keep going around the country, meeting people, & networking.
QRD – How do you think the festival circuit has effected touring & do you enjoy playing festivals?
Shane – It’s pretty awesome, but I have only done a few in Europe.
QRD – How do your songs change for your live show?
Shane – I write the songs on guitar & for the most part I tour solo but record with a band -- so you aren’t hearing the bass, drums, keyboards, & solos live but I am hearing them in my head.
QRD – Do you keep notes on how to play your songs?
Shane – No.
QRD – How often do you have line-up changes & how do they effect the band?
Shane – The band has had the same line up for 5 years or so. Jeanne Kennedy Crosby on bass & vocals. Andy Brown on drums, keys, & vocals. When the band started it was just me solo & was more electronic based, but pretty much singer/songwriter or rock band depending on the gig.
QRD – How do band practices differ from live shows?
Shane – There are no people there.
QRD – When you hear your live recordings are you generally critical or satisfied?
Shane – Critical of mistakes & have yet to have a good quality one.
QRD – Do you think of recorded versions or live versions of your songs as definitive?
Shane – No.
QRD – Is there a song in your catalog you wish you never had to play again &/or one you wouldn’t mind playing every night?
Shane – I don’t really mind any of them & try to keep all 60 or so in some sort of rotation so that I remember them. They change over time as far as tempo, delivery, etc.
QRD – What do you do to stay interested in your set each night?
Shane – I think, “This is so much better then going to fucking work everyday.”
QRD – Do you do the same set every night on a tour?
Shane – I usually have a general outline, but will stray when solo. With the band we usually will tour a set for a month or so before switching it up. We do a lot of 2 or 3 set shows & so depending on that we have first, second, & third sets.
QRD – How does the audience effect what or how you play on a given night?
Shane – I have my set that I love. My artistic expression, but I also do multiple set gigs, dinner gigs, etc. & will tailor the sounds to the crowd. Like no distortion, or a bit quieter, or no swearing.
QRD – Do you take new songs on the road or stick with released material?
Shane – I play whatever is working currently. I have been playing the next release that is due out in spring all year already.
QRD – Do you throw in cover songs & how do you select them?
Shane – I never played covers until I was around 40 but now I love playing them. I saw a band last night that sounded a whole lot like Joy Division & then they played a Joy Division song & I find that a bit cheesy, but to each his own. I love pop music, so I play songs that aren’t really what I sound like but then I play them in my style. I do Prince, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Liz Phair, Jackie Wilson, Lucinda Williams, Nina Simone, & other things that people might know. I am not trying to educate the audience, just maybe give them a laugh or reference point. I mostly cover women.
QRD – How do you deal with bad stage sound & bad sound guys?
Shane – I soldier through. Stay positive. Don’t care.
QRD – What do you do when equipment malfunctions on stage?
Shane – Stress out & sweat.
QRD – What have you learned to do to get better sound regardless of the venue?
Shane – I am a firm believer in the song & making the vocals the prominent part of the set. I believe a catchy melody over noise is better than a big old mushy sound.
QRD – What’s something you hate seeing other bands do?
Shane – Complaining. Being babies or divas.
QRD – What’s the best compliment/worst insult you’ve gotten after a show?
Shane – In Maryland a couple months ago I was told by another touring musician that I was the best & most unique band he had seen in 3 years. I also liked a compliment of, “You sound like Jeff Buckley playing with Tenacious D.” For worst insult definitely not getting paid my guarantee. (PS. Thanks for the free microphone, asshole.)
QRD – Do you ever tour with bands other than your own as a hired hand & if so how is that experience different?
Shane – Nope.
QRD – Do you prefer playing with another touring band or just locals?
Shane – Preferably locals so folks are there, but I love playing with anyone who sounds good.
QRD – Do you try to listen to the local opening bands on tour?
Shane – I watch 99% of the bands I play with.
QRD – What makes you like a particular city?
Shane – I like cities that have strong underground art scenes, good food, & are a bit under the radar. Kind of like how Portland, OR was in 1995 when I moved there. My favorite cities of the last few years are Pittsburgh, Portland, Maine, Birmingham, AL, Canton, OH, & Wilmington, North Carolina.
QRD – What makes you like a particular venue?
Shane – Cool folks, good food & hospitality, they pay, find local bands instead of having me do that.
QRD – What do you have for merch?
Shane – CDs, vinyl, downloads, buttons, shirts, stickers. Always have a tip jar. I feel a lot of times people want to support you, but don’t want anything physical. Give them the option to give you cash.
QRD – Do you try to have any specialized merch for live shows?
Shane – No.
QRD – What’s a merch item you think about selling but haven’t yet?
Shane – I am getting away from merch I think. As I grow older I don’t want to support the oil & plastic industries anymore. I mean, I already drive 40,000 miles a year in a van with 17 mpg. I will be giving my next album away for free as a download or pay what you want. Tips!!!! I feel a lot of times people want to support you but don’t want anything physical. Give them the option to give you cash.
QRD – Besides band members, how many people do you bring on tour & what are their duties?
Shane – It is me solo or the three of us. No road crew.
QRD – When you’re on tour, does someone take a father figure role of responsibility?
Shane – That’s me.
QRD – What do you do to keep your instruments & personal belongings from being stolen?
Shane – Sleep in the van. Stay low key.
QRD – Do you rent a vehicle or take out your own?
Shane – Own.
QRD – What’s the worst car breakdown you’ve had on tour?
Shane – None yet. Knock on wood. My van is my mortgage. It is the best paid & maintained member of the band.
QRD – What’s your ideal touring vehicle?
Shane – I will get a Sprinter next, I think. I love having a bed to nap & read & sleep on.
QRD – What plays on the radio as you drive?
Shane – I use Spotify & have like 20,000 songs starred & just do shuffle. When I have no reception I listen to CDs I have traded with bands I play with. Silence is good & I write a lot of lyrics to the rhythm of the road.
QRD – How do you occupy time in the van?
Shane – I drive.
QRD – What’s your main activity to occupy your downtime when not in the van?
Shane – Walk, eat, read, write, swim, explore, museums, drink espresso.
QRD – How do you try to find places to eat on the road?
Shane – Walking, exploring, or Yelp.
QRD – What’s your in a pinch fast food meal?
Shane – I will eat a Subway veggie sandwich if there is nothing else available & the van pantry is out of food. Maybe once a month. I fight corporate America on every level. So many cities in this country look exactly the same. Costco, Applebees, Taco Bell, etc. I refuse to give a dime to the homogenization of America. I travel the world to be in new places & do new things.
QRD – Do you try to make any meals for yourself on the road?
Shane – Every day.
QRD – How many days does it take before your body is in sync with the touring lifestyle?
Shane – I prefer touring over work. Work is much harder to get in sync with. I never really do get used to that grind. I live my life as #tourlife
QRD – Do you prefer to stay at people’s houses or hotels & what are the advantages & disadvantages to each?
Shane – I stay in someone’s house maybe once a month. My van is my home. I love my bed. Plus when you go to someone’s house you are officially on their schedule which may end up being partying until 7 AM & I usually drive every day so that don’t fly.
QRD – Do you have separate clothes for onstage than daywear?
Shane – Not really.
QRD – How many changes of clothes do you take on tour?
Shane – All my wardrobe is in the van. I live there.
QRD – How often do you do laundry on tour?
Shane – Every two weeks.
QRD – How often do you try to bathe & how do you schedule in everyone getting bathed?
Shane – I try to bathe every other day at least. Friends, Truck stops, YMCA. I go swimming as much as possible in lakes, rivers, pools, the ocean.
QRD – What do you do when a band member has totally different ideas about hygiene?
Shane – We don’t.
QRD – How often do you try to schedule a day off?
Shane – I would prefer to play everyday.
QRD – Any tips for not getting sick on the road?
Shane – Don’t party too much.
QRD – Do you have a set drinking policy (none before performing or a nightly total)
Shane – I drink only a beer or two a day at this point. With dinner or after a gig.
QRD – What’s a lesson from touring you keep forgetting & re-learning?
Shane – Don’t smoke weed right before I play.
QRD – What do you do the week before tour to get ready?
Shane – Get excited.
QRD – How long does it take to convert back to day-to-day life?
Shane – I don’t.
QRD – How do you test for personality conflicts between band members before touring?
Shane – We get along great.
QRD – How has touring effected how you feel about playing in your hometown?
Shane – We only play Portland a few times a year.
QRD – How do you feel about fans putting live cell phone videos up on YouTube?
Shane – We live in the future. Fine by me, but I wish some folks would try to do a bit better quality filming. But I am always flattered that anyone cares in the first place.
QRD – Do you see touring as mainly a promotional tool for your new albums?
Shane – Touring is what I want to do the rest of my life. I love traveling, eating, & new experiences. Music is just a means to travel.
QRD – Do you try to practice as a band while on the road or just stick to the performances?
Shane – Mainly performances
QRD – Do you have time to practice your instrument while on the road?
Shane – A bit.
QRD – Does your time with your instrument go up or down on the road compared to normal?
Shane – I play more on tour.
QRD – Do you try to hit museums or any touristy things while you travel?
Shane – I love going to museums & swimming.
QRD – Do you try to get any rudimentary grasp of a language before touring in a foreign country?
Shane – I have studied Italian everyday with Duo Lingo now for about a year. I have been there 10 times & have a basic grasp. It should be better. I study German regularly too. French is fucking difficult.
QRD – Do you have any pre-stage rituals before each set?
Shane – Tune up & go.
QRD – Does “what happens on tour, stays on tour” apply for you?
Shane – No. I am trying to fuse an artistic life with my daily life & so I stay honest & embrace myself & the world.
QRD – Have you ever or would you like to do a bus/train/mass transit tour?
Shane – I toured Europe solo twice by train. It wasn’t much cheaper than renting a vehicle & was a lot more hassle.
QRD – What are your favorite & least favorite seasons to tour?
Shane – I wanna tour year round. Like 3 months on & 1 month off. I stay away more & more from wintery zones.
QRD – If money were no object, how many months a year would you spend on the road?
Shane – 8 months.
QRD – What would make you start touring more or start touring less?
Shane – I am touring a bit less this year cuz I now have a girlfriend. So the upcoming year will be more like 6 months of each. She likes travel & goes out quite a bit with me. Ideally we will travel all over the world working, touring, exploring.
QRD – What’s something that would cause you to cut a tour short?
Shane – Loved one dying. No vehicle.
QRD – What could happen to make you stop touring?
Shane – I got bored of it or went too far in debt.
QRD – What’s something about life in general that you’ve learned from touring?
Shane – That if you say to yourself, “I am an artist/musician & this is what I do,” you will succeed. There is no other option but survival. We make our own realities. Happiness exceeds all.
QRD – Anything else?
Shane – Thanks for being such a bad ass, Brian. You have made your own reality for so long now. You know the pleasure of succeeding at what you love. The world is beautiful, not scary. Most people are afraid of life & don’t follow their dreams so they don’t achieve them.