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QRD #75
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
about this issue
Featured Band Interviews:
M is We
Record Label Interview:
Records Ad Nauseum
Cartoonist Interview:
Larry Johnson
Touring Musician Interviews:
Chris Brokaw of Lemonheads
Mkl Anderson of Drekka
Nevada Hill of Bludded Head
Phil Dole of Chord
Rainstick Cowbell
Shane DeLeon
Alan Sparhawk of Low
Zach Corsa of Lost Trail
Short stories:
Takin' Care of Business
   by Phil Dole
We'll Be The Last Ones Here
   by Nathan Amundson
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Touring Musician Interview with Chris Brokaw
September 2015
Chris Brokaw
Name: Chris Brokaw
Bands: Lemonheads, New Year, Martha’s Vineyard Ferries, Wrekmeister Harmonies
Websites: www.chrisbrokaw.com

QRD – What’s a myth about touring you wish people knew wasn’t true?

Chris – That it’s this big fancy rock star world. For most people I know it’s very different from that.

QRD – How many shows do you do a year & how many would you like to?

Chris – I average about 100 shows a year & that feels right to me.

QRD – How many shows does it take before you are in a real groove?

Chris – Sometimes I’m in the groove from the first show onwards. I think most bands sound better as they tour; by the end they might be really tired, but they sound amazing & the interplay is great, usually unconsciously so.

QRD – What’s your preferred length of tour?

Chris – 2-3 weeks.

QRD – Do you use a booking agent or book things yourself & what are the advantages of each?

Chris – I use agents, & vastly prefer this. Sometimes I book tours myself & it can be okay, but I much prefer having an expert do it.

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?

Chris – Again, I like to think that other people are better at that than me. I’m terrible with social media.

QRD – How do you think the festival circuit has effected touring & do you enjoy playing festivals?

Chris – I like playing festivals & wish I did it more. I don’t like attending them, but I enjoy playing/participating in them.

QRD – How do your songs change for your live show?

Chris – In all kinds of ways. Some remain pretty consistent. In general they don’t change a lot from night to night.

QRD – Do you keep notes on how to play your songs?

Chris – No.

QRD – How often do you have line-up changes & how do they effect the band?

Chris – Three of the bands I’m in have lineups that change a bit. It’s both challenging & interesting. People showing up knowing the songs 100% goes a long way with me.

QRD – How do band practices differ from live shows?

Chris – Entirely.

QRD – When you hear your live recordings are you generally critical or satisfied?

Chris – I hate listening to my solo shows. I like listening to live band recordings.

QRD – Do you think of recorded versions or live versions of your songs as definitive?

Chris – They’re equally definitive & often inform one another, i.e. the complete picture is formed by the two.

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?

Chris – No.

QRD – What do you do to stay interested in your set each night?

Chris – Try to stay in the song. Try to make each show a little different somehow. Try to pay attention to where I am & what’s happening.

QRD – Do you do the same set every night on a tour?

Chris – Some tours. Some tours I deliberately mix it up every night, but in the last few years I’ve done tours where I did the same set every night. Like on each tour I had a specific agenda.

QRD – How does the audience effect what or how you play on a given night?

Chris – A lot. Sometimes I’ll tailor a set to what I think the audience is or what the acoustics of the room are like.

QRD – Do you take new songs on the road or stick with released material?

Chris – Both.

QRD – Do you throw in cover songs & how do you select them?

Chris – I do & it’s totally intuitive, whatever I’m compelled to play. Some covers only last one night, some I do for years.

QRD – How do you deal with bad stage sound & bad sound guys?

Chris – Ii try not to care. I usually don’t care much at this point. It’s useless to get angry about it. I try to be friendly with jerks. It often works.

QRD – What do you do when equipment malfunctions on stage?

Chris – Whatever I have to do to continue. If everything breaks & I have to do an a cappella set, so be it.

QRD – What have you learned to do to get better sound regardless of the venue?

Chris – Play quietly.

QRD – What’s something you hate seeing other bands do?

Chris – Give up when something breaks.

QRD – What’s the best compliment/worst insult you’ve gotten after a show?

Chris – “Your music really helped me.”

QRD – Do you prefer playing with another touring band or just locals?

Chris – Both, if the local booker has good taste.

QRD – Do you try to listen to the local opening bands on tour?

Chris – As much as possible.

QRD – What makes you like a particular city?

Chris – Everything! Good shows, good venue, good hotel, good food, cool places to hang out & shop, etc. etc….

QRD – What makes you like a particular venue?

Chris – Good sound, good vibe, good shows, nice people.

QRD – What do you have for merch?

Chris – Records, CDs, tapes. Sometimes t-shirts.

QRD – Do you try to have any specialized merch for live shows?

Chris – Sometimes I’ll make something specifically for a tour (but usually end up selling it online too, etc.).

QRD – What’s a merch item you think about selling but haven’t yet?

Chris – Hoodies.

QRD – Besides band members, how many people do you bring on tour & what are their duties?

Chris – Nobody. Maybe a driver? Who drives?

QRD – When you’re on tour, does someone take a father figure role of responsibility?

Chris – I guess me!

QRD – What do you do to keep your instruments & personal belongings from being stolen?

Chris – Keep them with me at all times.

QRD – Do you rent a vehicle or take out your own?

Chris – Both.

QRD – What’s the worst car breakdown you’ve had on tour?

Chris – Come’s van breaking down in 1994 & missing our Paris show with Throwing Muses. Huge bummer.

QRD – What’s your ideal touring vehicle?

Chris – Tour bus. I love tour bus touring!

QRD – What plays on the radio as you drive?

Chris – Whatever the driver wants. I like Grace Jones first thing in the morning, especially if it’s raining.

QRD – How do you occupy time in the van?

Chris – Sleep/talk/call people on the phone.

QRD – What’s your main activity to occupy your downtime when not in the van?

Chris – Keep in touch with my wife. Walk around. Do business online.

QRD – How do you try to find places to eat on the road?

Chris – Ask around for suggestions.

QRD – What’s your in a pinch fast food meal?

Chris – In/Out Burger.

QRD – Do you try to make any meals for yourself on the road?

Chris – As much as possible. It’s really great to stay with friends & cook.

QRD – How many days does it take before your body is in sync with the touring lifestyle?

Chris – 2 days.

QRD – Do you prefer to stay at people’s houses or hotels & what are the advantages & disadvantages to each?

Chris – I love staying with friends. I also like staying in nice hotels. Staying alone in grim hotels... can be very grim.

QRD – Do you have separate clothes for onstage than daywear?

Chris – Sometimes! I usually change my shoes. Sort of a ritual for me.

QRD – How many changes of clothes do you take on tour?

Chris – Too many, usually.

QRD – How often do you do laundry on tour?

Chris – Not enough

QRD – How often do you try to bathe & how do you schedule in everyone getting bathed?

Chris – I try for every day.

QRD – What do you do when a band member has totally different ideas about hygiene?

Chris – Tell them they STINK.

QRD – How often do you try to schedule a day off?

Chris – Not enough.

QRD – Any tips for not getting sick on the road?

Chris –Emergen-C & lots of Odwalla drinks

QRD – Do you have a set drinking policy (none before performing or a nightly total)?

Chris – I don’t drink.

QRD – What’s a lesson from touring you keep forgetting & re-learning?

Chris – Schedule more days off.

QRD – What do you do the week before tour to get ready?

Chris – Practice!

QRD – How long does it take to convert back to day-to-day life?

Chris – Weeks. Years.

QRD – How do you test for personality conflicts between band members before touring?

Chris – You can’t. Everyone is different out there.

QRD – How has touring effected how you feel about playing in your hometown?

Chris – It’s made it less important.

QRD – How do you feel about fans putting live cell phone videos up on YouTube?

Chris – Fine with me.

QRD – Do you see touring as mainly a promotional tool for your new albums?

Chris – It’s that, but it’s mostly the act of playing, in a room, for people. That whole thing is important unto itself. Crucial, essential.

QRD – Do you try to practice as a band while on the road or just stick to the performances?

Chris – Sometimes we’ll work on new tunes at soundcheck.

QRD – Do you have time to practice your instrument while on the road?

Chris – Yes, & that’s often when/where I get new song ideas.

QRD – Does your time with your instrument go up or down on the road compared to normal?

Chris – Probably up.

QRD – Do you try to hit museums or any touristy things while you travel?

Chris – Yes, as much as possible.

QRD – Do you try to get any rudimentary grasp of a language before touring in a foreign country?

Chris – Some of them. Sometimes it’s just too many countries.

QRD – Do you have any pre-stage rituals before each set?

Chris – Play guitar for at least ten minutes. The Lemonheads clasp fingers & scream.

QRD – Does “what happens on tour, stays on tour” apply for you?

Chris – No.

QRD – Have you ever or would you like to do a bus/train/mass transit tour?

Chris – I do it all the time!

QRD – What are your favorite & least favorite seasons to tour?

Chris – I don’t like to miss holidays.

QRD – If money were no object, how many months a year would you spend on the road?

Chris – About the same. I really like going there & playing, seeing friends, etc.

QRD – What would make you start touring more or start touring less?

Chris – If the money from touring suddenly became gigantic I’d do it more.

QRD – What’s something that would cause you to cut a tour short?

Chris – Death in the family.

QRD – What could happen to make you stop touring?

Chris – If my family really needed me at home I’d figure something else out.

QRD – What’s something about life in general that you’ve learned from touring?

Chris – It’s an amazing, crazy, fascinating world out there. Really exciting & interesting.

QRD – Anything else?

Chris – I still really love doing this. It’s not for everyone, but it suits me. I think it becomes addictive, too.