Musician Interview with Cheryl Manner of Irata
August 14, 2017
Name: Cheryl Manner
QRD – What’s a myth about touring you wish people knew wasn’t true?
Cheryl – That it’s all a big party. It’s very much like a workday; you load your gear in, sound check, fix any issues, put all of your energy into a performance, talk to people, load gear out, & lots of other stuff in between. All of this probably follows a several-hours long drive from a different city. It can be very draining to do night after night & partying hard makes it drain you even faster. We have a good time, but not at the expense of our sanity.
QRD – How many shows do you do a year & how many would you like to? We probably do approximately 40 shows a year?
Cheryl – Maybe 55 would be good, & I would prefer to do those in other cities, not just play around the Carolinas.
QRD – How many shows does it take before you are in a real groove?
Cheryl – Just the first few riffs of the first song on the first show.
QRD – What’s your preferred length of tour?
Cheryl – Two to two-and-a-half weeks is good. Also, they should be spaced apart according to their length. At the beginning of this year we did a two week run followed by a two-&-a-half week run, with only two weeks in between. That was probably the first time I’ve ever experienced the feeling of wanting to just get back home.
QRD – Do you use a booking agent or book things yourself & what are the advantages of each?
Cheryl – We have done both. I prefer doing the booking myself so that I feel like I have some control over what happens. I know what we expect as far as bands we want to play with, venues we want to play at, etc., & I like knowing that the shows will be satisfactory. However, as anyone that has done booking will tell you, it can be an extremely time-consuming, frustrating, & even disheartening task. The benefit of having a booking agent is that you have someone else who can take on that burden for you.
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?
Cheryl – I put the event up on events calendars for radio stations, etc. If we have a good rapport with the local band, I’ll try & see if they’ll put up fliers. I’ve tried a lot to get radio interviews in the cities we play in, but that hasn’t been very successful.
QRD – How do you think the festival circuit has effected touring & do you enjoy playing festivals?
Cheryl – We haven’t played many festivals; the only thing I can really say about the ones we have played is we enjoyed them & we got to play in front of people who normally would not have come to a standard show. It can be a challenge if you’re booking a show near a place where there is a festival that you’re not in. You have to try & find bands who aren’t in the festival who can play, & try & figure out a way to get people to come to your show instead of or in addition to the festival.
QRD – How do your songs change for your live show?
Cheryl – Sometimes we add guitar solos or breaks to some of the songs. In general, since we’ve been a three-piece, we make an effort to write our songs they way they will be played live.
QRD – Do you keep notes on how to play your songs?
Cheryl – Only as they are in the writing stage. By the time they’re recorded & we’ve been playing them live, I have played them so much that I couldn’t forget them if I wanted to.
QRD – How often do you have line-up changes & how do they effect the band?
Cheryl – We have had drummers sub for ours a few times due to illness/injury & we actually just added a new guitar player/singer to the group. Having other drummers makes me appreciate ours, because having to try & teach someone the stuff he does makes you realize how much he contributes to the sound. The new guitar player addition has been really nice for the writing process. He has brought a fresh energy to the process that has really helped us all be more productive.
QRD – How do band practices differ from live shows?
Cheryl – We don’t generally drink when we rehearse! A lot more energy goes into the live shows than when we’re trying to work parts out, but we like to play music that we enjoy, so we tend to rock out even when we’re just running through stuff.
QRD – When you hear your live recordings are you generally critical or satisfied?
Cheryl – Ugh, I cringe. But it’s helpful to listen to so you can hear what everyone else is hearing & make an effort to be better next time.
QRD – Do you think of recorded versions or live versions of your songs as definitive?
Cheryl – Live. We are much better as a live band, in my opinion.
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?
Cheryl – I would play all of our songs every night. We make an effort to write songs that we like & because we like them, they’re all fun to play.
QRD – What do you do to stay interested in your set each night?
Cheryl – I don’t think I’ve had a problem with this.
QRD – Do you do the same set every night on a tour?
Cheryl – We have in the past, but we try to do different songs each time, because for the most part, we all like all of them & don’t want to leave any out.
QRD – How does the audience effect what or how you play on a given night?
Cheryl – The audience CAN have a big impact on whether or not I’m enjoying myself. If they seem like they’re into it & they’re having a good time, then I’m having a blast. If they seem disinterested, it can be disheartening; but I usually try & put my all into it & have fun no matter what. I always tell myself that I am lucky to be doing what I do & any show could be my last, so I don’t want someone else’s mood to ruin it for me.
QRD – Do you take new songs on the road or stick with released material?
Cheryl – We have been known to play unfinished material live before. We will be playing our new, unrecorded songs at our upcoming shows.
QRD – Do you throw in cover songs & how do you select them?
Cheryl – No, we never do covers.
QRD – How do you deal with bad stage sound & bad sound guys?
Cheryl – Be polite & ask for what you need. If it becomes apparent that they can’t do what you need them to, just do the best performance you can & remain polite.
QRD – What do you do when equipment malfunctions on stage?
Cheryl – First, check to make sure nothing has come unplugged. That’s usually my issue since I move around a lot. If nothing is unplugged, make sure everything that has a light is lit up & so on. Sometimes we stop playing for bad enough malfunctions, but generally the rest of the band keeps going until the person with the difficulty has resolved their issue.
QRD – What have you learned to do to get better sound regardless of the venue?
Cheryl – Keep the amount of stuff coming through my monitor to a minimum. That gives us less stage noise to battle.
QRD – What’s something you hate seeing other bands do?
Cheryl – If they aren’t the last band playing, when a band gets done playing & starts talking to people or doing things which prevent them from breaking down so the next band can get on in a timely fashion.
QRD – What’s the best compliment/worst insult you’ve gotten after a show?
Cheryl – The best compliment that I get is, “You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.” I’m not sure if I’ve been purposefully insulted after a show.
QRD – Do you ever tour with bands other than your own as a hired hand & if so how is that experience different?
Cheryl – I have not, but I absolutely will. Please send people that need a guitar player my way.
QRD – Do you prefer playing with another touring band or just locals?
Cheryl – I like playing with nice people & good bands, in that order.
QRD – Do you try to listen to the local opening bands on tour?
Cheryl – Sometimes. I feel like it’s a polite & professional thing to do, but I admit that we mostly listen to silence in the tour vehicle.
QRD – What makes you like a particular city?
Cheryl – Nice people, boutique shops & restaurants, energy. I like places that feel like they’re thriving.
QRD – What makes you like a particular venue?
Cheryl – Professionalism from the staff & clean bathrooms, in that order.
QRD – What do you have for merch?
Cheryl – T-shirts, vinyl, CDs, stickers. (www.iratalive.com/store)
QRD – Do you try to have any specialized merch for live shows?
Cheryl – We did a tour shirt with our tour mates back in February, but that’s the only time we’ve done that.
QRD – What’s a merch item you think about selling but haven’t yet?
Cheryl – Hats.
QRD – Besides band members, how many people do you bring on tour & what are their duties?
Cheryl – Depends on the tour, but we try to bring one person to help sling merch, lug gear, make conversation, help drive, & find fun things to do on the way.
QRD – When you’re on tour, does someone take a father figure role of responsibility?
Cheryl – Jason (drummer) is usually that guy.
QRD – What do you do to keep your instruments & personal belongings from being stolen?
Cheryl – We keep an eye on our gear when loading in & out & we try & check out the areas we’ll be in for suspicious activity & have someone stay near the vehicle if necessary.
QRD – Do you rent a vehicle or take out your own?
Cheryl – We are lucky enough to have our own vehicle & trailer.
QRD – What’s the worst car breakdown you’ve had on tour?
Cheryl – Oh my gosh, this was awful -- we were in Brooklyn & it was probably 6 degrees outside & the car wouldn’t start because of the cold. Nobody around had jumper cables (I mean, that seems ridiculous; but also, who goes on a two-and-a-half week road trip without jumper cables?), & everyone was standing out in the cold trying to wave down a cab or an Uber driver or someone. I think we finally had a tow truck come by & jump the car. I’m sure I almost died of pneumonia & frost bite that night.
QRD – What’s your ideal touring vehicle?
Cheryl – One that works well!
QRD – What plays on the radio as you drive?
Cheryl – We give our ears a break in the car. Sometimes we listen to classical or instrumental, but rarely do we listen to rock music.
QRD – How do you occupy time in the van?
Cheryl – I sleep & read a ton. We all chat some & have been known to watch movies on especially long drives.
QRD – What’s your main activity to occupy your downtime when not in the van?
Cheryl – I like to putz around & check out the city.
QRD – How do you try to find places to eat on the road?
Cheryl – Yelp.
QRD – What’s your in a pinch fast food meal?
Cheryl – Chick-fil-a.
QRD – Do you try to make any meals for yourself on the road?
Cheryl – I do & bass player Jon does sometimes. It saves so much money & allows you to have a little more control over what you’re putting in your body.
QRD – How many days does it take before your body is in sync with the touring lifestyle?
Cheryl – Hard to say. I am always having a blast, so I don’t really notice the change.
QRD – Do you prefer to stay at people’s houses or hotels & what are the advantages & disadvantages to each?
Cheryl – I actually prefer to stay with people; it allows a more intimate experience with the city & allows you to meet new people. The disadvantage is that usually people want to hang out & chat or party & you aren’t always up for that if you’ve had long drives or are just really tired. Hotels are ok; we’re pretty weary of them, because you never know what you’re going to get.
QRD – Do you have separate clothes for onstage than daywear?
Cheryl – Absolutely. I try & wear something loose & comfortable in the car.
QRD – How many changes of clothes do you take on tour?
Cheryl – I usually take about four, but that is definitely not enough.
QRD – How often do you do laundry on tour?
Cheryl – About every four days.
QRD – How often do you try to bathe & how do you schedule in everyone getting bathed?
Cheryl – We all try to bathe every day. One member takes a shower after the show each night, & the rest get a shower in the morning. That usually works pretty well.
QRD – What do you do when a band member has totally different ideas about hygiene?
Cheryl – We haven’t had that problem yet!
QRD – How often do you try to schedule a day off?
Cheryl – If I have my way, we’d probably have about three days off for every two weeks.
QRD – Any tips for not getting sick on the road?
Cheryl – Drink lots of water; WASH YOUR HANDS!!! Especially if you shake a lot of hands; don’t eat garbage, & don’t drink too much.
QRD – Do you have a set drinking policy (none before performing or a nightly total)?
Cheryl – Not a set one, but we all generally expect that each of us will be sober enough to play well.
QRD – What’s a lesson from touring you keep forgetting & re-learning?
Cheryl – That I need to make an effort to get exercise in.
QRD – What do you do the week before tour to get ready?
Cheryl – Hopefully I’ll pack & iron a bunch of my husband’s clothes so I at least know he’ll be wearing ironed clothes to work for a few days while I’m gone.
QRD – How long does it take to convert back to day-to-day life?
Cheryl – Ugh. At least three days. But I still sometimes wake up wondering where I am.
QRD – How do you test for personality conflicts between band members before touring?
Cheryl – We’ve been playing together so long, we know which conflicts we’re going to have & we just try & be respectful about giving each other space & not being a jerk to each other.
QRD – How has touring effected how you feel about playing in your hometown?
Cheryl – It made me realize that we need to play less in our hometown. If you play very often, people lose a reason to come see you because they can just catch you “next time”. I prefer playing to crowds!
QRD – How do you feel about fans putting live cell phone videos up on YouTube?
Cheryl – Indifferent.
QRD – Do you see touring as mainly a promotional tool for your new albums?
Cheryl – No, I see it as a way to stay sane & something to look forward to while I’m at work.
QRD – Do you try to practice as a band while on the road or just stick to the performances?
Cheryl – I wish we spent more time writing on the road, but we just do the shows with no rehearsal in between.
QRD – Do you have time to practice your instrument while on the road?
Cheryl – I do. I’ll sit in the back with my guitar & write.
QRD – Does your time with your instrument go up or down on the road compared to normal?
Cheryl – It goes up. If I’m at home & in the daily grind, I don’t always get to play every day.
QRD – Do you try to hit museums or any touristy things while you travel?
Cheryl – Absolutely. It’s one of the benefits of touring!
QRD – Do you try to get any rudimentary grasp of a language before touring in a foreign country?
Cheryl – The only situation we’ve encountered with this is when we were in Montreal. I had a solid enough grasp on basic French to know what I was reading most of the time, but we would have gotten around just fine either way.
QRD – Do you have any pre-stage rituals before each set?
Cheryl – I try & get some alone time so I can get my head in the right spot. I’ll also have an adult beverage to calm my nerves.
QRD – Does “what happens on tour, stays on tour” apply for you?
Cheryl – We say it jokingly from time to time, but we’re really a pretty mild bunch.
QRD – Have you ever or would you like to do a bus/train/mass transit tour?
Cheryl – Absolutely not. As a person who uses public transportation a lot, I can predict that so many things would go wrong due to delays. It would be a nightmare.
QRD – What are your favorite & least favorite seasons to tour?
Cheryl – I don’t really have a preference.
QRD – If money were no object, how many months a year would you spend on the road?
Cheryl – If I could, I’d probably tour 12 months out of the year.
QRD – What would make you start touring more or start touring less?
Cheryl – Nothing would make me tour less, but I would tour more if we were making money to offset personal expenses that get incurred when we tour (i.e., not going to work & still having to pay bills).
QRD – What’s something that would cause you to cut a tour short?
Cheryl – We have had a severe illness cut a tour short.
QRD – What could happen to make you stop touring?
Cheryl – If something were to happen to one of the band members that prevented them from playing live. That’s an awful thought.
QRD – What’s something about life in general that you’ve learned from touring?
Cheryl – Hmmmm...I don’t think I have anything that deep!
QRD – Anything else?
Cheryl – I think it would be great if people made an effort to spread the word about live acts that they’ve seen that they like. People don’t go see live music enough.