No use in reinventing the wheel. Two Cow Garage has gotten as much love on Donewaiting as just about any band short of Miranda Sound or Ted Leo so I’m not going to waste my time with a historical background or even a song-by-song analysis of the new record, Speaking in Cursive, the band’s first for what has quickly become one of my favorite labels, Suburban Home. What I will say – in way of an intro – is that just as with previous Two Cow CDs, it took me a few listens to really get into the songs, probably (no, not probably, DEFINITELY) because I have yet to hear these songs played live. But after a few spins, the CD has really, really grown on me.
The Two Cow live experience – all the blood, sweat and tears – is as fine better than 99.9% of the other bands out there trying to make it by relentless touring. Even despite some potential line-up setbacks (read Deville’s cover story in the Alive), Two Cow soldiers on without letting it effect what they give back to the audience, regardless of size, hundreds of nights a year.
Having just wrapped up a few weeks of tour dates, Two Cow Garage returns home for Saturday night’s Skully’s 7th Anniversary blowout where they’ll hit the stage at 9:20 (this show also serves as an official CD release party for Speaking in Cursive). Somewhere between Austin, Texas and Columbus, the fellas (Micah Schnabel, Shane Sweeney, Chris Flint, Andy Schell, and Cody Smith) answered questions I sent them via email about life on the road.
How many miles are on the current touring van? How many were put on in 2008 (approximately)?
(Chris) Current mileage is 117,232.6 miles. This is a “new” van that we bought a little more than a year ago that had about 15,000 miles on it when we scored it. So, according to Two Cow math (carry the “0” over there, divide by 2.3, and then multiply by Pi (3.12 … I think), and that means we’ve put around a half million miles this year.
Did the price of gas effect your touring in 2008? Now that prices are as low as they’ve been in a long, long time, will you take advantage and book some additional dates?
(Shane) The last few weeks have been dreamy … let’s just focus on the positive and forget about most of 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. Last week we filled up in Arkansas for $46. 3 months ago it was our standard $90 fill-up. We’ve all noticed the graduation to the medium French fry from the small.
Do you ever schedule a show in a town where you already know you won’t have a good draw but there is a certain attraction (store, bar, friends, etc.) that you really want to see and use a tour date as an excuse to visit?
(Micah) At this point, not really. We’ve been just about everywhere, and there seems to be a direct correlation between good times and places where we draw well (Chicago, St.Louis, Seattle, Austin, Providence are some that come to mind quickly).
With all the miles you’ve logged, you must have a few stories of driving late at night and seeing something that’s not really there. I remember driving from Ohio to Connecticut when I was 17 with a friend (we kind of skipped out of town without telling our parents). Somewhere in Pennsylvania – at 3am – I saw a deer with a man’s head standing on the side of the road, but only for a split second. What kind of unexplainable things have you seen?
(Chris) Lemme get this straight, Chip …you see a deer, but with a male human head, on the side of the road at 3am in backass Pennsylvania, and you’d like to write it off as some sort of travel-induced hallucination that all who travel long distance experience? Chip, have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor (sometimes spelled “Ockham’s”)? It’s a principle that says basically “All other things being equal, the simplest answer is the best.” Unfortunately Chip, we would suggest that it’s far more likely you were flat fucked up on booze or God knows what. But, hey, if we ever see that deer with the male human head, we’ll name it “Chip” and get back to you.
What stretch of highway is the absolute worst? What is the best?
(Shane) Des Moines to St.Louis is pretty brutal. Driving with snow chains in a van across the Sierra Nevadas in February is quite the experience. The border guards in Serbia, what with their strip searches and pursuit of ecstasy, make the Serbian countryside a bit tense. Throw in some Pres. Bush policies that cause the indigenous population to riot and try to burn the U.S. embassy to the ground, and Serbia could go under the “brutal” category. But the people themselves are actually quite nice in both Serbia and Croatia if you can forget about the death squads that roam the streets.
Growing up in Cleveland, I’ve made the drive between there and Columbus what seems like a million times. There are certain points along the way that, when I pass, I know exactly how much longer I have, often down to the minute. Are you that way too?
(Cody) Absolutely. The drive from Austin to Columbus is that way for us. We seem to end a lot of tours in Austin, so that drive back to Ohio is very familiar.
Since you don’t have the same tour support as a major label band (I’m not even sure if your label or – if you have one – booking agency gives you ANY tour support), what are some of the best ways you’ve found to save money while on the road and still end up with a full stomach?
(Micah) Friends. That simple. Friends buy merch, friends buy beer, friends buy food. We get a lot of free shit and we really appreciate that every time.
I know you’re PBR/Black Label men (or at least I assume so) probably partially out of necessity (I’ve been there … down to my last $4 at Bernie’s and deciding I can get two cans of PBR for the price of one Bud bottle) and partially because it’s something you’ve grown accustomed to. When you roll into a town with a particular generous promoter who says, “You’re drinking whatever beer you want tonight for free”, what is your beer (or alcohol) of choice?
(Shane) It varies for each of us, but you hit it on the head … after a couple of fancy beers we all end up with PBR. It’s comforting.
Let’s talk a bit about music-listening habits. What’s the best band or album or song to listen to in the following situations:
Just got done playing a show that you think went extremely well (great crowd, made a lot of money, sold a ton of merch)
(Chris) Man, it changes every tour. A lot of times it’s something wacky and made-for-drunken-fun … Andrew W.K., or just what feels rockin’ at the time. AC/DC is always a great choice.
Have a long 11-hour drive ahead
(Shane) Plug in the iPod to the cigarette lighter and shuffle away.
The longing to hear something nostalgic
(Anonymous) Slobberbone, although there are rumors of a possible new Slobberbone album …
Miss family/friends back home
(Micah) No offense to family and friends, but we don’t miss them too much when we’re out.
Have had a disagreement with somebody in the band
(Micah) Honestly, it doesn’t ever really happen. We actually all get along consistently well.
Rolling into a town where you have a bunch of friends/fans or are tight with the other bands on the bill
(Shane) Some demos of new stuff from friends that we’re about to play with. That’s always fun to listen to the new stuff and then see them play it live later that night.
A rare off night where there is nothing to do but party with the locals
(Andy) Same as other night, it doesn’t really change due to an off night.
The ride home from the last night on tour – the end of which you know you’ll be sleeping in your own bed
(Cody) Usually stuff we acquire on the road from friends and other bands.