Heading out on tour is possibly the most exciting moment for any band, whether you’re traveling in luxury or piling into the back of a van. But if you’re trying to cut a few corners here and there to save some cash, things can go downhill very quickly if you’re not careful.
Thankfully, Wollongong boys The Pinheads are here with some advice on how to wring every last drop of income out of a tour (which you definitely need to do with seven members), and they’re putting it all to use as of this week on a tour of their own in support of their self-titled debut album, trekking across the East Coast and around New Zealand, followed by an appearance at Wollongong’s stacked Yours & Owls festival.
Written by guitarist Luke Spook, their guide covers all the bases, including getting from one place to another, feeding yourselves, and even finding some creative places to crash – although the idea of dropping into the occasional op shop along the way seems like a great way to undo all your money-saving efforts if you’re the impulsive type.
If you’re like us (no money or a lot of people, or both), then you wanna get a van. It’s not only cheaper than flying but it’s way funner.
First though you’re gonna want to make sure everything works or you’ll end up like us when we were driving on the Hume Hwy on an extremely stormy day when the windscreen wipers stopped working. We had to manually wipe the windows hanging out of the door holding the wiper for the rest of the drive. Later on the same day rain poured non-stop through the sun roof.
It’s best to share driving but we don’t really do it because Big Z (tambourine) is a road hog and usually takes the wheel for most of the trip. Try to work out who in the band is the road hog and let em take the wheel. We don’t recommend driving all night but sometimes it must be done so drink as many servo coffees as you can or, like us, drink as many as you can no matter how long the trip.
Sometimes there’s too much gear to fit in the boot alone and it might make some seats very shitty, these seats become the lowest in the hierarchy- the front seat being the highest. it’s important to rotate seats as to not cause a class war within the van and leave some people with seat envy.
Full van? Check. Speed dealer sunnies? Check.
Actually not just tents, bring sleeping mats and sleeping bags and pillows. We have forgotten these many times and it’s not a good idea to sleep in rural Victoria in the middle of winter without anything covering you or you’ll wake up sick and then everyone in the band will get sick and you’ll all hate each other and play really badly at shows.
It’s pretty hard to find camping grounds in the middle of nowhere off the highway so just try to find somewhere on the side of the road out of the way of truck high-beams. We recommend sleeping under the giant KFC or McDonalds light signs so you wake up with a beautiful yellow glow. We often also camp in forests as no one’s gonna find you and charge you for illegally camping, if anyone finds you it’s gonna be a serial killer and by that time you’ll be dead so it doesn’t really matter.
It’s best to sleep a few in a tent so it’s nice and warm. If you forget a pillow then either take the car head rest of fill a shirt with your jacket.
Call anyone you’re pals with at whatever city you’re in so you have a safe place to stay at after you play. Anyone you know in a band will understand your situation and should let you stay (we love you Jimmy and Ciarn from Dumb Punts, Dingo and Zaza). The rule with this is that you have to let them stay anytime you can accommodate them when they’re in the same pickle.
If you don’t know anyone then either get someone’s sympathy or just drinky enough beery that you can sleep in the extremely cold/hot van overnight. In this situation you’ll probably be regretting being in a 7-piece and you might wake up hating everyone so it’s best to try the former.
“Oi, I think we might be missing a few pegs…”
As I said coffee is very important- it not only keeps you awake and prepared but it’s also a hunger suppresant. Another good idea is to load up on pre-made canned food like soup in a can, pasta in a can, spam in a can, etc. Make a fire and cook em up, it’s good to have a side of bread for this to make you feel like you’re eating real food. Supermarket salads are also your friend here- if you get some extras in the deli section you can have a classy meal for about $5 for dinner, once again just put it in bread and eat it.
There should be a rule about food that will rot, after almost every tour we find stinky carrots, celery or warm hummus (Al). As another rule you must leave at least 1 carrot in the sunglasses holder in the van for good luck.
Also watch out if you’re eating lollies or choccy, if it’s left in the hot van then you’re gonna regret it.
Sometimes you gotta treat yourself, go and get dinner as a band and forget each others annoying eating habits and be like a big family.
Feeding a hungry band of seven on the cheap isn’t easy.
If you’re listening to music on the car stereo then make sure everyone can at least tolerate it. If all else fails then listen to any of the many podcasts available. We mostly listen to ‘The Unexplained’ with Howard Hughes or ‘Lore’ with Aaron Mahnke, it’s good to listen to spooky things that will convince you that the strange light you just saw in the sky is definitely a U.F.O, or that the man standing by the side of the road just buried someone. Anything to make the trip less boring.
If you’re like Big Z then you can listen to AM radio through the night, just don’t be confused when everyone in the van falls asleep.
Music-wise we find that country/ country rock music works the best for driving- our fave road albums would probably be Exile on Main St., Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, The Gilded Palace Of Sin and Harvest.
Games are important- We’ve brought the board game Taboo on tour before which was good, don’t bring anything like Monopoly that will make everyone fight. Another good game to play is someone starts with a band name, you then must think of another band name that starts with the LAST letter of the previous name. I think we played this once for roughly 4 hours.
Another fun game is guessing which rivers have sharks in them- the answer is most of them, if not all.
The best form of entertainment is a good ol’ fashion sing-along, it’s a rare one but when it happens you gotta go with it. This is also a good chance to practice your Gregorian chanting ability.
“How’s the serenity…?”
Other tips and tricks
A tip to stay awake is have the aircon on very cold to keep you occupied. Also as a rule whoever is sitting in the front passenger seat must stay awake with the driver.
An excellent way to break up the monotony is to stop at op-shops along the way. At worst you’ll buy a pair of sunglasses that you either never wear again or lose after a day, at best you’ll get a whole new outfit for your next show.
Our frequented spots on the road are mainly coffee places.
If we have time we try to stop at Promised Lands in Bellingen for a cleansing swim after being in the sin coast of QLD.
If you’re headed north, specifically Byron, go to Orgasmos for the best falafels in NSW, possibly Aus.
Our favourite place to camp heading north is Bloodwood Ridge Forest.
A good detour if you have a bit of time on the Hume is to drive up the mountains along the side of the road, if you have heaps of time then ditch the Hume and go on the coast road down to VIC, stop at Braidwood or Eden. Our favourite place to camp heading south is Jugiong.
The main thing about being on the road is everyone getting along, don’t piss everyone off or try not to be pissed off at everyone. If you’re doing this on the cheap it might be harder to not annoy each other, you’ll be in closer quarters by sleeping in a fart-filled tent with the same people that you’ve just been sitting with in a fart-filled van for the last 8 hours. No matter how hard you try your wee and poo cycles are never going to line up so you’re either going to stopping every half hour or pissing in a bottle in the back of the van.
Sometimes someone will lock the keys in the van (video of that here) , sometimes someone will spill their piss bottle, sometimes someone will vomit a little, sometimes someone will play the whole of Yello’s album ‘Stella’ at full volume, there will be farting and burping and you might only sleep for 1.5 hours.
After you do this multiple times you will begin to love all these aspects and will miss them when you aren’t on the road. Who knows, you might even miss the smell of canned tuna, sweaty feet and service station coffee farts after a while.
Only took ’em 50 years as a band to drop their debut album…
The Pinheads Aus/NZ album tour
Thursday June 22 | Blackbear Lodge, Brisbane QLD
Friday June 23 | Miami Sharkbar, Gold Coast QLD
Saturday June 24 | The Great Northern, Byron Bay NSW
Friday June 30 | The Chippendale Hotel, Sydney NSW
Saturday July 1 | The Workers Club, Melbourne VIC
Saturday July 8 | UOW Unibar, Wollongong NSW
Thursday July 13 | Valhalla, Wellington NZ
Friday July 14 | Totara St, Tauranga NZ
Saturday July 15 | Whammy Bar, Auckland NZ
The Pinheads are also playing the stacked Yours & Owls festival, kicking off at Stuart Park, North Wollongong on September 30 & 1Write a Letter to the Editor