Frontman Mark Duplass fearlessly negotiates interstate highways while conducting frank Coyote Music interview.The band is on their way from Des Moines, Iowa to Champaign, Illinois for what looks to be a promising show. Champaign, home to the band's label (Polyphonic), greeted Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! on their first visit with a warm crowd numbering approximately ten. But with tonight's line-up of six or seven acts and Volcano headlining, the band hopes for a better showing.
I call and reach singer/songwriter/frontman Mark Duplass at the wheel of the band's van while drummer John Thomas Robinette III and guitarist Craig Montoro sleep in the back, unconsciously awaiting their driving shifts.
How's the tour going so far? Amazing. The van's transmission died early on and we missed the first 3 shows. MARK DUPLASS: Actually, that first night in Champaign wasn't too bad. There were only about 10 people but most of them bought merchandise, which helps out a lot. It seems to work out somehow, that small crowds buy a decent amount of merch and then larger crowds will by the exact same amount.
COYOTEMUSIC: What's in the CD player?
MD: The Shins just finished, the Lost in Translation soundtrack is about to begin. We have an iPod in the van now, though, so we'll start using a 3,000-song shuffle for our musical pleasure.
CM: How's the tour going so far?
MD: Amazing. The van's transmission died early on and we missed the first 3 shows. Then we drove from New York City to Jackson, Mississippi in 2 days to catch up. That's a looong ride. In Austin we sold out Beerland. There were lines of people trying to get in. In Baton Rouge my parents came to see us. Craig and John's parents were at the Dallas show. We also did an early Christian show in Springfield, Missouri. On the West Coast we had a stretch of days off. We rode bikes in San Francisco...
CM: For bands reading this who aren't to the touring stages yet, give some idea of what it's like. What do you need? How many CDs do you take on a tour?
MD: We almost ran out of CDs this tour. We left Brooklyn with about 75 and only have 8 left. Since we're headed to Polyvinyl's home city we'll stock up there. On the other hand, we're overstocked on t-shirts. There's no set method—sometimes you have enough and other times you don't.
CM: Are fans at shows beginning to know the songs and sing along?
MD: Maybe one out of every seven or eight shows will have some heavy duty singing. Yeah, every 7th or 8th show.
Today we have a 4pm radio spot in Champaign. Also at 4pm we have load-in at the club (we'll be late for that). CM: What about money? At what point can bands expect to make some sort of profit.
MD: It takes a long time before any money is made. Money is made, it just gets spent all over the place. It goes to recoup recording costs, CD production, promotion and things like that.
CM: Do you have an "average" night when it comes to income?
MD: Not really. There are good nights and bad but I guess an average would be maybe $100 at the door and $50-100 of merch. There have been some $300-700 nights. We made $400 in Springfield. It varies. Some nights is much less. Actually, the most money we made was from "Joe Jaxon" being used in the Showtime series Queer as Folk. That was 4-digit's worth and very unexpected. It'll pay for the transmission and some other expenses.
CM: What about your schedule? What's an average day?
MD: Today we have a 4:00PM radio spot in Champaign where we'll play two songs. Also at 4 p.m. we have load-in at the club (we'll be late for that). Show starts at 6...
At this point our cell signals begin to fade. Not sure if it's the VISE!! van driving through BFE, or my talking from the canyons of Lower Manhattan. Either way, the interview is over. We make a quick arrangement to talk the next afternoon, when the band will be walking around Chicago. That call doesn't happen (my fault, not the band's) and so here we are. More to come?