For rock bands, success is directly proportional to the van's odometer.
Local pop-punk band Vena Cava (think Jawbreaker, not blink-182) understands this well. Drummer Patrick Murray and siblings Corey and April Froschheuser (both on lead harmony vocals and, respectively, guitar and bass) just completed their fourth month-long, self-funded, semi-national trek since forming in 1999.
Touring isn't just about self-promotion-it's about experiences. Rest assured, Vena Cava returned with a few.
To start, they settled a long-standing feud between Corey and indie-soul sleazebag Har Mar Superstar. The two didn't see eye-to-eye when they met a few years ago outside the Bankers Hill bar, The Boardroom (now the Cherry Bomb). But Har Mar recognized Corey at a packed Easter Sunday show in Minneapolis and offered a soft apology.
"He said he tends to start a lot of commotion when he doesn't intend to and that he just likes to talk a lot of shit," Corey explains.
In Colorado Springs, another shady character approached the band: "There was this guy walking around in a cheap gray tweed suit and a ponytail," Corey recalls. The tweed man claimed that his connections ("friends of friends" of the Moody Blues and the road manager for Yes) could get them booked on the defunct Regis and Kathie Lee show.
"I don't even watch that show and know she's gone," Corey says. "We were pretty excited though, because he told all the other bands he'd put them on in front of 1.5 million people, but told us 1.7 million."
Needless to say, no one's waiting for a phone call.
The stories go on and on-like playing to 50 people in a tool shed after rain forced a change of venue in Billings, Mont. On the flipside, they played major clubs, hitting their peak with packed houses upon returning to the West Coast.
Being rock 'n' roll refugees doesn't come without a price. Corey and Murray were both slapped with speeding tickets. But two citations in six stops isn't bad, especially considering that the band was targeted by Montana police for smuggling Mexican terrorists.
"The second time we'd gotten pulled over in 20 minutes, everyone in the van started yelling at the cop, asking him why," Murray explains. "He kept avoiding the question, then finally gave in and said the INS had snagged two vans with Arizona plates earlier that day smuggling Mexicans."
"They took me into the cop car and started asking me really weird questions," April says. "He kept asking me about drugs-what I thought about them and what I think should be done with people who use them.
"Then he started getting all religious. It was really creepy."
To the authorities' credit, the mindset and lifestyle of a touring band is decidedly strange.
"Another cop couldn't understand that we were thousands of miles from home on our way to play a basement party not knowing if we were going to be paid or where we were staying next," Corey says.
The purpose of the tour was to tout their latest release, So Evolved ... Inhuman. It was recorded by Gar Wood (Tanner, Hot Snakes), released on their own Don't Quit Your Day Job Records and distributed by Cargo Records.
Not dissuaded by terrorist-hunting Jesus freaks who're licensed to kill, Vena Cava is looking to book yet another tour this fall through the East and South.