Some words with the last mile

Canadian punks, the last mile are coming to Ireland and the UK this week and next. It is a throwback, for me, to the diy tours I was involved in helping out with in the 80’s and 90’s. Everything based on trust, things backfiring and a real feeling of camaraderie amongst it all. I helped organise the Dublin leg tomorrow and in advance sent the band off some questions

How did this tour come about? It must be very risky for a band from Canada to come to Europe for a diy tour? How does it finance itself?
(Chris) This tour came about the way any DIY tour comes together, we booked it ourselves with help from friends. We wanted to try an experiment. The UK was where our album was downloaded and listened to the most so we wanted to see if that would translate to people actually coming out to shows. If people come out, great, if they don’t, that’s ok as well, because we can’t control people’s motivations and financial realities with regard to the heaviness of life and disposable income to go to concerts. With regard to risk, we toured mainland Europe in April and May and it went really well. With the money we made from that tour, we were able to pay for our plane tickets for this tour. Needless to say that having Euros to pay for flights in Canadian dollars helped immeasurably. Our money is pretty worthless right now. We are also very fortunate that we have good friends who are willing to help us out. Parker are providing the backline, My friend Billy Woods will be driving us in Ireland (because Parker’s vehicle can only carry three people plus gear), Beth Black from Flinch and Slowlight, has graciously offered to lend us her van for the England and Scotland part of the tour and Derrick from Make-That-A-Take has helped with logistics and bookings. Without these people, we would not have been able to afford to do this tour. We all work at home and save our money to be able to do this. Myself, Stephanie, and Emilien all work for ourselves doing varying jobs so that we can have the luxury of being able to leave on tour. Our guitar player, Mike, has a full time job, a daughter, and a sometimes complicated custody agreement, 2 weeks holiday a year (standard in North America) so unfortunately he can’t tour with us. We are so fortunate that Bertrand, from the band Pink Flamingos (FR) is able and wants to tour with us. He played guitar on our recent Euro tour and he will be playing with us again for this tour. The reality is that when the three of us leave on tour, we don’t get vacation pay so we have to put money aside to pay for rent and bills for while we’re gone and for when we get back. The idea of losing a ton of money on tour is terrifying but the allure of touring is stronger. Therefore we all work, put money aside, and hope for the best. 

How was lockdown for you creatively?
(Stephanie & Chris) At the beginning it was really hard to be motivated to do anything creative. Due to health issues with Chris and both of his parents, we were forced to stop everything music related for all of 2018 and most of 2019 and things were finally back on track for us to tour again in 2020 and we had 100 shows on 4 continents booked and then the pandemic hit. It was a heavy blow. Plus the fact that our drummer, at the time, lived in Brooklyn, it meant that we couldn’t even arrange music as a full band because of border closures. Near the end of August 2020, we started writing and arranging songs with Emilien because he was in the same situation as us where the rest of his band, Moving Targets, were based in the USA and they couldn’t do anything together. Once we got together and started working together, everything changed and we all became extremely motivated to make music together. So much so that he is now our drummer and we work our touring schedules around each other accordingly. We have already recorded 6 songs for a split Ep and in December, we are going to Vancouver to record a new full length.

Your ‘dedicated to’ song is like a homage to all the strands that made you want to put your music out there. Was it important for you to recognise this or was it just a nice idea for a song?
(Chris) This song was written on the day that Grant Hart (Husker Du) died and I realized that I was reaching an age where the musicians I looked up to when I was growing up were starting to pass away. I wrote it in one sitting and I left out so many more that I would have loved to put in the song but I decided to stick with the guttural, instinctual, inspiration that came to me. There are many contemporaries in the songs lyrics and even amongst them, there are some who are no longer with us. I thought back to bands that I’ve toured with, musicians that really spoke to me and had a lasting effect, the great friends I’ve made, as well as people who inspired me to start playing on my own as well. I guess it was a selfish song in that regard because it’s only my perspective.

You are a very positive person – was it hard to maintain that positivity through your own recent troubles or generally in lockdown?

(Chris) Absolutely. And I’ll be the last person to admit it haha. Ask Stephanie, she’ll tell you. That being said, I really try to stay positive for anything music related. Music is my happy place, as they say. I recorded a solo record in the summer of 2021 two months after my father died and I actually broke down and started sobbing in the vocal booth, which is something that has never happened to me before. I take great pride in spending time and curating my lyrics to hold meaning for me and this experience helped me rediscover the healing power of music. I also really try to stay positive for anyone going through hard times, even if I’m not 100%. This is a long drawn out, slightly avoidant, way of answering but it was really hard to maintain my positivity but things are going better now, in general, so I’m feeling pretty positive.

You are playing with NOFX in Montreal next week. It’s a sold out 2,800 capacity venue. How does that prospect resonate with you? Your upcoming dublin show will be in a venue no much bigger than that stage, which do you prefer?

(Chris) This will be the biggest indoor show any of us has done. Our guitar player Mike has done bigger outdoor festivals with some other bands but it’s not the same. I played an almost 2000 person show in Costa Rica with my previous band, Prevenge, and it was amazing. To be honest, none of us listen to NOFX anymore, but we’re all really excited to play the venue itself because it holds so much history in our city. And the fact that it’s with NOFX means that it will be full when we play and that in itself is exciting. I prefer smaller shows where there is less of a division between the band and the crowd. I’ve spent the better part of 30 years playing in venues where the stage is a carpet, or no stage at all, to large venues with a barrier filled with security and the connection is always better when you’re all breathing the same air and can feel the heat radiating off each other. That being said, any band that I’ve been in at a large show has always been the opener so I can imagine the energy is very different when the people are there to see your band and you can feed off each other. But I’m a DIY kid at heart so I’ll always say a smaller, more intimate show will always win out.

You get a chance to play and curate your own festival- who would be the 5 bands you would list to open up for you.

(Chris) Because I’ve been doing 99% of this interview, I sent this question to everyone in the band, including Bertrand, to give you 5 honest answers. And it’s a dream festival with impossible bands opening up for us. The only criteria I added was that the bands had to be active. So here goes.

Mike (Guitar)
Teenage Wrist
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of The Dead

Stephanie (Bass & Vocals)
The Bronx
Viagra Boys
Press Club

Chris (Guitar & vocals)
Suicidal Tendencies
Rocket From The Crypt

Emilien (Drums)
Diaz Brothers
Bob Mould

Bertrand (Guitar)
The Bronx
Lawrence Arms
A Wilhelm Scream