There's No Smoking In Jonathan Tyler's Van. Well, Cigarettes Anyway.

Behind every great band is a great van. And when these former church vans, daycare buses and plumber's work vehicles have racked up enough miles on the road, they eventually start being thought of by the band as another member of the team. Hey, we get it: It's hard to spend so many hours with bandmates (both human and machine) without a few things getting broken, a few good fights taking place and lots of great memories being made. We hope that, by exploring these stories, we might get to know some bands from both North Texas and beyond on a more personal level. Check out this feature's archives here.

Last week, Dallas throwback blues rockers Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights performed a semi-secret, last-minute show at Double Wide. Besides the fact that the band played a few dozen brand new cuts, the thing that made the show really special was the fact that it's not all that often these days that Dallasites have the opportunity to boogie along with their hometown heroes in such a small room.

Sure, JT and the rest of the band still play their share of Dallas dates between bouts of relentless touring. But their North Texas gigs typically find them playing the city's larger venues. Case in point: Their next two local gigs will find the band performing at Trees (August 16) and Granada Theater (December 31).

Before those shows, though, we caught up with Jonathan Tyler and a few of his groggy bandmates just moments after they rolled back into town following a string of West Texas dates. And just prior to heading home to catch up on some much-needed rest, the band was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about their ride.

Band Name: Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights.
Van Name: “We've never named it. This is our second van, so I think we've gotten to the point where we think of it pretty much just as a tool at this point.”
Year/Make/Model: 2005 Chevy Express.
Mileage: 248,700.

Where did your van come from? How did you acquire it?
Jonathan Tyler (vocals/guitar): “We found it on Craigslist. It used to be at Arlington Stadium. It was used for taking people from the parking lot to the stadium. They used it kind of like a taxi for Cowboys games. We got it from one of those people. It already had like 100,000 miles on it when we bought it.”

What makes your van special? What are its best and worst features?
Jordan Cain (drums): “The big ass horns on the front.”
Jonathan: “I don't know if it's that or just the fact that it keeps working.”
Mo Brown (vocals): “There's no CD player.”
Jordan:: “That's the worst.”
Jonathan: “Yeah, the worst is no CD player. We have to use the FM converter. No, but the engine has this really bad click. Whenever it runs, it's just constantly going chk, chk, chk, chk, chk, chk.”

Do you have any good breakdown stories?
Jordan: “I ran this van out of gas about a month-and-a-half ago. I had to walk to go get gas.
Jonathan: “He had to walk about a mile. One time in St. Louis, one of the axles broke on the trailer and we had to get to the gig. So we had to really jury rig this thing, taking a chain and basically wrapping it around the door, closing the door, and wrapping the chain around the broken axle with no tire on it. We just drove it. We made it and it was totally dangerous. We were barely keeping it together.”

Mo: “Wasn't that when we were in the parking lot of that old black church?”
Jonathan: “Yes.”
Mo: “The church people were, like, trying to bully us a little bit. They were like, 'How long are you gonna be here?' That's very Christian of you.”
Jonathan: “We sent Mo in and she kind of defused it.”
Mo: “I spoke my black Baptist language to 'em and settled 'em down.”
Jonathan: “That's actually pretty funny. It was a black church and we pulled in there to fix the thing and it took a long time.”
Mo: “It was daylight when we were there, and it was night when we left.”
Jonathan: “Yeah. So three or four different times, delegates from the church were coming over. It was a Wednesday night, so people started showing up for church.”
Mo: “We were stretched across the handicap parking, I believe.”

Who usually does the driving?
Jordan: “We all rotate.”
Jonathan: “We rotate.”
Mo: “The guys. All the guys.”

Not the ladies?
Mo: “Not this one.”
Jonathan: “Mo does not drive. Jenny, my girlfriend, has had to drive before because we were all too drunk to drive one night after a show and she wasn't.”
Jordan: “I think we pulled over and no one wanted to drive so she just kind of did it.”
Jonathan: “So she took over. She drove like a man. She manned up.”

So, Mo: Are you allowed to drive, or do you just prefer not to?
Mo: “It didn't start out like that. When I first got in the band, it was a gentleman thing and I kind of let that rule ride. It's OK. I don't need to drive unless it's truly an emergency.”
Jonathan: “Yeah, she doesn't really need to because we usually have four or five different guys that will do three-hour shifts. It's never too much. We can usually handle it.”
Chase McGillis (bass): “But she's a great driver, just for the record.”

What are your best memories from being in the van?
Jonathan: “Like four years ago — and, please, if you're going to write this up, qualify it that this was at least four or five years ago — we were on our first tour out to California. We were doing some shows out there and we were so excited about getting out of Texas. For some reason, on the way back, we had gotten our hands on some Molly and [guitarist] Brandon [Pinckard] and I took some right when we got in the van. We had a 24-hour drive and he and I are just singing this song, this same song over and over and over and over. I just have that memory in my mind of just being so whacked out in the back of the van writing songs for eight hours.”
Chase: “It was in my head for days.”

What are the best modifications you've made to the van, decorative or otherwise?
Jonathan: “Really, the only things we've added are the horns — the hood ornament. We stole that from a bar in Amarillo, The Golden Light Cantina.”
Chase: “Well we asked them first if we could have them and they said 'No.'”

So they totally knew it was you guys that took them then.
Jonathan: “We've been there since, and they don't care. It's all good. But, yeah, we've been there since with them on there.”
Mo: “And we don't smoke cigarettes in the van anymore. In the other one, we used to.”
Chase: “Cigarettes.”
Mo: “That's a pretty cool modification.”

Anything else we you'd like to tell us about your van?
Mo: “The third bench is mine.”
Chase: “That's true.”
Jonathan: “The third bench is Mo Brown's.”
Chase: “That's one of the only rules we have, seriously.”

So your only rules in the van are no smoking and the third bench is Mo's.
All: “No smoking cigarettes.”


Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights performs August 16 as part of Trees' Four-Year Anniversary Concert.

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