War Party's Ride Helps The Band Think Happy Thoughts.
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.
Last week in this space, we met Siouxsie the Vanshee, the spirit guide of Lo-Life Records' newest addition, Sealion.
This week, we say hello to Teddy, who has helped Lo-Life figureheads War Party become master roadside mechanics. And we caught up with frontman Cameron Smith, guitarist/trumpet player Ricky Williford, bassist Tyler Moore and drummer Peter Marsh on their home turf in Fort Worth's historic Fairmont neighborhood to find out what makes their ride tick.
Band Name: War Party.
Van Name: “Theodore is his full name, but he goes by Teddy.”
Year/Make/Mode: 1995 Chevrolet G20.
Mileage: 181,840 miles.
Where did your van come from? How did you acquire it?
Cameron (vocals, guitar): “We got it for Decades whenever we were in that band. Me and Tyler and some other guys — including Ross Edman from Datahowler — were in that band for, like, six years. I think it was from a guy off Craigslist, right?”
Tyler (bass): “Yeah, it was a guy off Craigslist. It was when gas was super expensive and so he was like, 'I can't find anyone to buy it, and it's been on Craigslist for six months so I'll just give it to you for like $1,800 bucks.'”
Cameron: “$1,800 bucks and it has been on so many US tours. Other bands have borrowed it before.”
Tyler: “Innards borrowed it.”
Ricky (guitar, trumpet): “Innards raped it.”
Cameron: “Yeah, fuck Innards. I love those guys, but fuck 'em. We had to re-install the entire cooling system on this last tour. The first day, the radiator started leaking, so we were just like 'Oh, fill it or whatever,' and then, when I'm driving on the way to Birmingham, all of a sudden I look down and the gauge is just super fucking hot. I pull over and the thing just bursted. Then we get towed by this big guy that was like, 'Do you guys like barbecue?' and was telling us all these places to eat in Birmingham. He was really funny, he chuckled really hard a lot. And then Tyler and Ricky fucking changed out the radiator.”
Ricky: “I did it in the parking lot in the dark by the time we got there. I went in and bought some tools and bought the part.”
Cameron: “That was like two hours.”
So did you make it to the show on time?
Cameron: “No, but we made it to the after-party.”
Ricky: “Hell yeah, we did! We had a good time.”
Cameron: “That was the only show we missed.”
What makes your van special? What are its best features?
Ricky: “Air conditioning, I think, is the best feature, other than the La-Z-Boy seats. It's made of fucking La-Z-Boys. Oh, and the Dallas Cowboys porno lighting on the inside.”
Cameron: “Yeah, that's nice.”
Ricky: “It's definitely like the environment to have a coke table for the Dallas Cowboys if they were traveling.”
How about its worst features?
Ricky: “Well, the thermostat is on the dashboard.”
Tyler: “Yeah, we don't have a thermostat. The van runs at 100 degrees all the time because we had to bypass it on tour, which is awesome in the summer time. But, in the winter, there's no heat.”
Cameron: “It takes forever to heat up.”
Ricky: “A long time.”
Tyler: “And we don't have any shades because Innards ripped them out. That kind of bums me out.”
Who usually does the driving?
Cameron: “We switch off a lot.”
Ricky: “It's a pretty good mixture.”
Is there anyone who is not allowed to drive it?
Ricky: “I probably shouldn't be allowed to drive it because I'm the only one that's had a wreck with it. It was a fender-bender in a parking lot. I scraped a car that was already fucked up.”
Cameron: “And that was not band-related. That was just Ricky being like 'I'm going to take the van to work high' one day.”
Ricky: “That's exactly what happened. I didn't have a car. My car was all fucked up.”
Do you have any good breakdown stories?
Ricky: “It literally broke down every single day of the Sealion/War Party tour. Like every morning we'd be like, 'Hey, guys, y'all can hang out. We're going to fix the van.' They'd go off and do something for two hours and come back. Tyler and I would be pissed off and burned from touching hot engine.”
Cameron: “But that's all pretty well taken care of. We haven't had any real problems since we bypassed the thermostat.”
Peter (drums): “Except for the power steering. We have to put so much power steering fluid in this van.”
Cameron: “That's what we're changing before the next tour.”
Tyler: “That stain on the concrete over there is all of Teddy's power steering fluids.”
Cameron: “There's actually a video on YouTube because, when it broke down, we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere just waiting for this tow truck driver. There were no tow trucks for like 100 miles. So we were waiting for this guy for like two hours and it was just fucking hot. Ricky gets his trumpet out and starts playing 'Taps' to the van.”
What are your best memories from being in the van?
Ricky: “The VIP Lounge is my favorite part of this van. Let me explain this to you real quick: We have all the equipment loaded in the back, and Tyler was touring with an eight-by-ten [amp] at that point. If you turn that thing on its side and put sleeping bags and blankets on it, it's a foot or two away from the ceiling — right were the air conditioning vent is blowing on you — and you have a view out of the window, and you have a nice pad to sleep on.”
Tyler: “Yeah, it's pretty sweet.”
Do you guys ever fight over who gets to sleep in the VIP Lounge?
Cameron: “Oh, we fought a ton.”
Peter: “I think I got it about once.”
Ricky: “But Peter is the only one that has a dedicated seat in the van for the most part. He's got the back left corner seat. Everyone calls it 'Peter's seat.'”
Tyler: “That's the drummer's seat.”
Cameron: “Ross used to sit there. That's how it started. Ross was anal about that shit. He used to kick the back of the seat when I was driving and I'd play 'Sloop John B' because he was whining, eating his gluten-free crackers all pissed off.”
Ricky: [singing] “'This is the worst trip I've ever been on.'”
What are the best modifications you've made to the van, decorative or otherwise?
Ricky: “We ripped the backseat out so we could fit more equipment in there. We were in Louisiana at a gas station, and they wouldn't sell me cigarettes because apparently I look underage with my fucking full beard and long hair and super-jaded attitude. And she wouldn't let Tyler buy cigarettes for me. So I went and stole those stickers and a hot dog and went and waited outside. The hot dog was awful, but the stickers stayed on the van. We got a 'W' and a 'P' for War Party.”
Cameron: “I think they're pretty swanky.”
Tyler: “We've got a tan army soldier on the dash. And a Big Boy whenever he's around.”
Cameron: “Big Boy is usually in there. I stole him from a Big Boy in Cincinnati.”
Ricky: “Big Boy is our change collection.”
Peter: “We just fill him with change and then, whenever there's a toll, we always have change.”
Ricky: “He's always full of quarters for the $17 you get to spend in New Jersey when you drive.”
Cameron: “He's been trying to get KISS makeup for, like, a year.”
Ricky: “Nobody's confident enough. We always think of it when we're driving somewhere — and that's a terrible time to try and draw on a mannequin.”
Tyler: “Especially KISS paint, man. You don't want to fuck that up.”
Cameron: “For a little while, we had Grandma's dead body in there. I'm not kidding. Did you see the 'Blame the Blues' music video, when Chris [Walden of Doom Ghost] gets hit by the van? The dummy that we had for that was just in there reeking of Tyler's sweaty costume for, like, two months. It was like a liver and onions sweat.”
Tell us about the back window.
Cameron: “Tyler like smashed that thing off just trying to super close it.”
Tyler: “Trying to close it really hard in a Taco Bell parking lot.”
Cameron: “The handle went along for the ride but the window didn't. That was just a quick fix before the tour. Me and Ricky just got Plexiglass and scored it and then cut the rest with a scroll saw and shoved the bitch in there and caulked it up. And it's stayed.”
Ricky: “It's worked great. It used to always rain a little bit in there. And it would always be loud in the back because of the wind.”
Cameron: “And it let out that precious AC that so many vans I've known don't have.”
Ricky: “We're very lucky.”
Anything else we you'd like to tell us about your van?
Ricky: “I would think that, if you took all that carpeting out and shook it, you'd find at least an eighth of weed.”
Cameron: “That's probably true. I like to pretend that we call the van Teddy because of the movie Hook, where Teddy is his happy thought that helps him fly. We use this van to battle pirates and adulthood. That's why he's Teddy to me.”
Tyler: “I thought it was Ted Kennedy.”
Cameron:“Well , it's also Ted Kennedy I guess. Ted Kennedy is how it started. I'm just saying I like to imagine that we named it because of that.”
Ricky: “I do know that our van has a drinking problem.”
Cameron: “He does.”
Tyler: “He drinks power steering fluid like a mother fucker.”