Kylesa's Laura Pleasants Takes Us Through The Ups and Downs of a Six-Week Tour.
Tomorrow night, the Savannah, Georgia-based sludge metal-meets-psychedelic outfit Kylesa will visit Trees during the first week of a six-week tour coming in support of Ultraviolet, the band's sixth album.
Due out on May 28, the album's something of a powerhouse release; it's chock full of hypnotic drumming, spacious guitar work, and the alternately dreamlike and ferocious vocals of guitarist and singer Laura Pleasants, which often steal the show.
A couple weeks back, though, when spoke with Pleasants to preview this Dallas stop, we caught her in the middle of a lengthy media day. So instead of adding to the deluge of standard “Tell us about your new album!” questions she was undoubtedly facing — and since you can already stream the album in full as of this morning, anyway — we opted for a different kind of discussion altogether during our time with the captivating performer.
We spoke about the touring lifestyle, its joys and stresses, and how to survive a coast-to-coast (and back again) North American tour without killing your bandmates or yourself. Good thing, too, as Pleasants had plenty to say on these matters.
What kind of vehicle does Kylesa tour in these days?
We're taking a BandWagon out again, but we've been in about everything you can imagine.
For those who aren't familiar, whatâ€™s a BandWagon?
It seems like some sort of converted box truck situation that's like a mini-bus. So, it has the luxuries of an RV, but it's constructed differently. It's in between a van and a fancy-schmancy big bus — kind of more in the shape of a large box truck because the cab is separated from the rest of the vehicle. It's got bunks in it, a kitchen, shower, toilet, TV, couch. It's rolling really nice. I love touring in those things.
How big of an improvement is the transition from a van to something with bunks?
I think the first time was when we did a bus tour with Converge in Europe, so it went from a van to a bus. That's a huge, huge leap in comfort. It makes it a lot easier. I get more sleep, for sure. The whole band gets more sleep. It's certainly more comfortable on the body — and mind, for that matter. You're not all just lumped in a van together and living on no sleep. In the United States, when you do a van tour, there's nowhere to ever eat, either. So you're stuck eating shitty food for, like, six weeks.
After my first tour, I vowed to never eat Subway again.
If I never eat Subway or Taco Bell again, I'd be really happy about that. You do get stuck with that if you're traveling, if there's not a health food store or not a vegan restaurant — and especially in the South, youâ€™re shit out of luck, unless you're in a big college town. I remember lots of bean burritos.
Sometimes, in an attempt to sound down to earth, people in big bands will say something like, “I miss the van days, I wish we could do that again.” Is that moderate bullshit or total bullshit?
It's total bullshit. It's definitely cheaper, but it's not comfortable. I'm not in my twenties anymore, so I don't want to be sleeping on a floor unless it's a comfortable floor. Or tour for six-to-eight weeks, piled in a van full of eight to 10 people — I still do it occasionally. But I have to call bullshit on that. It becomes less appealing as you get older, that's for sure.
Since you have a hired driver now instead of trading shifts, there must be more downtime.
There's a lot of dead time, a lot of waiting around, being bored. But I try to stay pretty productive and not get too lazy with my brain. I always have projects, goals and things I want to work on personally while I'm on the road, whether it's reading a book, working on writing songs or learning something new. Since I got an iPad, I can write so much more music on my own now, just sitting around, which kills a lot of time.
Before I toured, I thought people in bands who complained about all of the downtime and boredom were spoiled. But there really are times when there's nothing constructive you can be doing. It's just the nature of touring.
There is a lot of downtime. But there's not. You load in — and let's assume that everyone else is on time, that their local sound engineer is there, or they can open the doors, because sometimes you'll get to a venue and they don't open for a couple of hours — so you have to wait around to do that, and if you're in the middle of nowhere, then that's not a lot of time, or even if there is a bunch of cool stuff around and you might not be able to leave because you have to come back in 45 minutes. You get in, you load in, set up, and then soundcheck. Then, generally, there's a couple of hours after that before the doors open, and that's your window to either eat or shower or walk to the record store or call your loved one — whatever it is that youâ€™re going to do. Then, once the show starts, you have to get in show mode, because the whole point of you being in that town anyway is to put on a good show. I rarely just come back right before I play because I have to get in the zone of getting ready to play, and I warm up and stuff, too. Once you get to the club, you're pretty busy. But then there's also that downtime when have to wait around, like if something's wrong with the stage and they have to re-wire it or plug in all the cables. You're waiting around for all of that kind of shit.
How does your attitude change from week one of a tour to week six?
It definitely goes in different phases. By week two or three, you're totally in the groove and you're just soaring. Everything has gelled, all the kinks have been worked out and everything is good. But I would say, by week six, I can tell that I haven't been eating well enough, or I'm not getting enough exercise, or I haven't been getting enough sleep, or I've been drinking too much shitty beer. All of that catches up by week six, and you're still rocking out every night. It may be a bit more on autopilot than the first couple of weeks. I generally just want a really good salad by the end of a tour. I'm like, “Just give me some goddamn spinach, some raw spinach to eat. And two days of sleep, and I'll be good.”
How do you stay civil while being in such close proximity to your band for a tour?
You just have to realize that if someone is annoying you, you're most likely annoying them, too. It's all about attitude and trying to be relaxed about those kind of things. Six weeks, to me, is pushing it as far as it being too long; after that, it's too long, I think. Then everyone starts to get on each other's nerves, and that's just normal. If you're stuck with a handful of people for six or seven weeks, by the end, you're going to be like, “It's cool, but I don't want to see you for a week.”
Are there any drives you remember as being particularly awful?
We've done a lot of epic drives. I think one of the worst drives we ever did was early on. I can't remember why we did it, but we had to go from L.A. to Austin, and it was so brutal. We drove straight the whole time. I think it was our first tour ever, and I don't know if we just couldn't get a show or what, but we just drove straight. We were so tired by the time we got to Austin. That's a bad drive. Then the drive from San Francisco to Seattle — it's like 14 hours, and we've had to do that a couple of times.
Hopefully your trip to Texas will be more pleasant this time around.
Yeah, we're looking forward to it. I always enjoy Texas. It's a weird place.
Kylesa performs Friday, May 17, at Trees.