FIDLAR's Van Smells A Rat.
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.
FIDLAR is one of those bands that just likes to have a good time. Two of the most recent times we've caught them — this month's sold-out Dada show and last year at Lola's — were just full-on embodiments of the band's Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk mantra from which it derives its name.
And between 2012's self-titled debut and this fall's Too, the Mom + Pop Music-signed outfit has kept its now-drug-free party rolling nearly non-stop for pretty much three years, somehow turning in night-after-night performances that really shouldn't be missed.
Prior to all experiencing that chaos for ourselves once more earlier this month, we had moment to speak with FIDLAR's Brandon Schwartz about Gertrude, the van that has almost seamlessly taken the band everywhere their hearts desire within the U.S.
Band Name: FIDLAR.
Van Name: Gertrude.
Year/Make/Model: 2006 Ford E-350.
Is this van yours or is it a rental?
Brandon Schwartz (Bass): “This is our van, Gertrude, as it's called sometimes. We bought it when we first signed to Mom + Pop. When our first record came out, they were like, 'You guys know you're going to have to tour…' Then we were like, 'Well, we need a van.' So basically we gave them a record and they gave us a van.”
Where'd they get it from?
Brandon: “Well, we bought it. They just gave us the money.”
How long have y'all had it?
Brandon: “That was 2012… so three years. [We've gone] about 120,000 miles in three years.”
Do you have any good breakdown stories?
Brandon: “When we were touring off the first record, it was not a problem. I was pretty good at getting it checked on, doing all the services and stuff. And then, since we've started touring on this record, it seems like our transmission went out twice. Our car got broken into for the first time. Y'know, it's still running good; but I just don't how much longer it's going to hold up. I mean, we're going to drive her until she dies, or until we can't fit in there anymore.”
I see you've got the trailer going. How long have you been doing the trailer thing?
Brandon: “This is the second tour we've had the trailer. So we toured in May of this year, and it was our first tour with the trailer. It's a lot nicer. Basically, our whole first record of touring, we took two seats out and had all the gear and we just crammed in there — all the merch, five dudes. Then, on this one, it's still super cramped, but we just wouldn't have been able to fit everything.”
Is it just FILDAR in there? You're not taking your tourmates in Dune Rats along for the ride or anything, right?
Brandon: “It's just us. They actually have one of those Cruise America RV's. They're from Australia, so when they come over, they don't bring all their gear. They just hop in one of those and they sleep in it. They always, always get the RV. It's rad, though. We've had a lot of good memories in that RV already.”
Back to Gertrude: Have you guys made any modifications to her?
Brandon: “Not, like, interesting ones. We always have this picture of Nicolas Cage on the dashboard. It's kind of our guardian angel. Our back two seats that we took out to store gear got eaten by rats. There were holes bit into them, so now we have blankets to cover the rat holes. So that's something.”
Wait, how'd rats to get to them?
Brandon: “They were in this shed where me and Zac used to live, where we made our first album. They were in the shed for like two years because we never used them. And then we finally need to use them for something, I pulled them out and there was a dead rat. Rats had gotten trapped there and there was a bunch of rat shit everywhere. I think it tried to eat its way out. It was the grossest thing. I went and got every cleaning product I could and had gloves and a bandana on. I went to town on these two rats. It's sterilized now. We're not sitting on rat shit. We haven't contracted any diseases or anything. We also have a pet rock in his own little cubby, Gerome, that we got at this place is Washington. It's called Deception's Pass, if you're ever the Oregon-Washington area.”
How many miles does Gertrude have on her?
Brandon: “I think it has 150,000. I think we got it with 22,000.”
How many times has it gone across America, then?
Brandon: “I mean, the first few trips we had it, the tours were ridiculously routed. It would start in Boston and then you would end in Seattle or something. Back and forth and then, geez, we'd get offered to play a festival in Chicago and then drive all the way to Chicago. We've seen a lot of the country, for sure “
Who typically does the driving?
Brandon: “Starting out, we use to all switch in shifts. Now, we have tour manager and merch guys, so they kind of do the share. They share the driving, but I like to drive still. Sometimes I'll kick 'em out because I'll get bored sitting. I feel like I have to give her some time — y'know, show her some love.”
What do you guys like to listen to going down the road
Brandon: “I like a lot of Sherlock Holmes audiobooks. It's one of those things I was never really into. I had never read any Sherlock Holmes stories. But I got into it when we toured the UK. We had this old British punk dude as our tour manager and had gotten all these audiobooks. I'm like 'You ever read Sherlock Holmes?' 'I'm fucking English, so of course I have.' We got really into it and we're going back there soon, so I'm trying to read all the stories. I'm trying to meet him on his level of Sherlock Holmes.”
Where does the name Gertrude come from?
Brandon: “I don't know. Someone just called it that one time. I mean, we don't really call it that that much, but if we're to give it a name, that's the one that's been used before. We're not that closely attached to it — not as maybe certain bands are to their vans. We've spent enough time with it to say it's like hanging out with your brother's girlfriend that you don't like or something. Ah, we spend enough time together.”