One day after their Warsaw, Poland show (September 26th, 2012) we conducted an interview with Louisville, Kentucky’s XERXES (No Sleep Records). We discussed mostly touring, their current European trek with Germany’s THE TIDAL SLEEP, its comparison to the US tours, European hospitality, European screamo bands and a few other issues. Here’s what their vocalist, Calvin Philley, has to say about the stuff we asked.
Thanks for taking some time off to answer some questions, guys. How’s the tour going? Any interesting stories from the road so far?
Tour has been going really well. We’ve had some really rough experiences tour-wise in the last year but we got lucky to be able to tour with a band as good and easy to get along with as THE TIDAL SLEEP and exploring Europe has really been a kind of dream come true for all of us. We’re really enjoying ourselves and the hospitality we’ve come across in every city we’ve played so far has been a real treat.
Our initial arrival into Europe about a week ago is kind of a funny story. We started our journey by flying from our hometown of Louisville, KY to Charlotte, NC where we were all supposed to get on the same flight to Frankfurt. For some reason there was a mix-up and only three out of four of us got on the flight and our fill-in guitar player, Jake, had to catch a flight three hours later. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if all our our checked baggage didn’t also get put on his flight. So essentially when we landed in Germany, we were missing a guitar player and pretty much all of our gear, merch, etc… As well as that our ride from the airport was supposed to meet us when our flight came in and we had to scramble to call him from the airport and figure out a new plan on the fly. Meanwhile, before we left in the first place, I had a pretty major Crohn’s Disease flare and had been on painkillers for a while, so I’m just standing around in a crowded airport in a foreign country stoned out of my goddamn skull. Things could have gone a little smoother, but it all worked out eventually. We caught a train to Mannheim once Jake’s flight arrived with all our luggage and were able to finally get some rest about sixteen hours after our initial departure from Louisville.
[smiles] Nice trip.
How did you like the places you visited thus far? Did you hang out a lot?
Europe is pretty beautiful. There hasn’t been a city on this tour so far that was not interesting in its own way, and maybe that’s easy for me to say, being an American and it being my first time in this part of Europe, but either way its been quite an experience. Everything here is very different in a very cool way thats kind of hard to explain. Touring Europe is so different because there are places here that when we look forward to going there, we have no idea what to expect. I’ve been to London and Paris before on vacation, but I’ve never driven around this part of the continent to hang out and play music with people from a culture I know almost nothing about. Its been eye-opening.
Its been a little hectic at times so hanging out isn’t as available an option some nights, but when we have been able to, we’ve definitely cut loose with some great new friends. In Mannheim, Thomas (bass player for THE TIDAL SLEEP), showed us a couple really awesome vegan spots and our drummer Evan got tattooed at the shop he works at there. In Warsaw, a girl named Emma invited us to hang out at her place after the show and we got lost while she attempted to drunkenly lead us there. Once we finally got there, a crazy neighbor came up and yelled at her in Polish while we tried to figure out was going on from the next room. We haven’t been able to hang out a lot, but when we do, we try to get our money’s worth.
How many shows have you played so far? I mean your entire touring history.
Our entire touring history is documented somewhere but I don’t think I could give you an exact number for the four/five years we’ve been a band. I know that were coming close to having played 200 shows so far this year, whether or not we’ll reach that number, I don’t know. We did one or two tours a year for the past few years before this one, but this year its been non stop. I honestly wish I knew the exact number but it kind of scares me to think about.
So, I know it’s been only a few shows here, but I guess you learned one or two things. How does playing in Europe compare to the U.S.? What’s cool and what’s terrible about what you discovered so far?
We’ve had friends tell us that once we tour Europe we’ll never want to tour the US ever again. And I can see where they’re coming from. The kind of hospitality we receive here on a nightly basis would be unthinkable in the US for a band at our level. We get fed well and we drink well and our sleeping arrangement is taken care of way before we arrive. These are the kind of things that we would have to worry about ourselves more often than not in the US. To have that all taken care of is a huge weight off our shoulders and makes tour much easier to enjoy. The only thing that’s really terrible is not having phone service. And I’m sure there are some people that enjoy that while they’re here, but personally I can’t stand it. Touring is hard enough when you have someone back home that you want to stay connected with, so without phone service and how unreliable wifi can be sometimes, and being as far away as a different continent… it definitely makes things a little harder.
I hope you won’t travel back with the wrong understanding of the condition of our scenes. I mean, I was really disappointed with the attendance at the Warsaw show and at the same time I remember mind blowing hardcore gigs organized in the middle of the working week. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a question of random, a worse day, lack of information, shows clutter or change of times, perhaps?
Do you often feel disappointed when it comes to the attendance at your shows? How do you look at such things?
Someone from an opening band in Warsaw felt like he needed to apologize to me after the show was over for what he thought was a thin turnout. The way I saw it, though, the turnout was alright. And maybe thats just a difference in standards based on his experiences with shows in Warsaw and my experiences with touring the US, but the truth is that I don’t really worry too much about the turnout at any given show. There’s a lot of variables that can add up to a show having a shitty turnout, and I think its best just not to overanalyze and to go into situations with the attitude that no one in any given city owes me their attendance and hard earned money just because I chose to travel around playing music with my friends.
That said, the turnout in Warsaw was in no way disappointing at all and if every show I played this year had a turnout that good I would be quite alright with that.
How did you team up with THE TIDAL SLEEP for this trek? Are you friends now? [smiles]
We took notice of them when they were announced as part of that DEFEATER European tour earlier this year so when we were told they we’re going to come out with us on this tour, we were pretty excited. They’re a great band. Its been a real pleasure watching them every night of this tour. They’re so easy to get along with and that’s really made this tour run smoothly. We’re all packed into one van together, but everyone has been really cool. I think we’re all pretty shy, so its taken a little time for everyone to open up and get comfortable, but here at the midpoint of this tour, we’ve shared some pretty great experiences. I think we can all consider ourselves pretty good friends.
OK… How do you travel? [smiles] Any good dudes helping you out?
We got this huge van that all nine of us fit in pretty snugly. I try to sleep as much as possible on the mattress in the back and we were watching episodes of Seinfeld pretty regularly on a TV we taped to a music stand that we put up front, but the tape kind of lost its hold so we can’t really do that anymore. As far as people helping us out, theres always someone who’s feeding us or putting us up in every city.
So how’s European food? Are you satisfied? Aren’t you starving? [laughs]
The food has been great. No complaints on that front. Every night I have been able to eat my fill of something delicious before our show, which is a lot more than I can say for any other tour I have ever been on. I’ve spent the better half of this year with literally no money at all, so while we were on tour in the US I survived on free burritos and pretty much anything edible I could pull out of a dumpster.
Our guitar player, Will, is kind of a picky eater, so I don’t think he’s been enjoying himself as much foodwise, but he’s been able to get his bread and cheese enough to keep himself from starving.
Do you miss a lot when you are so far from home?
You could say that. I think I’m a lot more connected to people back home than some of the other dudes in our band, but I know they like to get in touch with some people when they can as well. I get pretty sad about being so far away from certain people but the truth is that this tour is only about three weeks, which is nothing compared to the nine week death-tour we did earlier this summer. So when it comes to enduring through that kind of homesickness and missing people we love, we kind of have it under control.
What is waiting for you after coming to the States? What would be the first thing you do when you land? Who misses you back in the U.S.?
When we get home, we have another quick tour down to Fest in Gainesville, FL in the works, then we come home and start writing a new record. The first thing I’ll do when I land is probably go get a cup of coffee at the coffeeshop I work at and then go to my mom’s house and have a home-cooked meal. We all have friends back home and possible love interests and that kind of thing back home. I think most of the people who miss us back home are maybe a little too used to having us gone though, so we’re pretty excited to change that in the next couple weeks while we put together some new music.
Great. Can’t wait to get some updates on that.
How many more releases will you release via No Sleep Records? What’s the plan for the next couple of months when it comes to your official outings?
We have a couple more records planned with No Sleep. We’re proud of our first LP but definitely ready to get back to the studio with something new, possibly some new approaches and sounds. We’re a much different band now than the one that recorded “Our Home Is A Deathbed”. As far as next plans for tour, all that I’m at liberty to release is we will be at Fest in Gainesville on the Sunday of that weekend.
Cool. So one more for our European readers [smiles]. Favorite European screamo / post hardcore bands? [smiles]
When I was maybe a freshman or sophomore in highschool, my older brother came home from a show his band played and told me I missed out on one of the best bands he had ever seen. The band he was talking about was DAITRO. They played a little community center in Louisville a couple years ago with AMPERE and I am kicking myself to this day that I missed it. DAITRO has definitely become one of my favorite bands since then. Also SED NON SATIATA played Louisville not too long ago and definitely impressed. BIRDS IN ROW‘s new record is phenomenal.
Thanks so much for taking time with us. Good luck for the rest of your trip. I hope people will destroy your stage a few more times [smiles]. Any final thoughts?
I’d just like to say the selection of soft drinks here in Germany and the rest of Europe has been a real treat to sample. Same for the way every city/region has its own beer. In Kentucky we have a regional soft drink thats like a high-caffeine ginger ale, but the way its pretty commonplace to have a selection of beer and soda at restaurants and bars that fits outside of huge international corporations is something we don’t get a lot of at home. But yeah, ending my rant on soda and beer, thanks for the questions and well-wishes. I’m sure we’ll be back in Europe soon.
Featured photo by BlowTheScene.