If it all becomes one long hangover, you will end up seeing touring as an angst-ridden thing and try to get away from it to fight the touring demon.April 21, New York
We (that means me, our tour manager Peter Hamilton and Tobias Fröberg, supporting act and backing musician) came in from Ireland the night before and went straight ahead into a rehearsal with friend and drummer Doug Marvin, who is going with us on the U.S. leg of the tour.
He usually plays with the band Dirty On Purpose and we used their space Death By Audio in Williamsburg. In Europe we had a stripped-down band featuring just Tobias and me, even though we had guests like drummers and strings on a couple of gigs.
Now it felt great to have a band proper for a couple of weeks. Going to bed at 7 a.m. our time meant that we we're extremely jetlagged the day after.
It also felt a bit sad since both me and Tobias had our girlfriends with us in Europe and had such a great time. I hope to be able to do touring that way again. It makes a lot of difference.
I had press and radio to do the whole day as well. I did a performance for Village Voice performing in front of the church on St. Marks Place. Made me feel like a proper folk singer! At the "Soundcheck" show at WNYC, my jet lag hit me hard during my live performance and I almost forgot the words to the songs.
Then I did a rooftop performance for Spin magazine.
At soundcheck for our live show, we hooked up with a couple of string players which I've used during previous NYC gigs. They are pretty great. I had dinner with an old friend who lives and work in New Haven, but is soon moving to Stockholm where his wife is. I will be seeing a lot more of him then - looking forward to it.
Mercury Lounge was packed. It's not a very big room, 250 capacity, but it's exactly the sort of capacity I feel most comfortable in.
For a New York audience I must say they were amazing. Sometimes NY crowds can be hipster-snobbish and talk their way through a set and hardly applaud. Then it's hard to give a good performance. When we did Webster Hall with PBJ, for example, it felt really cold and unreceptive even though it was sold out. But this night, you could hear a pin drop. Doug played great and so did the strings and Tobias. It was pure magic.
We do covers for encores every night and sometimes they are totally unrehearsed -- we just go into them regardless. I also don't do set lists. I just say title to the boys when I feel like playing a song. Songs we have played includes A-ha's "Take On Me", Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy", "That's Alright Mama" and some others.
This night we suddenly went into the Paul Simon song "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard". That eventually turned into an African jam which was totally unplanned and which went on forever. I just didn't know how to stop it. So fun though. Like my manager said afterwards; "You're putting Vampire Weekend out of business." I felt everyone participating on and off stage that night, felt they we're part of something special.
April 22, Boston
It's funny, 'cause in England me and Tobias played in the "real"
Cambridge and now we are playing in the American version at a place with great food called Middle East.
They have two rooms; we played in the small one and the Proclaimers played the big one this day. Unfortunately, we couldn't see them since we played at the same time, but Pete saw them and say they look exactly the same as they always have. I was quite a fan of them in the late 80's, they have some great songs. "500 miles" is their "Young Folks"
but they have a lot more to offer. We are doing this tour in a very budget way, which I really enjoy. PBJ have only toured the 'States in a nightliner bus so far which means you sleep through all the traveling and wake up in a new town the next day.
This time I actually get to see some of the scenery and the nature of North America and Canada and I really enjoy it. The downside of course is that the journeys are quite far in between the cities. A lot of the time we have to hit the road straight after the gig and do about two hours at night and stay at a motel on the road, to take some mileage off the next day. This is all by fine by me, especially since I don't have a license and don't have to do any driving.
I don't do a lot of partying on the road anymore and I don't miss it at all. I have to admit that I did quite a lot of that with PBJ last year and I got fed up with it. If you're gonna do this long term it will basically kill you if you do it the wrong way. So I try to do it a way which suits me.
That means focusing on the good things; the ability to see new places, eat some good food and of course enjoying the gigs and giving it your all. If it all becomes one long hangover, you will end up seeing touring as an angst-ridden thing and try to get away from it to fight the touring demon. I have the odd beer or glass of wine.
Tobias almost drinks nothing at all so we're a good match, since we see it the same way. We also travel with minimum equipment: we have two small amps, two guitars, one bass, a really small drum kit and a small keyboard and that's basically it.
You really don't need more. Tobias is also a great match for me, since he is such a funny performer and warms the audience up in an ideal way. It makes it so much easier for me to get a good atmosphere. Really it doesn't even feel like he's opening since me and Doug play with him on his last 3 songs. It just feels like a co-night. We also feed from each other pretty well when it comes to stage banter to the audience's bemusement.
At this show New Yorker Luke Temple opened. He's a great performer.
I was especially impressed with his guitar sound. It is really hard to get a good acoustic sound live however good the guitar is in itself. I found this out at SXSW this year. I have a lovely Gibson, but through a PA it still really doesn't shine. That's why we opted for Tobias' 1954 Gibson semi-acoustic on this tour. We plug it in an amp and it sort of sounds like a cross between an electric and an acoustic... a very bluesy warm sound. I have to get one myself. But Luke had a Martin from the 1920's and it sounded amazing. It apparently had been given to him; I'm sure it's priceless.
Another good gig and a great audience. I really feel some of the gigs on this tour have been some of the best I've done so far, with or without PBJ. It just is something that fits. I do feel a lot of the songs gain something and evolve at the gigs.
April 23, Montreal
Since we are crammed in a small van together and we also share hotel rooms two and two, we are basically forced to socialize in a way that you don't have to with PBJ. But it also means you feel less alone on the road. In the van we have started a tradition of ipod-djing. Tobias always takes care of the morning show. He just got a new iPod and hasen't filled it up yet, which means you pretty much knows what is gonna come up.
One show usually includes Cindy Lauper, some John Lennon, Fleetwood Mac, Nick Drake, Michael Jackson, Teitur and it always ends with "10th Avenue Freeze Out" by Bruce Springsteen. It's all really good stuff and he's a great host so I don't mind. Around lunch I usually take over for a couple of hours with a mix of a bit everything; soul, folk, African, Brazilian, new wave, rockabilly, synth, indie, etc.
Doug does the midnight hour, after the show. Great fun. It's funny that we all after a while tend to bring in the big mainstream '80s hits in the mix. That is apparantly what we like best after all, even though we wouldn't brag about it.
I really like Montreal. It's a place with a great atmosphere and the weird French-but-not-quite-French vibe. And a lot of musical heritage; Leonard Cohen, the Wainwrights etc. But as when we played in Brussels and Paris I always feel slightly embarrassed doing my song "Le Petit Coeur", since it has a French refrain and I'm not at all good speaking French. But on the other hand, French people are pretty bad at English and they still sing in it. After the Montreal show one guy did come up to me and taught me all that was wrong about my French and how to change it. I told him that the record was already out and printed.
Bummer! I wished I checked it beforehand.
He really liked the song anyway. We tried to jam at the end again this night. We should have skipped it. A weird Jimi Hendrix/Grunge-thing. Pretty funny though!
April 24, Toronto
The day started (after the driving and iPod-DJing of course) with an in-store at Soundscapes record store. A great shop. Quite a bunch of people attended and we did five songs. Didn't want to play too much since we wanted people to come that night too.
I just love supporting the independent small record stores. Also, these days I tend to buy most of my records in the 'States or Canada since it's so much cheaper than Sweden. I got the new albums by Robert Forster and Magnetic Fields and a bunch of reissues by Dory Previn, Davy Graham, Gary Numan, Mission Of Burma, the Brazilian psychedelic band El Kinto and a couple of great compilation with African stuff, 2 from the Ethiopiques series and one called Nigeria Special.
The show that night was really special. Tobias and I reached new heights when it came to the standup comedy part of it. There was even some goofy dancing involved.
... Which made us think that even if we didn't make it in music anymore, we could relaunch a career as the Swedish version of Flight Of The Concords. I'm sure we would do pretty well actually.
At soundcheck we played around with a Vampire Weekend song, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" and Doug started singing. At night I totally surprised him and went into the riff. Of course he had to sing it. It brought the house down! Also we did one of my favorite Richard Hell songs in a very Velvet-like version which sounded great. Probably the best gig ever!
April 25, Columbus, Ohio
This day started on a very sad note for me. My American phone didn't work and I couldn't get in touch with friends and family while in Canada. Just as I reached the U.S. border my mother got in touch with me and told me the sad news that my grandmother had just passed away.
She's been sick for a while and was very old, 93 going on 94. It was probably a relief for her and shouldn't come as a surprise.
Still I felt really shocked, as you're bound to do, when someone close passes. I hadn't seen her in a long, long time, which of course makes you feel guilty even though you really shouldn't.
Anyway the rest of the day went by in a blur after this.
The gig at the Wexner Center was still really good. A good crowd and everything.
And I actually told them what happened. It felt easier that way.