GET IN THE VAN WITH EYES SET TO KILL
I’ve always had a soft spot for melodic metal bands with girl singers: 13, Lacuna Coil, Confessor, and so forth. I also have a major weakness for cute Mexican girls (what’s up Demi Lovato, you’re 18 now, holler at your boy), so Break Silence Recordings standouts Eyes Set to Kill might as well be tailor-made for me. While they’re obviously different from the usual MetalSucks bands in that they are fronted by a couple of hotties, rather than flabby beardos who had to take two weeks of unpaid vacation from their job at a windowless basement print shop to go on tour, the most interesting thing to me about ESTK is how much they embody the humble, DIY work ethic that I always appreciated about the bands I grew up on and so rarely find in today’s crop of big-headed, flat-ironed, metalcore faux-rockstars.
These kids would have been right at home back in the days of phone dialers, VFW shows, and tape trading, which is pretty cool in my book. Even if you don’t like their music, they’ve got a lot to say about the economic realities of being in a touring band that are worth reading for any aspiring musician– I really appreciate their openness, so check out their new album on iTunes, and remember: don’t hate, congratulate!
Do you want to start off by talking a little about how you ended up on Warped Tour? How’s it been so far?
Caleb: Well, we ended up on Warped Tour because our manager had some ties with Ernie Ball, who has two stages out here. There were open slots at the end of Warped Tour, where other bands had dropped off, and somehow we drew better than most of the other bands on that stage. Ernie Ball was impressed, and invited us to come on the whole thing this year… so here we are! We’ve been kicking ass, and it’s pretty cool.
To me ESTK is a little more metal than a lot of the other bands on Warped, what do you think?
Greg: We’re not so much more “metal,” but I would say different: we have a different sound, a different image, and I think it helps us a lot. Like if someone walks past, and they don’t know who we are, and they see two girls on stage playing heavy music, that’s a positive thing for sure.
I guess I meant that you could easily play Ozzfest or whatever and it wouldn’t be a stretch, whereas most of these bands couldn’t.
Caleb: We’ve definitely been put on different tours before, like with Otep, and we were scared about that, but it worked out. We toured with Kittie, Walls of Jericho, and In This Moment, Papa Roach, Hed(pe), and a lot of scene bands like Drop Dead Gorgeous or Sky Eats Airplane, and we can hold our own pretty much anywhere, whether it’s radio rock, screamo, metal, whatever.
How did that work out? I mean, I like Papa Roach, I don’t give a fuck, but it’s not that cool to play with them in the eyes of a lot of people…
Caleb: Well, that was one of our first tours. Our manager at that time was also managing them, and Hed(pe) was on our label, they were the direct support, and we opened for the package. It was our first time to get a little spoiled with a rider, get some beer and chips or whatever, we had our own dressing room, playing to like 600 or 1,000 kids every night… we just in awe, it was amazing! [laughs] The Papa Roach guys were really cool and all of us love “Last Resort” and all those other hits they had. We made friends with Hed(pe), so it was a really cool tour!
My friend J’s ex-girlfriend got fingerbanged by the fat drummer for Papa Roach when she was in high school
Do people ever hold it against you that you’ve played with those bands?
Greg: I definitely hate when we have to put together a “resume” or whatever to submit to a tour or something, and it says that we toured with Papa Roach, Otep and Kittie. It kind of sucks to see that on there, because people will automatically be like, “Who the hell are these guys?”
But you had a good time on those tours, right? So who gives a fuck, you shouldn’t have to defend yourselves.
Greg: Oh yeah, it was amazing! And I love all those bands.
Alexia: I think what he’s trying to say is that when we tell people about some of the tours we’ve done, a lot of them are stupid and close-minded.
Save these cuties from suffering through another van tour– buy their album!
On this year’s Warped Tour, you’re one of the only bands touring in a van, right?
Caleb: Us and Closure In Moscow are doing the whole tour in a van. They’re on our stage as well.
Greg: It’s pretty gnarly, man. It’s the most uncomfortable situation ever, but at the same time it’s so cool that we’ll come off of Warped Tour and we’ll have some money in our pockets.
How did you make that decision? Why not get a bus or whatever?
Caleb: We were originally supposed to have an RV, but the engine blew up so we had to go buy a van. Like we talked about before, we wanted to get a bus and all that, but we talked about it, and it’s only two months. We can tough it out, it’s not like anything we haven’t done before. This way we get to come home with some money.
There are a lot of bands on your level or smaller who are spending a bunch of money on a bus, what do you think of that?
Caleb: Jealous! [laughs]
Cisko: It’s a luxury to be in a bus — and when the time comes for us to tour in an RV or a bus, we’ll appreciate it so much more because we know what it’s like to grind it out in a van.
Caleb: It’s so expensive! I mean, we’re doing well and our crowds are really big, but we’re averaging a grand a day on merch, and we get $250 a day from the stage. A bus is like…
That much. [laughs]
Caleb: Exactly. So I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the bands who aren’t selling or drawing as well as we are, how much debt they’ll be in after this tour. And plus our merch bill is like 25 grand, so that adds up. We make double our money back on every shirt we sell, because they cost us about $7 each, but it still adds up.
Ladies, you can take me home to meet mom — I’ll make her blush by complementing her carne asada and telling her I can see that her daughters got it from their mama
Well, you seem like you’re in it for the long haul, so I guess the plan is to eat some shit now so you don’t have to work at Subway when you get back?
Greg: Yeah — we definitely don’t like to come home and work, that’s like the worst thing ever.
Caleb: We’re lucky enough that we haven’t had to do that in like 3 and a half, 4 years.
Greg: Yeah, none of us have had a job in the past 4 years.
Cisko: Don’t get me wrong, we’re not like loaded or anything. Actually, we don’t make money at all. [laughs]
Caleb: Basically, we don’t even get paid, let’s put it that way.
Well, even being able to do it and break even for 4 years is an accomplishment, that’s tough.
Caleb: It all adds up- merch, tour managers, all that. We’re paying our merch guy like $600 a week, that adds up really fast. And everybody gets a per diem, all that.
This girl is so hot I actually experienced physical pain from being in the same room with her
You guys are pretty pragmatic, how did you learn to do things this way?
Caleb: I guess just from being road warriors over the years, it’s just stuff we’ve learned on the road.
Greg: But you know, the 30 minutes we have on stage every day, and how awesome our crowds are, makes up for the shitty band life, being dirty and smelly on the road. I’ll be in a bad mood all day because I haven’t gotten to shower in a week, then get on stage to play for a bunch of kids, have an awesome time, and I just forget about all of it. Being on stage is such a high– that’s how we get through it, I guess.
Caleb: We’ve gone through a lot of drama already, this is our third tour manager on this tour. But he’s the best one yet, really cool guy, I’ll say that. The other two guys, I guess it was too hard for them.
Cisko: Touring’s not for everyone, especially when it comes to Warped Tour.
Caleb: Yeah, it’s magnified like a hundred times.
What would you say to a young band who’s got a lot of MySpace friends or whatever, and thinks that going on tour is going to be a big party?
Anissa: It is going to be an awesome experience, but it’s also going to be a lot of hard work. People definitely need to realize that.
Caleb: We had a singer who pretty much thought that you get a band together, start touring, and you blow up right away. She quit after like six months.
Anissa: And that’s not it at all. You have to keep touring for years and years, keep playing shows and getting your name out there. It’s gonna be hard, but you can’t give up.
Greg: Yeah, you don’t want to blow up overnight. I’ve seen a couple bands do that, ones we’ve toured with — they become this big band overnight, but then six months later, they’re nothing again. You have to tour and tour and tour, build your fanbase gradually, then you’ll always have that same crowd that always comes out, your hardcore fans. That’s way more important than having a bunch of kids who are into you for a second, but won’t give a shit about you tomorrow.
Caleb: There’s definitely one hit wonders in our scene, just like there are on the radio.
Greg: And we’ve toured with many of them — they were so big when we were out with them, and now they’re nothing.
Cisko: If you’re in a touring band, your only real concern should be how awesome your music’s going to sound, and just focus on the fans. They make you or break you, so without them your band is nothing.
Alexia, I’m dedicating this Fight Fair song to you:
“My oh my, yeah girl you’re fly – I’m crushing on you and I cannot lie – take you on a date for Pinkberry swirl, then we’ll go watch Gossip Girl – you and I, we’re meant for each other – trust me girl, there is no other! With an @ reply you caught my eye – Twitter feed girl, let’s not be shy”
You also booked a national tour yourselves, right? That’s kind of rare for a band in your scene these days.
Alexia: Well, when we first started out, we wanted to tour, but we didn’t have a booking agent or anything like that. We really just wanted to start playing shows, so we would just go on MySpace and message promoters and venues, ask if we could play at the venue, and see if we could get a guarantee. That’s how we set it all up. Sometimes there would be days where we’d show up, then find out there wasn’t a show anymore, and we wouldn’t get our guarantee, which was really hard because we didn’t have any money.
Greg: We’d call the promoter and they wouldn’t answer their phone.
Caleb: It was a fun experience, but it definitely got messed up. We booked ourselves for $150 a night — that’s actually pretty good, I mean that’s actually what we got paid yesterday. We took our friends out from our hometown, who helped us set it up, but they didn’t ask for a guarantee, so we had to split it with them. We each got $75 every day. Even though the shows were really small, I still feel like that was one of the best tours we ever had.
Alexia: It was our first tour, we were going to new cities, playing for new people outside of our hometown. It was really cool seeing kids from all over the country coming out, and they knew our band, our songs.
Looking back on booking a tour that way, what are your thoughts? Would you do it again?
Greg: It’s the same thing as doing Warped Tour in a van, you know? It just feels cool to grind it out, to do it old school, punk rock style first, then get the booking agent and all that.
Caleb: We are definitely getting props from other bands on Warped Tour, they’re like “You can come on our bus!” We’ve had like fifty bands say that.
You’re gonna come home with more money than them, though — they’re gonna have to work at a movie theater and you won’t.
Caleb: I’d work at Taco Bell.