Punk Rock Tour Tales is a new Shout Louder feature, where we interview bands about their tour stories. Read them all here.
Many musicians and fans who’ve stayed over in Dundee will be familiar with the smile, hospitality and positive approach of Jason Rees; drummer in UNIFORMS and The Blood Red Moon, supporter of Make-That-A-Take Records and some-time drummer in Terrafraid (and probably plenty of other bands we don’t remember!).
UNIFORMS are a gritty, honest poppy punk band from Scotland, with one hell of a live show. They’re playing Do It Together Fest, which Shout Louder is hosting in London in January 2020. We thought it’d be a great time to speak to Jason about some of his past tour experiences.
Of the touring you’ve done, what’s been your favourite so far?
I have fond memories from pretty much all the tours I’ve been on, though going round Europe with Forever Unclean (whilst drumming for Terrafraid) was bloody great. I’d never met them properly before the tour, but we all got on brilliantly and the tour was stress free. Even when faced with nowhere to sleep and not being able to get over the border, their attitudes towards difficult situations were infectious and we’d all just accept the reality of what was happening and find a solution together.
I have big love for those guys and it’s great to see them doing so well. I think there’s a video somewhere of Lasse making us all eat chilli peppers and reacting hilariously. However, diplomatically speaking, every tour I’ve ever been on has been a privilege to share with anyone on it, and the memories experienced together will last forever. Especially Sean (Goodbye Blue Monday/Terrafraid/Chubby Tubby Funster/most other bands) running around the Alps wearing nowt but a guitar.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever driven to play a 30 minute set?
I guess the furthest drive, or furthest from home at least, was in Grand Junction, Colorado. We were booked to play a venue and the reason escapes me, but it was cancelled. The power of punk prevails as always, and a group of folks let us play their living room. It was sloppy and cramped but it was mental and a lot of fun. It’s really humbling when a community comes together to push through and do the thing.
Have you ever looked around on tour and thought ‘what the fuck is happening’?
What had happened?
It was my first ever tour experience: Fifteen Dead had booked a 10 day tour around the East Coast of the US with Population Zero from Philly. Hurricane Sandy had just hit, so our flights were cancelled.
Ewan (BOAK/Clearer the Sky) was standing in on bass and was already over there, so I took the first flight out on my own to meet him. I stayed in downtown Manhattan the night before and New York had major power outages, places were flooded, with a lot of people destitute and streets in darkness. I’d booked this seemingly attractive hostel on the internet before leaving and it was a big fucking shithole. It’s hard to describe, but it was a big open warehouse type affair with partitions made into a grid to serve as rooms, with the ceilings being beams resting on top of the walls. It was a tiny little cupboard and you could hear folk shouting New York stuff all night. I just tried to sleep, and with everything considered, I actually slept pretty well and had fun in New York on my own the next day. I guess the best thing to learn from that experience is that sometimes going to bed is the best thing ever and everything is fine in the morning.
When was the first / last time that you had a ‘fuck, this isn’t worth it’ moment?
How did you overcome it?
I’ve come back to this question a bunch of times and I’m afraid I’m gonna cop out and say every tour is a gift, even when I’ve gotten upset about something or with someone. I’m in a very privileged position where I get to travel all over with my pals and I hereby declare I’ll never take it for granted.
However, I do remember calling early it at one point in the night after escorting some mad floppy drunk punk home at a Zorofest in Leipzig. I came back super tired and finding my pals having a mega time amongst other folk having the best time; I just wasn’t in the same place and ‘fuck it’ was loud in my head. I had very vague instructions on how to get to the sleeping space, but somehow I got there and it was the most perfect den of calm of tranquillity with this soft blue light and mega comfy bed. I don’t remember who let me stay there; I only caught his face when he let me in and didn’t see anyone in the morning, but if you somehow read this, thank you.
What are your tips for surviving a tour?
Yoga, exercise, meditation, eating well and drinking water, in direct ratio to partying. It all levels out. Science tells us that one reaction is equal to another greater or lesser reaction and applying the principles of equivalent trade and entropy as constants, you can begin to draw parallels between the two, after concluding the function.
Having a laugh in the face of adversity. There’s always gonna be shit going all to shit on every tour, no exception, and there’s always the other side of it. Also, I’ve found taking some time to yourself, going for a walk and sitting alone is great.
Also, there is a certain type of long grass which is great for a makeshift roadside bed when you don’t have anywhere to sleep and the van is too small for everyone; shout out to Billy! I can’t remember the name of said grass or even what it looks like, so this isn’t really a tip and more a way to shoehorn in another cool tour story. Can you put the smiley face emoji with sunglasses here, please?
Do you have a long-serving tour vehicle? What are its quirks?
No such reliable mobile in my history yet, but it would be remiss if I didn’t shout out to ol’ Chuggington (black Clio). The window doesn’t go down, it strafes to the left, the tyre deflates if you don’t drive it for a few days (can’t explain that) and a whole bunch of other stuff. It doesn’t lock and I stupidly keep my drum stuff in the boot, then broadcast that I do on the internet. Cramming The Blood Red Moon in after practice with all our gear is fun, as it’s tiny and the passenger seat won’t lock it into place and it slides about and Owen gets upset. I do love it dearly.
What’s your soundtrack in the van?
I carefully craft every playlist for when I have to drive so that everyone can hear what impeccable taste I have. Everyone loves it and they ask for ‘another one of those amazing playlists please, Jason’. I’ll give Callum (Absolutist) credit for this banger, but I’ve since shared it and it’s become a Jason Megamix favourite.
Do you have a luxury item you take with you?
A big pair of comfy headphones; brilliant for falling asleep in noisy places, long drives and drowning out the incessant nagging and moaning from your wonderful band mates.
Are there any van in-jokes that are safe to share with us?
Cheeky Balsam. The context is a big chunk of bread and a bottle of balsamic vinegar; I don’t remember why it’s even a joke, but it was definitely funny for some reason and the phrase remained a staple of the tour.
If you could choose any band alive, which band would you most like to tour with?
Ween. I love that band and it’d be great to watch them every night. Or Blue Man Group. What would they be like after taking off the blue after a show? Maybe they never take it off.
UNIFORMS will be playing Do It Together Fest, which Shout Louder is putting on with Be Sharp Promotions and Colin’s Punk Rock World on 24-25th January 2020. Grab a ticket here.
Punk Rock Tour Tales is a new Shout Louder feature, where we quiz bands about their best and worst tour stories. Read them all here.