Milemarker Will Only Set You on Fire Figuratively in 2016
The road is not a pretty place. Tour Is Hell collects your favorite bands' war stories, some of which make Cormac McCarthy look like Dr. Seuss. Today, we mark the miles with Al Burian, frontman of post-hardcore trailblazers Milemarker. The band's recent comeback album, Overseas (released in August and streaming below), was their first LP in 11 years, and one of their most dynamic, alternating between lush and frigid textures. Below, check out Burian's thoughts on the band's considerable time on the road, as well as the exclusive CLRVYNT premiere of their "Luxuria" video, alongside their 2017 tour dates.
What album can everyone agree on in the van? What’s the most divisive?
Everyone likes the new album by Love Songs, a krautrock band from Hamburg. Heavy metal with falsetto singing (Dio, Maiden) remains most divisive. I personally don’t bring music on tour. I just listen to what other people put on, surrendering to the experience.
What’s the strangest gig you’ve ever played?
One show that sticks out in my memory was from our first U.S. tour in 1998. We played a house show in South Dakota. The promoter was in high school, and the house turned out to be his parents’ house. They wouldn’t allow him to put on a show, so he’d told them that his band was going to practice and a few friends were coming over. The show took place in his room, which — between our band, his band, and four or five friends — was pretty crowded. In the end ,the whole thing was really fun and turned out great, but it was obvious pretty quickly what was going on. His parents were nice about the situation, all things considered.
Tell us about your biggest onstage clusterfuck.
We used to do a lot of ill-advised pyrotechnical stuff — our first drummer, Ben [Davis], would light his cymbals on fire, and then eventually started dousing his entire drum set in lighter fluid. I got into breathing fire, which was basically filling my mouth with some high-percentage alcohol and then spitting a fine mist into the flame of a lighter. When done right, it explodes into a ball of fire, looks awesome as hell, and — if aimed at the ceiling — is relatively non-destructive. Of course, we weren’t doing this in rock clubs where fire codes wouldn’t have permitted it; instead, we were doing it in cramped basements where it really was pretty irresponsible and dangerous.
Then came the day where we played a show in Providence and I aimed too low with my plume of flame, engulfing the front row of the audience and a couple of band members. No one was hurt, fortunately, but there were some singed eyebrows and a moment of real panic in the room. That was the first five seconds of our set; it was pretty hard to get the audience back on our side after that.
Describe your craziest afterparty.
We save all our craziness for the stage and afterwards revert to being pretty low-key people. There is this mythos of the hard-partying rock band, trashing hotel rooms and chasing groupies, and some musicians feel obligated to live up to that (or at least to pretend — I’ve noticed that many wild men who brag about their hard-partying ways actually sit backstage after the show checking their emails). Rock 'n’ roll began as an explosive response to a repressive society, so the orgy of destruction as a liberatory act made sense back then, but these days, what does a crazy after-party prove? It’s a stale routine, a mindless ritual to disguise the fact that rock has squandered its true subversive potential by glorifying drug excess and phallocentric debauchery. Yawn.
How do you deal with going days or even weeks without a shower?
Going a few days without a shower is not so difficult. Human beings don’t smell that bad unless they have some serious chemical imbalance going on. Change your clothes regularly and you’ll be OK. If you go weeks without a shower, that’s a different story. You should probably just admit to yourself that you are a person who doesn’t like to bathe. It's not that hard to find a shower.
Be it an accident, crazy fan or place to crash, what’s your scariest experience on the road?
We hit a deer once while driving through a blizzard. That was pretty terrifying. A moving vehicle can really fuck up a living thing.
What’s your universal must-go restaurant or road stop?
I would never answer such a question without a paid endorsement.
Who drives the most and least, and why?
I drive the least, because I don’t have a license. I think Ezra [Cale, drummer] drives the most, and also parties the hardest. By total coincidence, he is also the youngest person in the band.
What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without sleep?
How do you try to stay healthy on the road?
Try not to drink, or at least not excessively; eat salad whenever the opportunity arises; get some exercise; move your body at some other point during the day besides loading equipment or being on stage.
How do you amuse yourself on long stretches with nothing to do?
I bring a stack of books and read a lot. I like not feeling the guilt that there is something else I should or could be doing. The danger with a long drive is that it gives you too much time to think, and if you don’t control the direction of your thoughts, you can spiral into some weird places. Touring is fun; it’s only "hell" or "war" if you decide to look at it that way. I try not to.
What do you argue about the most?
The small details.
MILEMARKER on TOUR
Feb. 9 — Dallas, TX @ Double Wide
Feb. 10 — Houston, TX @ Walters Downtown
Feb. 11 — Austin, TX @ The Sidewinder w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 13 — Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 14 — San Diego, CA @ Casbah w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 15 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 16 — San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of The Hill w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 18 — Seattle, WA @ Highline w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 19 — Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 21 — Boise, ID @ Neurolux w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 22 — Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 23 — Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater w/ Big Jesus
Feb. 24 — Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar w/ Shiner
Feb. 25 — Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall w/ Shiner