Arson, Meth and Pythons: Soft Kill ‘Wake Up’ Post-Punk Ennui
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 get in the van with the disarmingly candid Tobias V.H., vocalist / guitarist of Portland-based Cure / Chameleons-worshipers Soft Kill. Their new album Choke drops November 4 on Profound Lore, and we're debuting leadoff track "Wake Up" below, along with tour dates.
What album can everyone agree on in the van? What’s the most divisive?
Script of the Bridge by Chameleons U.K. is probably the only record we could all collectively agree upon, but that's a no-brainer in our collective scene. Conrad [Vollmer, guitarist] and I get a lot of flak any time we put on Views From the 6 or any modern rap. I usually save Merauder's Master Killer or Madball's Set It Off [for] if I'm trying to alienate everyone.
What’s the strangest gig you’ve ever played?
Years and years ago, I used to throw shows at this house that was legitimately condemned. The landlord offered rooms for next to nothing to college students who made the mistake of letting someone do a basement gig there one summer. Hundreds of people would show up, and after two of three of those, they pulled the plug; but being the young, heavily intoxicated antagonists we were, we kept doing events there without their permission, knowing they couldn't call the cops without losing their home. We took it one step too far by throwing a show outside in the backyard that Liars and Get Hustle were supposed to play, and someone started a massive fire. I believe the pigs finally shut that place down a month or two later, but I may be wrong.
Tell us about your biggest onstage clusterfuck.
I did heroin and meth for over a decade which (amongst other things) resulted in me losing all my top teeth besides two. During the first song of our recent show in Brooklyn at Silent Barn, my dentures popped out and I almost swallowed them. It would be a toss-up between that and when our last bassist blew his amp in New Orleans a week later and threw his Fender across the room, breaking off the tuning pegs before we could ask to borrow a replacement.
Describe your craziest afterparty.
After a show in Providence, R.I. once, we ended up at a house of a friend who informed us he had obtained the snake that lived at (the now defunct) Safari Lounge. Once we got to his crib, we realized the snake had no cage and was just kept free roaming on one section of the house. It was also a 12-foot-long python. Once the fear of this subsided — which was mostly thanks to bong rips and beer — we held contests to see how many times you could hit yourself in the face with a baseball bat while holding in a hit, followed by having to take one and then run in, kiss the snake that was slithering around, and then get back out of the danger zone before exhaling. That snake is now buried behind that house.
A tie to that would be a fireworks party on the Fourth of July in Chicago, where I swear I saw someone throw a full pack of firecrackers at a baby stroller being pushed down the sidewalk.
How do you deal with going days or even weeks without a shower?
I personally whine about it a lot, as I'm the guy who takes one every chance I get. At one house, I took three. It becomes the only form of home-style comfort while gone, especially after sleeping in the van or on floors as often as you have to.
Be it an accident, crazy fan or place to crash, what’s your scariest experience on the road?
Recently, we were hanging out with Aaron [Montaigne], who sang for Antioch Arrow / Dangerous Boys Club on a rooftop in L.A., swimming and eating hot dogs. When it was time to dip, we got in the elevator, which proceeded to rumble, drop at a slightly faster speed than possible, fly back up, [and] then down, before dying somewhere around the sixth floor. A few of us were convinced we were about to die, and spent the next 15 minutes texting and calling loved ones to let them know we were about to call it a day against our will. Another time in Chicago, a guy pulled a massive knife on us, which sped up load-out.
What’s your universal must-go restaurant or road stop?
Now that we've found out Chipotle more often than not gives free food to bands, I'd say there, even though I don't love that place. Any truck stop where we can try on hats is pretty mando.
Who drives the most and least, and why?
Owen [Glendower, synth] usually drives the most because he's really, really into it. I have never been allowed to drive due to [my] extensive criminal record and numerous tickets for driving without a license. It's funny, because on our last tour I didn't drive once for 32 days, and immediately climbed in He Whose Ox Is Gored's van as their main driver on our last day of tour, taking them back across the Southwest for another week and a half.
What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without sleep?
I've actually never had problems sleeping on the road, but I have slept up to a week straight in the van without ever entering the houses we stayed at. We have a bunk in our current vehicle, and it's so comfortable it adds to my sanity to know I have a spot to crash, no matter how gross the house we're staying at is.
How do you try to stay healthy on the road?
I never once have attempted to do so, which is my fault. We eat way too much garbage, and drink way too much caffeine with little to no exercise. Max [Avila, drummer] stretches every morning, though.
How do you amuse yourself on long stretches with nothing to do?
Sexually inappropriate text messages with my girlfriend; horrendous and offensive shit talk; redundant inside jokes beaten into the ground; and sleep. I'm really good at knocking myself out when need be, and having a van with the aforementioned bunk and really comfy bench seats is definitely a perk.
What do you argue about the most?
The only thing that consistently causes band fights is what we're going to do in town before a show. We have such a wide range of personalities in this band that everyone has their own agenda. We've discussed buying a couple sets of boxing gloves and turning the back bench into a ring to handle such disputes.
SOFT KILL on TOUR
Oct. 21 — Portland, OR @ Secret Society
Dec. 2 — Sacramento, CA @ Red Museum
Dec. 3 — Oakland, CA @ Golden Bull
Dec. 4 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
Dec. 5 — Tempe, AZ @ 51 West
Dec. 6 — El Paso, TX @ Monarch
Dec. 8 — Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald's
Dec. 9 — Dallas, TX @ Double Wide
Dec. 11 — Denver, CO @ Bar Bar
Dec. 12 — Salt Lake City, UT @ Diabolical Records
Dec. 14 — Portland, OR @ High Water Mark