‘Gettin Fuckin’ Weird’ at Cicis Pizza With the Flatliners
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 Flatliners frontman Chris Cresswell. The Canadian punks, who just dropped their two-track EP Nerves (get it here), are currently wrapping up a Midwestern tour with the Bouncing Souls, Cayetana and the Homeless Gospel Choir.
What album can everyone agree on in the van? Which is the most decisive?
There’s definitely a lot of differing musical influences in our band, but we can agree on quite a bit of music in the van. More than we’d disagree on, I’d say. It’s tough to pin it down to one album, but Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness seems to always bring everyone together. It still holds up so well to this day. I think if I were to throw on a Killers record, though, heads would roll.
What’s the strangest gig you’ve ever played?
We played some shithole biker bar in the deep south the night that Obama was elected president for his first term. It felt like we were in a movie: a horrible, closed-minded, dangerous, racist nightmare of a movie. I guess this bar had only recently been doing punk shows, and we were one of the first ones. The establishment itself had no visible political ties, but its clientele surely did. When the show was over and the word was made official that Obama would be the next president, bottles were being hurled at the TVs and the place just erupted. We loaded our gear out of that place faster than we’ve ever moved in our lives. When you travel in a touring band, you kind of live in a bubble most of the time. But that night was a sobering reminder that sometimes it can be a dangerous road. It’s safe to say we’ve never returned to that bar or to that town. And we never will.
Tell us about your biggest onstage clusterfuck.
Other than constantly having dreams about playing the loosest, shittiest show in human history, I think the biggest clusterfuck that’s happened onstage recently was at a decently notable European festival this past summer. I guess the onstage monitor tech unplugged my monitor moments before we started. I’m assuming he didn’t realize what he’d done, and am hopeful that it wasn’t a malicious act. But holy shit, from there on out, it was an uphill battle I was not prepared for, for the five or six songs that kicked off our set. Outdoor festivals are always tricky to begin with. There isn’t a well-designed room with walls for the sound to bounce off of and all that, and you’re so much further away from your amp than normal. I felt like I was wearing an astronaut helmet trying to hear what the hell was going on. And once everyone clued in and the monitor tech plugged the thing back in, it was just HOWLING. From there on out, my mission was to just thrash through it and take my frustration out on my guitar, my vocal cords and the couple of beers I had onstage with me. Cheers to the fury.
What’s the worst injury you guys have inflicted on one another?
Years ago we were staying at our friend’s place in Richmond, Va., and a certain member of the band was way too fucked up to be allowed in the house. A rule implemented by the rest of the band, and not our gracious host. After some drunken reasoning and pep-talking about how great he’d be at sleeping in the van on this particular night, there was a brazen attempt to make a run for our friend’s house, which ended in — from what I remember — a group tackle on the poor guy. Shit, I was drunk, too. I don’t remember it too well. But I do remember his face hitting the gravel-ridden concrete pretty hard and having to cover up the road rash with a toque for the next week or so — even when we were in Florida and the heat was unbearable. But hey, he slept in the van that night. Friend’s house safe and sound.
Describe your craziest afterparty.
One of the funniest ones was on our very first European tour. We went to Malmö, Sweden, [which] at that time of year has almost no nightfall, if I’m not mistaken. We hung out with some kids in the venue parking lot for hours after the show, swapping stories from where we’re from and learning about their town and all that. When we announced that we were going to walk back to our hotel, these kids ended up coming back with us and we shared a few more beers. The funniest part was when Jon [Darbey, bassist] and I told these kids that we were going to shut it down for the night, they didn’t believe us. We had to physically get into our beds to show them that they weren’t going to miss out on any of the party and that we were, in fact, going to sleep, because it was 6 AM and the sun had been up all damn night.
How do you deal with going days or even weeks without a shower?
Eventually the natural oils of the human body will turn a greasy band goof into a slightly less greasy band goof. It’s about the small victories in life ...
What’s the most frightening experience you’ve had while out on the road?
The first time we were ever in Winnipeg, we had a run-in with the mafia over an out-of-control skateboard and a broken window. At age 17. There was the time we got turned around and drove the wrong way on an interstate off-ramp in Texas and almost drove head-on into another car. There was the time when we saw a car in the ditch next to a snowed-out two-way road and pulled over to try and help the folks out of their car. Jon got close to the car only to see headlights of an oncoming car on the road and watch — in fucking slow motion, it felt like — the car skid out and smash right into the car that was stuck in the ditch. Jon was able to jump out of the way in time, but goddamn, it was a close call. Luckily, everyone came out of it alive and mostly unscathed — including the folks in each car.
What’s your go-to restaurant or roadside welcome centre?
Jimmy John’s whenever possible. Please sponsor our band. We promise to be good and eat sandwiches forever.
What’s one of the weirder places you’ve stopped to eat?
On the surface, Cicis Pizza doesn’t seem that weird … But when you consider the evil things that their brand of all-you-can-eat pizza does to the human body, it’s baffling people still hit that spot. Wanna wreak havoc on your insides and feel like a pile of human garbage? Well then, get fuckin’ weird at a Cicis Pizza.
Who drives the most, and why?
Paul [Ramirez, drummer] drives the most, hands down. I don’t know why, 'cause the guy is a talented daytime sleeper too, but I think it’s just ingrained in him. He drives a truck for his job while we’re off the road, too, so I think the guy just can’t get enough of that steering wheel! He’s dangerously talented at texting while driving, too. Probably not something to brag about, though ...
What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without sleep?
Thirty-two hours. But that was when I was home from the road and just working like crazy. I sleep like a motherfucker on tour. So much downtime — why not spend some of it dreaming?!
How do you keep healthy on tour?
Mentally, I’ve started going on little solo walks as much as possible just to get some quiet time. The road can be such a busy place, and socially, you’re always expected to be “on,” so to speak. It can be tough sometimes, but the walks help pull it all together. Just to clear my head and shut my brain off for a little while. It feels good.
Physically, I try to stay as hydrated as possible, but it’s somehow usually my biggest challenge on the road. All those beers don’t do the body good in that department. Recently, I’ve been trying to bring a light, but regular workout routine with me on the road, but it’s been tough to stick to it. Even with all its downtime, the road is easily distracting somehow … But especially after a night of drinking, pound a couple waters and just hope you don’t piss the bed. You’ll thank yourself in the morning. If you’re dry ...
What do you do to pass the time en route from one town to the next?
Sleep, read, write, watch a movie, talk to my buddies in the van. If I’m awake in the van on the drive, I like to keep busy. And there are a lot of ways to do that. If I’m sleeping, then look out, 'cause I’m a fucking pro!
Any memorable, weird roadside attractions?
That gas station in Florida we stopped at that has gators just roaming around in a tiny pond beside it was pretty weird. Good thing they didn’t advertise it as a petting zoo ...
What does the band bicker about the most while on tour?
The plan! Everyone’s got the best idea about what time to hit the road, where to stay, etc. And everyone’s gotta know it! Being part of the group, I’m certainly guilty of this as well. I think it just comes from a weird sense of being in that bubble I mentioned earlier. None of this is worth the bickering, but in that moment — for some reason — it’s like you need to be right.