Somewhere the middle of a European tour ten years prior, bassist Dave Grossman of Philly’s own post-genre institution Rosetta and drummer Rob Motes, then of sister act City of Ships and currently with shoegazers Constants, found themselves passing the time the way they knew best: Sharing horror stories from the road. “It was a great tour, but there was a lot of weird, nightmarish hospitality days,” recalls Grossman with a note of good humor. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, [it’s] the highest of highs, the lowest of lows. You play the sickest show outside with the Swiss Alps in the background and then you wake up the next day and you’re eating cold rice with mushrooms for dinner.”
While many are familiar with the high-profile antics of the music industry’s biggest stars to the point that a “rock star lifestyle” has become synonymous with indulgence and destruction on another’s dime, the vast majority of those artists on the road find each day a struggle with the mundane, the uncertain and often times the dangerous. Shared tales led to talks of compiling more from the countless others that have spent stretches of their life in transit towards their fleeting moment on stage. “We wanted to create a space where those stories could be shared,” Motes adds. “I’m not happy the pandemic happened by any stretch, but it was definitely convenient for us to all of a sudden have all this time to be on the phone with all these people and get this stuff done.”
The product of their collected experiences comes in the form of their new podcast Y’all Can Stay At My Place, streaming now for free. Meant to be a frank but lighthearted discussion of what the average touring life is for the bands that we idolize, the duo has virtually sat down with the likes of Eugene Robinson (Oxbow), Sacha Dunable (Intronaut), Frank Godla (Metal Injection/Meek is Murder) and several more with their second season already on the horizon. Existential dissonance, death threats and shitty truck stop food are all part of the job description for those involved and they would love to tell you about it. While we’re stuck agonizing when we can get back to enjoying live music in the future, now feels like a perfect time to unearth the stories that got us here in the first place.
One of the goals of the podcast is to paint a realistic picture of what touring life is actually like. What are the most common misconceptions you have encountered?
Motes: I don’t think people realize the sheer amount of time that is lost. That sort of in perpetuum mindset that you get in to where you’re focusing on one thing a day and everything else is just waiting to do that one thing. And you get into some weird shit as a result.
And also putting yourself at the mercy of strangers. Somehow normalizing driving to a town you’ve never been to and then, not even being asked, but asking people you’ve never met to let you stay on their floor or whatever it is. I don’t think that exists in really any other industry, to my knowledge. [Laughs]
Grossman: To the average person who has never done this, they think you’re either Lady Gaga or Led Zeppelin or you’re a nobody. There’s no middle ground. They’re like, “What do you mean you just got back from Japan?” You’re like, “Well, I just played shows in Japan. That’s what I mean. I was just in Japan for a week playing shows.” They’re like, “I’ve never heard of your band. Do you do covers or originals?”
I think people don’t realize how absolutely bonkers it is to make this decision that you’re going to get into a van for large chunks of your life with other people just so you can play music that you wrote for 45 minutes. So you’re going to eat cucumbers and onions for dinner, sleep on peoples’ floors or in a van 7 days a week, so you can play your songs that you wrote for 30 or 45 minutes. It’s unrelatable unless you’ve lived through it and I think people have heard too many Led Zeppelin stories.
Motes: The other reason why we really wanted to do this was… you meet some of the greatest people you’re ever gonna meet out in the United States, or in the world, wherever you go. You have the balls to go out there and ask strangers to put you up, but then there are these people who actually are going there to help you out. You make friends for life and they truly make the D.I.Y. community attractive, and they make it the thing that it should be, which is a community. We like to shine a light on those people and those places that were able to do that and take an otherwise pretty wild decision with your life and turn it into almost something that resembles normalcy.
So far you have seven episodes under your belt featuring interviews with the likes of Sacha Dunable (Intronaut), Eugene Robinson (Oxbow), Frank Godla (Metal Injection/Meek is Murder) and many others including your own bandmates. What was it about these people that made you seek them out for their tour stories?
Grossman: I think I’ve been friends with Eugene Robinson for ten years, maybe a little longer. He and I just hit it off instantly. To me, he’s one of the most interesting people in the world, let alone music. He was literally the first person I reached out to when Rob and I said we were going to do this. All these guys were people that we had prior relationships with, but they’re all just extremely interesting.
Motes: We tried to keep it pretty close to the vest because we wanted to set the tone for the show by talking to people we may have had these conversations with before and already had that rapport. And also shine a light on these people that we not only really respect their work, but we’ve become close with through the touring experience.
A big component of the podcast revolves around the discussion of food, specifically from convenience stores and rest stops. Why such a strong focus on this?
Motes: Everyone deals with it. Regardless of the genre of music you play. One of the things that everyone is unified on is that you have to go to a fucking truck stop at least once a day. I don’t care who you are; if you’re on the highway, you’re experiencing that. It’s one of the human things you can relate to. It’s not Van Halen. It’s a TA in Albuquerque off I-25. We’ve all been there before. [Laughs]
Grossman: It is the #1 thing you can count on every day. There’s times where you’re not even guaranteed to make it to the show. [Laughs] But you’re guaranteed to make it to a truck stop every day. For me, I always kind of have this weird joy in it. I kind of like the whole experience. I like looking at crazy things and people watching a little bit. Some people don’t like it, but it’s just a part of your life.
Motes: After being sealed in that little hyperbaric chamber that is a van or a bus or whatever, you’re forced to face the public. Sometimes the public that you’re never going to experience outside of this place. Real fucking people. You could have had a great show the night before and you feel like King Shit, but now you’re standing in the same line as the guy who’s driving a truckload of fucking iPhone cases that just came from China, who is so fucked up on Benzedrine right now that he can’t even see straight. But you’re sharing this line and there’s nothing special about either of you.
Even though the podcast is still fairly new you’ve heard experiences from several different viewpoints, such as Eugene Robinson’s stories of touring in the early ’80s and Sacha Dunable’s experiences filling in for Meshuggah. What’s been the most memorable story to you so far?
Grossman: Eugene Robinson talking about trying out for Van Halen. He never mentioned that to me before. He definitely said a little thing about, I think it’s still in the podcast, about Eddie Van Halen being a little racist. [Laughs] That one was mind-blowing. The O’Brother story about the girl threatening to kill them with knives and cut their dicks off, that one was pretty crazy as well.
Motes: There’s a really crazy episode we recorded with Junius that has not come out yet. They just re-released The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist. They went into really deep detail about making that record, and Frankie Muniz is an anchor throughout the entire story. It actually arcs into my own personal life and friends since before I knew them even. That’s been my favorite story I’ve heard out of all of this. Junius are really close friends of mine and I didn’t even know about some of this stuff.
What wisdom would you hope this podcast will share with someone interested in the underground music world who has never had the opportunity to tour in a band?
Grossman: That the bands that you love are doing this more because they love the music than anything else. [Laughs] I hope that people listen to these stories and they have a greater appreciation of what the artists that they like are putting themselves through to present this music on stage for an hour or to make these records.
People also don’t realize that when you leave to go on tour for two months straight, your whole life is put on hold. Your life just involves getting in a van, hanging out with these other people that are on tour with you and playing your show. And then that’s it. You come home and your friends and family are like, “All these things happened over two months,” and you’re like, “I just got in a van and played shows every day and barely ate and barely slept and barely showered.”
Motes: I like showing the positivity that can come from it, through all the nonsense and the grit. Pretty much everyone we’ve had on this show, the music is all pretty heavy. People don’t get to see the more human side of the people making it. Since touring is such a massive part of the music-making experience now, I love having the ability to show people what those people are actually like in those situations. We’ve been very fortunate to have people who are very honest and open and are able to really show their true selves.
Though some of the best stories revolve around some of the worst experiences you’ve had on the road, have these discussions made you miss touring?
Grossman: I don’t get to hit the road very often anymore. I’ve talked about maybe doing something on this next run of Rosetta tour dates whenever it happens, but for me it’s so hard to know. I cherish getting to play shows now like nothing else in the world. I cannot think of anything that is a more incredible feeling than getting on stage with these people that are really more like family than friends and getting to play something that you created with these people. And it doesn’t matter if you play a show to 5,000 people or if you’re playing to one person, the fact that you get to do that is such an incredible feeling. There’s nothing in the world that compares to it.
Motes: I don’t think I would want to do this podcast if I didn’t feel that way about touring now. If I didn’t want to go out and sit in the van and do it again, I don’t think I would want to sit around and relive these stories. And I don’t think the podcast would be as good if we both didn’t feel that way about it.
Can you share any info on who listeners can expect to hear from in future episodes? Who would be a dream guest to have on the show?
Motes: Junius and Restorations are the next two episodes we have coming up. There’s a couple more we have that we would like to do. We did an episode with [ex-Thy Art is Murder vocalist] Louchlan Watt. We have a couple other little ideas that we would like to get done before the true second season begins. As far as who I’d want to talk to…
Grossman: I thought Sevendust was your dream.
Motes: That’d be dope! That band, they had some wild shit happen. They went bankrupt and they toured through it. They saved themselves by being on the road because they got screwed by their label and management and all that. That would be a big one. Actually, I’d love to talk to Sevendust. Fuck, yeah. Any of those big nü-metal bands that I grew up listening to would be crazy.
Grossman: For some reason, during this pandemic, Queens of the Stone Age finally clicked for me. I never liked them and all of a sudden, I kinda got them. And then I started listening to those Desert Sessions records that [Josh Homme] did as well. And then I went back to Kyuss and I listened to it differently. And then I was also reading the Mark Lanegan book [Sing Backwards and Weep: A Memoir] and I forgot that Josh had done a stint as a touring guitar player for the Screaming Trees. I’m intrigued. I don’t really want to hear too much about the Queens of the Stone Age touring stories, even though I’m sure they’re crazy. I really kind of want to hear those Kyuss touring stories and those Screaming Trees touring stories from Josh.