Tour Necessities Q&A: Brzowski on A Few Days to Churn tour
It’s been a little while since I talked with someone for my Tour Necessities Q&A series, so I decided to hit up my friend and Maine-based hip hop artist Brzowski. He is almost done with his solo “Series of the Witch” tour, which has taken him through Texas, Tennessee, Maine, Vermont, and Rhode Island, with his final show is in New Hampshire on December 3rd, at an undisclosed location. After that, he will be heading out on a special 5-day tour with Uncommon Nasa next month, and they will be cruising through 5 different cities: Washington, Baltimore, Charlotte, Charleston, and Philadelphia. So, I did a Q&A with him a little bit about this past tour and the one he’s about to be on, so check it out below and make sure you see him perform when he’s in your city.
TIFFOLOGY: You just wrapped up your Season of the Witch tour and will be going on a short-run tour in December. Before I get into the latter, how was this tour?
BRZOWSKI: Season of the Witch is a series of shows I have been doing on-and-off in the Fall since 2004. The last few years, it has been more an aggregate of spot-shows spanning the Fall in my stronger markets, flexing the darker material. A great deal of my material is “somber” or “dark”, but many of those songs don’t get rolled out live. The autumn is a good time for that material with the end of summer, Halloween looming etc. The shows have been uniformly satisfying so far, and I’m happy to be back in my native RI for the last show with my old comrade Jared Paul.
What was the most memorable experience (good or bad)?
So many memorable moments… 2 back-to-back shows, in TX, with Paulie Think and Ghost Palace, opening for Sage Francis, in Portland ME, [but] I think the most memorable was the evening I underestimated the distance between St. Louis and Nashville, and showed up 5 minutes before taking the stage. Eyenine and Shupe were on their last song when I pulled into the parking lot, my friend Jane Boxall had already arrived and set up her drums for my set, and I wanted to be on time so Ecid could get his full set in. It worked out swimmingly. Rolled in, laid out merch, grabbed a beer, stage time… I was frazzled, but I’ll call that a win. Apologies for giving Spoken Nerd and Bashful Hips a heart-attack. I’m usually a timely fellow.
Now, tell us about this upcoming tour. What’s it called, where will you be heading, and why should someone come see you perform?
Nasa and I have had an interesting history. We did a run with Mo Niklz about 3 years ago, then another quick tour with Samurai Banana and my group Vinyl Cape in ’14. I think we initially hit it off from mutual friends, and bonded over the fact that we were both calling our music “Prog-Rap”, despite never really meeting or being super familiar with each others’ work. We have an EP in the can for a project called CHURN, and this is a way to chum the waters in anticipation. The tour is a quick 5 dates before Christmas, hitting mid-Atlantic cities.
12/16 (Wed) in Washington, DC / @ Velvet Lounge
12/17 (Thu) in Baltimore, MD / @ The Wind Up Space
12/18 (Fri) in Charlotte, NC / @ The Milestone
12/19 (Sat) in Charleston, WV / @ The Empty Glass
12/20 (Sun) in Philadelphia, PA / @ Girard Hall
Why should someone come see us? It’s hard to answer this without coming off like an egotistical blow-hard. I think that we are (and have been) making a progressive and engaging version of hip-hop music, and put on a powerful live show. We have some heady and weighty content, but in the live scenario it’s really obvious that we love performing/connecting, and that jouissance is contagious.
If you want rap songs about rap, sexual escapades, and materialism… stay home, you will vehemently despise this tour.
What will be the mode of transportation, and who are you traveling with?
Just Nasa and I, in a mid-size rental car. No DJ, no frills. Having toured with a DJ, a band, and solo, they are all different animals, and I enjoy them all. Solo is where you really test your meddle.
Even though it will only be five days, how many bags are you likely to pack?
1 backpack, 1 carry-on size, 1 merch-bag/tote.
When you pack for a trip, do you pack just enough clothes for the amount of days away, or do you pack extras just in case?
Touring in cramped conditions, or in Europe by rail, I’m economical. The clothes I wear on stage and the clothes I wear everywhere else are the same. I don’t bring matching sneaker-hat combos, etc. I’m not dissing people who do, that’s just not who I am. Enough socks and underwear for the trip, 4 or 5 shirts (I usually get a few gifted along the way), 2 pairs of pants… including the ones I have on. I’d rather save space. If you are traveling solo or by rail as I often do, you don’t want to be over encumbered. Simplicity of form.
Is it a must for your clothes to be organized and folded neatly, or just thrown in there haphazardly?
Yeah, everything is compacted and folded/rolled to take up as little space as possible. I like to have extra space for records/merch from other folks on the trip home, and hate checking bags if a flight is involved.
Tell me about your top 5 (or 10, if necessary) songs that you’ve been listening to on the SOTW tour?
Hmm… I listen to albums, and don’t usually pump individual songs. Right now I have these going on in the car:
Jared Paul – Get My Ghost
Billy Woods – Today I Wrote Nothing
Variex – Braille Dive
Cavanaugh – Time and Materials
Sole – MBF #7
Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Broke MC – Deadbeats
PT Burnem – Pink Lazers
Dick Curless – Drag’em Off the Interstate
…and the rough mixes of the new 32 French album.
What are your top 5 travel necessities?
1. Cords, adapters, chargers… doubles, if possible.
2. Notebook and sketchbook
3. GPS with updated maps
4. Unflappable positive mental attitude
5. Professional musicians to hang out with for days, on end, in bizarre situations. There are myriad talented folks that I would never tour with… professionalism and gregarious nature in the face of adversity is a must.
Assuming you like bringing snacks for the traveling-from-city-to-city part of the trip, what are some go-to snacks or drinks that you like to have?
Almonds, granola bars, hard-boiled eggs, garden-variety string cheese smoothies, baguettes, bad gas-station iced-coffee (if it is not sold in Styrofoam). On a road trip, I’m basically a 12-year-old with an environmentalist streak.
When you’re in each city, do you like to go to food spots that you’ve never been to or do you prefer to eat in places you already know and love?
It’s all about regional foods for me. In TN, it’s Hot Chicken. In RI, it’s Del’s Lemonade and Stuffed Quahogs. In LeMans, it’s Rillettes… and on and on. I think ahead a little bit… what are the foods that I can only REALLY get here or native to the area? I’m an aggressive localist, so I would always rather go somewhere that the locals go, eat something the locals eat, and support a mom-and-pop business. It helps you understand and appreciate regional culture, in an era where that kind of local/regional identity is being stripped away by gentrification, chains, etc. I listen for the regional accents. I watch the elderly couple in the corner and see what they order.
What will you do to pass time between shows?
I like to sleep as much as possible, because whomever you are staying with, for them, it often their “Friday Night”. Your hosts or promoters or friends want to chill and hang out and build, and I don’t like to shy away from those moments. I like to sleep as late as I can without being tardy for a gig, as I’m usually the last one awake at the end of the night. I find it hard to sleep away from my own bed, so I’m the one checking out the sunrise on the regular. When driving, I love tunes, podcasts, and the company of any tour mates not taking advantage of sleep.
Are there any special stops that you’re looking forward to?
I always look forward to the World Famous Milestone in Charlotte NC. It’s a grimy, earthy, beautiful place who is very selective of whom they choose to book. They want artists, not “Bands” or “Rappers”. I’m honored to be a part of that cult.
Do you have a tour rider? If so, what’s on it? If not, will there ever be a strange, or perhaps extravagant, request?
I do, but it gets sent depending on the venue/booker/promoter/budget. If it is my old friend throwing the show or a promoter I’ve worked with, they know I need food and a clean place to crash and shower, etc. so I dispense with formality. If I’m playing a large room or festival with a person or company I don’t have a relationship with, I send it along to make sure the minimal creature comforts are met and get into specifics. I’m more apt to ask for what my tour mates view as “needs” as opposed to my own. I ask for a pack of black socks and a bottle of bourbon or local spirits when appropriate. That’s as fancy as I get. I want a clean bathroom and some quiet, if possible. I play it all from squats to amphitheaters, and I gauge every situation on individual merit.
I’m about building community, not being a rockstar.
What are some songs that people can expect to hear you perform?
Lots of material from A Fitful Sleep, a few unreleased songs, several Vinyl Cape songs as solo versions, and I’ve been doing a few old ones that I seldom unpack: Queen of October, Tim Burton, an uber-rare compilation joint produced by PT Burnem called “A Banker’s Prayer”, and some songs from the Wichitah EP I did with Halo this year. I’ll do a song or two from Maryshelleyoverdrive, if the fans are OG enough and ask for it.
What merch will you have on you?
Shirts, stickers, buttons, the Vinyl Cape mixtape (“Ritual Abuse”), Vinyl Cape 7″, Brzo “Phantom Limb” 7″ (last copies from ’09), Blooddrive Vol. 3 CD, A Fitful Sleep CD, and several more obscure vinyl/cd/cassettes that I’ve been featured on in the past year… I always try to promote my friends, and my MilledPavement Records family. I won’t have a physical of the “Wichitah” CD in the states until HALO and I hit the west coast in January. Sign the goddamn email list people, that is the best way to stay up with me! Anything I don’t have physically, you can snag from milledpavement.com or my bandcamp. Damnit! I wish I could bring more stuff, every show somebody asks for a piece I don’t have with me, and it bums me out.
If you could list off 3 important touring tips (it could be anything), what would they be?
1) Get all important details in writing, as warranted. Don’t be intimidated by contracts or paperwork.
2) Make friends with the sound-person first, they control your night. If you make good money, or rise above your door-deal by an appreciable margin, tip the that person out like you would your bartender/server. Remember their name, and respect them. They are piloting the ship. Never, ever disrespect the sound-person, bartenders, or staff from the stage. Give props and respect where it is due.
3) Give the same show to an intimate crowd as you would give to a massive crowd. They came to see you, hear your lyrics, buy tour swag, and support your art. Professionals don’t have a “bad night” or an “off-day”. We thought you were a professional artist, so conduct yourself like one at all times. Independent hip hop is a small pond, so if you deuce in a puddle, we all catch the scent. Respect the audience as you would yourself.