Interview with Keith Latinen
Photo: Liana McFaden
This was your first tour to the West Coast in 5.5 years, what took you so long to get out there?
There were a lot of things that factored into that, though I do find it funny that we ended up touring Europe and Japan years before we set foot past Texas. I would say the biggest factor would be time- mostly tied into only being able to take so much of it off without losing our jobs. Being from the Midwest, the amount of time it takes to get to the West makes anything less than three weeks seem like a nightmare. Some of my friends have done it in two weeks, and it burnt them out pretty badly. Logistically, even the amount of time we spent was cutting it close.
The other biggest concern was the longer length of drive times and the cost of gas, coupled with the uncertainty of never having been to the West Coast on tour. Very few of our friend’s bands had been out there, so it was much less charted territory.
Geographically speaking, which coast is better for touring, East or West?
Geographically speaking, definitely the East. The drives in between shows are something like a few hours versus driving the better half of a day just to get from one show to the next. The days we had off were strategically placed in order to split up the longest drives where there were few logical tour stops to even have the possibility of a show. On our East Coast tour with One Hundred Year Ocean, Derrick [Shanholtzer, lead singer] called the route “The Victory Lap” because the longest drive between any shows was something like six hours, and most drives were one or two.
In the middle of your tour, you ended up at SXSW where you played at the Topshelf Records Showcase and had a showcase for CYLS. How was this year’s SXSW experience?
I loved it, it was amazing. Last year we split a showcase with Topshelf, which was nice because they are great friends of ours and we had both never hosted a showcase before, so we honestly didn’t know what to expect and sort of braved it out together. This year I knew a little bit more of what to expect. It was also special because it was our own showcase and I got to plan and run the show all by myself. It was at the Mellow Mushroom, which made for the perfect intimate atmosphere. Even though we reached capacity pretty quickly, more people were able to watch because Mellow opened up the large window behind the stage (which spanned the length of the stage itself), so people could stand outside and watch from there too. We actually posted videos of the show on our YouTube Channel, and you can see people spreading out both in front of and behind the stage.
On top of that, I was honored to share the stage with two of my musical heroes: Chris Simpson, of Mineral fame, and Bob Nanna, from Braid/Hey Mercedes. They both performed in their amazing current outfits, Zookeeper and Jack & Ace, respectively. The cherry on the top had to be Blair Shehan, lead singer of Knapsack/The Jealous Sound, showing up to watch and hang out. I grabbed Brandon and Brian from Parker and we took a picture of the six of us. The picture is labeled “Emo Gods” on my Desktop, haha. The Topshelf one was amazing as well. Seth and Kevin did a great job!
You toured for nearly a month straight with only a couple days off in-between shows, was it difficult or stressful playing so many shows back to back in a different city every night?
It actually felt stranger to have time off, haha. I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but there are a few things that do stress me out from playing such a long string of shows: I worry that my voice will give out or I will get sick, which is so much easier to do on the road. I worry that the band mates I am borrowing won’t remember all the parts they crammed for, or we will have an off night because we have only played X amount of shows together. I worry we won’t get enough gas money to make it to our next show or find a place to stay.
Re-reading this makes me look like I worry overly much, but that is really not the case. Minus the borrowing of band mates, these are pretty much the same concerns any touring band deals with, and we are fortunate enough to be at a point in our career where most of these things aren’t as much of a concern as they were in our earlier years.
What sort of planning goes into a nearly month long tour when you have jobs and a record label to leave behind?
I actually quit my job at the start of March of last year to work full-time on Count Your Lucky Stars and Empire!, which is what gives me the freedom to tour as often as I do. Cathy still works a conventional full-time job though, so she rarely is able to go on tour these days- which is a good thing and a bad thing. The good part means she can run the label while I am gone, but since she is so busy with her full-time job, there are a lot of things I have to do before I go or while I’m on the road.
Knowing I was going to be gone for a month straight meant I had to get my ducks in a row as much as possible before I left, which meant sending in and collecting various parts for releases to their respective plants so nothing would slow down while I was away. I was way more stressed about that than the actual touring, but I somehow managed to get it all done, haha.
We also recently hired a press company called Earshot Media instead of doing it in-house, so even if I am out on the road, there is always someone making sure our releases are still getting the attention they deserve.
What would you say was the highlight of the tour?
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you playing with Chris Simpson and Bob Nanna wasn’t somewhere at the top of the list. I think just finally getting out to the West and meeting new people and playing in places we had never been before was really refreshing too. It was getting to be a monkey on my back that we had never made it out before.
Did you experience any van problems while on tour?
I can proudly say no. We’ve never had any major van problems, but one reason is we try and take good care of the van. We get oil changes before every long tour, and I took the van in for repairs and a tune-up before we left this time. I had heard a lot of horror stories about going out West, and admittedly was a bit paranoid, so we made sure we were as prepared as possible.
From what you learned and experienced on this West Coast tour, what will you do differently the next time you come around?
I think the only real problem we had was that we had a finite time in which we could be out and do the whole West Coast. That made it necessary to have some longer drives and skip some places we would have liked to have gone. I don’t know that we will have more time for the next trek, but I would certainly like to.