After two whole weeks, CJ has finally decided to rest. He asked Jared to drive from St Louis to Wichita. The dude with more longevity than a ultramarathon runner has reached his limit.
I’m excited for Wichita. Jared attended university there, so I imagine lots of his friends will be attending. Staying with his friends in Minneapolis was a fun time, so I hope there will be a similar party tonight.
We listen to the band Kansas on the way to Kansas, and then I put on Fleetwood Mac. It just feels right to listen to classic rock today. This is followed by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin and Queen.
Kirby’s, the venue is a tiny bar opposite the university that Jared studied at. Emphasis on the tiny. It is plastered with stickers, posters and graffiti, and there is no lock on the door of the bathroom. Jared tells me that he used to work there.
Loading in is interesting. There’s barely enough room for four musicians to stand onstage, let alone with amps and drums taking up space as well. I spot a poster advertising a Staghorn show stuck to the ceiling. I send it to Alan from the band, having met him in St Louis a few nights ago. He loves it, but is shocked to hear that Ranges fit on the stage.
The band play well tonight. They play a 40 minute set rather than the usual 30 mins. The extra song is awesome, with thrashy drum parts. Why don’t they usually play that song???
But things fall apart after the set. There’s an argument between some of the band members, with accusations that some members didn’t put in as much effort as usual. I personally think the set went fine. It’s a telling sign that we are all getting too worn out from the long drives and inadequate sleep. It doesn’t help that the next band plays horrible, erratic free-jazz. That crap is enough to put anybody in a bad mood.
Jared loves catching up with all of his arty friends from grad school, and one couple hosts us at their house that night.
Tour Day 15: Friday 13 October
Triple Nickel Tavern, Colorado Springs
w/ Eyelet, Blind, the Thief, Euth, Shiii Whaaa
I had thought that we were due to play Denver tonight, going off an old tour poster. Turns out that gig had fallen through and we had a gig in Colorado Springs instead, a few hours drive south of Denver.
We stop at a shopping mall on the way to the venue. We’re all running low on clean clothes so a few of the guys grab buy some fresh gear to prolong the illusion of cleanliness. I buy a New York Yankees baseball cap to please Mark. He used to write for some baseball publications covering the Yankees on their way to the playoffs, so insists that I rep his team. He’s as pleased as punch once I start wearing it around, especially when the game is on at the bar later in the night.
We eat at El Taco Rey, just around the corner from the venue. It’s one of the meals I’ve had on tour. The food tastes outstanding, and it’s affordable too.
Triple Nickle Tavern reminds me of Triple Rock in Minneapolis. There’s a distinct punk feel to it. Lot’s of bands are playing tonight so it’s a struggle to find enough space for everyone to put their gear.
Shiii Whaaa start the night off well with their fun punk style. The following two bands are horrible, with lots of screaming, so I head outside to chat to Sam, a Ranges fan who has driven for over an hour to get to the gig.
My highlight of the night is the last band, Blind, the Thief. They play upbeat math rock, similar to Toe. It’s fantastic. I love dancing to energetic music so I make sure to get my fill.
Tour Day 16, Saturday 14 October
Shooters Bar, Billings, Montana
w/ In Rapture, As The Crow Flies
Everyone is in good spirits today. The last night of tour! The guys are keen to get back to their families and sleep in their own beds.
I sleep during most of the drive up through Colorado and Wyoming, but when we stop for gas I notice that we are in the middle of a snow flurry. It snows in New Zealand, but usually I need to go up a mountain to get to it, so it feels novel to experience it here.
Shooters Bar in Billings feels more like home. Good old Montana, with plenty of red necks wearing trucker caps and no sales tax – one place in America free-er than most.
Joey’s wife and daughter have made the drive to Billings to see us, and CJ’s sisters come to the show as well.
First act As The Crow Flies are from Bozeman as well. They play awesome, stomping southern styled blues rock. The use a truck exhaust pipe as a mic stand, and Mario the singer plays a sci-fi looking guitar that he built himself.
Following act In Rapture are a sight to see. They play industrial tech metal. They’re good, but their sound mix lacks punch. And although I like to see musicians getting into it as they play, the way they moved onstage felt forced. The girl on keys actually ran out into the audience and started pushing people to start a moshpit. The music was good, and if they spend some time refining their tone and mix they’ll sound great.
I know the guys in Ranges were excited to finish. We were so close to home. They dedicated their final song of the tour to me.
We finish the night with shots and beers (a double shot of mountain dew for CJ because he was driving). Joey is dropped off somewhere in Billings where he is staying with his family for the night, and the rest of us get back to Bozeman around 2am.
As hard as it was sitting cramped in a van day in, day out, as tiring as it was pulling the late nights, as grotty as it made me feel eating pizza and gas station food for many meals, I’ve had the time of my life.
In the past few months I’ve traveled from the east coast to the west coast of America, and then met up with Ranges and driven most of it all over again. I’ve seen some amazing places, but more importantly, made some amazing friends.
dunk! was incredible. Truly memorable… well… the parts I was sober for. Certainly a great time.
And the guys in Ranges are the best. It is hard saying goodbye and returning to New Zealand after having lived in such close quarters with them for two weeks. It’s crazy that I can count them as some of my closest friends after only having known them for a short space of time.
I’ll wrap up my tour blog with something absurd, an in-joke within the band that sums up our journey well:
Apologies for the lack of images. I’ll update this post with photos when I get wifi access.
Tour Day 11: Monday 9 October
Spark Contemporary Art Space, Syracuse, New York
w/ Man Mountain, Against The Giants, Machine Moon, How To Disappear Completely
The drive from Vermont to Syracuse is incredible. I lived in Maine for a few months earlier in the year, and it feels good to be back in beautiful New England. Upstate New York is aglow with autumnal hues. We drove through winding country roads, past glassy ponds, and through misty groves of vibrant deciduous trees. Joey put on Young and Courageous, the Tides of Man record. It seems like the perfect soundtrack for this beautiful drive. Joey and I get watery-eyed. It’s crazy how closely attached we feel to the guys in that band, considering that we’ve only known each other for four days.
I was up into the early hours of the morning hanging out with some of the musicians from dunk! in the Junius hotel room, so wasn’t feeling too crash-hot due to limited sleep.
We arrived in Syracuse and unloaded the gear into the venue – an art gallery similar to the one we played in Minot, although this one was bare.
I asked CJ what he was thinking, going from playing the biggest show of his career to the smallest. He sad he was happy for it because the pressure from dunk had been lifted off his shoulders.
We walked to a nearby pizza joint a few blocks away. It was chaos. We had to order from one place and pay at another. The staff didn’t even seem to know what was going on. I sat down with my laptop to sort through photos I’d taken at dunk!
After pizza we walked back to the venue, and I realised that my wallet was absent from my back pocket where it usually lives. I searched my bag thoroughly, emptied out my pockets and asked the guys if they’d seen it.
After turning my bag inside out a few times, and retracing my steps and searching the pizza joint, I came to the conclusion that my wallet was stolen. I spent the next hour sat in the van ringing banks to cancel my cards and trying to do some damage control for when whoever had my wallet was trying to get access to things with it.
I can’t comment on the bands that night. I was too absorbed in my own little world and took some time out in the van. Not a good day for me.
Tour Day 12: Tuesday 10 October
Spacebar, Columbus, Ohio
w/ Man Mountain, Deprecator
Thankfully I still had my passport on me, and was able to withdraw the rest of the balance from my American bank account. It wasn’t much, but it should last me the rest of my time here if I’m not stupid.
Local band Deprecator played a fun set of thrash metal, with some Slayer thrown in for good measure. It was a refreshing change from the music I’ve listened to over the past few weeks.
The End Of The Ocean live in Ohio, so we met up with some of the band at the show. The bar had ginger beer – my personal favourite – so I bought a round.Then Tara from TEOTO bought a few shots, then I had a few more beers on the band tab. Before I knew it I was buzzing.
Ranges did their usual thang. You’d think that after seeing them play the same stuff for 11 nights I’d be sick of it, but I still love watching them play. I’ve seen them enough now that I’m confident I could step in for Mark on drums if he should go Spinal Tap on us and spontaneously combust or fall off a stage.
Man Mountain were great. I posted a status on twitter: “Man Mountain: 100% bearded, 100% awesome”. I still stand by that drunken statement. It was lots of fun dancing along to their music. They have a foot pedal that sets off flood lights during their heavier passages of music. It’s simple, but adds so much to the experience.
After the show we headed down the street for a few more drinks at the bar Tara works at, and some pizza from a connected pizzeria. I covered my slice in unicorn sauce. I couldn’t tell you what it is, but it tasted amazing.
A homeless guy asked Mike from Man Mountain if he was from ZZ Top, clearly because of his impressive beard. Mike played along completely straight-faced. I just lost it.
Tour Day 13: Wednesday 11 October
Foam, St Louis, Missouri
w/ Man Mountain, Staghorn, CaveofswordS
One thing I adore about this scene is the DIY mentality. Ranges print their own merch and record their own music. Mark built his own snare drum. Jared made coffee cups to go with the deluxe edition of their album.
We met another band in St Louis with a similar mindset: Staghorn. Staghorn also has a printing press, so do their own t-shirts and even screen printed some posters for the show as souvenirs for us. On top of that, they even make their own amps!
Their set revolved around a dystopian comic that the band had written, with the narrative coming through the PA on a back track. I’m a sucker for spoken word samples in post-rock, and I also subscribe completely to dystopian texts, so this was the best of both worlds.
As well as drawing me in to the music, the band looked amazing. Their own custom amps look unlike most I’ve seen. They also had two lights that included salt lamps and spotlights. Allan on guitar had a balaclava/turban wrap around his face and head, adding to the sci-fi imagery. And they had a harmonium – like a piano with bellows – which was new to me, and great to watch.
Man Mountain, as usual, killed it. Those dudes are super talented and I wish them all the success they deserve.
CaveofswordS ended the night with their unique electro/darkwave/synthpop. It was quite the set up, with plenty of synths and modulators and things with buttons that I couldn’t name. The music was fun and depressing at the same time.
After the show most of the people in bands hung around outside. It was our last night with Man Mountain, and sad to see them go. Jacob the drummer and I bonded over an intense love for Into It. Over It. Bryan the guitarist told me about how he got into post-rock by listening to Lowercase Noises, which prompted him to experiment with his own ambient sounds, and later join Man Mountain.
I’m not sure exactly what time we left the venue, but apparently about ten minutes later there was a shootout right outside where we had been, resulting in a police officer being shot!
The name dunk! may as well be synonymous with post-rock. dunk!records are one of the leading labels within the scene, and their long-running festival in Belgium has a fantastic reputation. Starting another festival in America was an interesting experiment. Would they be able to replicate the Belgium experience in this setting?
They were in good hands. David Zeidler, Arctic Drones writer and general post-rock authority, took it upon himself to run things. He’s a driving force behind the Open Language and Hemispheres compilations, so already had lots of contacts with bands around the world.
Burlington, Vermont, was chosen as the site to birth the American festival – mostly because that is where David lives. The rationale was that it is within tolerable travel distance for major East Coast cities like New York and Boston, and could also attract Canadians. As a non-American, I can’t comment on the most suitable location for the festival. However, I do know that America is an incredibly big country, so the reality is that no matter where you chose to situate the event, it will be a long way to travel for many people.
They chose to run it on Columbus weekend, which would give people the Monday off to travel home. While a good idea in theory, this didn’t help the festival because many Burlington hotels were booked out for the long weekend, making the festival more costly to attend for anyone from out-of-town.
Not that I, a New Zealander and dunk! virgin, understood any of those matters when I decided to go. As far as I was concerned, a band had offered to take me on tour around America, and there was no way I was going to pass up such an opportunity.
That band is Ranges. The tour has been brilliant to date, and dunk!fest was supposed to be the climax of the trip. Ranges have recently released their new album, The Ascensionist, so it made sense to tour America on the way to dunk! to promote it. CJ and Wilson from the band also run A Thousand Arms, a screen printing company that make merch and functions as a distro for bands and record labels. One such label is dunk!records, meaning that A Thousand Arms were responsible for the merch booth at the festival.
Emma Ruth Rundle
We arrived at the venue early on Saturday morning, slightly bleary-eyed, but excited for the weekend. Rages had played a show in Brooklyn the night before, and CJ had stayed up all night driving us to Burlington. I don’t know how he functions.
Higher Ground was a great choice of venue. They had two big rooms, each offering a stage so that acts could play continuously throughout the day. If a band was playing on one stage, stagetechs were setting up for the next set on the other stage next door. Initially there was a no pass-outs rule, but that was removed to allow people to get food. The venue was brilliant, other than the lack of food options on site. It sounded good, looked great, and ran smoothly.
Saturday 7 October
Chinese act Zhaoze started of the weekend on the main stage, albeit slightly late due to sound issues. Central to their sound is a guqin – a traditional Chinese instrument that looks like a slide guitar crossed with a harp. The guqin is played with a bow or plucked, much like a violin. It was also plugged into various effects pedals. Their set didn’t blow me away, but the cool lighting foreshadowed the amazing light shows due over the course of the weekend.
Local band Sad Turtle baptised the second stage with their jazzy, indie-styled instrumental rock. It was instrumental rock music, but not like most post-rock we are accustomed to hearing. It’s refreshing to hear upbeat music that steers clear of restrictive genre clichés.
So far on tour, Ranges have been using their own lighting rig. It includes blinders, strobes, red spotlights and Edison bulbs that flicker and glow along to the music. The light show syncs up to the music, making a Ranges set an impressive audio/visual combo.
Which begged the question: do they use their own lights, or take advantage of the light show offered at a big festival? In the end they opted to use the blinders, but drop the rest of their lighting setup in favour of the stage lights. It’s a shame, because their own setup is impressive. The show looked fine in the end, but lacked a component that usually wows people.
However, they played great. Easily the best I’ve seen them play. I got a bit emotional watching them, seeing my friends reach a career milestone that they’ve worked so hard towards. If they were nervous it didn’t show, because they owned that stage. I still don’t understand how CJ can function without sleep.
If they needed any verifying that they’d done well, they completely sold out their first pressing of vinyl following that set, mere weeks after the album release date.
Of The Vine
Of The Vine
Of The Vine showed that you don’t need an impressive light show to look impressive. All the members wore black or grey, and the band was starkly backlit by white lights. The stage was alive, with all the musos whipping about with intensity. One of the guitarists broke a string, so the band had to pause between songs so he could re-string. Usually a moment of boredom, the band told jokes to pass the time, and the crowd laughed along. It was a nice moment that represented the culture of the festival.
This Patch Of Sky
This Patch Of Sky
This is the third time I’d seen This Patch Of Sky this week, having shared the stage with Ranges for two dates on their tour. Sadly they’d had sound issues and inadequate set up for the mix both times. But thankfully, this time they shone. Maybe, despite their recent album title, they suit bigger spaces better than small clubs?
Boasting easily the best light show of the weekend, the band played their tranquil tunes bathed in lush hues. They have a lot of members, so took up the space on stage well. And they sounded great. I prefer energetic songs over dreamy music, so my favourites were the ones that featured heavier drum beats, and melodies on the cello, rather than mournful swells.
Similar to Of The Vine, Appalaches rocked the stark black outfits. Five members on a small stage looked crammed, but that didn’t prevent them from moving about erratically. The guitarist on stage right had long hair that looked fantastic as he head banged. Take note bands: long hair and frenzied movements make your stage presence so much cooler!
Tides of Man
Tides Of Man
Tides Of Man have shared the stage with Ranges for four nights on tour, and we have grown tight with the lads in the band. They are the best dudes, and their music is phenomenal. I joined the Ranges guys on the balcony overlooking the stage as we watched our friends show how it’s done.
Tides Of Man have a few songs that feature sweeping melodies that I find irresistible. They fill me with bubbling, intense joy. That, and the fact that the band members are so talented makes me rate them very highly.
Tides of Man
As a drummer, I’m drawn to the rhythm section. Josh is a monster on drums. His little flourishes and fills are the best. And Alan doesn’t just play bass, he plays lead bass. There is a difference. His parts stand out.
If you can’t tell already from my fawning, the set was superb. The band played four unreleased songs, making me very excited for the upcoming album. It was bittersweet though, because as amazing as it was, it was the last time I will see them play for a very long time.
The Eye Of Time
The Eye Of Time is a solo project. I didn’t catch much of his set because I’d been helping Tides Of Man and Ranges pack their gear away. He had visuals projected onto a screen behind him, with music coming from a laptop and cello.
Emma Ruth Rundle
Emma Ruth Rundle
Perhaps an odd fit for a post-rock festival, Emma Ruth Rundle brought variety to the day. I applaud whoever opted to add her to the lineup, because it’s nice to have a break from the same style of music after a full day of it, and because female artists need more representation at events like this.
Rundle, backed by her fiance’s band Jaye Jayle, looked the part. The room was thick with illuminated stage fog, making the atmosphere palpable. And they were all dressed sharply, with a cohesive image.
Emma Ruth Rundle
Chatting to one of the guys in the band after the set, I asked how he would classify the music. He said he doesn’t like pigeonholing their sound with specific genre – he just plays music. Fair enough. The music was eerie, touching on gothic. And it was spellbinding. Everyone I talked to raved about how great it was.
This is when the night started to get wild for me. Joey from Ranges beckoned me to the bar and handed me two beers. Turns out he’d just bought 10, and someone else had bought a round of whiskeys. “We’re double fisting!” someone shouted, and a group of us including Ranges, Tides of Man, myself and David Zeidler made our way upstairs to the balcony overlooking Astronoid’s set.
I’d already been helping myself to the beers in the green room for a few hours, so those extras I got given was enough to send me over the edge.
Astronoid played a blistering set. Again, a guitarist on stage right was a highlight, turning into a flurry of long hair. Cousin It crossed with the Tasmanian Devil.
Mark, the Ranges drummer, was having the time of his life. He was air-drumming along to the Astronoid set like a madman. His enthusiasm was infectious, and we were all cheering and yelling. After a few songs I decided to make my way downstairs to see the band up close.
Emma Ruth Rundle
I didn’t make it that far though. I spotted Joey backstage and went to see him. Next thing I know, I’m chatting with Emma Ruth Rundle while she has a smoke. Turns out she used to live in Wellington ten years ago, which is where I’m from. I got caught up in talking to her band and missed the rest of Astronoid’s set.
Ok, I’ll admit that I’m super hazy on Pelican’s set. Too many beers are bad for you, boys and girls. I remember enjoying it, and thinking that the photos I took were really good. Sorry that I’ve let you down on the journalistic front. I also asked a girl to dance, and she politely turned me down, saying that it isn’t really dancing music. She had a valid point.
After the set I made the most of any beers left in the green room, the last of which was confiscated from me by security.
The same crew who had been on the balcony during Astronoid gathered behind the venue. It was the last night Ranges and Tides of Man would be together, so we were all doing drunken goodbyes. Two men from Quebec joined us. No-one knew where they had come from, but it was in a backstage area, so we assumed that they were in a band. Eventually we found out that they just wanted to party. We all took a group photo together to commemorate our time together on the road.
All the beers in the green room had been exhausted so someone made the call that we head to a bar. CJ, who had been awake for roughly 30 hours straight at this point, wanted none of it. He just wanted to sleep, and understandably so. He climbed into the van to catch some zzzz’s and texted Joey: “Don’t let Joseph in the van or I will punch him”. Opps, maybe I was being a menace.
The rest of us piled into the Tides of Man van for the drive into town. One of the Quebecers asked us to sing one of our songs, so we all joined in to “sing” a rousing rendition of Tide of Man’s “Young and Courageous”, shouting the tune to the guitar line at the tops of our voices.
I can’t believe I was allowed into the bar, being as intoxicated as I was. I don’t remember doing much though. Jared found an X-Men arcade machine that he played for a while, before smashing a glass. Someone rang David Zeidler to tell him the hotel had messed up bookings, so Ranges conceded their room and we headed to David’s to sleep in his lounge.
Sunday 8 October
As you could expect, I felt worse for wear the following day. A bagel or four from a nearby café helped my body replace what it needed though.
Started the day off with a bang. Easily one of my favourite sets of the day. They made a speech before starting about writing music with a message, despite the lack of vocals. I agree with their anti-gun sentiment, but don’t know if it was an effective way to share their thoughts. Asking the government to regulate gun laws and then saying “Fuck the Government” with your next breath is an interesting move.
Politics aside, it was a killer set. They deserved a later slot in the day. Seriously good stuff.
I was beginning to notice a trend. Most bands on the second had minimal lighting, but crazy energy. Case in point, Unconditional Arms threw themselves around the stage, backlit by a stark green light. The guitarist was headbanging so hard that his glasses went flying. The slow songs bored me a bit, but I loved it when they were rocking out. And I loved the clean guitar tone.
Set and Setting
Set and Setting
I didn’t like Set and Setting’s sound. Something about it was too discordant for me. I decided that my time was better spent trying to nap off my hangover, so I headed upstairs to crash on a couch in the green room. I slept through my alarm and completely missed KYOTY, which is a shame.
Pray For Sound
Pray For Sound
I woke up feeling groggy after about an hour. I zombie walked to the balcony to see who was playing. It was Pray For Sound. I have a copy of their latest album, and to be honest I never got into it much. But now I’m converted. Their set was great. The drums were especially good, and I think the drummer even broke his kick pedal half way through the set.
Pray For Sound
Reminding me of The Eye Of Time, thisquietarmy is solo show featuring projections up on the wall. He improvised as he played, building dark layers and textures of drony sound.
The End Of The Ocean
The End Of The Ocean
David Zeidler had told me that The End Of The Ocean were the party band at dunk!, so I was excited to catch this set. They started off on a good note, promising to play Nickleback and Creed covers for us during their sound check. Sadly, it was a lie. I still appreciate the humour though.
The thing that I enjoyed most about The End Of The Ocean is that they mixed things up. Whenever I’d expect them to launch into a crescendo they’d pause, or shift direction. I like how they avoided the conventional clichés of the genre.
The End Of The Ocean
The End Of The Ocean dunk!USA hospitality rider
They were fun too. Half way through the set they threw a dozen inflated beach balls into the crowd. And the two girls put on a show by whipping their hair around. Tara on keys got so into it that she fell over and sent her keyboard off the stage. Thankfully I was there to catch it, and helped her set it back up. Not all heroes wear capes.
The coolest part was a sample that played during an interlude. It was a quote from Walking Dead about how brains function.
Bonus points to The End Of The Ocean for having the most incredible hospitality rider. Read what they requested and enjoy how brilliant it is!
Portland crew Coastlands were fun. Consistent with most second stage bands this weekend, they had good energy. The drums especially were great – dude has chops!
Junius played in a gloomy haze, lit only by a few dim Edison lights attached to their amps. It made taking photos a nightmare, but it was super effective at creating atmosphere. Hindsight is 20/20, but after seeing how cool that sparse lighting was, it is clear that Ranges should have used their own lighting rig the previous day.
Dimly lit in front of their backdrop, the band delivered a pummeling set. I was surprised that the vocals were not as sludgy as I’d expected, but sounded great.
Arms and Sleepers
I missed most of this set. I was busy chatting to guys from Coastlands backstage, and lost track of time. It’s a shame, because it looked like a cool set up. They had an electronica vibe, courtesy of many racks of keys and synths stacked upon each other.
Although Russian Circles are a big drawcard, I wasn’t that excited about seeing them .This is mostly because I’ve already seen them play in my hometown of Wellington a few times already.
They played well. You don’t get to this level by being sloppy. But the stage fog was so thick I couldn’t even see them. I love watching technically adept drummers play live, but I couldn’t see him. The music was fine, but to me it didn’t feel like much of a show. I preferred seeing them play a small club in Wellington.
It would be nice to see more variety in the lineup – it felt like I saw the same band four times over the weekend. Post-rock has become clichéd, and bands need to work on having a point of difference in order to standout. There are also some bands that sound fine on record, but need to put in more effort onstage if they don’t want to bore their audience.
That said, there was still a good mix offered – local, international, solo projects, bands with vocals, heavy, dreamy… It must be hard as a promoter to decide upon which acts to book to draw a crowd with wide appeal, and they did well.
It has been a while since I’ve been to a big scale concert, so seeing things like the impressive light shows you only find at larger gigs was great. Refining still needs to happen, including changes like perhaps changing the date and offering food options for attendees. But for a first attempt, the festival was amazing. Hopefully there will be another next year!
Words and photos by Joseph James
Poster by Error! Design
The End of The Ocean hospitality rider courtesy of Bryan Yost
I am about to embark on a tour with a band that will take me across America and back.
The band in question is Montana’s Ranges. Just last week they released their new album, The Ascensionist. In just over a week we will be at the inaugural dunk!USA festival in Burlington, Vermont.
I’ve heard the lads practicing together, but this is the first night I will see them actually perform a set. The Ascensionist is a culmination of everything the band has become, a homage to previous albums, yet fresh in its own right. I see the band at the height of their career to date, both artistically and musically. It’s a privilege to be able to see them at this exciting time.
We’re driving a mini van with trailer in tow. There are six of us: CJ (guitar) is like the dad – he is the voice of reason and will be driving for most of the tour. Joey plays guitar as well. He’s crazy and has a short attention span, but is incredibly likable. Mark is the drummer. He’s the oldest of the group, a veteran of music. His accent is different to the others, being from New York, and he has some great stories. Jared plays bass. He has a master’s degree in ceramics. He’s the one I’ve spent least time with, but no doubt I’ll know him well after spending 2 weeks in a van with him.
Wilson is tagging along too. He’s CJ’s business partner, helping to run their printing company A Thousand Arms. He’s in charge of photography and visual wizardry. He was actually an original member of the band, so it’s nice to have him along.
And then there’s me. I’ll be keeping a tour blog, taking photos, selling t-shirts, driving the van, helping to set up for the shows… in short, I’m the roadie. I’m the youngest, and I’m foreign, so most of jokes are made at my expense (mostly Hobbit references for the time being)
I helped the guys with prep last night. CJ and I combined forces to create a loft in the back of the van – a bunk that we can sleep on with room for storage underneath. We’ve been printing merch like mad as well – for both the tour and dunk!fest.
Tomorrow, the first leg of the tour, will bring us to Minot, North Dakota. I’ve been travelling around America for months now, having left my home in New Zealand in June. But America is a biiiig place, so despite visiting many different cities, I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’m hyped to see more of this amazing country, and meet locals along the way.
I’ve been running Will Not Fade for just over three years now. I cover a variety of music, but the reality is that I’m mostly known for my post-rock content. I never planned on becoming pigeon-holed like that, but it is what it is, and it has helped me form connections within the international post-rock community.
As some readers may know, I left my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand in June, and have been travelling around the USA since. I met up with Jesse from Glacier in Boston, Matt and Joe from Aviation and the War in Chicago, and now I’m staying with CJ from Ranges in Bozeman, Montana.
I feel that talking about this is on par with discussing interconnections and unity and one love and a bunch of hippy nonsense. Why don’t we all reflect on how we are vessels of creativity? But joking aside – it truly is special that I’ve managed to befriend people from around the world based on a mutual love of music.
CJ reached out to me via Twitter a few years ago asking me to review Ranges latest release. Soon after I offered him the chance to become a contributor to Will Not Fade. I’ve reviewed some of his band’s releases, and offered advice when his company A Thousand Arms released some compilations [Open Language, Hemispheres]. And now I’m staying at his house, attending his album release show, and will be accompanying his band on tour at the end of the month.
The latest Ranges album is The Ascensionist. It’s a progression from the band’s earlier works, with each song referencing a former album.
Here’s the marketing spiel:
Pre-orders for Ranges‘ new album ‘The Ascensionist’ are now available through A Thousand Arms (US) and dunk!records (EU). This release is split into two variants with A Thousand arms carrying the 180g Milky Clear with Bone A Side/B Side variant and dunk!records carrying the 180g Bone with Orange Crush A Side/B Side variant. Both variants come in upgraded reverse board gatefold packaging that includes a hand-numbered eight page screen-printed booklet with custom sewn binding. Cover paper handmade by RANGES using recycled cotton and native plants from the Bridger mountainrange near Bozeman, Montana. Also included in every vinyl order is an individually stained felt slipmat with a two color water-based screen-print. Digital download included.
In true A Thousand Arms style, the guys have gone waaaaay over the top. Most bands record an album, pay someone to mix and master it, and maybe order some tshirts to sell as well.
The Ranges guys:
Record in their own studio
Print their own merch
Screenprint the boxes they use to post said merch in
Printed slipmats to go with the vinyl records.
Hand made the very paper that they use to make a booklet that comes with each record
Teamed up with a local brewery to brew a beer to coincide with the album release
Which you can sip from a limited edition Ranges pint glass
Or if beer isn’t your thing, than maybe you’d prefer a special batch of coffee beans roasted to go with the album
And you could use one of the ceramic mugs that bassist Jared Gabriel threw to drink said coffee from
So if you haven’t concluded for yourself already: these guys are really into attention to detail aspects. They embody a DIY ethos. And their music rules.
I spent yesterday with the Ranges crew at a listening party at Badger Brewing in Bozeman. It was a great time, hanging out with the families and having pizza and beer (The Ascensionist IPA). They sold a lot of merch and albums, and at this rate they may run out of vinyl records before they get to dunk!festival. A nice worry to have.
As I said before, I’ll be tagging along with Ranges on the road during their upcoming tour. I plan on keeping a tour diary, posting photos, and covering the events at dunk!festival in Burlington, Vermont. You can follow our exploits by keeping an eye on the WNF site during October, and you can also subscribe or follow the WNF Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for updates as well.