Thursday, October 22, 2009

Off-roading with The Grownup Noise -- Back Home in Boston

They saw crazy thunderstorms, braved breakdowns and played their melodies to countless thousands across the United States and now The Grownup Noise are finally back home, safe and sound in Boston gearing up for their final show of the fall.

The tour this summer was a bit more whirlwind than last, not to mention they played slightly larger venues with more recognizable names on the bill. These folks deserve a big shot of killer success because they are a caring and fun band who just rock.

Especially because the AC in the van died somewhere in Tennessee in the middle of the summer. Even more so because they sprang a hole that had to be patched on the fly.

But speaking to Adam Sankowski, bassist for the band, it would never be obvious they had a moment of trouble because this band takes it all in stride!

Year two in the veggie different was it from last year?

There were tons of differences. First off, grease was everywhere for the most part, or restaurants were very excited to see us! Because of the drop in fuel prices, used veggie oil is worth less too (which isn’t necessarily a good thing for the environment) so a lot of the start up environmental companies that were around last year, and who made it difficult for us to find it, simply were out of business. So we had to spend a bit less time convincing restaurant owners to give it to us, and most of them had heard about what we were doing so there was a bit less “you drive your van on what?”

This year was also different in that we had a lot of mechanical problems with the system, and our tank got a crack in the seam and started leaking. Not a fun time on the tour, but we worked through it and my genius mechanical roomie and I are going to re-do the entire system when we get the chance. So although there were problems we learned a lot too. It's still an emerging technology and we’re basically trying to figure out how to collect, filter, heat, and burn garbage on the go, which is no small feet. So it seems like whenever we head out on the road there is always some new, easy to fix, but stressful at the moment problem that we have to learn about and fix on the road. There just seemed to be more of them now that she’s got two years of veggie oil in her. Like I had no idea that it will clog your fuel injectors after some time so that you can’t go over 45 on the highway. It was an easy fix, just pouring in injector cleaner, but it can be stressful when you can’t go over 40 mph on veggie fuel on the way to Chicago…

Now that traveling by grease is "old hat" did the newness wear off or are you still in love with Lorian?

Well, Lorian and I will always be in love, especially since she’s 21 plus now and can finally buy me beer. She’s an old van, but they really don’t make them like they used to. With all of the problems we had with the veggie system at times, we didn’t have a single mechanical problem with the van itself in all of the 6,000 plus miles we drove. And she’s a 1988. Plus the van was totally top of the line in 88’ so although she looks like a mobile late 80’s history museum right now, she’s probably the nicest thing I’ll ever own.

What was Kyle's impression of this form of travel since it was his first year in the van? (Kyle Crane, Drummer)

He loved it on so many levels. Being a professional drummer he lives on about 5 dollars a week. Nobody is better at not spending money than Kyle, and nobody loves free stuff more than him. So the concept of not paying for gas blew his mind. He was a fast learner and very excited to collect grease.

Are Paul and Katie still fans? Who of the four of you did the most driving? (Paul Hansen, lead vocal & guitar; Katie Franich, cellist)

I think that they are… I think the tank busting on the west coast was stressful for everyone and made us realize how easy it is for this system to break and how we really are kind of “riding the line” with the van. Touring with it is a lot of fun, but at the end of the day we are traveling with a lot of hot grease and with that comes great responsibility and that we probably need to re-work the system if we are to go out in the same van again.

We all split a lot of the driving pretty equally. Paul did a lot of the driving out west but that’s because I got internet from my phone and I did a lot of emailing and sending of our press releases out, and bugging people to come to shows. But we all did our own heroic ten hour drives at times.

Since gas prices have dropped so much from last summer, do you think it was still a financial savings?

Yeah, totally. Maybe not just from this summer but if you combine the two summers… I mean, I hope so! If we really figured it out, maybe it wouldn’t be if we had a super fuel-efficient brand new van, but Lorian gets like 3 miles to the gallon so veggie fuel is our only real option. All I know is that when the system wasn’t working so well in Chicago we had to drive for a day before we could fix it and it was a solid 200 dollars in fuel for the day, so I can’t imagine doing that everyday. Nobody came back in any real debt and we are able to support ourselves throughout the month simply through touring, and I can’t imagine doing that and paying for gas.

Did you find it more difficult to obtain grease this time around? Were there any places you went back to that you stopped at last year?

Like I said, it was much easier. And yes, we kept a log of all the good grease spots so that made it easy to find old ones. We visited at least three or four and the one in Minneapolis was one of the best grease “scores” of the tour and they were so nice and excited to see that we came back.

Tell us about any issues you faced this year you didn't encounter last year with the van itself.

Like I touched on previously, we had problems with the injectors, the internal heating system (to heat up the veggie oil) and our actual tank cracked. Nothing worse could have happened than that… Basically everything that could go wrong did the second time. But it has inspired us to re-do the entire system. Keep an eye out for a “Grownup Noise” signature veggie van system soon!

Talk to us about breaking down, how difficult was it to find someone who would service the van?

Well, we really lucked out because our major breakdown happened between Seattle and Portland and the inventor of our entire veggie system and the pioneer of lives in Portland. He hooked us up with an amazing welder on a Sunday. And my roommate is a diesel mechanic so he talked me through fixing everything else over the phone (re-wiring the tail lights, fixing A/C, cleaning the injectors). We call it “Sean-star”.

How likely do you think it is the van will make it for another tour next summer?

Honestly I think that Lorain might be brought out to pasture soon… or sold to a younger punk band that’s full of energy and maybe has a budding young mechanic as a drummer? I mean, I love her dearly but it is a 20-year-old van. She’s old and it might be time to just stay on one coast. If we just tour the east coast in the near future we’ll use her, but heading all the way out to the west coast is a bit much for her and we might be on borrowed time anyways with her.

But, my genius mechanic roommate and I are going to invest in a much newer van, research all the other new systems and companies that are out there and then create our own. I’ve seen a hundred things at this point that can go wrong with a veggie oil system and I think that between to two of us we can design something really good. At least we have some good ideas on how to improve the system and we might try putting the design under the van, functioning almost as a traditional gas tank…but that’s another interview!

Do you have any photos you would like to share?

Yes, they are up on our Facebook!
You can view them here: 2009 Summer Tour

When are your final shows and where can we all get out to see you?

Final shows? Well we are going “underground” for the winter to finally finish our second album, which is a long time in the making, but we have no plans of stopping anytime soon!

We’re playing our “last show for a good while”, our “recording hibernation” kick off show, on Saturday, October 24th @ TT the Bears in Central Square Cambridge, MA (10 Brookline St.).

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