Touring 2.0 new web series following musicians with outside the box methods of bring you live music. In this episode we follow Shore Leave, a group of cruise ship musicians who play punk rock incognito at each tourist port their boat docks at, culminating in a recording session at The Blasting Room.
Featuring interviews with Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, Descendents, All, Only Crime), Russ Rankin (Good Riddance, Only Crime), Yotam Ben Horin (Useless ID), Steve Terreberry (Stevie T), and more!
(JoJo King): For those who have not seen the first episode of Touring 2.0, can you explain your method of touring and why it fit so well with the documentary series?
The Captain: We’re a group of cruise ship musicians by day, and when we get shore leave at port we play punk shows and we wear bandannas and sailor hats so nobody will know who we are. Since you’ll lose your mind just playing as the backing band on karaoke night for the guests while someone drunkenly sings “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for the third time, we started this as an outlet a couple years ago. I guess we fit the theme of the show because it’s an unorthodox way to tour, and that’s the focus of the series: what are weird ways people manage to tour? I didn’t know what other episodes they had planned until I watched it myself, but I guess they’re also doing one about a pilot and a truck driver who use their jobs mobile nature to fit in with their shows, so I’m excited to see those episodes and see how they compare to ours.
Your masks aren’t so much a gimmick, but a necessity to avoid breach of contract with your talent agency. Do you try to convey or explain that to your audience for fear of being pigeonholed as a gimmicky band?
The Captain: Nah, people’ll think what they’ll think. We didn’t wear bandanas at the very first gig we played and tried to tell the audience “no photos, no photos”, but we didn’t speak the language and kept turning our backs to the audience after we saw a flash and felt this anxiety the whole time. You hear about those teachers that get fired because of Facebook or whatever so we decided to take precautions, so we figured the bandannas would be a safer bet and we’d tell the venue owner to have a no photo or video policy. As far as if people will see it as a gimmick, we don’t worry about that. We know some people won’t be able to look beyond the get-up, but that’s their problem. We titled our EP “Guilt Free Novelty Songs” as a way to have our own laugh at the way people might see it.
Lt. Bugs: Yea, like, I mean, we play some humorous stuff like Redneck Rodeo, but that was a last minute addition to fill time in the studio while we waited for our singer. I mean, like, there’s also a sort of LGBT… a trans-acceptance song as the album opener, and the last track is about seeing all your friends lost to drugs, death, insanity, jail and viewing the whole concept of a benevolent or just world as a dangerous joke. So, like, it’s not just rainbow farts and laugh tracks.
The Captain: And then we’ll sing a song about Zorp the Destroyer from Parks & Rec. But is Black Sabbath a gimmick band because they sang about Cthulu? Is Bad Religion a gimmick band because they released a Christmas album? Is NOFX a gimmick band because they have a song called “Clams have Feelings Too”?
Lt. Bugs: Or “My Vagina”? Or “Buggley Eyes”?
First Mate: Or “Liza and Louise”? Or “Whoa on the whoas”?
The Captain: Shit, I think NOFX might actually BE a gimmick band…
In Touring 2.0 you’re interviewed at length and though the masks are present and the voices altered, your features (eyes, hair, tattoos) are still prevalent. Is there any concern you’ll have a “jig is up” moment in the future where you’ll have to either put an end to Shore Leave or say goodbye to your cruise line gigs?
First Mate: I’m not worried. How many people can recognize you just by your eyes without the rest of your face?
Lt. Bugs: Right, like, go put a random famous actor in a Batman mask and most people won’t know who it is without reading the credits.
The Captain: I thought the sailor hats did a nice job of covering our hair… maybe I was wrong though. Bugs is the only one who took off her jacket on film and showed her shoulder tat, which was probably a mistake. I guess we could have asked them to pixelate that, but we didn’t think of that at the time.
Lt. Bugs: That wouldn’t be enough proof for the cruise line’s talent agency to fire me. It’d be like firing every girl with a butterfly tramp stamp. Like, do you know how many ship musicians have tattoos you don’t see under the cocktail dresses we wear? All the lounge singer chicks have, like, butterfly and angel tattoos. Every one of them.
First Mate: Circumstantial evidence! Hearsay! Case closed! Habeus Corpus!
The Captain: But in all seriousness, sure, if heat on the band got too bad we might let Shore Leave rest a bit while things settle. But right now, the cruise lines don’t know we exist so we aren’t worried, and we figure fans would respect us enough to not spill the beans if they knew. And if one day the jig is up, oh well. C’est la vie.
Your voices are clearly altered to protect your identities. Why was director and narrator Randi Goguen’s voice altered?
The Captain: Randi’s real voice is actually sort of high pitched and nasally.
Lt. Bugs: Like Woody Allen.
The Captain: Yea. So it makes sense that he didn’t want to narrate his own documentary. I mean, Morgan Freeman didn’t shoot the footage for March of the Penguins, so that’s fine, plenty of directors hire someone else to narrate their film. The only funny thing is I think he’s embarrassed by his voice a bit and was hoping people would actually think it WAS his voice because he bothered to shoot a scene of himself lip synching to the narration! I don’t know why he did that because the voice over is clearly listed as a separate name in the credits. But maybe that was something producers or editors did after he sent his footage in, so honestly we don’t really know.
It’s mentioned in the beginning of the documentary that Shore Leave has already witnessed several lineup changes. Is the lineup featured in the doc and behind the showcased album “Guilt Free Novelty Songs” still intact?
Lt. Bugs: More or less.
First Mate: A little less…
The Captain: We’re a dedicated power-trio now. I took over vocal duties, so, whatever, that’s cool. A singing bassist. Lemmy did that. Paul McCartney did that. I guess as a bassist I don’t mind, now people actually notice that I’m on stage.
The argument that convinced you to record “Guilt Free Novelty Songs” was Goguen’s offer to foot the bill for The Blasting Room in Fort Collins. When he presented that opportunity, was there any hesitation on your part to accept?
The Captain: I mean, there was hesitation because we didn’t really know Randi at first. He was just some guy who saw us at a show in Singapore and then found out we were also the musicians on his cruise ship. That never happens because most of the guests are, well, that’s not what their on vacation for, know what I mean? He bought us some drinks and told us about this series he wanted to submit footage to, I wasn’t listening much at the time you know, and he asked for an interview and we snuck him around the ship a bit and talked. We figured we’d never see him again, but we got a couple emails, and then we got that email offering to cover our recording cost. Our main hesitation was what if this guy is just fucking with us, you know? We could always back out if it was a sham so we said yes just to see what would happen, then he forwarded us some emails he had with Bill Stevenson [Black Flag/Descendents] at The Blasting Room discussing that payment had been sent and he told us to reply to Andrew [Blasting Room engineer] with any demo recordings we had and talk about what gear we wanted to use so we would have it ready to go once we got there. And then we were like “oh shit, I guess this really is for real!”
It’s mentioned in the documentary that your primary issue with carrying albums and merch is the fact that you live on a boat and declaring merch at customs in every port city would be beyond a pain in the ass. Is that still the case or have you been able to make arrangements to sell merch and possibly hard copies of “Guilt Free Novelty Songs” at shows?
Lt. Bugs: We jokingly talk among ourselves about being stuck on a “boat”, but technically it really is a “ship”. But anyway, I mean, like, one time we played in an area we already had fans from previous shows, and we just asked a fan if he’d make some shirts we could sell and he’d get a cut. So the shirts never had to be on the boat. And I guess most people just stream or steal music and buy shirts now.
The Captain: Yeah, learn an instrument, write some songs, book a gig and you too can join the exciting world of retail casual wear. But we’d love to actually put out a physical release on vinyl, but Randi didn’t cover the cost for that, and we can’t afford to do it ourselves. We’re not opposed to doing it if a label wanted to do it, and we’d probably just have to sell them at home town gigs only for now, or if we ever booked a more traditional tour.
There is a lot of waiting mentioned in the documentary due to the missing Admiral. How did you fill that time?
First Mate: I played a shit ton of Tetris in the Blasting Room’s living room area.
The Captain: Yea, lots of TV watching, hanging out, listening to music, drinking. I like to take long walks.
Lt. Bugs: And of course we ended up writing a song one day based on a riff The Captain wrote after he was, like, screwing around with this banjo that was in the studio that the other band recording in Room A had. We hung out with them quite a bit, and that’s where that song came from, we just wanted to see how many, like, non-standard instruments we could jam into one punk song and that’s where the song Redneck Rodeo came from, like, let’s put a banjo and a violin and trumpet and an accordion and on and on. We got a little Brian Wilson with it.
The bluegrass outfit Hangman’s Hymnal inadvertently became part of the documentary as they were sharing the Blasting Room with you during your three days there, do any of you stay in touch with them?
Lt. Bugs: We’ve exchanged a few emails, but not, like, a ton. They’ve gone silent on social media recently though. We’re excited to hear the album they recorded while we were there though. It sounded pretty rad.
Is the Admiral part of the band again or has his role been written off since flaking out on the record?
The Captain: More like he wrote us off. For him this was strictly something to do for fun between his comedy gigs, so it didn’t mean anything to him to record at this legendary studio or meet Bill. He wants to focus on his comedy, maybe write some new material and go on the road with it. That’s cool, we wish him sincere luck. I mean, if the situation was mirrored and we were doing open mics or something at each port just for fun and then he asked us to do some serious thing as a road comic, I probably wouldn’t want to do that either. The only thing I was miffed about was not knowing ahead of time and it being last minute while we’re already at the studio and had this whole thing booked. I guess he’s a little more paranoid about being seen on camera and he got worried the documentary might blow up in his face. We were all really angry about it but we’ve talked it over. As big as a cruise ship is compared to a canoe, it’s still a small space and you don’t want that kind of animosity lingering below deck. It’s been a few months since then and we’re cool now, but we operate as a 3 piece now.
If this were a rom-com with a generic title, say “For the Love of Punk”, Craiglist cameraman Chris Woodstock would undoubtedly be the mistake-prone, comic relief sidekick played by Charlie Day. Who would play the rest of Shore Leave?
Lt. Bugs: Hah, I’m going to tell Chris you said that! Chris was great! Such a sweet guy, when we picked him up Randi was like, “Oh, btw, my camera man got injured and so this guy from Craigslist is filling in.” But, that’s a great title for a punk romcom by the way, you could probably get that green lit. But anyway, who would play us in a movie…
The Captain: That’s easy. First Mate’d be played by Michael Cera after he’s worked with one of those Hollywood personal trainers, Lieutenant Bugs would be initially played by Amy Schumer but then test screenings would want someone more conventionally attractive but still relatable so they’d reshoot with Jennifer Lawrence, and I’d be Larry David (but wearing a toupee and de-aged with CGI like Robert Downey Jr. In Avengers: Civil War).
First Mate: That works.
Lt. Bugs: Yea, I agree with all of that.
You’ve now been featured in a documentary that includes Bill Stevenson, Yotam Ben-Horin and Russ Rankin. Do you plan on exploiting an excellent name-dropping opportunity to gain exposure?
The Captain: Sure, why not. Let’s pretend we just got picked up on a tour supporting Metallica and Green Day. I mean… we didn’t, but now you can put those band names in as keywords so this interview will show up when they’re searched and you can give this a clickbait title like “Is Shore Leave touring with Green Day & Metallica? Find out in this interview!”. And then they’ll read all the way to the bottom of this interview and at the very end find out the answer is no… no we’re not.