Sherman Whips set off for the South and the Midwest with Sun Club a week earlier this month, and we’re all better for it. For these shows, Sherman Whips was Nicholas Hoegberg (guitar/vox), Nicky Smith (guitar/vox), Alex Leach (bass), and Timmy Judge (drums). These were the first shows as Whips for Alex and Timmy (our rhythm section here in Baltimore wasn’t able to tour). Sun Club and artist Meredith W. Park were tour mates for the week, and they were the reason we were on tour and why anyone came to the shows. Shane, Mikey, Devin, Adam, and Corey had already rocked a lot of these places three or four times already, and we were following their lead. They generously lent us guitar amps, a bass and a bass amp, and a drum set.
Before we left, Facebook locked Alex out of his account and made him change his name, so Crosser Chill became Poisondude Serious. Ms. Serious makes us tea before we leave, I realize I forgot my video camera, and we turn around at Mt. Royal, and head onto Richmond…
1/12/15—Sour Haus—Richmond, VA
We listened to Dan Deacon’s amazing interview with Height done for Splice Today and took note of the Mr. Bean trick. Cold and rainy, we roll up with nowhere to go (the house’s lights are turned off and it looks like it might be the wrong place), so we walk around aimlessly looking for a place to use the bathroom and for everyone else to buy beer. Sun Club arrive an hour after us, and soon we’re in Sour Haus, crammed with mattresses and cats and couches and eventually college kids, maybe only 75 total, but it was elbow to elbow in a tiny row house. We play without any monitors, and it goes fine, with no stops, but we can hear all our mistakes. This is the first time I realized how insane Sun Club’s set-up is and how much gear they have—besides all the amps and full drums, there’re partial kits, xylophones, a synth and dozens of pedals that all have to go up in 20 minutes or less, or the crowd starts to wander. But most of the people that came to these shows were there to see Sun Club specifically. At the end of the night we pulled down all the mattresses and thrashed and screamed with joy and eventually slept.
1/13/15—Nice Price Books & Records—Raleigh, NC
Early again, we wandered from bar to restaurant to coffee shop to a music store to get drum sticks (not in stock) and guitar picks and cables. Facebook fucks with Alex again, locking him out of his account unless he uploads his photo ID to prove he’s that guy in all those pictures tagged Poisondude Serious. Understandably, the account is abandoned, and a depression sets over all of us. Besides the death of Poisondude Serious, all of his content is gone forever. I suggest he join Twitter, and after some reluctance, does make one as Poisondude Serious. Later, at the venue, Alex discovers a book called The Monkey and the Tetrahedron, which becomes our bible.
After dinner with Sun Club, we head to the record store, which is great, and I find a copy of McCartney II for five bucks. We’re excited to play with old friends from bands we love like The Lollipops and The Art Department. The Dinwiddies turn out to be the best band on tour: a good place to start might be their record Fuck You, We’re the Dinwiddies. The Whips play our worst set of tour, executed especially for the expensive video and audio equipment recording us. We become unacceptable when we stop and let our song “Coozie Fists” fall apart. Tuning and level issues are all over the place (due to limited space, we’re sharing all of our gear from Sun Club, save our guitars). The second half of the set goes just fine, still blown by fried nerves. We end up staying at this girl Kate’s warehouse up the street. We have to turn off the power to the entire building to shut out the lights, and the whole place goes dark, like a disorienting quiet and blankness, when you start hallucinating because nothing changes when you open or close your eyes. A big sensory deprivation tank, with Alex and me on the top level and Nick and Timmy on the bottom, trying to scare us. We sleep well until someone hits the breaker switch and inadvertently turns on the massive subwoofer next to where Alex and I are sleeping, and we awake to the loudest and hellish white noise you’ve ever heard. I find some Adderall on the ground as we’re packing up and we’re off for an eight-hour drive to Nashville.
1/14/15—The End—Nashville, TN
Timmy and I enthusiastically put on 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields, hoping we’ll make it all the way through. Even we’re bored toward the end of disc two and disc three is shouted down from the back. Longmont Potion Castle is a band favorite and is always played during long drives with nothing to think about. Nashville is a sweet town once we get there, and surprise, smoking was allowed in the bar we ended up in first, but not the place we played. The End was the most impressive venue of the trip, the same kind of club as Baltimore’s Ottobar but more spread out and less claustrophobic.
We revise the set list in hopes that we won’t fuck up again so bad tonight: it works, and we play our first mistakes-free set of the tour. Gunther Doug and Daddy Issues follow us and Sun Club and blow us all away. We all stay in a beautiful, huge house in the Nashville suburbs, all 10 of us with a bed or a couch to our own. By this point, Alex had put on a red and blue striped hoodie that he’d wear for the remainder of the trip, and it helped him solidify his performance in the art project that was his life as Poisondude Serious, a man of many faces, but one he developed and workshopped that we all enjoyed was “The Sociopathic Wook” (“I was gonna go to Lolla this summer but my boy’s house got raided”). He gives sermon on The Monkey and the Tetrahedron. The next day, with time to kill before a brief drive to Kentucky, we drove to Alex’s old childhood house and took pictures and prowled about, too nervous to knock, all of us pissing in a drainage tunnel he used to play around in. Night falls and we drive too early to Bowling Green. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” comes on the classic rock station, followed by “November Rain.”
1/15/15—Rocky’s—Bowling Green, KY
Bizarre bar in a bizarre college town. We get there too early, again, and the place is closed at eight p.m., so we figure we’ll be playing to Sun Club and the local regulars. We cool our heels at an Irish bar where Alex and I almost pass out from all the bleach cleaner in the bathroom. We sit and listen as “In Bloom” and “What’s My Age Again?” come on the classic rock station as a nu-metal band sound checks next to us. When we go back to Rocky’s, the owner welcomes us in and turns out to be very gracious and kind throughout the night. We play pool and air hockey and wait until 10:30 p.m. to play. By the time we’re about ready, the place is packed, and despite a malfunctioning PA, we rock Kentucky and win over the most hostile and coked-out crowd of the tour. We all get weird vibes by the end of the night from nearly everyone, and Sun Club split early, and we head to the closest and cheapest motel and eat White Castle and watch cop shows on TV. I call a televangelist hotline and sincerely ask for the guidance of Jesus and the operator leads me in a prayer as everyone else turns red with silent laughter. We wake up completely fucked and get two-for-one Big Macs and begin the trip to Bloomington, playing The Lonesome Crowded West.
1/16/15—The Big House—Bloomington, IN
On the way to Bloomington, while blasting “Toxicity” by System of a Down, we come so close to hitting a truck that we didn’t talk about it until days later. We stop at a gas station with a huge cemetery connected to it, a couple very fresh graves scattered about the headstones going back to the 19th century. Rolling hills and cotton candy skies make for memorable postcard listens of “1979” and Jim O’Rourke’s Insignificance. The Big House isn’t the DIY punk space I’d pictured. It turns out to be smack in the middle of IU’s campus, and we’re playing a huge back-to-school fresh semester rager, with guys and girls vomiting all over the front porch. Everyone says there’s nothing to do except party and hook up. So many people do meth. Lots of people at the party are completely cranked, like the dude in the American flag jacket that kept going up to people and asking if they though they could kick his ass; after being asked the third time, Timmy, Alex, and Nick took him up on it and sent him home, after he apologized profusely. We begged off the horny speed freaks and belligerent drunks to get cookies at Baked, too tired or drunk to take advantage of their elaborate cookie customization system. You remember where you played and where you ate on tour. Nick, Shane, Adam, and Devin pour over an extensive Rock & Roll Where’s Waldo? poster in the bathroom, trying to pick out everyone we could. We found Brian May but Freddie Mercury was MIA. We used the Mr. Bean trick at the house we ended up at and it actually worked, no one had Mr. Bean so we went to bed.
1/17/15—Wally’s World—Chicago, IL
My old friend and former bandmate Jake Lingan hooked up the show in Chicago, where we were stranded without Sun Club or their gear (they opened for Alvvays at Schubas). I was nervous about Chicago bands being clingy with their gear, but the people who played at and ran Wally’s World couldn’t have been nicer. An amazing band called Slayer Kitty played first, and I bought everything they had (a tape, t-shirt, stickers, buttons, some kind of watch, and a temporary tattoo) for 10 bucks. We played messy but it was rocking, a good messy, and we never lost track or stopped mid-song, except for Timmy’s introduction of the rain stick he bought in Nashville, which, un-mic’d, didn’t work, to our sadness. Chicago was my favorite city. In the morning we went to Billy Corgan’s tea shop Madame ZuZu’s at my insistence, and hung out and played Scrabble while I drank Stimulus tea and geeked out. The other Whips played on the icy shores of Lake Michigan as I stayed behind and watched from a park bench. Still light out, we didn’t realize how little time we had to get to Ann Arbor.
1/18/15—3rd Death Star—Ann Arbor, MI
The shortest show by far, in and out in less than two hours. Lollygagging near Lake Michigan, we didn’t realize that we’d lose an hour in the time zone shift from Chicago to Ann Arbor, and that the venue was strict about starting on time and especially ending on time: 11p.m. The cops showed up as Sun Club was loading out because of a noise complaint, probably from the weird Seuss-esque squatter in the abandoned auto dealership hundreds of yards away. Shane brought us to the best restaurant of the tour, Frita Bortida: key lime milkshakes, Cuban chicken burgers, the whole place was decorated like it was an Apple Store. Driving home the next day, we listened to Sam Herring’s interview with Height, interviews with Jim O’Rourke, Isaac Brock, Paul Banks, Steve-O, Larry David, and eventually just more Longmont Potion Castle.
Nothing insane or terrible happened. Every show was well attended. The people spoke and they said we brought the rock. Sun Club are the best tourmates in the world, the most amazing chemistry I’ve ever seen. Swhips will be back to rock you, and your town soon!
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1992