Monday, 28 May 2012

Tour round-up

Tour round-up

What an absolute belter of a tour we had. This is the first time we have played longer than 6 days consecutively and the first tour on our own without another band. This is also the first attempt at a form of tour diary. It was difficult to keep up with to begin with, but if you followed us along you would have noticed we kinda got the hang of things and were quite enjoying writing about our little adventures and the amazing people we met along the way. We were very lucky that we didn't have anything go terribly wrong or have a terrible show. We can now add a crypt, under a bridge, pizzeria, barn, and a park to our list of types of places we've played.

We clocked up over 3000 miles at a quite impressive 47.1 miles per gallon; the Cardis, she is a fine and sturdy ship, she needs a good scrub now though.

There were a few things we forgot to mention in our daily logs.
- we played so fast and hard that when we played in Nancy, Sam had a bad asthma attack and had to run to the car for his inhaler to carry on. When the illness kicked in, this happened each night.
- Mike got some impressive blisters on his fingers from playing so hard. The only real playing injury the whole tour don't you know.
- we both ended up getting ill on tour, and are currently still nursing our colds.
- we experienced different poo smells from the French and German farming fields. Some nice smelling, but some absolutely nose melting pungent smells. These kept us entertained.
- along the way we met some great cats and dogs. Particular mentions should go to Maria's cat Osama, who has brain damage since being hit by a car and often tries to top itself, and of course Romain's cat 'Chat Chat', you are great pets.
We'd like to thank everyone that accepted our request for mix cds for the time we spent in the Cardis. In alphabetical order; Alex, Corey, Jason, Kevin, Meggan, Sean and Stacey. Thank you. They kept us from going insane, managing to listen to all of them, only repeating about 4 cds of our own. Except for one particular cd from our friend Dave H-S's radio show down in Brighton featuring Dave George as a special guest. We absolutely loved it. Cheers Dave for the entertainment!

Thank you to Adam Ibrahim for designing out sexy looking tour poster!

We took tons of pictures and lots videos, so we aim to put some kind of tour video together before we put it off and it be forgotten about. We'll post it on on vimeo or youtube when we get round to doing it.

We were also extremely lucky to play with some amazing bands on this tour, some of our favourites were Super Castlevania IV, Seal of Quality, Papier Tigre, The Forks, Faux, Chocolat Billy, Sec, Polar Polar Polar Polar and Kkrane. All are belters.

And of course we couldn't have had a tour without the generosity of the kind people who went out their way to help organise a show for us. Charles & Romain in Amiens, Clément & friends in Reims, Polo and Eidith in Nancy, Louie in Montpellier, Thomas, Guilhem, Lison, Carol, Labert, Alice, Estelle & everyone at Les Pavillions Sauvages in Toulouse, Pierre in Bergerac, Pascal, the film crew & Eric in Caen, Eric, Camille & the En v'là! gang in Paris, Adam & Emma in Bochum, Dan, Damien & housemates in Berlin, Katscha & everyone at Kuze in Potsdam, Maria & friends in Leipzig, and finally but by no means least Kevin & Magali in Metz.

Until next time...

Mike & Sam

Day 14 - Metz to High Wycombe

Day 14 - Metz to High Wycombe

The ever happy Magali and Kevin, Metz!
If you have read previous instalments of our diaries, you will be aware of Mike's occasional sleep talking and very occasional sleep walking. Well I was treated to some sleep talking one final time. I was woken to what sounded like clapping. As i rolled over, Mike was fully clapping his hands repeatedly while still fully asleep. Imagine a minute of clapping. It's actually quite a long time if you think about it. I grabbed my phone to film it but he had stopped before I could get any of it. Brains are fascinating things.

Magali had forced herself up and set out breakfast for us and some fresh coffee and tea. She was feeling a little tender from the evenings celebrations. We ate breakfast, traded records, had a final shower and flexed our french and broken english for one last time. As we departed, we were very kindly given some home made jam by Kevin and Magali, which we're told is very very tasty.

Time to go home
Today's little adventure home wouldn't be anywhere near our longest and most stressful of the tour. Although I did have to get back to Wycombe for my night shift at 11pm. Knowing you won't be sleeping till 7.30am the next day is a bit challenging to think about. The journey to Calais was a breeze and for one last time in the nearly cloudless sunny sky. We think we've caught the sun. Who's to say?! We boarded the ferry and arrived back on English soil just gone 6.30pm. Just enough time to get back to Wycombe for Mike to eat his dinner nicely prepared for him by his housemate and me to get showered and off to work.

2 weeks on tour and we feel we got another week in us, definitely! 

We will be writing an end of tour bit of things we forgot to tell you and some thank you'd. But we'd like to end this last tour diary that we feel very privileged that we can use music as an excuse to travel and meet such amazing people who are so welcoming, kind and generous. The list really could go on. We have had the absolute best time time on this tour and is up there with our best 2 weeks. We are going to get cracking on with finishing our album and start organising the next tour. 

Thank you for reading us ramble on about our experiences on this tour!

Mike & Sam

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Day 13 - Leipzig to Metz

Day 13 - Leipzig to Metz

The lads and the awesome Maria
Waking up in a little caravan on tour is wonderful! Sun shining outside, birds doing their thing. It wasn't long after we rolled out of our beds before we were greeted by a smiling Maria informing us of the excellent news that she'd prepared breakfast and it was ready. Yesterday Maria had informed us that she doesn't really cook much for herself and isn't at all ambitious in the kitchen. That being said, we were very impressed with the fresh spread she had put on for us in her communal kitchen that she shares with about 5 others. She doesn't get the chance that often to sit down with other her kitchen sharers, so when she has a band over she loves to cook for them. We were treated to fresh tomatoes in what I think was balsamic vinegar, a bowl of slightly spiced paprika, cooked mushrooms, salad, fried tofu, relish and bread. This was accompanied with some interesting South American coffee that Maria was given by her family - it was actually quite nice. The breakfast absolutely hit the spot. Our experience was enhanced by a cassette tape we discovered sitting on the side named 'Autumn Dance 96' featuring the highly influential Phantomas, Masterboy, Scooter, Dr Dre and Henia. Wow. Need I say more?.. It's okay to be jealous you know.

Autumn Dance '96!
Maria admiring Autumn Dance '96 over her awesomely prepared breakfast.
As we rubbed our satisfied bellies, we went and collected out gear before saying goodbye to the delightful and kind Maria. She left us with a wonderful offer - that when we come back, she'd like to get a power source and have us play at the beach. What an incentive to return! As we drove off we stopped outside Katscha's sisters new cupcake coffee shop, which would be open in a mere few hours, activated the Cardis' horn and said a final goodbye to her ever smiling face.

With ANOTHER great day of sunshine to drive in, we headed to the small town of Metz, 6 hours south west in France. The weekend traffic on the roads in mainland Europe are the opposite to the UK and are pleasantly clear. With no problems whatsoever, we arrived in Metz bang on schedule but now had the challenge of navigating our way to where we were supposed to be, under a bridge. There is a canal that runs through Metz and with water bring lots of bridges. Slight problem. And what added to the confusion, was that there is a new tram line being built so there are many closed and new roads. This does not play well when you are looking at a 'trusty sat nav.'

BBQ under a bridge next a canal in glorious sunshine. Epic. 
We finally found Kevin and Magali, a very kind and caring couple who had organised the show for us. We followed them down heavily overgrown paths with the Cardis (there isn't much the Cardis isn't game for) and yup, found ourselves under a bridge by the canal! It's so far from any houses and under a major road that they have been putting on shows here for a few years now with not 1 problem with the police of any kind. Professional DIY, with generator, PA, beer, bbq, lots of deliciously cooked food (the lentils were my favourite!) and lights.

Ello Dave!
We played with 3 other bands. 1 of which was Kevin's solo project of drums and laptop. It was also his birthday at midnight so there was quite a crowd gathered under this out-of-the-way bridge. I'd say 60 people or so. Sometimes there is only 10 people that turn up, so this is quite a turn out. We need not worry about the sound neither as the noise bands were pretty dam loud. We had a lot of fun playing, although on unsteady ground, and made sure we ended the tour on a good one. We were made to play an little encore, which we always get uncomfortable at, but they were so lovely and wouldn't let us walk away. That done and dusted, Kevin played after and he was stonkingly good as he crossed the midnight threshold, playing into his birthday.

Literally under a bridge next to a canal
Kevin playing into his birthday
We packed up and headed back to Kevin and Magali's home, drunk some beers, listened to music and played 'Caps' - a great bottle cap drinking game where you have to knock off someone else's bottle cap from the top of their bottle. With an early start in mind for us and Kevin's birthday celebrations tomorrow, we went to bed for the final time on this tour.

Day 12 - Potsdam to Leipzig

Day 12 Potsdam to Leipzig

Epic breakfast cooked by Katscha, Potsdam
We all woke up at 10.30 with slightly sore heads and headed downstairs into the kitchen for breakfast.  Katscha had prepared a lovely breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, bread and coffee. We sat and chatted for a while then went to load our gear from the night before. We had plenty of time to get to Leipzig as it was only a couple of hours away and we didn't have to be there until 6. Katscha was also going to Leipzig that day, as her sister was opening a cupcake coffee shop and she was helping with the final preparations. The shop just so happened to be on the same road as the venue 3 doors up and she said, if she finished in time, she would like to come and see us play again. We couldn't leave without seeing the mechanical knife again so Katscha set it up in the bar and we basked in all of it's glory.

Morning Dave!
We set off to Leipzig at around 2.30, Katscha gave us some water and two Club Mate's for the journey. Club Mate is a caffeine drink that is very popular in east Germany. It has a very strange taste, which if I had to describe it I would say that it tastes somewhere between iced tea, lemonade and Lucky Charms (the cereal).

Where we didn't play in Leipzig.
We arrived at the venue in Leipzig after an easy journey and said hello to the guys there. The venue was quite small, but very homely. It looked like the lounge of a house in fact.  We were still quite early and Maria who was putting on the show hadn't arrived, so we decided to go for a walk around a nearby forest with a nice little river running through it. We returned after about an hour and were greeted by the lovely Maria. We unloaded the gear and drove back to Maria's place to hang out before the show. Maria lives on a massive squatted caravan type compound quite near the venue. There are around 30 people living there at the moment and everyone has their own house-trailer. They are very big inside and apparently they stay very warm in the winter. Maria gave us a tour of the whole place. it was awesome! There were different trailers for the toilet, showers and kitchen. Maria also showed us the venue that they have there where she sometimes puts on shows, it was massive. We would be sleeping in a caravan next to Maria's place that had an awning outside with a sofa and a table. It was all very cool and we felt like we were on holiday.

It was like we were on holiday!
We went back to the venue for dinner. At various places around Leipzig they have a thing called community cooking, where you can get food for 1.50 euros, this evening it was this venue's turn.  The chef for toady had been cooking since we got there at around 5, and after a total of 4 hours it smelt amazing!  We ate dinner outside in the garden with everyone else and it was lovely, we didn't eat much hot food in France so it was really nice to eat a hot meal. It was a slightly spicy soft potatoes and stuffed pepper dish. It was divine!

We found the cupcake coffee shop!
We were the only band playing that night and the plan was to play after everyone had finished eating at around 9.30. The only problem with that with the weather being so nice, was that people were eating and then going to the park to drink and there weren't many people left at the venue. It was around 10pm and most of the people had gone to the park to drink so Maria came to us with a proposal. The chef had suggested the most amazing idea. He had taken the short walk to the nearby park and thought that we should take the show to the people.  We really liked the sound of this! Everyone was really nice helping us to carry our gear to the park, someone even lent us their pull cart for the bass amp and drum stands.

Where we didn't play.
We arrived at the park at around 10.30 and set up the gear. Maria had arranged to use the electricity from one of her friend's apartments close to the park, as they had a huge extension cable. The people from the venue had also bought along lights, a disco ball and a crate of beer, which really made it look cool. The electricity came on at around 11, by which time enough texts and word had got round of the first guerilla gig like this to happen for a crowd of about 50 - 60 people to gather. This was definitely a bloody great idea! Just before we started to play Katscha turned up after going to the venue to find we weren't there. Lovely to see her again. We started playing soon after as no one knew how long it would be before the police might turn up. We started and about 3 minutes into the first song a neighbour came over to complain, we came right up to Sam's face and started shouting at him in German. Out of about 60 people, she had to choose one fo the only 2 people who can't speak hardly any German! Brilliant. We stopped playing while Maria and a few others spoke to her and we were told to carry on. She apparently said that she would call the police if it carried on longer than 20 minutes. No one was at all phased by her and just said she wanted to make a fuss about nothing. It was the weekend after all!  They shouted encouragement for us to keep playing until the police arrived. By a stroke of absolute pure luck about 15 minutes into our set and right in-between two songs, we saw a police van drive by a mere 10 meters away from where we were, but as there was no noise they had no reason to be alarmed. I'm not sure if they didn't see us or if they just didn't care but they didn't stop, so as soon as they drove round the corner we carried on! Shortly after there were people lighting flares and the atmosphere was really great! Maria passed a hat round and people were extremely generous.

Kicked off in the park, flares and everything.
We didn't stay long at all after we played, and with everyones help we carried all the gear back to the original venue making it no hassle at all. We were so very grateful for all that helped make this happen. It was so much fun, even though was Mike was quite nervous about the chance of the police showing up while we were playing. It was as if it had never happened! 

We left the gear at the venue and walked back to Maria's place.  We sat on the sofa, chatted by candlelight and listened to Electric Electric, who are another really good french band. We were pretty tired after what was a interesting, great day, and went to bed at about 2.30. We'd also been looking forward to sleeping in our little caravan.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day 11 - Berlin to Posdam

Day 11 - Berlin to Potsdam

Tempelhofer Park, Berlin

Today we only have a travel time of 40mins south to Potsdam and were in no mad rush, so like every other sleep loving being, we treated ourselves to a small lie in. Damien and his house mates put on a cracking breakfast spread, which starred the likes of cheese, rustic bread, home made bread, tomatoes topped with cheese, rocket salad, iceberg lettuce, omelette with capers and an array of other great foods. This was also accompanied by the european standard hot coffee. Another stella breakfast (although you could actually classify it as brunch - but who's counting?). It was nice to have the time to relax and spend time with our lovely hosts knowing we only had a short drive ahead of us. There was a mix of nationalities living in the house, which is quite common in Berlin; French, German and Polish people all living together. And although they try to communicate in German together, the main conversation is in English. With a that short journey on the cards we used the extra time to do a spot of sight seeing. You don't always get the chance to really see much of the town you're playing in due to long drives or other factors, and it's a shame. But that's tour for you.

After saying our goodbyes to Damien and friends we headed out in the hot, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day to Tempelhofer Park, an abandoned airport which has been turned into a huge community park. Everything is as it was when it was a working airport but now it has the added bonus of BBQ areas, baseball field, look out towers and even an information point. Apparently it's four times the size of Central park. Fancy. It's rare to find such large area of land in a city that hasn't been transformed into a shopping centre or turned into houses. The decision for Berlin to not do this and turn into the huge park that it is for everyone to enjoy is refreshing and frankly awesome. I like Berlin. I just checked with Mike. He's nodding confidently in agreement as he drives. We like Berlin, a lot!

The Kuze, Potsdam
We arrived in Potsdam slightly late due to typical traffic and made our way to the venue 'Kuze', where we were greeted with a beaming smile. That smile was from Katscha a delightful kind person who organised our show for us. She's also an excellent cook! 'Kuze' is a run by volunteers and it gets funding from university student contributions, as well as a few other sources. The atmosphere around the place is wonderful and everyone is pretty happy. It has a screen printing studio, a small intimate theatre/performance space (where we we to play later), a really cheap bar, sleeping/teaching space, practice spaces and more. We were impressed. Once our tour was complete, we took a walk into the beautiful small town of Potsdam and into one of it's nice parks. Did you know in Potsdam they have many parks but you are not allowed to sit nor walk on the grass, and must merely walk through them. It's a shame you can't sit and enjoy the surroundings of the well kept parks.

The beautiful Potsdam
A lovely park you cannot sit in and enjoy
We unloaded our gear in and sat down for some food which had been prepared for us by Katscha. Fresh salad and a vegetable Gouda cheese bake. My, my, my, was it goood ah! German cooking is different to French cooking, more similar to English cooking. We have been over-welmed with how well we have been fed and looked after since being on tour. Once our food had settled we warmed up our vocal chords, did a few lunges, and cracked on with business. We were again treated to a little light show while we played…. until the fuse blew when then lovely sound man turned on his tiny desk lamp. In the dark we continued to play and before we knew it we could see again. We were happy to discover everyone was still there! We were very humbled with their reception to our music/noise and were very happy to sell a few more records.

Kuze bar & the lovely Katscha
There was a show also happening the same night a few minutes walk await at a squat/venue named The Black Fleck. It was a record release show for a local band and they were kind enough to not clash the times of our two shows so everyone could enjoy both if they wanted it. Katscha and friends invited us to join them at the other show after we played, which we obviously jumped at the chance. What a great show it was too. Crazy cheap bar and quality hardcore/punk. We got excited, we got boozy, and even bought a record each. Drunken purchase? Most possibly. Good purchase? Definitely. We hung out with some of Katscha's friends, drank some more beer and talked to them about Nietzsche and the film Inglorious Bastards. Somewhere along the way Katscha had picked up a large mechanical Swiss arm knife off the side of the road being thrown out. It still worked and was the most eerie, over-sized swiss army knife you've ever seen. Knives and pair of scissors moving up and down slowly. Mental. It will haunt me in my dreams. By the end of the night we could already do a pretty good impression of it with our arms.

We said goodnight to our new friends at the Black Fleck and headed back to the Kuze with Katscha, over-sized swiss army knife in hand, and had a great music chat until the early hours of the morning before we were left to fall asleep.

Today was a smashing, stress-free day and we very much look forward to returning to Potsdam in the future, who are a lovely looking bunch by the way!

Day 10 - Bochum to Berlin

Day 10 - Bochum to Berlin

There she is - the work horse that is the Cardis!
As i begin writing this instalment of our tour diary, I am sat in the Cardis at a service station while Mike pays for a tank full of petrol, staring at a guy in the full German laiderhousen clobber. Hat and everything, topped off with a sweet beard. Excellent effort if I do say so. now that I've shared that with you it's back to business.

Bochum to Berlin. The second leg of our Paris to Berlin journey. It was awesome for Adam and Emma to offer us their floor space to us for a night. They had a hard days work ahead of them so they left us to get ourselves showered and sorted. Lovely to see friendly faces when away from home. We even got a hand drawn map to where our car was parked. Smashing! The trusty sat nave told us our journey to Berlin would take us around 6 ish hours in the glorious warm sunshine, landing us spot on for for our requested arrival time. Just walking to the car we had a nice little sweat on. Brilliant.

What the sat nav and ourselves are not to know, is traffic and delays. Today would now be the day we hit bad traffic. Something happened on the motorway and the police closed the road, sending all traffic through a small town. A regular 24 minute journey through this town took us just over 2 hours at the hottest part of the day. Not cool. But what can you do eh? We finally made it to the great city of Berlin and to the crypt in which we were to play in. Shows seem to start much later in mainland Europe than those in the UK so although we were 2 hours later than scheduled, we still had tons of time to spare. Enough to go for a walk in the perfect evening temperature and get a Sudanese wrap for our empty stomachs. It... was… AMAZING!

The crypt that is Knochenbox
The show was being put on my a nice chap called Dan and our good friend, and screen printing guru, Damien (he also plays in the most excellent band French band 'Alaska Pipeline'). We were playing with a band from Berlin called 'Ruins of Kruger' and their outing was to be their first public performance. The venue itself is a nice intimate crypt underneath a church named 'Knochenbox' and the evenings music was to be broadcast on radio. That was rather nice. The people we played to were so nice, polite and welcoming. Unfortunately we both don't speak any German except for the few simple words, and found ourselves saying the odd French word or few by accident having been so used to the past week spent in France. But we need not worry our lazy brains as most Germans speak very good English, so banter was flowing nicely. We had a lot of fun. We even sold a few records! Great bonus. Damien had also designed and screen printed the poster onto A1 paper and wanted to donate them all to us which was hugely kind of him. Merci Damien if you happen to be reading this.

We grabbed some beers on the way back to Damien's house where we had a lovely sit down, late evening chat, and sampled some of his house mate's home made bread before heading to bed. The next day would be our shortest journey yet to the next show of only 40mins South of Berlin in Potsdam. We closed our eyes with a rare small lie in on the cards. Get in!

Someone has a new vinyl!

Day 9 - Paris to Bochum

Day 9 - Paris to Bochum

The Cardis is also a tour bus.
We woke up in Camille's room at around 11am.  Sam informed me that I had been sleep walking in the night and that I was also sleep talking… in French! I think that maybe we've been in France for a bit too long.  We sat and ate breakfast with Camille while he played us loads of cool French music.  We still had to pick up the gear from the venue, so Camille offered to give us a driving tour of Paris on the way there  We managed to see most of the sights including the Eiffel Tower and a viewpoint where you could see the whole of Paris. The tour took around two hours, it was really nice of Camille to take the time out of his day to show us round his city!

Our most excellent tour guide Camille (not wearing his Brian Eno trainers).
We didn't have a show to play that evening, but we had to drive to Bochum to stay with our friend Adam. Adam is a skater in the high energy, hit musical Starlight Express, you might have heard of it, it's kind of a big deal. He performs most evenings at the theatre in Bochum, but this evening we were lucky in that he didn't have a show and could hang out.  The drive was quite easy, around 6 hours, we stopped for some food, which if you're familiar with this diary you would know by now that it's our standard lunch of bread, cheese and squeezy mustard. We are actually starting to run low on said squeezy mustard and I'm not sure if she'll last the entire trip. We'll try and make her last as long as we can.

This polluted view of Paris. Still quite nice. 

As we were driving through Belgium the weather started to get a lot nicer and by the time we arrived in Bochum it was still quite warm, even though it was 10pm.  We were meeting Adam at his practice space and we had to wait for him outside for  around half an hour.  Adam then showed up with cold beers and frozen pizzas for two very hungry travellers. What a dude. We spent the rest of the evening catching up, drinking and eating pizza. Adam is a drummer and rents the rehearsal space so he can play drums as often and as loud as he likes. He shares it with a piano player (also the main star of Starlight Express), who he makes music with. Sam and Adam chatted about drums for ages. When two drummers get together and get talking about drums, I like to call it 'drum chat'… wind 'em up and watch 'em go.  This tends to happen more often that you would think, I am often out numbered by drummers. (this is excellent for me, but Mike won't read this so he doesn't need to know) We all had a bash on the drums, I showed of my (non existent) drum 'skills' and Adam played us some funk. Adam also showed us the basement of the space, it was an awesome room that had a huge papier mache tree made by the guy who Adam rents the space with. Adam said that he will set up a show for us there next time we are in Germany. 
"If you look through the smog, It's over there somewhere, see?"
 We left the space and walked back to Adam's flat, which he shares with his girlfriend Emma.  We were treated to a lovely english cup of tea while we watched an episode of Only Fools and Horses. Classic TV.  For those of you who are interested it was the one where Dell Boy gets arrested for stealing a microwave oven. It was also one of the last episodes that had Grandad in before he died, Uncle Albert was great but I prefer Grandad era Only Fools much more. RIP.

Lads on tour!