Today we continue on our journey through book week on the Naughty Secretary Club blog with a fun interview and more importantly a contest. Did someone say free stuff. Yes I did.
My friend Travis Nichols has himself a brand spanking new book out called Punk Rock Etiquette. Just when you thought I only blogged about craft books I throw a curve ball at you. Punk Rock Etiquette is a combination comic book, DIY how-to guide, touring manifesto, marketing plan and more. The book is not just for people in a band either so if you are thinking you gave up your harpsichord lessons long ago and this book won’t be applicable to you, then you would be wrong. For anyone who has ever seen a band play and been annoyed by their onstage antics, dated someone in a band, had a child obsessed with playing Guitar Hero – this book is for all those people and more. Snappy writing that will make you giggle, hilarious illustrations (Travis after all has had comics in Nickelodeon Magazine) and for all you crafters (he has an Etsy store too) instructions for how to silk screen T-shirts and make CD cases out of cereal boxes!
We were lucky enough to have a little chat with Travis about Punk Rock Etiquette, his band Omega Monster Patrol, his life as a Texas vegan living in San Francisco and more. Be sure to check out how to win a signed copy of Punk Rock Etiquette at the end.
Was there a breaking point for you that inspired this book? Like was there a particular show that you saw or were involved in where the band took forever to set up, paused between every song to change guitars and tune, never mentioned hide nor hair of the other bands on the bill and you thought to yourself good God people there is such a thing as punk rock etiquette. For instance I once had a band hit my suburban with their tour van and then deny it, they are a perfect example of someone who could use a copy.
The idea for Punk Rock Etiquette came a little bit at a time. I think the initial moment was on a tour where a lot of bands were violating what I thought were just plain common sense “rules”. Especially when it came to setting up before a set and getting off stage afterwards. The most critical of errors and my biggest pet peeve is when someone winds up their guitar cables on stage. No! Just grab your stuff and BOUNCE. There’s another band waiting to set up. Those little lulls between bands are crucial. Lots of people bail during breaks. And lots of other stuff happened on that tour (like when we played with a band with eleven spare guitars on a rack on stage… and the bass player broke a string, which brought the show to a screeching halt for ten minutes while their “guitar tech” changed it). So, long story short, it sort of started as a DOs and DON’Ts list that my pal Shaun and I started on the road, then we forgot about it, and then I kind of re-thought of it as a how-to.
Who do you think will get the most out of Punk Rock Etiquette? There is advice on marketing, a packing guide for going on tour, how-to instructions for silk screening your own band T-shirts so it seems there is something for every band level. Do you personally think a newbie who just started their band or an old salty dog who’s band has been around the touring block would find your book most interesting?
I wanted to write the book to give newer folks a leg up on DIY music, but also wanted to give veterans of the punk scene fun stuff to read (and things to pick up as well). I’ve heard from 14-year-olds who liked the book and learned some good stuff from it. And my good buddy Kyle (of The Kyle Sowashes) has been playing and putting out music and touring for well over a decade, and he’s into it. So yeah, hopefully people at every level can get something out of it.
For those of us not in a band, tell us why we would also heart Punk Rock Etiquette.
My mom and her friends like the book. Not really my key demographic, but I’ll take it! I think there are enough comics and illustrations and jokes and stuff that it can potentially appeal to non-indie-rockers. It hasn’t really hit hard in the “scene” yet. It’s hard to market to, you know, an anti-corporate subculture. Haha. Um… yeah. But we’ll see! Word of mouth is a powerful sumgun.
Back when Naughty Secretary Club was a zine I had a section called The Name Game where I asked bands like Arab Strap, Trail of Dead and Mates of State what the story was behind their bands name. If I were to ask Rasslin, Screaming & Violence and The Big Pile of Dirt about their names what would they say?
That is the best question ever! Let’s see. Rasslin is kind of a gimmick band. All of their songs are about wrestling, and they dress as wrestlers – from amateur to professional to sumo to lucha libre. So that one is easy. Screaming & Violence went for irony in their name. They’re a low-fi indie-pop band. Screaming and Violence is also the name of a Needies record (a band of mine) that came from my mom’s distaste of music with “all of that screaming and violence”. The Big Pile of Dirt got their name from a children’s short story in one of those old storybooks from the ’50s/’60s. It was a story about kids in a neighborhood finding this huge pile of dirt and junk in an abandoned lot, and it became their paradise. The band picked the name because it fit their thick, sludgy, spacey sound. 78 Monsters is an electro-grindcore band. They picked the name because it is awesome. By the way, I’m slowly working on music for all of the fictional bands in the book. There will probably be a compilation at some point.
Travis you are man of many talents: obviously a very witty writer, a musician and then on top of that an amazing artist/illustrator. If God came down today and said you have to pick one skill and I’m taking the other 2 away what skill would you keep?
Now that, on the other hand, is a HORRIBLE question. Come on, Jen! I kind of want to refuse to answer it. I guess right now I’m having tons of fun writing books and doing all of the stuff that goes along with it – book festivals and stuff. But… no. God wouldn’t do that to me. Your question is hereby nullified.
I think I love the illustrations almost as much as I love the text of Punk Rock Etiquette. Not everyone can write a witty book and then illustrate it give yourself a nice pat on the back for that one buddy. Which came first for you the writing or the drawings? Which did you find to be more difficult and time consuming between the two?
The writing came first, and the illustrations after. They took about the same amount of time, but the illustrating was a bit more grueling. I spent many a day in the Architecture Library at UT after I discovered it when my girlfriend was in the Masters program there. What a great room. I’d get up there in the morning and work until 5pm. It was perfect because it was huge and beautiful and quiet and I didn’t have internet access or TV to distract me.
In the section on forming a band you describe various potential band mates ranging from The Tortured Poet to The Rich Kid. What are your thoughts on say choosing a Sid Vicious type just so you can have a delinquent in your band and more street cred even though your rhythm section will suffer horribly? Rock-n-Roll does seem to be more about image than it is about talent in a lot of cases.
I had a Delinquent in a band once. He was an AMAZING drummer, but he was very much into getting in trouble and “the rock star life”. He was fun to have around… to a point. We were on tour and on the night before our last show he wanted us to buy him beer (he was a minor at the time). The last thing I wanted was to get pulled over and be caught with a minor and an open container. We told him no, and then he got some dude at the gas station to buy a 40 for him. We were PISSED and decided that night that he was finished playing with us. We canceled our last show and went home. Man, we were a bunch of goody-two-shoes. And MAN, he was SUCH a badass drummer.
Give us your credentials on the subject matter…
How old were you when you first joined a band?
I was 15 when my neighbor and I formed “Yahoo for Pablo”. I played my first “real” show at 16 with Choking Ahogo (not to be confused with the few other bands with the same name). It’s funny. Most bands that I have been in have been two-man bands. Both of those and The Needies, The Short Way, and one or two others.
OMEGA MONSTER PATROL! It’s equal parts band and performance… thing. I’m also toying with “reforming” The Needies. It started as just me and then I added a drummer, and I’ve done some thinking about finding some new pals to play with.
What was the first instrument you learned to play?
I took piano lessons in elementary school, and that helped me later on when I started playing trumpet, then guitar, etc.
Who was the first band you saw in concert?
My parents took me to a lot of concerts, and I don’t remember what was first. I saw The Dixie Chicks when I was like 13. There were four of them, Natalie wasn’t in the band, and they were country as hell. But my dad had a law professor who was in a Creole/Cajun band, and I know I saw them play when I was younger than that. So… hmmm…
What band have seen live the most times?
What band have I seen the most times? I’ve seen Minus the Bear three times. When I was living in Lubbock during college, some friends and I drove to Portales, NM when they were playing. We were all really into them, and I don’t think anyone in Portales knew who they were. It was a RAD show. I’ve seen Cursive two or three times. I guess that’s it for more well-known bands. Other than that, I’ve seen a bunch of Lubbock friend’s bands a zillion times. Tom Foolery and the Mistakes, 10k Drive, Kid Gruesome, Thrift Store Cowboys. Same thing with Austin bands. I think I’ve seen your manfriend’s radical band three or four times. They’re awesome. They’re the audio equivalent of a glass bottle of syrup getting smashed on your head. Woah. That was poetic. Pitchfork, did you read that?
What is the most exotic location you have toured to?
Lamely enough, I’ve never played outside of these united states. I’ve played out to both coasts, but as far as exotic… let’s see. Well, I got to play at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York. That place is the world capitol of anti-folk, so it was sort of a pilgrimage for me back in 2004 or whenever that was. And it was perfect and fitting because there were like six people there. Oh, the struggle! I love playing in smaller cities, and I really love playing in New Mexico and Arizona. With OMEGA MONSTER PATROL!, I most often play at art galleries, so that has made for some weirdo shows.
What’s next for Travis Nichols, man about town? Are you gonna pack you up some Shaun Chow and go for a book tour, of course following Punk Rock Etiquette guidelines? Any new books on the horizon? Is Omega Monster Patrol going to put out a new record? Inquiring minds want to know.
I’m looking to do a book/rock tour in February or so. California to Texas. There will be Shaun Chow and dehydrated zucchini-a-plenty. I also want to do a week or so in the Northeast traveling via Chinatown Express bus, even though I think I swore I’d never ride them again last time I went on one.
I do have a new book on the horizon. This one is fiction, and it’s sort of an easy transition from Punk Rock Etiquette. It’s about a kid trying to get a drum set, but The Man keeps trying to hold him down. It’s a coming-of-age story about dealing with authority figures, i.e. The Man. It’s tongue-in-cheek, though. I mean, it’s The Man, but it’s not a prison warden or anything. It’s the principal and parents and stuff. I also have a picture book that might come out at around the same time, but most likely after. And I’m still doing comics for Nickelodeon Magazine every once in a while. What else. Um, I’m working on some posters and stuff.
I’m also thinking about a quarterly Punk Rock Etiquette magazine. The book is an across-the-board how-to, so the magazine would get into specifics. Stuff about awesome bands and more tutorials and random city profiles (like where to eat if you play there, etc.) and comics and stuff.
I’ve been so busy with book things that I haven’t played any since I moved to San Francisco. I played a couple of songs at the Texas Book Festival (you were there), but that’s it. I need to get out and dust off Red Sparrow, fluff Tina’s fur and get back out there. I have a new OMP! release ready to go, but I haven’t had time to do the work. It’s going to be a cassingle. Recorded over existing cassingles that I’ve been collecting. I also have the last Needies record that we never put out. Not sure exactly how I’ll put that out, but both releases will also be for sale online. You know, it being the future and all.
See little Travey-Poo just sitting here in the picture signing copies of Punk Rock Etiquette? He is inscribing them with lyrics from Peter Cetera just for you, and I’m not joshing! 2 lucky winners will score themselves a signed copy of the book by just leaving a comment right here on this blog post. You have until December 16th to let me know what are some of the things that you have seen bands do that annoy you? What about fellow show goers that could use a bit of punk rock etiquette? Girlfriends of the band members can sometimes irritate me, what about them. Come on let the world know with your comment and you might just win!