Last week I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes with the members of Atom Smash: a Miami-based, rock band whose picture should be posted next to the definition of ‘dedication’ in the Webster’s Dictionary. They are currently promoting their EP “Sacrifice,” while touring the nation with Tantric. You can catch them at the Club Firestone on November 5th.
Sanja: How long have you been playing for?
Sergio (Lead Vox): 2 years.
Sanja: And it’s been the original line up the entire time?
Sanja: How long did you wait before you went on your first tour?
Sergio: We waited about…close to a year. We were doing a lot of local stuff for a while. And then we were just finishing our record and all that stuff…so we waited for a while. But we started touring at the end of last year. So, December.
Sanja: How long was your first tour?
Sergio: It hasn’t really stopped. We pretty much…we’ve only been home for maybe about 2 months out of the whole year. We’ve just been touring non-stop pretty much. So far 180 shows or so.
Sanja: I read that you just quit your jobs, abandoned your regular life and just went on the road.
Sergio: Yep, absolutely.
Sanja: How did that come about? Whose idea was it?
Mark (Drums): It was pretty much a dream come true. I mean, of course we all had things to take care of at home to be able to go ahead and be ok with doing that… I mean doing this is a full time job. So it’s not really possible to do your “home work” and be on the road at the same time, so we all had to make that decision. It wasn’t anyone’s decision in particular.
Sanja: Can you describe a regular tour day to us?
Mark: Regular touring day usually consists of about anywhere from 3-7 hours of driving. Then we usually come to the venue anywhere between 3 and 4 o’clock, load in all our gear, sit around for a while waiting for our sound check. We do the sound check, then the doors open, lights go on then we’re on.
Sanja: What’s the main reason for touring? I know some bands go only when there’s a product to promote; you don’t seem to be one of them.
Mark: More exposure. To get the name Atom Smash out there, all over the country, as much as we can; to develop a fan base and to sell some records and …get people to like us. The Atom Smash movement.
Sanja: That’s a good reason. I saw you a 1.5 ago at the FMF. You had a dancer. Does the dancer go on tour with you?
Sergio: Well the dancer was actually my ex girlfriend. Uh…but no, so doesn’t tour with us. One day it would be awesome to have belly dancers go on tour with us.
Sanja: That was definitely a great show, it was different. I liked it.
Sergio: I can’t believe you were there. That’s crazy. We were just talking about that yesterday. That was like our third or fourth real show with this band and we had labels and stuff going out to see us. It’s kind of funny. People weren’t really digging us back then and now they’re kind of barking up our tree, you know.
Sanja: I knew as soon I saw you that you’ll get big. I’m rooting for you. Do you have a booking agent or do you do things on your own?
Sergio: Thank you. We do all our own booking. We do have management, but they basically just more… kind of help out at this point. They don’t necessarily do any of the booking. Yeah, all the touring is on us.
Sanja: That must be a lot of work .How much time do you spend on the booking and planning on a daily basis?
Sergio: It sort of depends. Right now we’re at a level where we sort of just wait for the next opportunity as it comes. Right now our goals are more touring with bigger, national bands. So with that said, we just kind of wait for them to come to us. That’s how we got on tour with Tantric. Beforehand, end of last year, beginning of this year, I could spend like a couple of hours easily…2-3 hours a day just kind of getting things ready, booking things in advance so we could survive.
Sanja: That’s awesome. What’s usually your favorite place to play? I would guess you play some places more than the others..
Arnold (Bass): It would definitely have to be the Mid-West.
Sanja: Any particular club, or a venue?
Arnold: I’d say “All Around” in Detroit Michigan. They treat us pretty well.
Sanja: Any special stories that make that place your favorite?
Arnold: Uhh… [Everyone laughing] A lot of alcohol.
Sanja: Good enough. Do you have any advice on any places to stay away from?
Arnold: Oh yeah. Just don’t play NYC at all if you’re in a rock band. Like, in our genre: active rock or whatever… Indie, Pop-Punk, Emo or fart into a mike, you probably shouldn’t play NYC because it’s way too expensive. Tolls alone, just coming in and out of the NYC, I think came out to like $50. God forbid how much you have to pay in parking. It’s hell; we’ve never had a good show in NYC. As far as the venues go, there’s a handful of crappy venues out there… but you know you have to start somewhere. So I wouldn’t tell anyone to stay away from anywhere because it’s kind of all a part of the experiences. But definitely money–wise, NYC is a pain.
Sanja: Did you have any crazy stories? I read something about the van and the wheel falling off…
Do those sorts of troubles happen frequently?
Arnold: Right now we’re in our new van. We call it Molly. Our old van was Twinkie. About 2 weeks ago we were in St. Louis, MO coming home for a break off the tantric tour and our rear wheel broke off the car. We were going 80mph in the middle of the night, in the rain…the car pretty much just slid off the road and just caught on fire. We had to ride back in the U-Haul all the way home for like 20 hrs, with the two of us in the front and the two of us in the back of the box truck. And there was no air, ventilation or light. It was totally dreadful, but it was pretty rock.
Sanja: That’s what I call ‘roughing It.’ I know you usually crash at friend’s houses. Is it something you try to prearrange through betterthanthevan.com or do you just play it by ear?
Arnold: We are actually unaware of betterthanthevan.com, so thank you for letting us know. We pretty much just met a lot of people as we toured across the country this year. We’re doing a lot of U.S. touring this year. We’ve only played Miami like 3 times. So we’re always out in places where we hardly know anybody…but we meet them and next time we play there, we’ll probably stay with them. But at first it was a lot of crashing in the van and a lot of just cool people at venues that are down with letting us stay with them.
Sanja: What do you like the best about touring?
Arnold: Oddly enough, if you’re working at your every day job, in an office or retail, or whatever, you pretty much have a place to be at a certain time every single day and just such a strict schedule, ya’ know? You get fired based on stuff like that. I feel like in rock and roll, if you’re hungry enough for it and you like it as much as we do you pretty much can just get to the venue and you end up having to wait for things. Like it’s always…it’s just an easy carefree-kind of job, the way I look at it. As far as the actual job and touring: it’s tiring, it’s a lot of discomforts, but you sort of feel like you are living the music you’re playing. Rather than just sitting in the studio writing music, we do a lot of our writing on the road. So that’s another reason, we love writing on the road, that’s another reason why we like touring.
Sanja: What’s the worst thing about touring? Something you wouldn’t miss.
Marco: I’d pretty much say that one of the worst things about touring is having a little bit too much downtime. Another cool thing about being on the road, you know, at home you can’t exactly play a show every night in your hometown- you’d definitely wear out your home fan base. Being able to be on the road and play every day is definitely something that I enjoy, but having too much downtime, ya’ know… sometimes we get cancelations and things beyond our control so we end up having to wait a whole day, or two…maybe even 3 until the next show. That gets kind of annoying sometimes and it’s very costly, you spend more money when you are not playing than when you’re playing.
Sanja: What do you guys usually do when a cancelation happens?
Marco: Sometimes we do get a filler show last minute if we are lucky to be in a region where we can just make that happen. Most of the time we just drive to the next show, stay with whoever we are going to stay with, go wherever we’re going to go and just hang out there see the town for a little bit. So on one end it kind of sucks but you do get to see the city you are playing next a little more so there are some cool parts.
Sanja: What’s your next destination?
Marco: Tomorrow we are playing Birmingham, Alabama for Halloween.
Sanja: Is that a long drive? You’re in Murfreesboro, TN right now, right?
Marco: Yea. It actually, believe it or not, could possibly be the shortest drive, one of the shortest drives in the last 2 months of touring. It’s 3 hours, usually we drive like 10 hours or 8 hours; if we’re lucky it’s 5, but rarely is it 3. So yea, it’s not that bad.
Sanja: Then you’re going to Orlando November 5th, right?
Marco: November 5th. It’s at Club Firestone, yea.
Sanja: Do you have any advice for bands that are just starting off and they want to tour?
Marco: Well, take advantage of the city. If you’re in a band from Orlando, there’s just so much more going on. We’re from Miami. Just take advantage of that region you live in, as much as possible, especially if you have the opportunity to do it. It will just save you so much, I guess, energy than the way we’ve had to do it. In our case, a city like Miami hardly has a music scene at all. We had to go places where they were starting to play us on the radio. We had to get out there and play. I would just say like, start locally and make sure you are playing with musicians that you feel are like 10 times better than you, ya’ know. Not at that instrument. They’re 10 times better than you would even imagine… you want to play with the best players you can get.