Shrag vs Tunabunny Tour Diary: Day 6

Day 6: York and the point of no return

28th February 2012

Bob: We head towards the place of windy cobbled streets known as York today. With each town we visit it’s important to acknowledge its celebrated sons and daughters without the aid of google. We came up with The Grand Old Duke and Shed 7. Oh and Dick Whittington, someone thinks. (It turns out the famous Lord Mayor of London is more commonly associated with London). We decide to go early so we can be tourists. It IS York after all. It’s full of old stuff! We’re with Americans! After we dock the mothership, we are free to enjoy York for the next 5 hours. We have a Runaway I mean Runaround Kid with us. His name is Jack and he’s not annoyed by us. He’s a Yorkshire boy so he speaks the language and knows the lay of the land. Good to have around.

We rock and rollers laugh at your petty signage:

Nobody mentioned Guy Fawkes. Nobody.

After soundcheck Russell and I go for a romantic meal:

Worryingly we don’t see any posters for our show around town. However, 2 Bob’s ‘bobtastic‘ show where they showcase songs from their album ‘Who let the Bobs out’ is very well publicised.

But our fears are allayed when a decent crowd shows up and 3 storming sets later (kicking off with the ace Just Handshakes We’re British) we head towards our beds. No one seems entirely sure where our beds are, so it’s a while before we actually start heading towards them, but we get there in the end.

Helen: Joe the promoter for tonight is a sweetheart, as is Andy who runs Stereo and does sound engineering there. Between  them and Just Handshakes and a buoyant Tunabunny I feel lucky to be around such charismatic and passionate people and oh man, the look in Brigette Tunabunny’s face when she plays and sings, it transfixes me every night…. she’s simultaneously further away and impossibly, devastatingly close to everyone else on the stage and in the room, and I would kill to be able to harness the same kind of fervour that possesses her.

After the show the lovely Emma of Standard Fare and her equally lovely girlfriend Jasmine put up half of us and the rest go to another Travelodge. There’s some silly, not really all that interesting misunderstanding between the tour party about who goes where….hackles are raised, the air is briefly fat with silence and expletives and shame. But no one in this strange party of people is an asshole, I know that. We get on pretty great, actually. And it would be weird if this hadn’t happened at some point, right? anyway…ONWARD, Shragabunny!

also, who let the Bobs out?

Shrag vs Tunabunny Tour Diary: Day 5

Day 5: Steeling ourselves for Sheffield

27th February 2012

Steph:  Last night was a party night and a good one at that. We had Andy back, rooms above the venue and plenty o white wine. Apparently I told certain members of Tunabunny that our nickname for Bob is chicken and i have a fondness for feet….but it was Mike who told me this and that man and the truth are casual dancing partners at best so i have reservations about the veracity of his claims. Also, it was not me singing M people…definitely not….definitely not just me…it wasn’t me who started it. On the winding, hilly drive to Sheffield, no more heady, dizzying white wine i promise myself. Just sensible beer…..a bit of ballast….you won’t get really drunk but you won’t be sick and lie to people either.

Helen: search for the hero inside yourself

Bob: When in Rome, do what the Romans do, right? So we head off to Preston Bus Station in the morning. It’s an impressive brutalist structure, not quite listed, which means it’s threatened with demolition. Shame on you trigger happy developers of Lancashire! Still, Russell looks happy:

But inside, like all places of religious pilgrimage, the mood becomes more solemn and reflective:

We last played in Sheffield on a Tuesday evening during our 2010 UK tour. It was not very busy, so our hopes were not too high for a Monday night in the same town. Thankfully the live room is teeny so we only need the presence of a handful of Yorkshire girls and boys to get an atmosphere going. And get going it does. The stage is so hilariously cramped that movement is constrained to gentle vertical bobbing.

Helen:  In the morning Scott and Mike come into the Shrag room where I am continuing to be a loser and not visit the bus station with the rest of Shrag (I choose instead to go online and demand attention from friends back home). The two of them tell me that because I didn’t join in the partying last night it is my turn to be picked on. Apparently they destroyed Bob last night, mostly because Bob had said that a wasp was an animal and they told him it wasn’t. I sided with our guitarist and told them a wasp WAS an animal, but both Scott and Mike are annoyingly erudite and confident and shouted me down with emphatic talk of vertebrae and fur…I let them have their point as it seemed very important to them, but told them that in fact I would destroy THEM  before the tour was out, and that they hadn’t yet realised the full extent of my powers (later in the tour, I was able to prove that a wasp IS in fact an animal via the aid of a mental diagram delineating the many branches of the Tree of Life. Both Scott and Mike had no choice but to  concede that I was right).

Sheffield is a tonne of fun. We get to play on a miniature stage, dance to Tunabunny (who are just getting more and more mesmeric) and hang out with our friends Dorian and Jack afterwards: Steph and I delight everyone around us with our imitations of their hilarious northern accents. Scott and Mary Jane continue to be paradigms of patience, stoicism, and good-naturedness with all the driving they have to do. Scott even enjoyed the impromptu tour of Sheffield Dorian took us on as he attempted to navigate us from the venue to the hotel we were staying in, sort of.

Shrag vs Tunabunny Tour Diary: Day 4

Day 4: Preston via (Song for my) Cirencester

26th February 2012

Bob: Today I’m in the car and we almost immediately get lost. I am navigating after all. There was not meant to be an airfield on the route.

So we decide to head to Cirencester because the Americans think it sounds funny. Preston can wait. It’s a nice day. We get to Cirencester and, hey,  some of the buildings are over fifty years old so Tunabunny love it. We find a quaint English pound shop and go on a spree. Armed with hilarious props we tease the other vehicle with photos of just how much fun we are having.

We arrive in Preston in reasonable time but I soon realise that I’m a coat and a camera lighter than I was when we set out this morning. It turns out the coat and camera are at a service station near Stafford. That’s so far off route it spins the brain so we hatch  a plan to pick it up on the morning of day 9. That’s a long way off and, unseasonably mild though it is, it’s still fucking February. I need a jacket.

Andy walks in to a hero’s welcome. We will have our drummer playing tonight. And yay, we have a sit down meal! And we get to stay in rooms above the venue. Things are looking up. Thank you Andy. Thank you Rico the promoter. Thank you guy at Stafford Moto Services.

We party ‘til the early hours. No one is really sure of the exact time, which means we all pretend it’s much later than it is. Steph is singing M People songs for some reason. We make up some terrible jokes which have us in stitches. Can’t wait to share them with our audience…

Helen: Rico the promoter is a hero and treats us like royalty and Andy is back and the show is tonnes of fun, and then after the show I lie on a bed and emote at Russell  for a bit, and then decide to fall asleep in the Shrag room whiile the rest of my band  go and bond with Tunabunny in the Tunabunny room until the early hours.  I’m the only one who doesn’t. Loser.

Shrag vs Tunabunny Tour Diary: Day 3

Day 3: English Hospitality in Cardiff

25th February 2012

Bob: We wake in London to some unseasonably mild weather. Our American friends now have a very distorted perspective on our February climate. This is their Winter! What must their Summers be like! At least it’s good for driving. I think. But what would I know. None of Shrag drive. Scott and I arrive at the van hire place to be presented with a ocean liner on wheels. It’s big. Even a resident of the USA thinks it’s big. And it has a ‘stick shift’, AKA gear stick. This is not a good thing for Scott who hasn’t used one in years. We lurch out of the hire place and almost immediately stall while Scott wrestles with the gears. It’s a nervy start. If Scott cannot drive there is no tour. I’m sure these thoughts are racing through his brain as he tries again to get the hang of the gear stick. It doesn’t take long. It soon clicks and we head back to Kings Cross to pick up the bands.

Tunabunny’s Mary Jane will be driving the more modest and über-functional Hyundai that they picked up at Gatwick. It’s a car and not a spaceship. I think we’re gonna be ok.

We arrive in Cardiff city centre to rapturous cheers. Not for us but for the Welsh national team who seem to be kicking England’s arse at Rugby. The streets are largely deserted and are awash with streams of human piss that flow from the doorways of massively crowded pubs. This is a weird time to be in Cardiff.

The gigs go well. The big game definitely has an effect on attendance. We get through another successful gig with our makeshift drum section. Glad now we decided to carry on.

Tunabunny take the stage and Mary Jane almost loses the crowd when she mentions how nice everyone is in ENGLAND but Scott dives straight in with an acknowledgement of Wales’ awesome victory. Good save!

After the gig we slope off to the warm bosom of Bristol Travelodge. Only it’s not so welcoming:

Helen:  I once had a dream where someone directed me to this huge hall where everything that anyone had ever lost would be (I hate my brain too),  but when I got there, there were just hundreds of hairy cats hanging on long bits of rope by their tails from the ceilings, and I had to go round to each one and reach up to feel how damp their noses were, because then we would all get in to the k.d.lang concert.  Cardiff is where we realise we have lost everything. Andy’s drumstool, kick pedal, and sticks; a keyboard stand; the kettle lead for the bass amp; the lead for my Korg….these things are not in Cardiff. We are. Patient, helpful, and generally resourceful promoters, tunabunnies, and sound engineers (Ed Truckell we <3 you!) enable the show to go ahead despite our fundamental inability to keep hold of the things that we need.  Little did we know that we hadn’t yet reached the peak of our LOSING EVERYTHING THAT WE’VE EVER OWNED EVER abilities….

Shrag vs Tunabunny Tour Diary: Day 2

Day 2: Two drummers, one kit at London Popfest

24th February 2012

Bob: I wake up in Brighton to some extremely sad news. Andy’s dad has passed away. The tour as a whole is suddenly thrown into doubt. Even if we carry on our bereaved drummer will not be joining us. It’s a sombre few hours as we ponder our next step. Tunabunny offer the services of both Jesse and Brigette as cover for Andy. Over breakfast we make the decision. The tour will go ahead. It seems to make some kind of sense. At least for now. We head to London with significantly more trepidation than we could have imagined.

The train journey is a good icebreaker. I realise that Mike never stops talking and has an anecdote for every occasion. It’s a music nerd love-in and I’m enjoying it. At least we are nerds for the same music.

The Grosevenor is deep in residential Stockwell. The Americans joke it’s like Attack the Block country. I’m relieved they didn’t say Harry Brown. That film sucked.

The gig itself is a messy joyous thing that has me grinning every time I turn round to see both Jesse and Brigette hammering away at the same drum kit. They have literally NO FEAR and want to do as many songs as possible. We manage 6, which is nothing short of a miracle. I’m sure Andy will find some comfort in the fact that it took two drummers to replace him.

Tunabunny are fantastic tonight. A completely different set to last night, it’s raucous and beautiful. My girlfriend nudges me and declares that the T-Buns are the best band we’ve shared a bill with. She may be right.

We are all buoyed by the news that Andy will be rejoining us on stage in Preston. One more round of double drummer action to go then. Oh – and some driving. Lots of driving, and all of it by Americans.

Helen: So yeah, we wake up to the shitty news that Andy’s dad has passed away. Feel so awful for him, it was sudden and unfair. The tour and my anxieties about it suddenly and obviously feel pretty inconsequential. Over many interweaving phone conversations the band talk about how we are gonna proceed  - or otherwise – with the tour under the circumstances. We are blessed that our tourmates are Tunabunny: they were sensitive and sweet and supportive and enabled things to go ahead and were brilliant. I have never seen two people drum at the same time on one drumkit. And they stepped up with such grace and warmth and understanding and a sense of fun that I felt kinda emotional. It made me understand something about why we bother doing this strange being in bands thing, but I’m too inarticulate to describe what that is. Whatever. Everyone was good to us that night. Thank you London Popfest.

Day 2 and I’m already wondering if Tunabunny could get any more persuasive; they are startlingly good.

It is my job tonight to navigate Scott and I safely back to my house after the show. All things considered, I decide it is better to fire thousands of questions at him about his life in quick succession whilst taking him on an extensive midnight tour of central London.

Shrag vs Tunabunny Tour Diary: Day 1

LOVEBUNNIES

Day 1: Bunnies on the streets of Brighton

Thursday 23rd February 2012

Bob: None of us know Tunabunny so we are nervous as we approach the venue. It’s like a blind date. Only one that lasts 10 days. I’ve had some correspondence with Mike from Happy Happy Birthday To Me records before now. It’s hard to tell from his electronic letters but he seems surly and maybe a little serious. Not an emoticon in sight. Come to think of it I wish I didn’t use them. I’ll be saying LOLZ next.

The moment of relief comes when we are introduced. Don’t think any of them have a surly bone in their body. They appear to be happy to be here. Even Mike. A smile cuts through his beard as he shakes my hand. I’m so disarmed I forget to hand over the merchandise I lugged down on the train from London. All that unrecouped revenue… Tsk.

Tunabunny play their first show and it’s great. You wouldn’t know they’d flown in from Athens today. They capture the manic energy of their recordings and then some. The best thing is I get to watch them every night over the next 9 days.

The Shrag show goes well I think. Lots of inane chatter between songs. I thank Sticky Mike for putting us on and Helen chides me because I warned her I was going to do it. This will not be the last time I say something lame on stage. The tour is young. The hilarity has only just begun. LOLZ.

Helen: I was nervous about this first day. Mostly because I knew we were meeting for the first time, and then heading out on tour with, a bunch of people who I already had a bucketload of regard for and who I knew had not come to the UK before, at least in a touring capacity. I had fallen in love with Tunabunny’s last record, Minima Moralia, read their blogs and music journalism, tentatively made friends with them on facebook, and through all this inferred that we were about to spend the next 10 days with an exceptionally smart, acerbic, funny, and passionate group of people. I wanted them to have a good time and I wanted us all to get along.

On the train down with Bob, I voice my concerns over whether to shake Tunabunny’s hands or hug them upon our first meeting. This doesn’t seem to have been a source of worry for Bob. When they arrive at the venue, I decide to go in for the hug. This is mostly successful, although Scott and I had one of those awkward misinterpreted fumbling mid-air clashes of arms and fingers that make you hate the human body and mutter the kind of inane and insufficient excuses for it which make you hate yourself even more. But the Tunabunnies seem sweet and friendly and I think as excited as us.

Their set blew me away – we realised immediately that we were dealing with something extremely powerful here. Thank fuck. I’m happy, nervous, talk too much and too crassly during our set (especially considering some of my family are in attendance), but it all feels pretty good, and then Steph and I go back to my stepmother’s house and talk loudly at each other for a bit before passing out.

Steph: It feels like i’ve been getting ready for this tour for ages..what have i been doing? Laundry and packing a bag cannot take this long. Touring is like a big sprawling game of tetris…this is what takes up the time…getting all the people and stuff to all the right vehicles and places. This is how you end up having a 50 email conversation about a keyboard stand. On thursday, once i’ve dropped off an amp and a box of t shirts to the Brighton venue, i think this is all over…just fun and shows now…HA! PAST SELF YOU ARE AN IDIOT AND YOU REMEMBER NOTHING! I remember me and my friend Alan talking about how people we know drink alot so they don’t remember when people tell them the same stories over and over….is this linked? I don’t know, i can’t remember and i’ve been sober for a week and a half.
I have a really shit phone, it’s like an evil little robot appendage that controls who i talk too. Sometimes it will let calls through, sometimes it won’t. Same with messages but for a tenner every two months i can’t let the little bastard go. It’s up to me to make telephone contact and locate Tunabunny in Brighton, the phone decides this ain’t gonna happen so after some frantic emailing, googling transatlantic codes and finding a landline the bunnies are located….round and round in my brain goes ‘bunnies on the streets of Brighton’ to the tune of hang the dj….oh dear…i’ve not even left home yet and already my brain is foggy.