Published Dec 21, 2010Edmonton-bred duo the Famines have terrorized Canada on countless tours with their distinctly noisy brand of punk-inspired garage. Live, they're menacing and unrestrained, making a name for themselves in sold-out shows and empty halls alike. Their experience as a touring band lends itself well to other groups looking to take on our vast country in a van. As such, frontman Raymond Biesinger has dropped some knowledge via a new info pamphlet for touring bands.
The eight-page pamphlet is called "How to Book a Maybe Successful Tour for a Band That Hasn't Received Hype on Pitchfork, etc," and includes everything from choosing the right van to dealing with promoters in the best way possible. Speaking with Exclaim!, Biesinger explains that he got the idea for the pamphlet while out on the road.
"We were doing a show in Peterborough [ON] at the Spill, and there they had pamphlets on the counter put out by a local metal band," he explains. "They were cheap and b&w, fiction and bumph, mocking the style of inspirational Christian pamphlets and talking about how the band would bring redemption, etc. I thought they were great and took mental note. By mid-tour I'd recognized a tremendous 'lower class' of bands -- ourselves included -- are valid niche-interest artists that want to tour but will probably never be touched by a booking agent or publicist or manager."
Biesinger adds that the lack of outside help means "it's DIY or nothing at all," adding, "Though some have realistic ideas of what's needed to get on the road in a decent way, a lot didn't and were very curious about how the Famines did things because we have a lot of recent experience."
That experience includes 125 self-booked shows in the last two years, including four cross-country trips and six trips to the West Coast. "Most bands like ours break up before you can do that much, but a well-booked tour keeps a band happy," Biesinger explains. "Sad bands break up. On the flip side: we are not a buzz band. We have never been anointed by the cool labels or the taste-making blogs and the cavalry isn't coming to make our life as a band easier. We've made it all happen ourselves."
That DIY approach to logistics is being stretched further now that Biesinger has relocated to Montreal, leaving drummer Garrett Kruger behind in Edmonton. The band remain active, with Kruger flying out for eastern Canadian dates a few times a year. "It's interesting -- we've found that two nights of practice after a five-month break will in fact get us back into touring shape," Biesinger explains. "I've never been that good of a musician, technically, so it surprises me that I can step back into being a guitarist singer so easily after such a break."
The switch hasn't changed the band's glacial pace for new material. "We write new songs just as frequently as when we were both in Edmonton," he explains. "That is: hardly at all."
The Famines are planning a tour of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes in spring 2011, as well as a cassette repress of their debut double seven-inch on Scotch Tapes.
The "How to Book a Maybe Successful Tour for a Band That Hasn't Received Hype on Pitchfork, etc." pamphlet is available now for $1 through Biesinger's Etsy page.
Here's an excerpt from the pamphlet:
Some things not to do: promoters generally despise when you ask if other bands can be on the bill at the last minute. Give the other band contact info for the booker and leave yourself out of it, as you probably actually have zero sway on whether the band gets on the bill or not. You're actually not in that much of an influential position. Also, do not tour in a 'package' with other unknown bands -- promoters hate that, and your goal should be to play with as many local bands as possible until you actually have a draw of your own. Playing the same city more than once within one month is pretty much a no-no, too. And as far as play order and lineups go, try not to get too involved; the promoter or organizer will be more aware of local conditions than you, and should generally be trusted.