Published Sep 23, 2010Having recently wrapped up a 17-date Canadian tour with '90s punk heroes Strung Out, Detroit ska punks We Are the Union are headed home after a luckless run of shows that saw them face an endless string of minor disasters and outright tragedies.
It started on the tour's second date, when drummer Jim Margle fractured his wrist in Whistler, BC. "He played the next day in Kamloops, and it was really messed up. He couldn't play really well," says trombone player Matt Belanger in a recent Exclaim! interview. "At first he thought it was sprained, but he decided he needed to go the hospital to get it checked out to make sure. That's when he found out he had a fractured wrist."
The band ended up paying to fly their friend Kyle MacDougal, drummer for Floridians punk Protagonist, up from Orlando, and decided to reward themselves with a night in a motel after a painful first few days.
"I slept in the van, and I woke up to some crazy homeless guy being in there with me, screaming about something," says Belanger. "I got him out of the van, and then realized our GPS, cellphones and some other nonsense was all missing."
Hoping to recover from an almost comical string of unfortunate incidents, We Are the Union worked hard to arrive at each venue a few hours early in order to practise their set with MacDougal, and were almost playing a full set every night by the time they left Edmonton early on September 3.
"We were driving overnight to Regina, and we hit a moose with the van," says Belanger. The accident totalled the band's van, and while all members remained unharmed, the resulting multi-lane wreck left the driver of another vehicle dead, despite the band's best efforts to signal oncoming traffic. Badly shaken, We Are the Union were left with a trailer full of gear and no way to get to Ontario.
"We needed to drive from there to Toronto, but no one would rent us a van because it's just too far," says Belanger. "So we left the trailer in Regina with our merch guy Ben, and Jim. My dad drove 24 hours from Michigan to get them and the trailer and come back to the States. We split our gear up with the other bands and got rides with them, and now Ben is driving back here with an old SUV to keep us going the rest of the tour."
It would have been easy to give up, but We Are the Union are now convinced that their survival has only made them a stronger unit. "At this point, if we just went home and let this defeat us, we would be done. So if we're going to be a band, we've got to be a band today, and be a band tomorrow. Maybe, one day, if we're around for ten years, this will be an era of our band that we remember as just a really fucked up time. And things will get better."
We Are the Union still have a string of U.S. dates to complete before heading home to lick their wounds. You can see all their remaining stops here.
The group's current tour is in support of their 2010 effort Great Leaps Forward on Paper + Plastick.