Canadian Artists Rev Up Their Tour Vans

Show & Tell

TEKE::TEKE, PONY, Great Lake Swimmers and more show off the busses, SUVs and other vehicles that they take on the road

Photo: Matty Morand

BY Alex HudsonPublished Jun 12, 2023

Now that June is here, Canadian artists are hitting the road. But before they can walk out on stage, musicians need to make sure that one piece of equipment is in tip-top shape: their tour van.

The tour van is such an iconic piece of machinery that Dave Grohl once made an entire documentary about it. But, when we reached out to Canadian artists, we found out that there's more range in touring vehicles than the classic seven-seater you're probably imagining.

From rented Cadillacs to compact SUVs — plus vehicles nicknamed the Green Machine, Red Lightning and Big Rory — here are the rides artists will be using as they tour this summer.

Jeremie Albino

Photo: Carolanne Bedard Reid

Now this is luxury: blues rocker Jeremie Albino's tour van is so tall that the band members can actually stand up to stretch their legs during long rides. "It is pretty comfy, he tells Exclaim! "We usually have lots of snacks and a couple pillows, and blankets to stay cozy. We bought a plug-in cooler — that was really the biggest game-changer. Keeping drinks cold and being able to have all the fixings to make a sandwich really goes a long way when you're on the road." In other words, Albino will be rested, recharged and ready to go when he rolls into town promoting newly released sophomore album Tears You Hide.

Altered by Mom

Photo: J Strautman

After 2021's monumental 52 SONGS, fun-loving Toronto indie rock duo Altered by Mom have set their sights on something a little more modest in scope: their Ahem EP, due out Jun 30. Ahead of a hometown show on June 1, plus Merigomish, NS's Giantstock in September, the band are tuning up their Green Machine — a 2015 Subaru Crosstrek SUV. "Altered by Mom play about a million instruments each, and the Green Machine has transported them all," explains Gina Kennedy. "It's perfect for us in duo or trio configuration and has lots of room for gear or people — but not necessarily both." 


Photo: Rosie Long Decter

Montreal duo Bodywash make airy dream pop, but their recent transport has been a little less subtle. After the rental place ran out of SUVs, they had to backtrack to the airport and get a compact SUV there — which is how they ended up with a "shiny fancy Cadillac, which absolutely does not fit us," the band's Rosie Long Decter admits. "When we drove through Kingston, our guitarist Micah's dad popped his head into the car. Later he texted Micah: 'That car does not suit your purpose.' We've racked up a bunch of extra taxi costs and back pains because of the rental error." Then again, it's not all bad: "I will say the Bose sound system is sick. 'God's Plan' never sounded so good," acknowledges Long Decter. This spring's I Held the Shape While I Could presumably sounds similarly sick pumping through those speakers.

Great Lake Swimmers

Photo: Justin Ruppel

Tony Dekker conceived of the folk rock band's new album, Uncertain Country, in motion, piecing together field recordings from throughout the Niagara region. It's only appropriate, then, that they will support it with lots of touring — and that's where the so-called Red Lightning comes in handy. "We literally blew a gasket on the way to Portland, OR one time, and limped into town with the engine roaring," Dekker remembers. A handshake a just $20 USD later and Great Lake Swimmers were back on the road. Dekker offers, "Something-something, kindness of strangers?" 


Photo: Dov Beck-Levine

When Toronto indie pop act Housewife is playing in a three-piece setup, a minivan is the perfect size; when this expands to a four-piece with a full backline, things get significantly cozier. But Housewife leader Brighid Fry makes it work. "I don't think everyone enjoys sleeping in vans, but I am famous for being able to fall asleep literally anywhere: cars, crowded planes, green room floors, you name it," she tells Exclaim! When it comes to catching some shuteye on the go, Fry is definitely in her "Fuck Around Phase."

Nico Paulo

Photo courtesy of the artist

When rising East Coast-based songwriter Nico Paulo tours solo or as a duo, her fuel-efficient Tiguan SUV offers more than enough room for her to bring all her gear and even have enough room to spend the night. "Last fall, I organized my guitar, amp, pedal and merch to the side, flattened the seats and slept on it a couple times when I couldn't align accommodations with friends," she says. "The wide glass roof was awesome at night." She even keeps flowers in a small vase, replicating the organic vibe of her self-titled album. "We spend so many hours in these vehicles as touring musicians, so it's nice to make them more personalized and home-like," she explains.


Photo: Matty Morand

Pop-punk romantics PONY have grown since their first-ever tour — but as they tour behind this year's sweet and spicy Velveteen, they're still using same 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan that vocalist Sam Bielanski bought back then. "It is definitely too small for our needs now, so we have to get pretty creative when we're packing," the band tell Exclaim! "But it has taken us all over the place over the last few years so we're grateful." The best part? "It also has a big tribal decal along the sides, which makes it easy to find in the grocery store parking lot!"


Photo courtesy of the artist

Eclectic Montreal ensemble TEKE::TEKE are a seven-piece; throw in a sound engineer, and they need a vehicle a little larger than the vans and SUVs found elsewhere on this list. They don't own a bus, and instead rent — which leads to "little surprises once in a while," guitarist Sei Nakauchi Pelletier tells Exclaim! "Like the time we were in Europe during a very intense heatwave and the air conditioning in the van didn't work. The motor overheated and the van stopped in the middle of nowhere, not to mention our bodies were melting on those black leather seats." Similarly sweltering vibes can be found in the lush psych arrangements on their newly released Hagata.


Photo: David Schellenberg 

There are two Rorys in the universe of Winnipeg punk band Tunic: former bass player Rory Ellis (a.k.a. Medium Rory), and their tour van (a.k.a. Big Rory). The van feels smaller as their amps get bigger — "but we're only a three piece, so we make it work," they tell Exclaim! They're taking this year's Wrong Dream on the road this fall, adding to their van's already epic mileage: "We have four different tires on this bad boy, and have driven it around the circumference of the earth 4.5 times and have only switched it into reverse instead of neutral going down a mountain once. We love Big Rory." 

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