It's not necessarily a popular time to be called 28 North, but it's an okay time to be 28 North. The local rock band has a welcome-back show Saturday night at Thunderbird Cafe; singer Alex Stanton took some time last week to chat with me about the tour the band just undertook, and its plans for the future.
I know you guys have been in and out of town a lot – tell me about your summer tour. How long were you out on tour?
We just got back a couple days ago – we were basically out from July 14th or 15th until Sunday [August 22] – we drove in from Cleveland that morning. We did a bunch of other traveling and playing in June and early July, but it wasn't the tour part, where we're out the whole time.
This is presumably the most you guys have been out of town on tour before, right?
Last year and the year before we did a similar thing but we weren't out as long and we didn't play as much when we were – we literally played every night but three or four while we were out [this time]. And I think that was the key to why it felt so successful.
Did you have a booking agent routing your tour for you?
For some of them. A lot of places we were going were places we play regularly in New York, Cleveland, Philly. These places that we hit are easy to book, we play there all the time. Those were a no-brainer, then we did a lot of the stuff in the South – it was our first time down there, we did the Carolinas and Atlanta and New Orleans. Those were trickier to get. But we did most of that ourselves by calling and finding local bands there that could hook us up. We had a booking agent do a few gigs. The coolest one he got was when we opened for Afroman in Lexington, KY. It didn't make sense on paper, but when we got there it was cool. He had a total white college crowd there to see him. Not to say – black people generally love us, sometimes more than white people.
Were you satisfied with the venues you were able to book?
Yeah – we found a lot of great ones, like Smith's Old Bar in Atlanta, Nectar's in Burlington. These are places where, we'd never played in the city before, so it's great when you show up and think “Yeah, we're in the right place.” Sometimes you show up and just think “Well, we did the best we could as far as finding a venue.” But we definitely got lucky in a bunch of places.
Were there any surprises – maybe you didn't expect a good show and it turned out to be great, or --
Yeah. We knew what to expect in the places we go a lot, but if it's someplace new, we advertise it on Facebook, and we had a radio campaign going and our publicist was trying to get us listed, get things written about us, but you still don't know what to expect. So we were surprised that we did well in a lot of places we'd never been, especially on Sundays and Mondays and Tuesdays. We were playing every night of the week. But the Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays were great the whole tour.
I know a lot of bands are doing weekend trips and day trips since gas prices are higher than they used to be and it's harder to make money playing out – what made you decide to hit the pavement for a longer period instead of just sticking with that model?
As a day job the previous couple years, we've been driving school vans, and we're hoping this is the last year we do it – we think we're not going to do it this fall. All four of us had this job – which is great, we're on the same schedule, so during the school year it made more sense to do weekends and in the summer we planned this tour because we're totally available. We're thinking we might be able to jump to doing more tours like that and less weekend trips if we're not doing the day trips.
Do you all split time driving the tour van since you have experience driving vans?
Yeah. [Laughs.] It's a family operation, Mike's dad comes on tour with us and helps out, does a lot of the driving, wakes us in the morning, all that.
Good to have a band parent around. So you're looking to take it full time?
I think we're going to. We've started planning a two- or three-week tour in October; we're playing CMJ in New York, doing a SPIN Magazine-sponsored party. So we're going to be touring in October around that, and we're playing the Dewey Beach Music Conference in the beginning of October, in Delaware. We played that the last couple years, so we're probably just going to tour between those two things.
Beyond just good vibes and having fun, do you feel like there were good dividends from being out on the road – getting your name out, merch sales?
Absolutely. We were pretty good at – everyone we meet, give them something, whether it's a button or a card or whatever, and we did pretty well with CDs and stuff. We actually had a credit card machine going for our merch table. Because a lot of people go out to see music and their cash is for the bartender. Plus it's not real money if it's on a card.
Right, and you get to call them out if they try to say “Oh, I don't have any cash, sorry --” You say “Well, don't worry about it, look what I've got!” and they say “Oh, shit.”
Exactly. We also did a bunch of things between gigs – interviews, and little coffeehouse performances and if people like you have them follow you around the corner, turn it up.
The craziest section of the tour was halfway through, we had played in Boston and we were on the way down to New York City and the RV just crapped out in the tunnel in traffic, on the freeway – totally dead in the water, we had to get a tow. And we were tied up with it until 8:00 or something and we made it down to the gig and then at 3:00 in the morning we finally got in touch with Mike's dad, who was with the camper, and they'd finally fixed it. They kept fixing it, then they drove around the corner and it would break down again. So he came down and picked us up basically to take us to Philly – we were playing in Philly the next day at noon. We made it to all the gigs and slept about three hours.