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Best of What's Next: Visqueen

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Best of What's Next: Visqueen

In the nearly nine years since Rachel Flotard founded Visqueen in 2001, the Seattle-via-New-Jersey transplant and her bandmates have shored up not exactly a huge following, but one devoted enough to keep the group plugging steadily on, releasing three totally-independent records and crisscrossing the U.S. on tour with acts like The Muffs and Neko Case. Flotard herself likely has an even bigger (though perhaps unwitting) fanbase thanks to her vocal contributions to several of Case's albums and many of her live shows. But no matter what anyone else claims, there will probably never be a bigger Visqueen fan than Flotard's father George, for whom the singer/songwriter/guitarist nearly gave up music to nurse until his death from cancer in 2008.

Visqueen's most recent album, Message to Garcia, was released on Flotard's own Local 638 label this September as a kind of musical tribute to her dad?not all the songs are about him or their life together, but the sheer fact of its existence is as much a tribute to the man as any mournful eulogy could've been. It's a warm-hearted, hardworking album, pushed forward at a breakneck power-pop pace by whalloping drums and grinding, giddy guitars, clearly uninterested in wasting any single second of anyone's time. When Flotard sings with Neko Case (who appears on several of Garcia's tracks), her voice is generally understated and paired with smoldering pedal steel and more countrified accouterments, but with her own band (drummer Ben Hooker, guitarist Tom Cummings and bassist Christina Bautista) she lets the beast loose?it's pretty when it needs to be but just as often twists and writhes into a rock 'n' roll snarl, petulant and sad and desperate and proud.

Nothing about this album or the band that made it seems calculated or coy in the slightest. When the staunchly D.I.Y. Flotard broke down and enlisted a publicist to push the new release, she insisted that physical promotional copies of the record only be sent out to writers that went to the trouble of asking for them?and she's mailed out every single one of those CDs herself. Her Local 638 Records is a one-woman-show, and she credits elbow-grease and a healthy dose of karma (or plain old good luck or something like that) for getting her to where she is today.

Maybe a little bit of that luck drifted her way when I, knowing absolutely nothing about Visqueen, decided to give Message to Garcia a listen based solely on the album's cover art, a painting by Portland-based illustrator Ryan Berkley, one of my recent favorite artists on Etsy. Figuring any band that loved his dapper, one-eyed cheetah as much as I did couldn't be all that bad, I dutifully hit up Visqueen's publicist for a copy of the album, and I was pretty instantly smitten?even moreso when I called up Rachel Flotard herself to talk about the band, her do-it-yourself-hustle, and her then-upcoming Footlaos fundraiser (a Footloose-themed dance party to raise money for schools in Laos, duh), and was promptly regaled with stories of her chubby, music-loving two-year-old niece, who seems to have cemented herself as second-biggest Visqueen fan of all time.

Rachel Flotard: So my sister has two records in the car. One is Message to Garcia, and the other one is this, like, kids' CD with a bunch of songs that, if you listen to long enough, you will go insane. And my niece just screams, "Annie, Annie, Annie!" which is what she calls me instead of “Auntie,” for my sister to put my CD on. And then she flails back and forth in her car seat, like, having a heart attack from joy.

Paste: She doesn't even like the kids music?
Flotard: No, she's like, “Put on Annie!” And it's like, you can't imagine. Mission accomplished for me. If I never do another thing, my niece thinks that I am inside the stereo. Which is, like?it kills me. So the girl I was trying to win over with this record, I've done my job.

Paste: It's good she likes you, because there's nothing worse than being spurned by a little kid, especially when it's related to you.
Flotard: We played our first real show after I released the record underneath the Space Needle at Bumbershoot. It was a monsoon that day and we were the first band on at noon and it was pouring rain. And there were people as far as I could see?everyone stayed for the set, everyone was bouncing along just getting poured on, just like us. And at the end, little kids came up to me with, like, soda kids to sign. Like, there was nothing to sign, so I signed like a Powerade bottle. I was like, “What's going on here?” They could maybe sell it for five cents. But now, moms will send me [videos] of the kids dancing to it, which is, like, the best thing you could ever get in your life, is to have some lil teeny kid freaking out in his living room, just jumping up and down [to your music]. I'm totally appealing to my mom friends. They dig it. There's no curse words on the whole record... But also Rach, the cheetah has been?I'm so glad you love it. My niece just goes, “Kitty, kitty!" She sees it and either goes "Kitty!" or "Annie!" Ryan Berkley, oh my God, I love him so much, I can't?we'd be on the phone for, like, ten years talking about how much I love him and his animals.

For whatever reason, centered around this record, [I'm] meeting good people that I'm supposed to be talking to. It's just kind of happening this way... I'd never hired a publicist before. It's not an expense that I could really [afford]?this is, like, a luxury. Usually I'm the only one emailing and for this record I was like, “I have to do it.” And [the publicists at Riot Act Media] are totally scrappy?they're like a boutique company but they get me, they're real people, and they are nice. That was a big thing?you need to be nice to people. I approached them like, “Listen, this is an impossible thing?this record is coming out tomorrow. I want to do, like, kind of an eco route and not pollute peoples' desks and offices with useless crap in envelopes and all this stuff.” So I built the electronic download feature on my site?I know what it's like to be at a desk and have envelopes just start to rise. It's like, “I can't possibly keep up with this.” So I'm always so happy when someone takes advantage of [the download feature] and is like, “Cool, I will listen to it this way.” There's no one going to the post office for me?I'm going, I'm going everyday.

Paste: Are you having to make a lot of trips to the post office?
Flotard: Are you kidding me? I live there... I'm one guy, my label is me, I don't have a staff. I have an awesome band that supports me to the end of the earth. but I don't have a mail room like Atlantic Records. It's not about that anymore. There's a new regime of how you make music and get it out to the world. Our only goal, which is so simple, is just to make people happy. Like, there's no pile of money at the end of the day. The people I think that are doing this and are putting their guts into it do it because they can't help it. They love it. The second I stopped thinking about, “What does the label want? What does the manager want? What does the booking agent want?” and just said, “What do I want?” I was like, “I want to see a cheetah with a fricking eye-patch on on my CD cover.” And, “I wanna make a record that doesn't bore me, and that I am just going to put it to the test where, if I have to click past a song, if I wanna skip it or I don't want to hear it, I don't want to put it on there.” And so I really liked everything that I put on this record, and I just said, “Okay, I'm gonna let go now.” And it's just so funny that once you trust yourself a little bit and go, like, “I know what I think sounds good,” it doesn't mean anyone's going to care or like it or want to play it, but you do what you love and sometimes a light shines on you and sometimes it doesn't.

And for whatever reason, my band is just comprised of just super good-hearted people and I swear it must be some kind of karma, or it's my dad, that's making people just enjoy it. I don't have a booking agent or a manager?I've booked tours around the country, you know, I've been in a band for a long time, and I'm still in that position until I find someone who makes my gut feel okay... I still have to go travel and literally deliver this message and be like, “Our goal literally is to just come rock in your town, that's it. How hard is that? If you're not gonna book my band, then I'll go book my band.” And so today, after I hang up with you, I'm going to email all the clubs on the West Coast that I played in 2005 a hundred times and reintroduce them to Visqueen in 2009 and try to book a tour. It's that kind of groundwork, but it's kind of working.

Paste: Is this the first time you've done it? Have you ever worked with a label? Because you talk as if you've had experience with a label and publicists not letting you do your thing.
Flotard: My first two records my friend Pete Hilgendorf and I put it out. We have never been on a formal label or had a formal booking agent. We had someone in Portland do tour publicity for us in 2004, just send a couple emails, and we got some great tour press out of it but it's expensive and, you know, with the Internet?it's actually the most amazing thing on earth because you can get the word out yourself. And if you're just resourceful enough and hardworking enough and aren't a meanie or a jerk, you can literally get your point across and not bother someone, you know?

Paste: It's amazing, the power of niceness?and I think a lot of people mistake it for being kind of naive or not understanding the way things work, like if you're not an asshole then you must have missed something.
Flotard: That's the thing, that's why I've been in my corner?we've been playing shows to a lot of people and we're on the radio without all these things, without someone stepping in and managing me and speaking for me. We've been slugging it out and trying to stay on board because we're not dicks, you know? My mother once told me, very early on, "Never mistake kindness for weakness." And it's always kind of stayed in my mind, because everything comes back to you at some point. And it's the same with music. You can't kind of hold it tight?you have to give it away and sometimes that means helping someone else before you help yourself. And it all kind of comes out in the wash, like?I know that seems like a lot of quoting. (Laughs) But I think it's really true, and it transcends not just rock records but the way you live your life. And, I dunno, I do feel like you can be a nice guy and get your point across and have people listen to you. It might take a lot longer than the people who have the magic phone call or the magic connection, but it wouldn't be really any fun or hold any value, right, if it wasn't hard? Like, I don't want to get there because of a favor, I'd rather get there because 25 people in Des Moines, Iowa think we rule and show up to our show. It'll take me forever, but forever is all you have when you're a one man army.

Paste: Is working on the label and working on the music right now your one gig, or do you have a "real job"?
Flotard: No, this is it, so I'm trying to make it work. I have a certain amount of time budgeted financially, so I'm like, I gotta hit the ground running, I'm always looking for licensing opportunities. That is how bands today survive?music placement. I'm working with Converse?they just placed “Ward,” off of the new record, in a commercial in Mexico. Those are the things that are keeping me alive, so if it fits me, I'll do it. The game has completely changed and it's so funny, I've gotten in the last week like five or six people following me on Twitter in Mexico?like, I can't even read who they are because it's in Spanish, but I'm like, this is where this is coming from.

Paste: It's weird because it sounds, in a way, like old-school doing-it-for-yourself?but there's no way you could have done this 20 years ago without the Internet.
Flotard: Dude, I'm telling you. So I have physical distribution?I'm in every store that Matador or Sub Pop or Merge can get to. I have that same groundwork. Digitally, I work with a company called Tunecore which, after a bunch of investigation, they just seem to fit me. They service amazon, iTunes?distribution across the board is all a semi-racket in the digital world, but you get yourself dialed in, it's easy for people to get your music. I don't know if this could have been possible even when I put out my first record in 2003. And that was out of a basement, you know. There's never been a conference-room team of office folks working on my record. It's been people that 100% love it and believe it and believe in us.

Paste: So your CDs are just stored all over your apartment?
Flotard: Well, I have my friend and my drummer, Ben Hooker, who is pretty much my rock 'n' roll husband and love of my life?even though he is happily married and has a kid, we're best friends. But he works at a boatyard and he fixes just beautiful old wooden boats and we store a lot of the records there. And yeah, they're in my apartment, and I have 'em at my distributor in Portland doing the physical version. It's literally that MC Hammer, out-of-the-trunk-of-your-car-shit. Except I have tighter pants.

Paste: I don't know what the fashions are up in Seattle right now, but I would hope...
Flotard: Even though [the 20th anniversary of] Bleach has now come out, which is so insane, long-johns and shorts are still passe. But there's definitely no parachute pants. You can rest assured... Where are you? Are you in Atlanta?

Paste: Yeah, yeah.
Flotard: You're in the town where deep-fried tomatoes rule my world.

Paste: I watched that LimeWire thing and you were talking about deep-fried tomatoes and I've had fried green tomatoes, but?
Flotard: That's it, that's it!

Paste: Oh, that's it? Okay. I was imagining, like, a whole tomato?I mean, we'll deep fry anything, but...
Flotard: Yeah, no, we called them 'deep-friend tomatoes' like out-of-towners. Neko [Case] was guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies and she knows that I'm a huge fan of Turner Classic Movies and Robert Osborne cause my dad and I, Turner Classic Movies was on in the house I shared with my pop, like, every day on volume ten million. So I got to meet Robert Osborne, which was basically like meeting?if my dad had a boyfriend, it would be Robert Osborne... I love him. And Neek was going down for this thing and she was like, “Do you want to come to Atlanta?” 'Cause we were gonna work on some stuff together, and at the same time I would get to go to Turner with her. And it was like pretty much one of the best days of my life. I got to sit across from Robert Osborne in the lunchroom and talk to him about my dad and how much we loved the channel and about old movies and he was just so nice and great and he gave me a hug and he said, “We'll do this interview for your dad.” And I mean, just seeing Neko on there, seeing your friend just in the the TV?you know, we're just sitting on the side watching her tape this thing and she just looked gorgeous, she picked great movies and it was just a fantastic day. But she and I basically went on a deep-fried tomato, like, I don't even know what you would call it...

Paste: A bender?
Flotard: That's the perfect word. It was a frigging bender... And I wish I could think of [the restaurant]?it begins with an M. Not Maude's or Mary's. It's kind of near downtown. Anyway... Kelly Hogan, who also sings and plays with Neko, is from Atlanta. She's like Atlanta's hometown hero, Kelly Hogan is, and she gave us the list of where we needed to go.

Paste: I feel like I should be able to rattle it off, but I can't.
Flotard: I know. There were pictures of every single person in the world?Oprah, everybody, in the lobby and lining the place. It's just sick.

Paste: So you just did the fried-food tour of Atlanta?
Flotard: Yeah, and I know we didn't even scratch half of it. The neighborhood we were kind of in was 14th and Peachtree. And we also went to The Colonnade, that was one of them, and had fried chicken up the wazoo.

Paste: Oh yeah, that's over on Cheshire Bridge, where all the strip clubs are.
Flotard: Yeah, that was our celebratory meal after Neko's taping, but she listed off a bunch of other ones. It was Mary's, or...

Paste: Mary Mac's Tearoom?
Flotard: Yes! That was the one. Let me just tell you, you need to run, not walk. And let them just rock your world. 'Cause, I think we went twice in the span of two days. We were total tomato whores. But yeah, I love Atlanta. I cannot wait to come back, hopefully next year on tour... One year we came down there with The Muffs and we were supposed to play the Variety Playhouse, or maybe it was the Star Bar, something±?maybe with Purple in it? I dunno. Anyway, there was a huge, huge, huge flood that day [thanks to Hurricane Ike], and they canceled the show. Like, cars were underwater. This was probably 2004. They canceled the show, but we ended up playing an in-store at Criminal Records... We had to race Hurricane Ike from Mississippi or somewhere. We were driving and I remember, we were at a truck stop and the whole truck stop was, everywhere we were, truckers were freaking out, like, "If you're gonna get to Atlanta, you've gotta get there now." And we drove all night just trying to beat it, and then we did and our freaking show got canceled.

Paste: Criminal's fun. They just moved into a much bigger location.
Flotard: I know, Neko and I went in there and I think she might have been on the cover of _Paste _during that time. I remember being like, “Dude!” Once we walked into a bookstore and "Maybe Sparrow" was playing?they were playing the whole record [Case's Fox Confessor]. We walked in and she was singing and I was singing. It's like, “What?” I think it's funny and I'm ready to tell everyone, “Look it's Neko Case! She's in your store!” But she would punch me in the neck. She's just so like hilarious. But we both just smiled and walked through and looked at books and it was just really funny. There have been a few surreal moments like that... I went home to see my mom on her birthday, and I'm on a plane and then the plane taxis and stops, same thing?I don't remember what airline it's on?music comes on, people are bustling around on the plane and it's Neko singing, and then there's me. And I'm like, “I'm singing at myself. On a plane. What? Okay.” Now I'm on a mission to find out how I get played on airlines, just digging out by myself.

Paste: 'Cause someone's gotta do it. You don't think about it as just a casual listener, but there's someone who's job is to pick out?even the shitty hold music when you call the insurance company, someone picked that.
Flotard: I've been taking every route that is totally off the beaten path and it'll work, I guarantee you, by next year. I'll meet someone who's ironically from New Jersey and loves rock and... Like Ryan Berkley, the cheetah? That cheetah is being sold, framed, in Urban Outfitters. Ryan, like, sold 500 of them to Urban. So somebody sent me a picture and said, “Oh my gosh, it's so awesome that you got Urban Outfitters to carry the cheetah,” thinking it was my marketing idea. So that's when I hooked up with Urban Outfitters. I found out who the marketing person was and I've been harassing them politely for the last probably four months trying?cause they carry Neko, and now I'm like, “There's gotta be some merger between art and music and commerce here. You guys are carrying the face of my record, it's perfect, you're already playing me on another record in that store.” And they won't pick it up yet. So it's like, you know, it's a slow burn but wouldn't it make sense? And that's the thing, now that Converse has been like, "You're perfect, rock lady!" It's like, my whole band wears Converse, it's not like a stretch of the imagination?it's just these little connections are what is going to keep people alive and fed and on tour and that's my goal. If my goal is to play rock, then I have to support it. Every little bit counts, and people have just been telling their friends about the record and I could not be more thankful. It's a miracle.

Paste: Tell me about making the actual record, and when you started writing it?was that while your father was still living, or after he died?
Flotard: Dad moved out with me around 2002... [Visqueen] put out the second record while I was living with him, and he wasn't as sick then so I was able to go on tours and my sister would man the household. But then maybe around 2006, 2007 I couldn't really go too far, and so I would hop out with Neko 'cause those were just the most fun, low-stress, high-reward gigs. It would be like a definite vacation for me. But a lot of those songs were written during that time. I had demo'd them and I wanted to put out a record, but you live in denial?I knew in my heart that I would never be able to tour this record. You don't think about your parents dying, as sick as they are?you're like, "This isn't happening." And so I recorded the record. Pretty much all of the music itself was tracked by the time he died, but I didn't add a lot of the?when I started hearing cello or I started hearing the horn section, a lot of that stuff came after. But most of the songs were written during that time while he was alive. But I didn't finish, or feel physically or mentally or emotionally up to, like, what I call “putting the crème brûlée torch on it” until, like, last winter.

The end of 2008 is when I really, really got a wild hair?I went to Laos. I packed up and just kind of went on this trip to Laos, packed up a bunch of dad's old medical supplies and some new ones and went on this trip with a friend of mine and went to a third world country for the first time. It really just clicked something in my head about figuring out what's important, not taking life for granted. I'd spent a lot of time with dad in our apartment and focused so much on him and so much on our family?the band took a hit, lots of my relationships took a hit, and I couldn't explain to people really why without making them sad, you know? And then so I went to Laos and met a bunch of amazing people and went to the schools and met some little kids and, you know, checked in with what real problems are and what real hurdles are. And then it just became, once I got back, that December, January, February of this past year really kicked my ass. It was like, “I do have a responsibility, not just me and my dad, but to my band, to just get this done.” And that's when Message to Garcia started to hammer itself together. That is the message?of course it's hard, of course it seems impossible, but put your head down and try. There's no reason, Rachael, why you and I should even be talking on the phone right now, but we are. It's that whole thing that has gotten me to here. It was just sort of this combination of the last year or so?I'm just so able-bodied now to take it on. It's not easy, I've explained this over the past couple days to folks?imagine machete-ing away vines all day trying to tell people about your band or why they should care, and then by the next morning all of the vines grow back and you just have to keep machete-ing them down again. That's it. That's it until something clicks.

Paste: Was there ever a point that you thought, “Maybe I should give this up and do something like a desk job?”
Flotard: Only every day of my life, of course! It would be really nice to have some security, but then you realize, “Half of my friends are laid off.” I opened up an old photo album during the time that I was like, “I am crazy, there's no reason?am I really going to put this out myself? I have to, I physically have no choice.” My dad saw how hard I worked. I could have easily let my band die with him. [But then] I was like, screw this. Of course this has to be possible and now I'm just going to try. So of course I'm like, “This is crazy, no one's gonna like it, I'm paying for this. Our band is?we're like a lean machine, we're paying practice space rent and van gas ourselves, so it's a risk but I have to do it. People are getting fired and laid off. I'm just going to make this work.” And when I opened up the photo album to my dad's prom picture, I don't know why, looking through all these old photos and stuff, there was this banner behind all the kids dressed up in their late 40s, early 50s fashions and it said "Find a way or make one." And I was like, "Ho-ly shit."

Paste: Was that after he'd died?
Flotard: Oh yeah, yeah yeah... I just kept saying to myself, “Find a way or make one.” I'll take some iPhone pictures for you of what I stare at, which is basically a picture that Harp Magazine, years ago, maybe around the Sunset on Dateland time, before I put Message to Garcia out. Harp Magazine did a photo-shoot of me at my house with dad in Seattle. They wanted to shoot me and I was like, “Look how cute my father is, you gotta see this.” And I got my dad in the shot and they used it in the magazine. Not often do you get to be in a photo-shoot with your dad who looks like a gnome, you know? And that was what they ran, and it's a whole page. And it's been used several times... It's just so goddamn funny. I look at that all the time. I have a lot of high school pictures up from when he was little. I started blogging about my Laos trip while I was there and the Seattle Weekly picked up my blog post and started posting them on their site, 'cause I was just like this ridiculous American in Laos. I flew to Bangkok on election night [in November 2008] so I didn't know who the President was until I was literally across on the other side of the world in some random coffee-shop in Laos not speaking any English. people would come up to me going "Obama!" instead of “Hello!” And so I just wrote about these stories and so when I got home I wrote a feature for the Seattle Weekly about my trip and they published a huge picture of me and the lady that I stayed with in Laos of her showing me?we went out to her chicken coop and this is in the middle of nowhere. Like, if I had to get out, I couldn't, which is a real scary. But it's like, these people are literally?the chickens they raised, they're killing that night to eat. And they have to dig for clean water... I'm going again, I'm leaving December 15. I'm going back.

Paste: You mentioned medical supplies. Did you take the medical supplies for the people? Was that the point of the trip?
Flotard: That was the thing. I went to, like, a Value Village or a Goodwill and I got a shitty suitcase and I was like, “If I'm going to these places, obviously they need stuff.” But I didn't know. I was my dad's medical manager, essentially, and advocate, and I'd been in in a hospital setting and dealing with doctors, insurance companies, healthcare providers, for my dad's entire illness. So I was like the Shirley MacLaine screaming, "Give my daughter the shot!" We became a diagnostic family. And I talked to my dad's doctor?really his nurse practitioner?I mean, I hang out with the guy, still. I could rattle off thirty medications and their dosages?that's what I knew. Music was not what I did. What I did was take care of a body that was falling apart and try to make it as comfortable as possible. So I was always medically on it. I had to be, or else?there were parts that were scary. Like if something happened, it was my responsibility. For the last year, I did not sleep. I slept with my door open so I would hear if he fell or if something was going to happen. And that was a difficult time.

So as much as my dad took care of me, in that he was the best guy ever, when he died, the person that I cared for physically, went. Then I was suddenly like, “Holy shit, I have no one?I don't have to look at these medicines, I don't have to know this anymore.” But I know that in the United States, say, like, a small seal is broken on a huge bottle of Advil?the hospital can't use it, they throw it away. There's so much waste that happens in hospitals, pharmacies?I mean, it would make you sick. So there are organizations that will come and take opened narcotics, medical supplies like pain pills, all these things. I donated all of dad's?I had more morphine in my house than you could ever understand. And there are organizations that take that stuff and give it to?I think it ships to Burma, to medical facilities, because these people need it. And we're throwing it away. And so that stuff had just happened to me, so I was like, “I'm going to this place that's potentially going to be really scary for me and certainly out of my comfort zone, and I know that they obviously need this stuff, so I'm just gonna pack what I have.” So I had all these, like, cold packs and just a little bit of that stuff and then it got me thinking, “What the hell else do they need?” So I went to the dentist and swiped all these toothbrushes and flosses and shit off the thing, and I'm like, “Can I just have this?” Just asking people to give me stuff and put it in this suitcase. But I don't know where it's going yet?Laos doesn't have an infrastructure or, like, Internet, really.

And so I went from, like, the middle of the country all the way down to the bottom with my travel partner and friend, who's family is from there, and just, like, cut it loose. I went to a school and I'd brought, like, twenty calculators from Goodwill and a bunch of old notebooks and I gave that to the school?and, like, buckets and buckets of pencils and stuff. And I saw how much they needed it and by the time we got to the next school, which was even more remote?no floor, no nothing, just all these little teeny kids?if you go to my blog you can see videos of these little kids. And it will make you cry. There's roosters walking around their classroom. And for me and [friend and travel buddy] Justin, we put together these little bags of pencils?we were totally unprepared, thinking we were just going to drop stuff off at this school. We asked one of the elders, “How many kids are there?” and we were expecting about a hundred. And they translated to us, "There are three hundred and forty small souls." That's what they said. Like, holy shit. So we like got in the truck and went down to the nearest town, which is two hours away, and bought as many stickers, little things, that would make them?they don't have it. We got it, and we handed it out at the school all day, and we filmed it. It's the fucking most insane thing you'll ever watch. We were crying and all these little kids were just like, “Who are you?” And we're going?I can't even believe it. In December we're going back to the same school... I know I should be on rock tour, but this is what makes rock tour work.

Paste: Did you play music with the kids?
Flotard: No, I was too scared, and I didn't have a guitar or anything. I didn't know what I was getting into that first trip, and so this time I know a little bit more about it?only that you just need to let go... Long story short, this totally fueled the fire for that question where people are like, “I wanna be the biggest band in the world.” Why? Then what, idiot? Like, what comes after that? So I think what comes after that is being a decent dude and having a well-rounded life, which means learning and doing things that are hard and horrifying. And for me, going to Laos and seeing people that are fucking fighting to stay alive and happier than you could ever imagine and so happy to see you?it's just like, it makes me trying to convince a booking agent to put down their lobster saffron lunch for a minute to not listen to my band and then tell me they're not interested or they're not taking acts at this time?it makes it totally palatable. Like, "That's cool."

Paste: Is there a specific organization that you work through, or are you just going?
Flotard: We're just going, though I have been investigating over the last couple of weeks. The first city I'd been in [in Laos], called Vientiane, I went to a restaurant called Mak Phet, staffed and run by street kids. And it rivaled any dinner I had ever been up to in my entire life. And I've been to some pretty fantastic restaurants?my sister's a chef and I'm a foodie, as far as person who loves to eat and have her eyes roll back in her head. This was beyond any scope, and it was run by kids. And so there's an organization called Friends International that helps them, and so I've reached out to Friends International?we've been trading emails back and forth for the past couple months, letting them know that we're coming, so we want to see if we can help work in the kitchen one day... I've never done a fundraiser really in my life, but I want to be a stickler about where this shit goes, and so I feel like since I'm personally going to be there, we're going to take one of the teachers from the village to the marketplace to pick out what they need. When you start to think about it and start to work on it, you can sometimes just never even go to sleep.

Paste: Even after you do that, there's so much left to do?it never ends.
Flotard: You can't stop. And that's the thing, you kind of have to breathe and stop a little bit. There are kids there?right now, 'cause I saw them?making kites out of plastic bags and laughing. They need soccer balls, and they've requested soccer balls?so, okay, we're gonna figure out how to get them fuckin' soccer balls. So while I don't have a Visqueen tour in November and December, that's what this is about.

Paste: It sounds kind of more awesome than a tour. It feels so important.
Flotard: When I come home?and I mean, I have to go [on tour]. Not only do I want to go on tour to support this record, I fucking have to. Like, as a label owner and a musician, I have to support and keep my band together. And that means?the person that bought my CD in Massachusetts, I need to go there and thank them, and the best way to do that is go on tour and play for them. So it's like, that's my job, I have to do that. But this part, you're right, the Laos part, is like?I think one day [this will be] my full-time gig. Music is something I think I'll always do, but this stuff just feels so good. And it's so important, like it makes everything better. It's much better than going on tour right now. I've never really spent a Christmas Day without my dad, except for last year, and this year I'm like, “Screw it, I wanna go somewhere where some other stuff is. Why not?” And I'm telling you, after we hang up the phone, I'm going to be emailing like 30 more people being like, “Hey, we'd really love to come play in San Francisco.” And, you know, vines will grow back and I will have to cut them down tomorrow. Bit it's like, you know, I don't have to dig for clean water.

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