Mean Creek’s tour—which kicks off today in Seattle, Wash., where they’ll begin supporting Counting Crows for their spring tour—is nothing short of meteoric for the Boston quartet. Although they’ve toured with The Whigs and Buffalo Tom in recent years, this is the first national tour for the Paste Best of What’s Next alums. Additionally, all of their previous tours have been behind a new record or EP at the very least to act as a tangible release to anchor their set and season the trip.
Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz, a longtime fan of the Boston band, hand-picked them to support his band on their spring jaunt. The band’s forthcoming full-length album, Youth Companion, won’t be out until the fall, which means that half the band’s current setlist is comprised of raw material. Mikey Holland, Chris Keene, Aurore Ounjian and Erik Wormwood are thrilled, a bit bewildered and more than ready to make the leap from corner bar to rock arena in the coming months.
Paste: What was your initial reaction when you were offered the opening slot on the Counting Crows tour?
Chris Keene: Total disbelief, honestly. August and Everything After was literally one of the first records I ever bought when I was like, 12 or something. It’s just unreal.
Paste: How have you been preparing for the tour?
Aurore Ounjian: We’re treating it like any other show, because we treat any other show like we would this—we play our hearts out and that’s all we can do.
Mikey Holland: We’re always workhorses when it comes to practice, but we’ve definitely been doing more in that department.
CK: Right. We play the same whether we’re playing for 20 people or 4,000 people. We’ve been all been playing music together for a long time and individually for a long time, so we feel ready to do it. It felt like we’ve waited a long time to do something like this, so we’re super excited.
Paste: So what are your expectations for the tour? Obviously, you know the Counting Crows; you’re fans of their music. You probably have a good idea what their typical fan likes.
Erik Wormwood: At first, we were nervous. You always think about how the opening band is going to fit with the headlining band. This time out, that pressure is amplified a little bit. Counting Crows have a cultish band following and I would say that most of us are members of that cult, so we know that their fans truly adore them and how well we would potentially play for their crowd is certainly something that made us a little bit nervous and we talked a lot about. At first were thinking about what songs we’d play that would fit in with the Counting Crows fans and we were kind of stressed about for a while. We got over that, and we decided to be ourselves and put together the best set as opposed to the best set the Counting Crows fan might like, just so we were comfortable and energetic about it. I’m sure we’ll probably make changes as the tour goes on, but that was something we were stressed out about at first.
CK: I hope we’re received well. I hope they don’t throw anything at us. I remember I saw Superdrag open for Green Day a long time ago and they got booed off the stage halfway through the first song, so I hope that doesn’t happen. (Laughs)
Paste: This tour serves as Youth Companion’s official introduction to the world. Any reason why you’re approaching this release differently?
AO: We’ve given out our past EPs for free practically three weeks after we recorded it, but with Youth Companion, we took so much time to write and record it that we want to do it justice and wait and release it properly, however that may be. It’s still up in the air. We’re treating it a bit more precious this time around.
Paste: Are there any moments from the record that you want people to hear, songs you’re itching to get out there?
EW: When we write songs, the first thought we have is regarding how they sound live. Even though on this recording we were definitely trying to do studio magic and all that stuff, these songs I think will be of the strongest live songs that we have. I think that will hopefully translate okay.
Paste: Last question: favorite Counting Crows song?
MH: To be totally honest with you—I’m a pretty big fan, so I have all their stuff. The title track off of their second record, Recovering the Satellites, is one of my favorite songs. And then off their first record, they have a song called “Omaha,” which is awesome.
CK: Deep down, it’s “Round Here,” but for a non-huge-hit song, it would have to be “Time and Time Again” is my favorite.
AO: “Round Here” is such a beautiful song! That’s song I’ve been listening to from the first day I heard it until now.
EW: There’s two songs that stick out that I really love. One of them is—I’ve always loved “The Rain King,” but I think my favorite song is “Colorblind.” That song slays me. If you watch him sing it live, he goes to a different place. It’s very intense.
Hilary Hughes is the Music and Arts Editor at DigBoston. You can find her on Twitter at @hilmonstah.