If we’ve learned anything from Tour Essentials, it’s that touring may just be impossible without earplugs and a suitcase full of vitamins. But, more than that, we’ve learned that rituals are not easily broken.
On this edition of Tour Essentials, we talked with everyone from They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh who told us, “I like to pretend I’m traveling in France on tour, so I always bring French things—soap, hair care products—whatever is possible,” to Andrew McFarland of Reptar and Semicircle, whose tour (un)essential includes dignity.
Yep, what happens on the road, stays on the road. Take a look at what 10 more of your favorite bands won’t leave behind below.
Photo courtesy of Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics, Art Direction and Photography by Alex Morgan
1. Betsey Johnson Boots – The road to me is adventurous and unfettered, so what better way to experience it than in damn near all-terrain boots. I mainly need these boots with me to explore—places like Mt. Zion National Park and Lake Tahoe a few thousand miles away from home.
2. Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo – The biggest, most awesome book to take on tour. Always gaining perspective from this gem.
3. Liposomal Vitamin C – Seriously helps me maintain health, and much more so than powder forms of vitamin C. It’s been clutch these past few years.
4. Stunner Shades from Stunner of the Month – A gift from my good friend in San Fran, Ari Heavner, who owns and operates “Stunner of the Month,” a subscription based sunglass club. Check it out—the shades speak for themselves, so fresh, so clean.
5. Black Basics and Chunky Necklaces – I think everyone has a color that makes them feel powerful and confident, so for me, on tour I’m likely to have a few dresses, skirts, etc. in black. Also, it doesn’t feel like a show without some big jewelry and big hair… it just doesn’t… maybe a southern gal thing, and that’s fine if it is.
6. Avocados – Cut with a knife, add some salt and pepper and you have a snack that you can eat from Atlanta to New Orleans and still be full. The avocado is one of my most essential tour snacks, it was on our rider at some point. In the mornings when I make green smoothies (sharing recipes on my instagram, y’all), I like to add 1/2 an avocado with some super foods. It just sets the day right.
7. Custom In-Ear Monitors from Sensaphonics – These bad boys make it hard to play a show without them! They have been a blessing on tour, allowing me to hear everything at the levels a vocalist needs to hear it. Nothing short of a miracle for my voice and hearing.
8. Ginger Tea and Honey – Simply put, the BEST thing I’ve found to ease my throat. Sometimes I’ll mix with Chamomile Tea, too and fresh grated ginger, but this tea works well on the road.
9. Vince Camuto Heels – In a previous Paste style piece, I talked about my love of heels. It’s real. While, not an attachment or obsession, I will most always be in heels on stage. There is something that seems so primordial about the shape of heels that I find intriguing, artistic and sexy. I love being able to chronicle my style history with amazing shoes.
Photo courtesy of Little Racer
1. White Chuck Taylors – They’ve become a constant in my repertoire.
2. Black T-Shirts – I’ve adopted somewhat of a uniform over the years, and I pack my bag full of plain black t-shirts from Uniqlo. They’re dirt cheap and they fit perfectly.
3. Cable Neck Sweater – It’s winter and it’s cold. I scored this at NYFW last year from this rad Japanese brand N. Hoolywood.
4. Retro Super Future Sunglasses – For the long, painful stretches.
5. A Good Book – I’m currently reading The Plague by Albert Camus.
6. Black Duffel Bag – I grabbed this nylon bag at an army surplus store in the East Village, and added some good luck flare from my girlfriend to keep a smile on my face.
Photo courtesy of Reptar/Semicircle
1. EAR PLUGS – Any kind. Ear plugs are just a tour essential, plain and simple. They at least give a slight illusion of privacy every once in a while.
2. ¡Tiny Guitar! – Yes, that’s his name.
3. Sleepin’ Stuff – We here at Reptar Music Inc. are cheap as @%^*. Who knows how many floors we’ve slept on around the country. Hundreds? Thousands? Millions???? People are cool, y’all.
4. Ryan aka JB aka The Heeby Jeebster aka Roadhard aka Hip Dad aka twelve or thirteen other pet names – Never leave home without him. The wedding’s in April.
5. Dignity – Just kidding, I leave that at home whenever we leave for tour. Whatever forever!
Photo courtesy of Weyes Blood
1. Heady Book – I have to read to stay sane on the road. You’re traveling with nothing but your soul to remind you of what home is, so it’s nice to have something on the more esoteric side to gain insight deeper into yourself.
2. Zinc Lozenges – Zinc keeps your immune system snappy, and it’s super important for me to dissolve something immune boosting near my throat to keep it happy. I’m sure the placebo effect of intentionally taking time to dissolve something in your mouth that tastes tangy is just as immune boosting.
3. Conditioner – If you got a long mermaid mane like mine, fighting off dreads is a big part of tour. Little hotel conditioners are so scant, so I like to bring a bottle of conditioner to slather my whole head in, combing out the dreads in the shower. I usually don’t even wash my hair, so shampoo is basically unnecessary.
4. Headphones – It’s absolutely essential to tune out from your surroundings on tour. Whether it’s some tour van vibes where everyone’s jamming some weak indie rock or you’re addicted to crime podcasts a la “Serial,” getting to go into your own soothing zone is a lifesaver. I usually bring big puffy headphones so they double as earmuffs/silencers, and can also be used as a leaning head pillow device.
5. Black Tourmaline – This is more of a personal vibe device, a crystal used for protection. I was once in a van accident on tour where our van flipped over. I was sitting in the back on a makeshift seat with no seat belt (the fifth person in a four person van). Luckily we were all totally fine, walked away completely unscathed. I had some tourmaline in my purse, after the flip the black tourmaline was gone, I figured it was reabsorbed back into the universe after it served its purpose.
Photo courtesy of They Might Be Giants
1. Second Growth Bordeaux – I enjoy a second growth Bordeaux. Such a value in French wine!
2. Maison Adam Macarons (that’s the way they spell it) from Saint-Jean-de-Luz – Fortifying.
3. Clairefontaine Notebooks – I know I will want to keep a tour diary, and these Clairefontaine notebooks have been left blank to save room for my every thought.
4. Vic Firth Noise Canceling Headphones – Although they are made in Boston, Ma., Vic Firth’s noise canceling headphones are a must when you want to be thinking of Paris but the dressing room is a paper thin wall away from the drum riser. Better than earplugs, and with the added benefit of letting you listen to your own music in near silence off a mini jack.
5. Chanson Music – It’s totally French and most sophisticated. Along with Yé-Yé Girls thrown in, I’m all set.
Photo courtesy of Screaming Females
1. A Book – Sitting in a van for 10+ hour drives isn’t the most stimulating thing in the world. Engage your mind with a book from either your favorite radical press (such as AK Press) or an edgy independent publisher (such as Two Dollar Radio).
2. Fruit – Apples have a lot of fiber which is important when trying to keep yourself “regular,” a tough thing to do on tour.
3. Water Bottle – One time someone asked Fugazi for tour advice and they said, “Drink a lot of water and wash your dishes.” Truer words have never been spoken.
4. French Press Travel Mug – Never be forced to deal with gas station coffee ever again! (Plus, it is cheaper).
5. Jump Rope – Tattoos, piercings and spiked hair used to freak out the squares but not really anymore. Try jumping rope at a rest stop for a more modern approach.
Photo courtesy of Torres
1. Organic Virgin Coconut Oil – What’s your question? Coconut oil is the answer. I use it to cook, I put it in my coffee, I put it on my skin. I prefer not to travel without it.
2. Tangerine Emergen-C Packets – I like to put these in my water daily to prevent sickness, especially when I’m touring. It’s saved me several times when my immune system was weak from the sleep-deprivation that accompanies traveling in a van for hours every day, not getting exercise, irregular diet, etc.
3. Johnson’s Baby Powder – I don’t wash my hair a lot. The baby powder keeps it looking good and it’s a quick fix for when I’m lazy and don’t want to mess with it too much before I go onstage (just don’t ask me if it’s clean).
4. Lint Roller – Having a lint roller with me wherever I go is a necessity, as I tend to wear black clothing exclusively when I tour. I’m entirely too obsessive about looking sharp to have any loose hair or fuzz on my black pants.
5. Antacids – My current lifestyle requires that I overcompensate to balance out my health, most of the time. Sitting in a van for hours on end, drinking coffee like it’s water, staying up late and eating poorly do awful things to your digestive system. I’m also prone to stomach ulcers, so I keep Zegrid or an equivalent with me at all times for a sour stomach cure.
Photo courtesy of A Place To Bury Strangers
1. Passport – So the passport is a no brainer.
2. Backpack – I always travel with a backpack which has my practice pad, laptop and multi-tool in it—along with iPhone chargers galore, sports tape for my fucked up wrist, ibuprofen, a hoodie, water bottle and maybe some snacks. My go-to snacks are beef jerky (sometimes even that terrible shredded jerky chaw!), Peanut M&M’s and sugar-free Red Bull.
3. Practice Pad
4. Gerber “Bear Grylls” Utility Multi-Tool
Photo courtesy of Hamish Anderson, Art Direction by Juel Concepts
1. Apogee 1 and My MacBook Pro – The Apogee 1 is the best for working on demos and recording whilst on the road. Compatible, reliable and great.
2. Notebook – Essential for writing whilst touring. Writing on the road is always a super creative time and I’ve found that the iPhone is way too distracting for me. And since I can’t take my favorite way to write—my typewriter—the old fashioned paper and pen seem to do the trick!
3. Noise-Cancelling Headphones – So important! It’s great on the bus or wherever to be able to escape all the outside noise. Whether it’s listening to music, working on demos, watching a movie or even just trying to get some uninterrupted sleep, noise-cancelling headphones are a must.
4. A Pillow – Every time I don’t take a pillow with me on a tour I spend the whole time regretting it. Bring a pillow.
5. Berocca – Berocca is a must for whilst on the road. It’s an Australian effervescent drink, that’s a mix of vitamins and minerals and it cures any late night out.
Photo courtesy of California X
1. Ibuprofen – Couldn’t function without it. Often used with Melatonin.
2. Sunflower Seeds – We really only eat these on tour.
3. Podcasts – Shows like Judge John Hodgman and Comedy Bang Bang are always combined with sunflower seeds.
4. Bench Seats – Function as beds.
5. New Friends – Happy Diving joined us for our shows in California and we couldn’t have done it without them.