Tour life might seem glamorous and fun, but it ain’t for the faint of heart. Between the homesickness and long drives, there’s also the issue of where to rest your head each night. Up-and-coming bands cutting their teeth playing tiny gig after tiny gig don’t get to ride in a lux tour bus much less stay in a hotel room every evening. Instead, they get to crash wherever they can while trying to save up gas money. U.K. post-hardcore crew Employed to Serve are doing alright for themselves these days, but it wasn’t that long ago that guitarist Sammy Urwin was staying at some pretty shady spots while on the road. “Fortunately, Employed to Serve hasn’t stayed in many particularly unusual places,” he says, “but I’ve most definitely had my fair share of weird experiences in past bands.” He gave us the lowdown on what tour life is really all about, warts and all.
1. MILITARY WAREHOUSE, CZECH REPUBLIC
I stayed in an out-of-use military warehouse in the Czech Republic once whilst playing at the infamous Obscene Extreme Festival. It was a horrible, bleak concrete building with holes in the floor and no toilet. It was the same building they sell the merch in, so we had to be locked in at night to keep the merch safe. This meant that when I needed the toilet it in the morning I had to climb out of window and scale down from the second floor.
2. COFFEE SHOP, GLASGOW
I stayed in a coffee shop in Glasgow when I played my first ever show there. It was a really nice place, but it was on a busy road so there was loads of people walking about at all hours, so it felt weird sleeping on this sofa in pretty much plain sight to the people outside. I felt like I was part of a window display.
3. ILLEGAL BIKER BAR, ITALY
Hands down the most bizarre place I’ve ever played was in an illegal biker bar/club in the middle of nowhere in Italy. There are so many weird moments to this trip so I’d find it hard to condense it down, but standout moments include death threats from the main biker dude, and our drummer disappearing all night only to make it back just in time to get a lift to the airport. We were going to leave him there if he was any later as we just couldn’t get hold of him and we had to catch that flight. There were also stray dogs everywhere that were super intimidating. All round, the weirdest atmosphere I’ve been in.
4. SMALL CASTLE, SOUTH OF FRANCE
On the first tour I ever went on, we played at a small castle in the South of France. We ended up sleeping at the “venue.” In all fairness, it was quite a nice place but certainly wasn’t somewhere I would have ever expected to be playing a show. Our tour manager got drunk that night and couldn’t drive the van the next morning so the singer from the band I was on tour with had to drive. He neglected to stop for fuel, though, and we broke down and had to hitch hike for petrol. Awesome.
5. ABOVE THE VENUE, VIENNA
This last one was on tour with Employed to Serve. We played in Vienna, I think, and the sleeping arrangements were above the venue. It was like an organized squat and we were sleeping in the communal area. I woke up in the morning to the sound of this old guy singing really loud whilst washing his feet in the kitchen sink just a few yards away from me. I was also dying for the toilet and had no idea where it was and this place was huge. I ended up running out of the building and down the road to try and find anywhere to go. Not a good morning.