They drove from Denver to the Oregon coast straight—23 hours. Dan got in a fight with some sauced-up bar patron. Zack got an earplug stuck in his ear and Richie had to suck it out with a straw. They got two flat tires within five hours of leaving Missoula and missed their first show while they waited around, drinking beer and leafing through girlie mags, to get rolling again. They slept in a cornfield or two until the farmer came out to chase them off on a four-wheeler.
Ah, the touring life. Bands are ever eager to mythologize, and what thrilling highlights there may or may not have been on the last Disappointments tour have already been polished to a cubic zirconium gleam in the retelling. As is similarly the case with the post-vacation slideshow so dreaded by friends and neighbors, the general interest inherent to tour stories pales in comparison to the joy of raconteurship shared by enthusiastic band members.
And the Disappointments are nothing if not enthusiastic. Their last tour was also their first, and it wasn’t a sparkling success by any conventional measure. All but four shows on the ten-day outing fell through and there was far more driving—not to mention waiting out the inevitable breakdowns—than actual playing. But they had fun, and there was little about the experience to dissuade the band—drummer Dan Ries, bassist Ed Kaufmann, and guitarists Zack White and Richie Rowe—from trying it again just half a year later. The briefest of tours requires planning, and it’s always interesting to see how the disposition of individual responsibilities crystallizes on the eve of departure.
Drummer Ries is in charge of the band fund. He disburses money pooled from recent shows and held in trust in the band account to Kaufmann, who handles the booking and promotional stuff like making stickers and T-shirts. All members agree: It’s the only way to make whatever money they make from playing in Missoula go anywhere. And, as any local band will tell you, in the absence of a guarantee it often amounts to splitting nothing four ways.
“If you split it up, everyone only ends up spending it on beer and groceries,” says White. (“The talent,” he says of his role in the band, polishing his knuckles on his shirt-front.) “And nothing gets taken care of. You never get shirts done, you never get shit done.”
“I just can’t wait until we can afford to buy everybody voice lessons,” chimes in Kaufmann.
“My goal is a four-wheel-drive van,” says Rowe, the band mechanic, adding that he’ll be spending most of the upcoming weekend working on the band’s current van, the Pleasure Seeker. The Pleasure Seeker, like Rowe himself, achieved a brief measure of unlikely fame in the fall of 1998, when William Finnegan’s 12-page tour account of Rowe’s old band, the Sputniks, appeared in The New Yorker. Unlike the eternal teenager Rowe, the Pleasure Seeker is in pretty rough shape these days.
“Falling apart,” he says cheerfully. “If I go over 25 miles an hour, there’s this terrible vibration.”
It seems there was also an altercation with an errant shopping cart a few weeks ago, leaving the Pleasure Seeker with some transmission linkage wounds in need of dressing. At least the Disappointments’ speedy pop-punk is in top form, with three brand-new songs—“Brass Balls,” “Black Beaver Fever” and “Ejaculope”—foaming at the top of a tried-and-true repertoire drawn mostly from last summer’s CD release, Dog Meets Girl. Listening to that release and the new songs, the Disappointments have clearly come a long way since the original trio of White, Kaufmann and Ries got together in September of 1997 (Rowe, the band’s newest member, made the trio a four-piece just two years ago). Pop punk in Missoula has never sounded brighter, its guitar harmonies richer, its clip never quicker.
“You hear all these three-piece pop-punk bands that go out and release a record.” says White, “And you think, ‘Wow, that’s great.’ But when they play live, you’re like, ‘What the...’
“Those shows are ridiculous because they can’t even come close to reproducing what was overproduced to begin with. We pride ourselves on this attitude that, if we can’t do it live with just the four of us, we don’t do it. I’d much rather it was just the four of us standing up there going ‘Huh?’”