Sound Check These Arms Are Telling Stories
posted by February 21 at 9:44 AMon
These Arms Are Snakes are a road band. They’ve made multiple trips to Europe and tour constantly. When they play, they bring it all, full bore. They dive and bleed. They’re tough, like their guitar lit music. (Lit as in fire.) There is no getting around their toughness.
These Arms bassist Brian Cook took time to have story time. Then he slapped me around. I mean, I asked him to slap me, but still, he slapped me:
I’m sure you all have a story or two from the road. Can you give these readers some These Arms stories?
Brian: In Hollywood, Steven (singer) snuck into Anna Nicole Smith’s birthday party after our set at some douchebag venue. He showed up later with her lipstick smeared all over his face and her birthday cake all over his sweater.
For a Halloween show in Connecticut we dressed up as the Nativity scene. I was Joseph, Ryan and Chris were wise men. Steve was Mary, though he wound up stripping down to women’s underwear. We had a baby Jesus in a manger at the front of the drum set. Chris had rigged an elaborate tubing system through the baby Jesus doll that caused it to projectile vomit bright green puke at a particularly dramatic point in the set. Good times.
For my 27th birthday, I tried to drink 27 drinks in 27 hours. I snuck out of the bar we were hanging out at and my bandmates later found me wandering the streets out of breath and incoherently babbling about “chasing the animal”. I wound up trying to punch Erin from Minus the Bear, who was drumming for us at the time, when he was trying to help me go to bed.
In Detroit we wandered through an abandoned Catholic school at night. We walked through the empty classrooms and up to the roof and watched several blocks of the ghetto burn to the ground.
What is the secret to touring?
Alone time and independence. The first bit of wisdom I ever got from anyone regarding touring was to spend at least ten minutes alone everyday. Go for a walk, grab some coffee, whatever. But get away from your bandmates before you go crazy. I don’t know how the hell I toured before the age of cellphones. That shit is like a lifeline away from the weird insular biosphere of the van. More and more, I’m beginning to recognize the beauty in eating alone. Everyone in the van has a pretty different diet and attitude towards food, and it’s kinda interesting how big of a factor it becomes. I’ve definitely learned that touring gets easier when i’m willing to eat alone in a restaurant.
(photo at top of post: Ryan Russell)
Tours get grueling. How do you last?
Alcohol helps, honestly. So many musicians wind up complaining about how grueling touring can be, but I honestly enjoy it, and I think that stems from having a healthy relationship with the bottle. It gets you out of your comfort zone and more willing to see what every city has to offer. It kills boredom. And when shit sucks, like when your van breaks down in Holyoke, MA and you missed the chance to play to 3000 people in NYC with Mastadon, Cursive, and Against Me!, you can always shotgun beers and play dice in a Super 8. Of course, too much of anything is bad too. I gave up booze for lent this year just so I could detox a bit and remember how delicious and satisfying a single beer can be.
What’s the best way to recover and get ready for the next show?
God, I’ve had so many theories and wound up painfully refuting all of them. I think all the standard rules help: don’t mix your drinks, hydrate beforehand, don’t drink on an empty stomach, etc.. I’ve actually found this whole B vitamin thing to work pretty well. Taking a Centrum or drinking something with a lot of B vitamins, like some of those energy drinks, seems to have saved me from getting a deserved hangover. I can tell you one thing though: every once in awhile I get drunk enough that I’ll smoke a cigarette, and that guarantees a rough next day.
How do you all decide who’s going to drive?
I do a lot of the driving. Our van is a piece of shit and I have control issues, particularly when it comes to driving. I actually find it more relaxing to drive than be a passenger. But there is some sort of vague concept of rotation that occasionally gets acknowledged. And there is the occasional scenario where we fight about it.
If there is any gear you would like to speak of that you play or love or hate, this would be the time do that. Commence talking about gear… now.
We’re always a little hesitant to reveal too much about our equipment, particularly our pedal configurations. Not that we do anything to atypical or unorthodox, but one never wants to reveal too many secrets, Ya know? I will say that I have a brand new guitar amp that I’m hoping to incorporate into my bass set-up. I’ve started switching to guitar for a few songs. For a while, I was just using my bass amp, but I decided I need to actually get something designed for the guitar’s frequencies.
Our old drummer and current Helms Alee member Ben Verellen is starting a boutique amp company and he built me a custom guitar amp. It’s totally sick. Soundwise, it’s kinda modeled after a Fender Bassman. It’s got this great, thick clean sound. and it looks tough as shit. I’m not sure I’m gonna debut it at Friday’s show or not. We’re playing a lot of new stuff and I’m not sure if I want to throw new gear into the mix as well. but I’m pretty excited about it.