It's been almost a year since Antique Scream packed their gear, and little else, into their touring van, left Phoenix, and moved to Seattle. Back then, the band — singer/guitarist Chris Rutledge, bassist Stu Lasswell, and drummer Bill Fees — had just finished a three-month U.S. tour and signed with a Seattle-based indie label that was set to release the band's then-new EP and help out with touring and merchandising. Ultimately, the EP release was the only part of the deal that the label delivered on, Rutledge says.
"They didn't really do too much for us," he says. "I'm pretty much better at running this thing by myself than they were. I don't know. They didn't really know what they were doing and they weren't very professional. They pretty much just gave up as soon as the going got rough, instead of sticking it out and utilizing it as a learning experience."
Now, Antique Scream, who is coming back to town this week, is once again in charge of all its own marketing efforts; the band's focused on touring in support of its latest full-length release, Wet with Sweat. Booking tours was something that Rutledge had hoped the label would help with, but he says he ended up booking all the band's shows himself. With three U.S. tours under their belts and a fourth ongoing, booking gigs has gradually gotten easier.
Hollywood Alley in Mesa
Antique Scream is scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 13.
"It's gotten a lot better," Rutledge says. "All the shows are pretty much booked already, whereas the other tours . . . Like, the first half is booked and we're out on the road, and I'm sitting at a Starbucks trying to get the rest of the tour booked, which is a pain in the ass."
Antique Scream spends about five or six months per year on the road, and the band has cultivated a reputation for intense, engaging live shows, something the band tried to capture on Wet with Sweat.
"It's a lot cooler than our other records, for sure," Rutledge says. "People are always saying that the records are good, but they love watching us live, so we kind of incorporated that into this record."
When it came time to record the album, rather than head into a studio, the band rented a Seattle club for a few days and recorded the album live, albeit without an audience. Only the guitar solos and vocal tracks were added later. The result is an album that, not surprisingly, sounds raw and organic. In keeping with the "live" vibe, the band even devoted one of the album's 11 tracks to an extensive drum solo. Ballsy and indulgent? Perhaps, but Rutledge insists that they were only honoring fans' requests.
"We have a pretty nice drum solo going for us live," Rutledge says. "This last tour, a lot of people came up to us and said, 'I want the CD that has the drum solo.' I'm like, 'Well, that doesn't exist yet.' So we went ahead and threw an 81/2-minute drum solo on the record."
What's most surprising about the band's current tour is where the band isn't playing — specifically, large population hubs like Southern California and the Northeast. Rutledge says the band is bypassing the L.A. area simply because they haven't made the right connections there yet, something he hopes to change in time for another tour this summer. Mention the Northeast, however, and it quickly becomes clear that there's no love lost between Antique Scream and the upper-right corner of the country.
"We don't make money when we tour there, and then we lose more money on fuckin' tolls," Rutledge laments. "I think it's, like, eight bucks to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Until we're a bigger, more established band, it's really just a waste of our time. We've toured there our past three U.S. tours and we always just end up losing money and the shows are crap. We never get paid at the shows there. Half the bars won't even give us a couple free drinks. I mean, c'mon, at least you can kick us a fuckin' pitcher."
Rather than play the small fish in a big pond, Antique Scream has chosen to home in on smaller markets, where they're often the only band playing in town that night. When asked about their favorite places to play, Rutledge lists such unlikely destinations as San Angelo, Texas, and Morristown, Tennessee. At Antique Scream's last show in San Angelo, Rutledge says, the band drew 400 people.
"The only way you're gonna really get anywhere, for most bands anyway, is to hit the road and start building up that fan base, get that recognition," Rutledge says. "I didn't really realize that it's actually not too hard to survive on the road for months at a time. I thought it was gonna be a little harder than it is."
Perhaps the key to Antique Scream's survival is that the band members are actually friends with one another. They've never had any of the requisite lineup changes that seem to befall most young bands. They all live in the same house and they even work the same day job as grocery merchandisers.
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"It is hard to find people that you get along with as well as we do, so I'm pretty happy about that," Rutledge says. "And definitely, touring for three months at a time, that's when you find out whether or not you fuckin' hate somebody or you love 'em, you know?"
So what does their boss think of them taking three months off at a time to tour?
"Personally, I have two jobs for two different companies," he says. "One of the companies is cool with it, but the other one, not so much. I'm like, 'Well, you know what? I'm not going to give up trying to make a living being in a band just to fuckin' rearrange some shelves. That's just not important to me.'"