Over a career spanning two-plus decades, Dan Potthast has never been short on new ideas. From six full-lengths with "psycho-ska" outfit MU330, to two full-lengths with indie-rock group The Stitch Up, five (soon to be six) solo records, an album leading the California traditional ska collective The Bricks, and an upcoming rock record alongside Rick Johnson of Mustard Plug, Potthast knows how to keep busy.
After separate tours in 2013 with ska-punk royalty Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto, Potthast was looking for a change of pace, and thus the living room tour was born. What began as an open call on social media for hosts has turned into a 66-date nationwide tour in two legs, which arrives at a Scottsdale-area home this Friday, August 8.
In-between lengthy solo drives, Potthast found the time to catch up with Up on the Sun to detail the tour, and this year's three (!) full-length releases.
Up on the Sun: How did you come up with doing this living room tour? I know it's becoming a thing that a lot of bigger-name indie rock artists are doing, and it's very professionalized with their own ticket websites and everything. How did you come up with doing your own version?
Dan Potthast: I had just gone on a couple of tours last year with Streetlight Manifesto and Reel Big Fish, and had a pretty good year. And I thought, "I want to go out on my own and put out a new record and support it." I felt like the best way to do that was to do a living room tour, for a couple of reasons. One, it's different, and it's kind of exciting. You play clubs and venues and bars and kind of know what to expect. But, going to people's houses, every night is totally unpredictable. You don't know where you're going to be, you don't know where you're going to be staying, and the settings can be really cool. ... And the other reason is that, you know, if you get 20-30 people in a living room, that's a really good time. But, 20-30 people at a bar, that's kind of sad, that's a sad time [laughs]. So, I just thought it was a better route for me to go.
It seems like it's given you the chance to play in some out-of-the-way cities, and parts of the country that don't have a built-in promotional mechanism.
Yeah, that is true. Say there is a bar or club that has shows four nights a week, that promoter is trying to get people in their door 20-plus days a month. Whereas if I go straight to a fan who has been listening to me for a couple of decades, and they're psyched to have me come to their house, they're going to get all their friends to come. And I just want to play in front of people; that kind of built-in network of friends is what I'm hoping to get to play in front of. And it's been working out! I've been playing some cities that I had never played before ... places that are out of the way that you end up skipping over, just not going to with a band.
So, obviously with your record Around the World and this tour, you seem to have worked really hard to built these personal, local connections. Is that something you have done intentionally, or something you feel comes naturally to you?
I guess, maybe it's a little bit of both. I think by nature touring solo, by myself, as in I don't have someone come along to drive or sell merch or whatever. ... So when I'm in whatever town, I am looking to meet people in that town, and find out what they're about. And I think a lot of that comes into my solo LPs. I think it's one of my missions on tour, and why I do it, is to just see how people live all over the world.
You've been touring with a lot of packages lately. You mentioned last year the tours with Reel Big Fish and Streetlight Manifesto, and you had done a lot of work with The Bricks in the past couple of years. Was that something that happened naturally where you went with doing more fully-formed things, rather than solo? Or are you trying to go "back to solo" with this new record and tour, or is that just the way things work out?
I think I just go with whatever I've created most recently. I don't have some formulated plan of 'Oh, I'm going to do solo stuff for awhile and push that and make it grow' or anything. I tend to go at the whole scope of my creative output a little less planned, and a bit more haphazard. If I happen to write a record that has solo songs that aren't very ska sounding, I'll put that out, and if the tour comes up I'll go and do it. If I write a bunch of ska songs and funnel that into the Bricks, that's where I'll put my energy at that moment. I'm not very organized in where I put my creative energy [laughs], but I kind of like it that way, it feels like it comes from a real place when I let things come out when they want to come out.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add, either about the tour or your new record?
I'm trying to think what else there is...I have two more albums coming out this year. That's kind of exciting. I have another solo record that has a full band playing on it. It's almost finished, I just have to finish mixing it, that's my first thing to do once I get home [from tour]. And then I'm picking up...[the CDs for] a new band that I'm in called Sharkanoid. That's a new band that I play in with the bass player from Mustard Plug, Rick Johnson. We each wrote songs for that , and it's much more straight rock-n-roll stuff, so it's fun. I'll be picking those up when I get back from tour; that's coming out on Community Records from New Orleans.
Man, that label has its fingers in so many things. And Rick Johnson, he was just doing sound for Andrew Jackson Jihad last weekend...he's everywhere!
Yeah, totally! He's a really good songwriter so we just put our heads together for this band, and I'm excited about it. I don't know if we'll tour or not, but we definitely have an album coming out this year.
Dan Potthast returns this Friday, August 8 to a Scottsdale backyard, alongside DJs Beat Betty & Full Stop, Sara McAllister Trio, and Liam & the Ladies. Doors to the house open at 6pm, with a $5 donation requested for Potthast. More information and exact address are available on the show's official Facebook page.
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