It's hard to appreciate just how much time a touring band has to strangle in newsprint, suffocate with beer, or bludgeon with idle conversation until you're on the road. Rolling around the country eating at famous dives and drinking delicious beer seems like a dream come true, but, when you're with a band, it feels a lot more like the silver lining to an otherwise undesirable situation. And this little jaunt is an easy one — just six hours each way to California and three hours between L.A. and S.D.
The Kinch guys have had many worse days.
"This fall, we had a very rough tour, out on our own in cities we probably shouldn't have been playing on our own — the kind of cities where we've only been once before, too long ago — and had some bad luck with locals, people dropping off the bill . . . If anything, club owners were incredibly sympathetic. We had club owners saying, 'This is the worst fall I've ever had, in 20 years of owning this bar,' Junker says. "We were all pissed and depressed, and there was so much soul-searching in the van."
The result of that soul-searching? Appreciation for what they have.
"It's really easy if you're not having good shows to get in a state of mind like, 'What are we doing? It's pointless.' Brian and I are both married, but we're out on the road, not making any money. My wife and I had to move back in with my mom to save money," Junker says. "But I think I'm lucky in that I don't have any great ambition or drive beyond this. If I wasn't doing this, I'd probably be a schoolteacher or something. Which is a great and worthy profession but not really what I want to do. So I think the point is, we're really, really good at bringing it back to realizing how we're really, really lucky to be able to do this, no matter what happens."
It's not like the indie band business is the only one with such long odds and hours, the guys say. Just look at the people who make and sell the tacos, ice cream, and beer in the little restaurants they seek out in the towns they visit. There's a connection between those people and Kinch — and it goes beyond the stomach.
"You've got to be really realistic about it, but it's a different realism than a lot of people would bring to it — a lot of people would think this is kind of a hobby and it's kind of silly for a 26-year-old married man to be doing this, freelancing some work and not really having a steady job. But I always look at it kind of like we're opening a restaurant," Junker says. "Usually they aren't profitable for many years, and how, like, three-quarters close within two years. People who open restaurants are kind of crazy too, because they know the odds . . . But there's something about being in a restaurant, and something about being in a band, it takes kind of a crazy person to want to do, but if you're successful, it's so great."
And so it's off to Stone for beers and gourmet tacos, then down to the Soda Bar to load in and wait with the bartender in an otherwise empty club. It's three hours before other people start showing up.
I sneak away for a walk on the beach.