What's Life Like For Artists on the Vans Warped Tour?
Posted Jul 14, 2018
Photo by Ryan Watanabe
For artists and fans alike, the Vans Warped Tour is a bit magical; there is really nothing like it as bands travel together to play in 38 cities in 46 days. As you can imagine, the schedule and sheer effort it takes to pull-off a traveling tour of this magnitude is grueling. We caught up with a few PRS artists on this year's tour to get the scoop on what it's really like.
In the interview below, we spoke with Geoff Wigington (Waterparks), Erik Shea (Islander), Ryan Phillips (Story of the Year), and Si Delaney (Don Broco). We should note, Erik and his bandmates in Islander were unfortunately asked to leave the tour after vocalist Mikey Carvaja dove into a drumset and damaged some backline (rented) gear. But hey, that's rock and roll. Also worth noting, Ryan Phillips (Story of the Year) is not doing a full-circuit on Warped this year, but he recently performed at Warped St. Louis and is otherwise a Warped Tour veteran.
Now check out the interview below!
PRS: What’s it like spending so much continuous time (in close quarters) with your bandmates?
GW: It’s pretty much just like living with each other. We’ve all always hung out a lot even before we started touring. You do get to know each other in different ways than before but most of the time it’s just like hanging out at home.
ES: It's not so bad, I grew up with siblings and it's pretty similar. Sometimes we're pissed at each other but mostly it's just a good time with my brothers.
RP: I’m lucky, as the dudes in my band are pretty much my best friends. I was friends with these guys long before Story of the Year. We would spend almost every day & night skateboarding together, we went to the same high school, worked at the same jobs, and that more than anything has been beneficial in terms of our longevity- we already had history and knew our chemistry worked before we played a single note together. I would die for those dudes, so being around them for continuous amounts of time is fairly easy.
SD: It’s great! Matt, Rob and I have known each other since we were 4, so have been mates for as long as we can remember. We’ve always spent most of our time together anyway, even before we started the band!
Photo by Ryan Watanabe
PRS: How many hours are you typically traveling per day?
GW: Some days are shorter but on a tour like Warped we sometimes will be driving for over 10 hours. Occasionally we’ll have an off day that mainly consists of driving. Most of the time it’s while everyone is sleeping though.
ES: Typically depending on routing anywhere from 6 to 10 hours.
RP: It depends on where we are touring. For example, last month we did a quick tour in Australia, and with layovers it took 36 straight hours just to get from St Louis to our final destination in Perth for the first show. And then you are flying everyday to get to the next show, so it’s at a minimum a handful of hours per day in transit in in markets like Australia ,Asia, South American, etc. In the states, most of the traveling is done overnight while you’re sleeping, or more likely in our case while we’re still awake being idiots.
SD: We tend to drive during the night and sleep on the bus. Most of the drives take all night, but we are lucky enough to get to wake up in the morning at the next venue!
PRS: Favorite part about touring? Least Favorite?
GW: My favorite part of touring is the shows. The worst part is depending on the tour, the show part only lasts 30 minutes.. other times it can be around an hour and a half though!
ES: My favorite is just seeing the world and enjoying all of the good food out there. Least favorite is the little things that go wrong, flat tires, etc. But those go hand in hand with touring, really.
RP: My favorite part about touring is simply waking up as early as possible and walking out of the hotel with my camera. Just walking, no real agenda, just simply immersing my self in whatever culture or town I’m in and trying to capture some compelling photos. That’s my jam. My least favorite part is missing my kids. Holy shit I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be to be away from my kids. My family is my everything.
SD: Favorite part about touring is getting to explore new places, and to meet new people. Being in a band takes you to some pretty wild places and puts you in some strange unpredictable scenarios. It’s the best. My least favorite part about touring is when you encounter technical difficulties during the show. When the whole day has been building to the performance and then something goes wrong, it can be super frustrating!
Photo by Ryan Watanabe
PRS: How do you like to spend your downtime?
GW: I like to go home and see friends and family. It’s really nice to be able to sleep in your own bed and have constant access to clean laundry haha.
ES: I'm a gamer so I roll on tour with my Nintendo Switch and if I'm not using that during downtime, I’m asleep.
RP: Again, wandering around with my camera.
SD: I like to find the best coffee in town. I’ll research a place before we get there and normally try and hit at least a couple of spots. I also love thrifting and collecting vinyl.
PRS: Do you find writing new music on the road easier or harder?
GW: The way that we write songs really isn’t affected by traveling as much as it may for some people. Awsten brings his interface and laptop and normally will work on things that way. Making it to where we’ve always got new stuff flowing.
ES: I'm the kind of guy that can write anywhere and anytime. I keep my laptop with me in case I think of something on the road.
RP: I actually find writing on the road to be much easier. Something about new sights, sounds, and experiences really kicks my creativity up a notch. There is a weird thing that happens in my brain: this tension between missing my family terribly and being drunk on my temporary freedom to immerse myself in a foreign place with none of my day-to-day responsibilites that for whatever reason makes me feel incredibly creative and motivated.
SD: Definitely harder! I sometimes come up with riffs in soundchecks which I will voice note. It’s hard to write on the bus as you’re all quite on top of each other and whipping out guitars and mini studio setups sounds awesome, but the reality is, there isn’t that much space!
Photo by Ryan Watanabe
PRS: How does your PRS hold up on the road? What’s your favorite aspect of your guitar(s)?
GW: I really like to take care of my PRS guitars. No matter how hard you try though touring with equipment and flying with it will always take a toll on your gear. I’ve flown to several different countries with my original S2 Mira and it still plays amazing. I can’t leave for tour without it!
ES: I currently use a couple SE Custom 24's as my tour workhorses. They hold up great and I love them. To me they're the perfect hybrid of the guitars I grew up playing (ESP, Ibanez) so I couldn't really ask for anything better.
RP: Considering how hard I play my guitar and how rough we are on gear, I can’t imagine a guitar holding up better than my PRS’s. 15 years of touring and outside of a few instances where I did something incredibly stupid, I cannot recall a single instance where any of my guitars didn’t function wonderfully. My favorite aspect of my guitars is that they are so comfortable and I am so intimately familiar with them that they just feel like extensions of my arms. Extensions of my brain, heart, and soul.
SD: My PRS’s hold up great on the road. Currently on Warped Tour there are crazy changes in the external conditions. Wild humidity, temperature jumps everyday, even torrential rain. My Custom 22 and S2 Custom 24 have held beautifully through everything. I haven’t had to tweak intonations or replace any components. They really are my work horses. Ready for anything, and have total endurance.
PRS: What makes Warped so different from other tour runs?
GW: It’s a lot different. Normally on a club tour or something like that you get quite a bit of time to make sure everything is working correctly and the show will most likely go on without any crazy surprises. As far as Warped goes it’s more of a you only have 15 minutes to get everything set up and hope that it’s all working. That’s one side of it but Warped also is a great chance to catch up with a bunch of people who you’ve toured with previously or meet people you’ve been listening to for a long time!
ES: I'm not really sure, this was our first Vans Warped Tour and we were kicked off the first day.
RP: There are a lot of logistical differences, but on the more personal side, Warped is different than other festivals / tours because after doing it like 8 times, we know almost all of the people who work on the tour. You walk through production and know these people on a first name basis, you see the same faces every year. It’s like a summer camp we went to summer after summer.
SD: A few things. - 1, it’s VERY long with very few days off. 2, everyday is a different climate. 3, the tour is totally fluid, different set times, even different stages everyday, so you have to be ready for anything.
Photo by Ryan Watanabe
PRS: Craziest thing you’ve seen on the Warped Tour so far?
GW: Probably seeing Mikey Way on stage with us for the couple days he was out. MCR has always been a huge inspiration to why I got involved in music. So it was a pretty crazy experience being able to go and play with him during the set!
ES: I would have to say the craziest thing I've seen is what got us removed in the first place. At the end of our set our vocalist dove into the backline drumset in punk rock fashion.
RP: I’ve seen some crazy shit: fights, drunk people trying to catch alligators, people having sex in porta-potties, insane weather, but honestly the craziest thing I see is people in black jeans and hoodies when it’s 105 degrees outside. I can’t.
SD: A girl crowd surfing in her wheel chair!
PRS: What do you think is the easiest self-care habit to disappear when you’re on the road?
GW: I have a really hard time keeping up with my desired diet. Sometimes it’s just very hard to find everything that I would normally prepare or cook at home.
ES: I like to stay on top of those things personally, but I can see small things like brushing your teeth slipping people's minds easily, it's crazy busy on the road.
RP: Showering. Especially on the Warped Tour. It’s so hot, you’re outside sooooo much, sometimes showering just seems like a wasted effort because 7 minutes after you shower you are dripping in sweat again.
SD: Eating healthy! It’s hard to maintain a good diet on the road. Especially when you’re hitting new places with local specialities you just have to try. Philly Cheesesteaks for dinner tonight...
PRS: What is that one go-to item you need to have with you?
GW: It’s kind of weird but I always make sure to bring my favorite pillow with me when I’m gone for a long time. It just helps keep me sane haha.
ES: Like I said before I'm an avid gamer, so Nintendo Switch all the way.
SD: My Aeropress. I gotta have that coffee...
PRS: What’s the latest (or earliest) time you’ve fallen asleep on Warped Tour this year?
GW: I’d say the latest time I’ve been up on this years Warped would probably be around 4:30am. The barbecues are always a great time and when I get back to the bus I normally play a few matches of Mario Kart with Otto before we crash for the night.
ES: Well we were on one date since we got kicked off. We went to Denny's after and I didn't get to bed til 2 AM. We were hanging out with a mouse. Seriously, Denny's in Denver has mice.
RP: We only did the St Louis date this year, but I would say that in years past, most of us rarely went to bed before 3am. Mostly because we’re famous for stellar bus parties!
SD: I fell asleep at 7pm on the first day! I was still mega jet lagged as we had just flown over from the UK. I wanted to party, but unfortunately my body wouldn’t let me.
Photo by Ryan Watanabe
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Ryan Phillips // Story of the Year