Supersize Us


TOUR INDEX – August 8, 2010

Average number of medium-sized servings of french fries consumed per band member at 2AM: 1.25

Consecutive days Bon Jovi’s tour epic “Wanted Dead or Alive” played on radio, reminding us that “sometimes when you’re alone all you do is think”: 2

Inadvertent off-roading incidents: 1

Giant cockroaches spotted outside of Arby’s, Casa Grande, AZ: 5

Birds and Batteries live sets viewed since 11PM yesterday: 3, all well worth it.

Times an hour the car topper keys temporarily vanished: 0.5

Disembodied mannequin heads in the window of Wig-O-Rama, Tucson, AZ: 31 female, 1 green-skinned male



We actually make it to Oxnard, California. This is almost enough of a coup to just leave it at that. But we play a really fun show at a bakery as the smell of cupcakes is wafting all around us onstage. This is our sixth show as a four-piece and I can actually feel the click happen as we, somewhere in the middle of the second song, finally become a band. I almost cry.

Great lineup: A band called the Avocados. Our buddies the Tartans. One of those shows that makes you feel lucky to be part of a community of people.

Late night tacos. The best part of playing in Southern California.

We crash out at the Tartans place as Yoshi, Mayburn, and Brian Tartans spin records and sing ten feet from my head. I feel happy, as it reminds me of going to bed during one of our parents’ raucous parties, listening to them laugh and sing as I drift off to sleep.

Day 15: 8 August 2009 – Dresden

Nick, Michael and I wander off to get the car, which we’ve left parked at the club overnight so that we could go to places like Mr. B’s. Since we’re already going to be in the tourist area of Munich, we want to buy some souvenirs. Plus we realize we’ve bought nothing on this trip. First we hit a football store, picking up some birthday gifts for our littlest brother Mikey, then I discover a store that could best be described as marzipan wonderland. I adore marzipan, and this place has marzipan shaped into all sorts of other food—pretzels, sausages, beer steins, turnips. I consider buying a new suitcase to accommodate all this marzipan, but settle for two small “pretzels”.

We get the car, go pick up Yoshi at the hotel, and hit the road for Dresden.

We have one more show, and the whole drive, I’m thinking about how to approach it psychologically. Should I say to myself, hey, you–tour has exceeded all of your expectations, so don’t worry about this. Or should I secretly hope for the astounding finale? I can’t decide. I’m very nervous.

For the first time this whole tour, we arrive at our destination early enough to check into the hotel and explore. Dresden is such an intense experience, because everywhere you look, you imagine the rubble that was left from the firebombing. And then here and there, there is actually rubble, or charred bricks way up on a tower. The texture of the cityscape reminds me of an old growth forest, with all of these generations of structures co-existing–some dead and fallen and some just beginning, telling the story of the place.

Political poster in Dresden

The club Osto-pol is a space that has been dutifully restored to East German-ness, down to the glasses, the light fixtures, and even the wallpaper. It is truly one of the most compelling bars I’ve ever been in. Sitting in there is like being transported.

The proprietors have made us vegetarian pasta, and we sit in the low light of the empty club and eat like a family, the four of us seated around a weathered farmhouse table. We are quiet, conserving energy and avoiding the temptation of sentimentality about our last meal together.

By the time we play, the club is packed with the most glorious indie kids. They are radiating happiness and love, or maybe it’s just me, but I don’t care because the room is full of the kind of noise that only we make and all these people are smiling. When we finish, the crowd spills onto the giant patio out front, where everyone sticks around, hanging out and talking like old friends into the wee hours of the night.

We walk slowly back to our hotel where we pack our bags for the last time and set the alarm for far too early and then we are asleep and then awake again and it’s not until I’m on the plane that I absorb that it’s over. I pull a notebook from my bag and scrawl pages of notes so that maybe when I get home, I can write at least some of it down for real. Then I fall asleep again, because finally, I can.

Emergency Exit

Day 14: 7 August 2009 – Munich

After another day off in Berlin, in which we eat ice cream and wander around and I am terrified by trying to ride a bike all over the city, we head out for Munich. At the rental car place, we realize that we’ve accidentally packed up the other band’s cymbals along with ours. This creates a major logistical glitch that puts us very far behind schedule. We have a long drive ahead, and a radio interview we’d really like not to miss.

But soon, we’re on the autobahn. We’re all very sleepy, but Michael is navigating through the speeding traffic like an expert. Nick is talking a mile a minute, making him laugh to stay awake. But his charm doesn’t reach the back seat; Yoshi and I fall asleep.

The scenery is beautiful, and wherever there’s a retaining wall, the kind that in the States would obstruct a breathtaking view, it is instead constructed of a clear material, to preserve the aesthetics. Ahh, german engineering.

We pull over at a gigantic rest stop. Yoshi hits the Burger King. He tells us about a controversial incident on the Still Flyin tour in which he was forced to abort a mission to Burger King. He takes a photo of his meal and emails it to members of SF, just to let them know that Yoshi has not forgotten.

Finally, we reach the radio station in Munich–which is clean and very perfect-seeming. The more polished cousin of boho-Berlin.

We go inside and record an acoustic mini-set in their performance studio, then do a radio interview. The acoustic set sounds great, really different than normal (duh), and the interview questions are really thoughtful. For example, we’re asked why we named ourselves Them Others; do we feel like outsiders in the world?

The show is at the Atomic Cafe, an extremely cute place. It seems like noone is showing up, and then just as we start to play, it starts to fill in plenty. The mics are feeding back insanely, but the crowd stays with us, and we soldier through.

We take a cab back to our hotel. We ask the driver how long it would take to get to Dresden, where we’ll be driving tomorrow. He seems to have no idea what we’re talking about. “DREZ-din,” we keep saying. Finally, he understands: “Oh, you mean DREEZ-din?” We’ve never heard it called DREEZ-din, not by Germans even. (The next day we will ask someone in the city of Dresden why this man was calling it DREEZ-din, and she will be just as baffled as us.)

After we check into our hotel, we go out in search of a nightcap. We wander into a bar called Mr. B’s. It is a jazz club, and it turns out that the proprietor grew up less than a mile from where I live in Brooklyn. He proceeds to tell us a lot about America. Michael is fully engaged, but the rest of us drop out of the conversation and stare tiredly into our drinks.

Then, a very drunk young couple comes in, asking loudly for a cold ­we mean COLD–drink, preferably beer. The other two patrons in the bar, obviously so regular as to be part of the furniture, get completely furious, insisting that ALL of the beer is cold, and what do you mean anyway asking that kind of question?! Much screaming and table pounding ensue. Mr. B evicts the couple. We finish our whiskeys and head back to the hotel, where we’re sleeping four to a room. All tucked into our twin beds, we get the terrible giggles. Things have taken a turn for the ridiculous.

Day 12: 5 August 2009 – Berlin

Due to having Monday and Tuesday off, I’m compressing several days into one.

Since the amusement park/Pains of Being Pure at Heart Copenhagen adventure night, we:

-Visited a commune called Christiana that was closed up for the day. Evidently, hippies hate Mondays as much as the rest of us.
-Wandered around in the rain trying to find the statue of the little mermaid (HCA version, not Disney)
-Left Yoshi to hang out an extra day in Copenhagen while we went on to Germany
-Got in a big sibling fight in the Copenhagen train station over what the proper response to stress is: (choose one) a) dramatically slowing down or b) dramatically speeding up
-Decided not to spend $8.50 on a Starbucks latte in the Copenhagen airport, cursed Starbucks for the 18 millionth time
-Flown the best airline I’ve ever been on: SAS
-Ate spaetzle, which made me wish I were a stoner
-Repeatedly failed at going shopping
-Slept a lot
-Went to a neighborhood biergarten where the bartender kicked us out (although charmingly) because he needed to go see a metal band called Carpathians
-Met some great Berliners
-Walked about 200 miles

Berlin sidewalk

Today is our Berlin show. Our party has been joined by my special friend, Michael, who will be driving us on the autobahn to the rest of our German shows.

The venue, the Bang Bang Club, is tucked in a dark alley underneath the elevated train. Outside the crypt-like entrance, we notice a beautiful poster for the show, which gets us very excited about the possibilities of the evening.

Rad show poster

However, sound check is a bit trying. Michael has brought my Nord keyboard from home. I plug it in, but it doesn’t work. Over the next hour, fumbling with various plugs and converters, we discover that I’ve blown it up, by subjecting it to too much voltage. Somehow, there is also no floor tom for Yoshi. Sorting through these details of no drum/no keyboard makes soundcheck last a hefty 2 hours. No one is happy.

But Jule, one of the promoters is in the backstage area compiling a delicious meal for us. We chat while she makes little sandwiches. I eat 8 hazelnut wafers.

Then we go kill time (that’s code for drink beer) and wait for the show. When we return to the club, I am shocked to see a friend from Portland, Oregon. He says that he was on the street in Berlin the day before and saw a poster for our show and decided to surprise me. I have some other friends from New York in the house as well; it’s an international summit here at the Bang Bang.

The show is terrific; the ladies who are putting on the show love pop music and have rallied Berlin’s pop community into this cozy club. The crowd is funny and enthusiastic and a little sassy.

Afterwards, we all hang out and listen to the promoters spin records. Eventually, I wander off to help celebrate my friend Tara’s birthday in a nearby hinterhofe, losing Nick and Yoshi. I miss hanging out with them all the time–now, we’re all staying at separate places, with separate friends, and I long for the days of being crammed in some tiny hotel room like sardines. Sort of.

Day 9 – 2 August 2009 : Copenhagen

I wake up early–because I just feel like I’m missing out if i wake up past 9:30, no matter how late I go to bed. Plus, the hotel has free breakfast. Free food is usually not worth it, in my opinion, except for free hotel breakfast. It’s not even the freeness that’s so great; it’s the not having to go anywhere. Just being handed a cup of complementary coffee feels like a miracle to me.

I harangue Nick into accompanying me to breakfast, and the spread is completely incredible. (I had also hoped that this particular perk would give me some insight into Swedish food, and indeed it does). There are eggs, 3 kinds of sausage, liver pate, 5 kinds of hard cheese, 4 kinds of soft cheese, pickles, fruit, muesli, swedish pancakes with 4 kinds of jam, 4 kinds of toast, Nutella, cereal, pastries, odd milky concoctions, and a whole bunch of stuff I can’t even remember now.

We then return to our room to enjoy our last hour of plentiful towels, great water pressure, clean sheets, and CABLE.

Yoshi and Jaime knock on the door and we’re off, lugging all of our stuff once again to the train station. We’re going to Copenhagen to hang out for the next 30 hours, until we head to Germany for more shows.

We have a night of amusement planned: First we’ll hit the Tivoli Gardens and then we’ll go see the Pains of Being Pure at Heart play.

We rendezvous at the entrance to Tivoli Gardens (I actually love that we have to make plans like this–due to no phones) and spend a couple of hours wandering in the amusement park, while we wait for darkness and the magical lights to come on. Close to the entrance, there is a stage show involving gigantic puppets, people running around in black suits, and an enormous “boom box”. It is truly confusing.

Heather + Boom Box @ Tivoli

Time to go on some rides. Yoshi, Jamie and I ride a roller coaster called the Demon. Next, Jamie sets his sights on the ride that is the centerpiece of the park. It involves a gigantic pole and some swings that are not much sturdier than those of your average kindergarten. The concept is, you’re suspended way up high over the city and then spun around so fast that the swings go nearly horizontal.

Tivoli Gardens

I volunteer to go with. Traveling has made my mind entirely too flexible.

Right as we’re being hoisted up the pole like some flag of the apocalypse, I have a moment of clarity: What in the holy fuck am I doing? I HATE heights and spinning and death by freefall. About 50 feet off the ground, I realize that I have a much bigger problem than my personal preference for low-elevation, non-deadly forms of entertainment. My problem is, I am in serious danger of losing consciousness and/or pissing myself. If I lose consciousness, I might slip out of the seat and fall a million feet and then Jamie will be scarred forever, which is totally no fair–and if I pee my pants, then I will spray the entire park like a crop duster once we start spinning fast. I have too much dignity to go down this way.

Cruelly, we get hoisted up much, much further. Then the satanic machine starts to spin. As the wind begins whipping my face , I know I must convince myself that none of this is actually happening. I squeeze my eyes shut and start counting: “One thousand one, one thousand two…” I realize I’m saying this out loud, not just in my head–no wait, I’m screaming it. Jamie is laughing in that giddy way that only a person who knows he is about to die can.

Heather's nightmare

Back on terra firma, once I can make my legs function again, we head to the show. The Pains are absolutely great, and the crowd is so, so into them. It’s one of those great traveling moments–how did I come to be at this show of a Brooklyn band, with these friends I love, so many miles from home?

We hit a few bars afterwards. At some point, I get burned by a girl’s cigarette–I just sort of lean into it somehow. The incident leaves an interesting-looking welt on my arm, sort of like a fingerprint, with intricate swirls and striations. My lone souvenir from Denmark, other than some black licorice from Tivoli.

We eat late-night shwarma and then retire, having had a day filled to the brim with all of the best life has to offer: music, togetherness, aimless wandering, mortal terror, muesli. Done and done’r.

Stuffed money at Tivolo

Day 7: 31 July 2009 – Gothenburg

As soon as we leave the stage, a headache hits me, the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced. The room is spinning. I ask the first person who I meet if he has any painkillers. He probably thinks I’m trolling for Oxycontin. And come to think of it, Oxycontin might improve tomorrow’s multi-nation commute.

I take two aspirin. I go sit down and try to breathe. Lawrence sits with me and I feel stupid because I can barely speak, but it’s very kind that he’s keeping me company.

We leave the show with our friend Alice and head to her apartment. She has promised Nick and Yoshi a private screening of Revenge of the Nerds. I fall almost instantly asleep.

They wake me an hour later when the cab has arrived and our epic journey begins. We’re on Ryan Air which is like the Greyhound Bus in the sky. Very strict luggage policy, horrible lines. We manage to muscle through it and several hours later, we’ve landed in Oslo. Now we take a bus from the rural Oslo airport into the Oslo bus terminal.

From there, we must take a bus to Sweden. While we wait we decide which Norwegian concessions to sample. I buy a delicious waffle with strawberry jam. Nick gets a sausage. Yoshi gets…pizza.

We have no working phones and are trying to communicate to Wyatt, Yoshi’s bandmate from the Aislers Set, that we’ve missed the first bus to Gothenburg and will be 2 hours late. Yoshi roams around the station holding his iPod Touch in front of him like a crucifix, scanning for wi-fi signals. [If Yoshi were an action figure, he would come in four versions–Sleeping-While-Sitting-Up Yoshi, Destroying-the-Drums Yoshi, Cracking-Everyone-Up Yoshi, and Wi-fi-Seeking Yoshi.]

We send Wyatt the message and hope for the best.

The music coming through the speakers on the bus is hilarious. Late era Kiss prevails, such as the gem, “Heaven’s On Fire.”

Deboarding the bus, I see two metalheads who are paradoxically, totally over the top, yet totally authentic looking. They are filthy, carrying a case of beer each, in tattered denim vests and paper-thin Iron Maiden tshirts. They look like Vikings from Hell. “Wow!” I gasp. Yoshi explains that these kinds of fellows are a dime-a-dozen here in Sweden. I want to meet them all, right now.

Miraculously, Wyatt is waiting for us and he leads us on yet another bus to his lovely apartment high above Gothenburg.

Tonight we will be playing with his wife Josephine’s band, Love is All.

U2 is in town and once we arrive at the club, we realize it’s been booked for both a U2 pre-party and a U2 afterparty, with Love is All and Eux Autres in the middle like a couple of slices of bologna. The club is packed with people who are just bursting with excitement to see U2. The playlist is all U2. The projector screens show U2 videos. Everyone’s wearing U2 tshirts. “Don’t worry, they’ll all clear out,” the sound man tells us.


The show is great. Love is All are absolutely riveting. Plenty of the citizens of Gothenburg blow off U2 in favor of some authentic Swedish rock with an American aperitif.

We hang out with tons of people after the show, winding through the streets of Gothenburg, and closing the night at a crepe stand at 3:30 AM.

It has been a long, long, beautiful day.

Heather and Yoshi @ Parken

Day 5: 29 July 2009 – Chelmsford

Here is the part where I quit showering regularly. I’ve figured out that the judicious application of hair spray can make my hair look like a strawlike bouffant, rather than something that needs the regular application of shampoo and water. It’s an interesting look.

Tonight we are heading to Chelmsford, a suburb of London. We have a fair drive ahead of us.

Lawrence has planned a detour to Cambridge to show us what he promises will be the scariest clock in the world.

We’re already to the point where we fall asleep the second we hit the car. Yoshi is incredible at being able to sleep absolutely anywhere. A skill I imagined he’s honed from years of tours. Plus, he’s been on the road for 5 weeks already with Still Flyin’.

Cambridge is extremely quaint, and I remember that I came here when I was 14 on a theater tour with school. At the time I was squealing over all the “hot guys with English accents, OMG.” (Hmm. Sounds a bit like our friend from the other night, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, we wander around and find the Corpus Clock, a giant gold clock that is presided over by a giant insect named the chronophage. It’s hard to explain in print, but look it up. It’s creepy as hell.

We eat lunch at a pub and Yoshi orders bangers and mash for the third time in three days. He says he’s trying to sample as many versions as possible. I’m learning to drink beer at 1PM comfortably on this trip.

The show in Chelmsford will be an Indiepop night. I imagine it will be a test of the Indietracks theory — the idea that we’ve screwed ourselves by touring England right after a massive pop festival.

A fair amount of people show up, and those who do seem to really like it. My keyboard is possessed; it keeps cutting out. But there is a super cute couple in front, and I can tell they’re enjoying the show, so I just focus on them and chant in my head, “There is a cute couple here to see your band and if you stay happy, they will be happy.” As the keyboard finally gives up to the ghost, I just laugh and keep singing as hard as I can.

After the show, we drive to John’s house in London and collapse.

Day 4: 28 July 2009 – Sheffield

We wake up nice and hungover this morning. We go scare up some breakfast and then get ready to head out.

We have a gig in Sheffield tonight, with Pete Green, who we met at Indietracks.

The prospect of being in Def Leppard’s home town has us rather excited.

Nick and I are both obsessed with certain Def Leppard songs, and more so with the VH1 made-for-TV Def Leppard movie, which is completely brilliant. Its only rival in our hearts is the Beach Boys made for TV movie. The person who plays Brian Wilson grossly exaggerates his tics, and is perpetually “tripping out” on screen, twitching and saying things like, “Whoa!!! I’m covered in… [twitch, twitch]…SPIDERSSSS!”

Once in Sheffield we go to the club, which is very cute. Pete and some other friends, Marianthi and Kara are there. And they’ve cooked us food and brought it to the club. Pete gifts us each a bottle of a special kind of Sheffield condiment that looks like steak sauce. I love presents, and this one is extra special.

The show goes well–our second of the tour. Already, we’re getting tighter.

I bond with Marianthi and learn that she is a true pop fanatic, and sort of an institution in the British indiepop scene.

Yoshi makes friends with a cat named Guinness. (Yoshi is the cat whisperer–it’s really strange how cats gravitate to him). This makes his day.

yoshi + guiness

After the show, we all go out for curry. I get tandoori chicken wings, because, well, I always get chicken wings.

Full and happy, we say goodbye to all of our new friends.

We’re all a bit wobbly, laughing our way down a narrow street and then all of a sudden we see a cat. Guinness is following us. Unbelievable.

Day 3: 27 July 2009 – Liverpool

Today is a day off. It feels weird to have a day off after only one show. But I try to focus on the positive: we are on our first European tour, with a vast expanse of rock potential ahead.

Lawrence and John have kindly planned a day full of sightseeing for us.

As we’re driving through the countryside, we see a quaint hand-painted sign for a cafe called Nostalgia. This is the kind of place I always want to stop, but there’s never time, or the person driving wants McDonald’s instead or whatever. But miraculously, Lawrence turns off! We head down a gravel road and pass a backpacker with messy hair and stubble and these dead eyes, like a shark’s. He stares into the car, his mouth hanging open.

“That is a zombie,” I announce to the car. “Seriously. This looks just like 28 days later. Oh fuck!”

Nick chimes in that any second, an entire army of zombies will come hurtling over the hill. The hair on my arms stands on end.

We pull up to a beautiful little farm. There is a curly-haired three legged dog guarding the cafe. I miss my dogs so i give her lots of love. We enter the most beautiful tea room, with embroidered linens and fine hand painted china. We get breakfast and talk leisurely. We resolve that we’ll begin snorting cocaine off of hookers’ asses in earnest, just as soon as we finish our tea and scones.

Next, we make Lawrence pull over at a creepy little church and cemetery. We take some goth band photos and I admire the moss.

Then we go to visit the Eyam Plague village, a village that was cut off from the rest of the world once the plague broke out among its residents. There are signs in front of several houses announcing exactly when each of the families died of the plague.

One charming house has the special distinction of being officially called Plague House. I remember how mortified I was by my dad’s Volkswagen bus when i was an adolescent. Imagine how awful it would be to say, “Oh my house is the one at the end of the road — the one with the big sign that says… uh…Plague House.”

We pause at a sweets shop and I make the disappointing realization that the band Dolly Mixture is named after a type of candy.

Dolly Mixtures

Next stop, Liverpool. We go to Anfield where Nick bows down to the glory of Liverpool FC, his favorite club. Then we see a bunch of Beatles-ey stuff as John keeps insisting that they were a shit band. I’m not sure if he’s joking or not.

Nicholas at Anfield

Then we meet new friends, Will from Flamingo 50 and Sarah from Town Bike, and proceed to have way too much to drink. To add some drama to the evening’s proceedings, I start wagering with John about the mating rituals happening across the bar–exactly how long will it take the group of boys to approach the group of girls, etc. I swiftly relieve him of two pounds.

Heather wins a bet

When we can drink no more, we go outside and encounter a girl staggering down the street eating a pizza.

“Pizza,” Yoshi says, perking up. “I want pizza.”

The girl stops in her tracks. She shrieks, “WAIT! Are you Americans?!?! I love Americans!!!”

We spend the cab ride trying to figure out exactly what would make someone declare that they LOVE Americans — all of them, no exceptions.

We are completely stumped.