Following our recent announcement of Space Blood‘s then UK tour and their current Maths & Atlases Compilation series, we asked William Covet, half of the enigmatic Space blood duo, to document their UK tour for a special Circuit Sweet Tour Diary take-over and to let those fans that have yet to see the band live, have a special insight into all things Space Blood. Hailing from Chicago, Space Blood are a mask-wearing, theatrical instrumental duo consisting of William Covert on Drums and Sam Edgin on Bass. Together the pair combine their creativity to create an explosive melodic fusion of Math Rock, experimental, energetic instrumentation. Fusing their punk ethics with strong DIY roots results in a certain impetuous attentiveness found in Space Blood. We are delighted to hand over to William on behalf of the band to find out what their tour entailed.
“The future unit of organization is the small, mobile, and intelligent unit where intelligence is defined as the capacity to perceive rightness, mobile the capacity to act on that perception and small the necessary condition for that action in a contracting world.” – Robert Fripp
The idea was simple enough, let’s tour the UK. The first question that then arises is how are we going to book the tour? I could remember back to when I first started playing in bands as a teenager, and the same question came up of how do we get shows. Growing up in a small town in Michigan, the only gigs you could play where the ones you booked yourself either by renting out American Legion halls, setting up house shows, or if you were lucky enough to know someone in good graces with a church be able to set up a show in a church basement, which were usually the best shows strange enough. I saw the first show the band Native ever played in a church basement in Michigan. What I learned from experiences like that is any show can be great and great shows can be found anywhere. So now that I’m 30 maybe it was nostalgia for that booking naivety of my teenage years and remembering the innocence of discovering the DIY scene for the first time, but my solution to the first question of touring the UK as an American band was as simple as the idea, we’ll book it ourselves!
We had two lucky breaks for us in 2014, which made our UK tour this year possible. I took a holiday last August and went to ArcTanGent, which was one of the most inspiring concert experiences of my life. The contemporary math rock/post rock/experimental rock scene in the UK is something I’ve never experienced anywhere, and I would bet will become something of legend just as the Chicago 90’s post-rock/math-rock scene is remembered today. Right now around the same time as going to ArcTanGent Matthew Boycott-Garnett booked us for A Carefully Planned Fest in Manchester for that October. English musicians are generally much nicer to strangers than American musicians are, and I was able to meet some great people and band contacts while at ArcTanGent, and this allowed us to put together 4 shows in 6 days in the UK last October culminating with playing at A Carefully Planned Fest.
The worse thing about getting back from tour is your so-called normal life feels so mundane and unexciting, and if it does become exciting it’s usually not for good reasons. Through the brutal Chicago winter last year all we talked and schemed about was getting back on the road and going back to the UK and doing a full and proper tour. Around March we started to finalize our planning and booking shows for our tour this September. 6 months of e-mailing promoters, venues, and bands and 1 Indie GoGo campaign later we landed in London in mid-September for a two week tour.
Space Blood is only a two-piece band consisting of bass and drums. While to some only having two people in a band can be seen as a weakness, to us it has many, many advantages, such as making the logistics of touring on a different continent much easier than what a four or even a three-piece band has to deal with. So we arrived in London with no more than two backpacks, a giant duffel bag, a bass guitar, and a flight case encased pedal board between the two of us. We were trying to be what Robert Fripp, guitarist of King Crimson, would describe as small, mobile, intelligent units, which is the exact kind of unit you need to be to do any extensive DIY touring.
Tour life is a totally different beast than everyday non-tour life. Little things that you normally take for granted in your day-to-day become life’s biggest concerns on the road such as knowing where the nearest electrical plug is in a room so you can charge your phone, having enough power adapters, clean socks, making sure you always have some granola bars on hand in case there’s no where to eat later tonight, etc. The world seems to move at a much faster speed, and every day is an adventure on tour. Even when things go “wrong” on tour its fun in a weird adventurous way. The first night of the tour was in Birmingham, and we spent the night sleeping on the floor in a uni dorm floor shared kitchen space which had motion sensor lights so there was no light switch and the lights never went out the entire night. That morning I felt like shit, but now it’s a laugh and just another tour memory as equal in remembrance as the next night of tour to playing to 60+ people in a packed Bar Bloc in Glasgow who went absolute mental to our set. After Glasgow we played in Cardiff with Iran Iran and Amy Grindhouse, and the sound system went out doing the show, which was a first for me. Luckily being an instrumental two-piece band we were not affected by it and the system started working again before the end of the show and the crowd response to our set was great.
Traveling very light with only one other person in a band will allow you some travel options not available to other bands like doing an entire tour by way of public transit. We went on more modes of transportation than I ever imagined a band could use when on tour. Over two weeks, we rode in trains, subways, coaches, city buses, trams, cabs, vans, cars, walked who knows how many miles, and even flew from Glasgow to Cardiff mid-tour. A lot of people thought we were crazy for touring via public transportation, but to me there are some perks of doing it. You never need to worry about a designated driver for one, which at least to us, makes touring a foreign immediately more enjoyable. It also forces you to be flexible with traveling, we had multiple days where we veered off from our original travel plans because something better came up, either found a coach or another train that was cheaper, or getting offered a ride by another band and so forth, which only adds to the adventure of touring.
We had one really crazy day of traveling where we played in Brighton the night before with Orchards, Oh Captain, and Exploder Than You and woke up the next morning in Brighton around 9am and our day didn’t end until 5:30am the next day in Leeds. We originally had planned on taking a train from Brighton to Derby for a show that night, and possibly staying in Derby, but we ending up getting offered a ride to Derby from Brighton with our mates Alright The Captain who happened to be in Brighton the same time as us. The 5 of us crammed ourselves into, from what my American perspective would call, a very small car and drove the 4 ½ hours from Brighton to Derby. Once in Derby we were introduced to Buckfast, which we drank a bottle of before going to play the DIY show Marty Toner of Alright The Captain booked us at an Irish pub, which was an interesting venue experience given the zero math rock shows I’d ever seen at a traditional Irish pub in the US, and it was an absolute killer show. Leeds noise-rockers Irk were also on the bill in Derby with Alright The Captain and Downard, and we ended up riding with them in their van up to Leeds, where we were playing the next night. The slight irony in this day of traveling was it was one week into our tour and it was the first day we traveled in a car/van and about 30 minutes after we left Derby, Irk was having van trouble with the van they hired and we ended up having to pull into a 24-hour service station, which it was discovered the van’s timing belt had broke, this was around 1:30am. At around 4am we ended up getting a taxi to pick us up and we left the van driver with the van at the service station south of Sheffield, and we had an hour taxi ride up to Leeds, where we finally got to we were going after 5am. Sometimes what you think will be an easier travel/logistics option doesn’t quite pan out that way. Irk are some good guys, and we still enjoyed the night even if it was extended by quite a few hours, but again that’s part of the adventure of touring.
There are a few things about touring the UK that are entirely different from the US. First off the use of the term biscuit in the UK is very, very confusing. I ordered a biscuit with my coffee at a restaurant, and they gave me a cookie instead. Everywhere I went on tour the overwhelming amount of people who tried to explain a biscuit to me only gave the definition of a cookie. Needless to say, biscuits are kind of like football, where they mean two different things in the US and UK. Another one is the use of the term “breakables” when talking about drums. I’ve been a drummer for 20 years, and I’d never heard that term in my life until I was in the UK. For the record, in the US, drummers would refer to “breakables” as “hardware” just in case you’re wondering. If you referred to cymbals and snare drum in the Midwest US as “breakables,” you’d definitely get some weird stares. Another difference is how venues work with show promoters. In the US, if you have a bill together and get a show booked at a venue or bar you might have to pay a room rental or sound guy expenses, but by paying those expenses you don’t need to worry about staffing the show. We ending up booking our own show in Manchester with Body Hound, Bearfoot Beware, and Wot Gorilla? at Gullivers, and we had to pay a sound rental expense for the room and that was it. So assuming shows were handled in the UK like they are in the US, I didn’t think we’d have to provide a door guy or any staff for the show, well I was dead wrong. We showed up for load-in and I’m talking to the bar asking when the door person will arrive, and they said I was suppose to provide the door person because I booked the show. Luckily, Sam and I work production for shows in Chicago all the time so it was nothing new to us, but was definitely not expected we’d be running door for our own show on tour. Kudos to the guys in Bearfoot Beware for covering us on door while we played our set.
I should also probably mention that we introduced the UK to Jeppson’s Malort this tour. If curious to know what I’m talking about, Malort is a Swedish Liquor, which 90% of the world’s Malort sales are in Chicago, and it’s become just as much of Chicago culture as deep dish pizza and the Chicago style hot dog. The one thing that needs to be said is Malort is considered by many to be the worst tasting liquor in the world and it’s been compared to such things as bug spray, mouth wash, and liquid scissors. Space Blood got sponsored by Malort this summer, and a ritual of this tour was getting bands we played with to drink it after every show. We went through two bottles of Malort on tour and very few people went back for a 2nd drink, except for John Niblock of Vasa, who made the mistake of going back for more. We even got creative and mixed Buckfast with Malort, which was the worst drink I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Highlights of the tour are easy: getting to play music to an attentive crowd every night, and getting to see some of my favorite bands in the world play for free! I feel real lucky that we got to play with so many amazingly great bands on this tour. Many of the bands we played with I’d been listening to for years, and some of them were influences on me during the early stages of starting Space Blood with Sam such as Wot Gorilla?, Iran Iran, Body Hound, The Broken Oak Duet, and Theo. Another highlight of the tour are discovering the bands I didn’t know before we got booked on a show with them and then getting blown away like by Tall Talker, Bearfoot Beware, Exploder Than You, and He Was Eaten By Owls. Every show had a great lineup, and I’ve never said that of any tour I’d ever been on before.
Of course there are the moments that stand out over others: being on the first tour where we’ve sold out of merch, the crowd surfers we had at JT Soar in Nottingham, the 100+ people that crammed into the Old Blue Last in London to watch us, playing one of the best DIY punk shows I’ve ever been a part of at an Irish pub in Derby, playing in Manchester and having it feel like being home, and if only for a few weeks witnessing a music scene that is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
Space Blood are one of the hardest working unique acts around, relentlessly pushing themselves and uniting their DIY music community- through their own music & their compilation efforts. We are sincerely grateful for the band taking some time to take-over the site. We urge our readers to listen to the duo and show them support following their social media. If they’re playing near you- go!