We'd been cruising south for a couple of hours before our drummer Nick had said a word. 'Cotton Box', as we lovingly call him due to his wiry buffon, suffers from a useful strain of travelling narcolepsy. When not drumming or sipping on beer, he will sleep at any given opportunity until awoken by sudden breaking or a rare epiphany.
"What mate? What's wrong?"
"I left those [dratted - ed.] Burger King vouchers at home!"
He was genuinely distressed at his loss. Even with the mildest of estimations, it's likely that Nick will eat 25 to 30 burgers, at least, over the next six weeks on the road. He's just turned 27 and may be the first rock'n'roller to die at the famously cursed age of a beef induced coronary. At least he won't die hungry, though.
It was exactly five years ago that a loose collective of young musicians (us) from Manchester calling themselves The Travelling Band began making their first album in Brooklyn, New York. If it was good fortune that got us all to the Big Apple, then the time since has been a lesson in hard work and dedication. The music industry was always been a bit of a mess but now it's a mess without all the money.
Putting records out on our 'not really a real record label' DIY label Sideways Saloon was the only way we were going to get ourselves heard. Playing here, there and everywhere, making friends and fans one by one. Paying our dues if you will, or some of them, anyway. This year things have picked up for us and the hard work is beginning to pay off. We released our second album 'Screaming is Something' in the summer and it has just come out in Europe too - and we're embarking on our first tour of the continent.
Crossing the Channel into France turned out to be a joy. Most ferry journeys I've ever taken have been bleak and miserable, typified by hundreds of crying children on board domino vomiting from seasickness, overpriced meals that induce strokes, and the constant worry that you've left the handbreak off. Thanks to the bizarre heatwave we had last week, we left Dover with the white cliffs bathed in Indian summer sunshine. We rolled off the ferry and made it to Lille before 11pm french time, 10 hours door-to-door from Manchester.
Our accommodation was a quaint little house about 15 minutes from the venue, which turned out to be on a barge. We were all pleasantly surprised and enthused to the bar manager who in turn thought us a little stupid as the venue's name, La Péniche, is french for, errr, 'the barge'. This wouldn't be the first time i got frustrated with how much my french has regressed but it was the least of our worries. The support band told us there was a serial killer on the loose and a body had been recovered from the river the night before. We decided we should probably stick together just in case, as getting murdered was not in the tour itinerary. It was a sweaty gig on a tight stage played to a packed crowd. A great start.
Despite all our best intentions to take it easy on the first night, we all woke up the following day with stupendous hangovers nevertheless. We had zigged-zagged all the way from the bar to our hotel so what should have been a 15-minute stroll took an hour. Our heads throbbed and we couldn't quite work out why our ribs were hurting so much either. Lille is France's fourth largest city and the east part of it borders Belgium, which might explain why the beer seemed a lot stronger than in other french cities i've visited. It's similar to Manchester with a high frequency of rainfall and by all accounts, a passion for hedonism too. They certainly knew how to party.
With the sun still beating down we journeyed to Paris to play L'International in the 11th district. By sheer coincidence our mates from Brooklyn, This Frontier Needs Heroes and Zachary Cale, were playing a block away so we got to hang out after the gig which was a lovely treat. I was desperate for everyone to come with me to my favourite Parisian restaurant 'Le Tambour' which serves traditional french food until 4am every night. After the show, the drunk and tired among us dispersed and Nick and I went for rare steak and a late night booze with our tour manager Gonzo and our semi-kidnapped host Clemence.
"It's no DOUBLE WHOPPER, but it'll do" Nick said, with a mouthful of entre-cote, sans ironie.
The Travelling Band are currently on tour across Europe and the UK. New album 'Screaming is Something is out now on Cooking Vinyl.