When many San Diego bands are, at the most, planning tours that poke out of Southern California, The Prayers are leaving tomorrow for a week-long British tour with London band Metro Riots. They'll play shows all nine days, including at a festival of about 60 bands called The Great Escape.
The Prayers have luck — a booking agent for a series of bars in England liked their demo and offered them the tour — have friends in the U.K. and have and a sound that would seem a solid fit for British audiences. But that only gets a band so far.
In an interview with Baby Heisman, frontman Brandon Welchez discusses The Prayers' decision to spend the money to fly over there and play the shows, the touring-on-the-cheap lessons he learned when his previous band, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, played the U.K., and how "deathly serious" the Prayers are.
Baby Heisman: How did your demo get noticed? Did you send it to the booker?
Brandon Welchez: No, I’m not sure how he noticed it. He has connections with a woman who does – she’s not our manager but she does managerial-type stuff for us – and he knows her somehow. ... I don't really know much more than that. He heard our demo, liked it and offered us the tour. After that he saw us at South By Southwest and I guess he liked us live, too, because he didn't pull the tour.
BH: Was it a booker who is in the U.K.?
B: Yeah. He books for this string of venues called The Barfly. And they sponsor that festival (The Great Escape), and that’s how we got the whole thing hooked up.
BH: The festival looks a bit like a British South By Southwest. Had you heard of it before, and what have you found out about it?
B: It’s the second year. It would be a bit like South By Southwest; it’s smaller, though. It’s only 15 venues, where South By Southwest is 60 or so. And that’s really all I know. I was kind of impressed by some of the people who played it last year.
BH: When you were in The Plot to Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, you had played in the U.K., right? (Three former members of The Plot are in The Prayers) What were some of the tips and tricks that you picked up then for planning this tour?
B: I guess I was probably naive before about how expensive stuff like this can be and how much money you can lose if you don’t do everything as cheap as possible. So I kind of learned that lesson. We’re going to do everything as cheap as we can. We’re going to try to share a van with the band that we’re touring with, so we don’t have to hire one. We were talking about just taking the train around England and just bringing our guitars to save money.
BH: Were there any things that you muffed up completely the first time that you learned your lesson for this time around?
B: Not necessarily. Everything went fine when The Plot went over to Europe, but we just broke even, and that band was a lot bigger than this band is so far. We (The Plot) went in our fourth year and we (The Prayers) have only been around for a year now. And we had a bunch of records out. ...
So we don’t expect to have any fan base over there, so I just knew that if (The Plot) broke even barely, then this band will surely go pretty far into debt if we do some of the same things The Plot did. Like, we had a driver the whole time, we rented full equipment. That stuff adds up pretty fast. And I’m not expecting the same crowds or to sell the same amount of merch or anything like that.
BH: Do you know people over there? Are you working on trying to find people to stay with?
B: Yeah, we have friends in a lot of those cities. And just like in touring the States, you can just say something from the stage and usually somebody will volunteer to house you for the night. I mean, usually you end up meeting people at these venues anyway that you want to go hang out with afterwards, and half the time, they’ll just invite bands to stay.
BH: Overall, what are your goals for the tour?
B: Really, just to impress people with our music. ... If we can play every night to decent-sized crowds, I'll consider the tour a success. ... I don’t expect to go and get some hot shot record deal or anything like that. ...
It seems like in England music fans appreciate songs more so than they do here. Americans get so caught up in "riffs" and "chops" and "pipes" and stuff like that. We're not one of those bands, we focus on songs, marrying a good melody with intelligent words to a good chord progression. Hopefully someone will see us and want to put out our record. We're ready to record an album. ...
Breaking even would be a goal, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I know we’re not getting paid that well for the shows. It’s more like the opportunity to play to people there. The band that’s headlining already has a pretty good draw, so I’m sure they’re getting the majority of the money. And we’re just linking the chance to play to big crowds of people – I hope.
BH: When the band was offered the chance to go, was there any hesitation because of the money involved? You said before that you're down a bass player and that it's tough to ask someone to put up the money to go over?
B: Yeah, we couldn't find anyone here that both wanted to come over with us and could also afford the flight. So we found a British kid who is going to do it and he's learning the songs via tab and mp3's. Our first time playing together is probably going to be on stage. ...
The money issue is, of course, a source of stress, but what can you do? If you're really trying to do something and really want to escape the local-band ghetto you have to be willing to sacrifice and to suffer. Personally, I dropped out of college and organized my life years ago to make music my priority. I'm used to living pretty meagerly. This isn't the first time I've bankrupted myself for music and it won't be the last.
BH: The fact that you're putting in the time and putting up the dough to make this happen, is this a sign of how serious you guys are about the band? Or, to be blunt, is the band in a place financially that it could do this pretty easily?
B: No, we're not sitting pretty financially. But the three of us are using personal money to make it happen. We're getting paid OK over there but definitely not enough to cover our expenses. And yes, we're deathly serious about this band. You can't do anything half-assed if you want to escape, you know?
BH: What are you most excited about for the tour and what are you most nervous about? Or is there one thing that's both?
B: I'm most excited to get to see some cities I haven't seen before and to play to people who haven't seen us before. I have a lot of friends over there that I'm excited about seeing. I guess I'm most nervous about the financial aspects and also about the bass player situation, but I think it'll be OK.
The Prayers on Myspace (Leave them a comment wishing them safe travels)