Josh Spacek of Monarques
and I sat down the other day outside a coffee shop near his house in the inner SE. We hit it off immediately. This may have been due to our matching bedraggled appearances and safety glasses. Whatever the case, something about the meeting lead to a longer story than I'm accustomed to. Though usually pickled with short questions and small answers, this week's installment of Irrelevant Interviews
is one question—one full blown story. And it's awesome.
Before I delve into that, though, let me say that if you live in Portland and you haven't seen Monarques, it is my sincere recommendation that you should get up and go to this show tonight. Catchy pop complete with backup singers, immediate hooks and building crescendos that echo Roy Orbison. Very nice indeed.
What's the creepiest town you've ever been in?
Princeton, West Virginia. I was on tour with Oh Captain, My Captain, and our van broke down. We were stuck there for three days. Most of the people were pretty nice to us, but it was the weirdest, creepiest town I've ever been to. You've seen Deliverance
, right? That's West Virginia.
So our van broke down and we rented a room. The first night there we were trying to figure out what to do with ourselves, cause we were trapped in this shitty hotel room, right? Now, the town is pretty much just a long truck stop. There's Applebee's. Some steakhouse. McDonald's. A car dealership. Four very large churches. Large. Then we noticed this strip club on a hill up above the town. It was called Southern Exposure.
So me, Jesse [Bettis] and Matthan [Minster]—Matthan plays in a band called the Ors now, Jesse still does Oh Captain—we walked up the hill to the strip club. Inside, the entryway was covered in mirrors—like a circus show, house of mirrors sort of thing. The only thing we could see, other than our own reflection, was a sign hung on the wall: a long list of things that weren't allowed. No bandanas. No jerseys. No baggy jeans. They had a list of brands you weren't allowed to wear. And no overalls.
We were reading the sign when this little window opened—this little speakeasy window we hadn't noticed until right then—opened up and this guy looks through and asks: “IDs,” in this low gravelly voice. So we looked at each other briefly and then said, “I think we're going to pass,” and went to Applebee's. But they wouldn't serve us. So we got a case of Bud from the gas station and headed back to the hotel.
So the van—the transmission went out. And it was like an '84 Dodge Ram or something—a full sized van—and it completely broke down. There was no way we could get it fixed. It would have taken 10 days for them to ship a part in—'cause this was actually the middle of nowhere—and we were running out of cash. We'd just played our last show in North Carolina and we were driving straight home when we broke down.
So we're just sitting in our hotel room, chain-smoking cigarettes trying to figure out what to do; how to get back home. There are no windows in the hotel room, either, so we're also suffocating ourselves and watching daytime television while doing this. And drinking copious amounts of Budweiser. There was no way to transfer money from the west coast to the local bank out there for some reason and the Western Union in town just couldn't give us the amount of money we needed. We looked into shipping ourselves on a train, where the nearest airport was, if we could we rent a van. But it was all too expensive with all our gear. There was just no way. It was a terrible situation.
Basically what it came down to was we had to buy a new van. So we went on craigslist
and found a van for sale up in the hills. We rented a car and Joe and Mathen drove up into this hillbilly town to look at the van. We ended up buying it and the people we bought the van from, they were going to buy our old van from us. They owned this tire shop and they fix cars up.
So Joe signed a contract to sell our van to these people before we had a new van. They towed to van up and it was sitting in their garage. I kind of freaked out about this. I was like, “Dude, what the fuck are you doing? We have like thousands of dollars worth of musical equipment in this van, and he just signed it over to these people? What if they just take it? What if our shit's just gone?” So Jesse and I decide to go to the tire shop and wait there until Joe comes back with the new van. Make sure the mechanics don't pull anything.
We get there and the tire shop is run by this dude who doesn't say a word. He's just covered in grease and coveralls and a hat and chewing tobacco. And he doesn't speak. The whole time we're there he doesn't say two words. Just nods and kind of stares you down a little bit. “Hey. How's it going, man?” Nod. Stare.
The waiting room—where we spent most of our time there—was run by these women. Two fairly overweight, loud sisters who were both married to different guys who ran the shop. They sit me and Jesse down in front of a little 12-inch TV sitting on top of a vending machine next to a VCR. They were watching The View
when we got in there, eating fish sticks with ketchup and tater tots and chips and giant sodas and they kept on trying to talk to us. Really awkward small talk. They were really friendly and nice, but it was just agonizing “How old are you boys? I have a son. Once he had a job at Little Cesar's, then he got a job at the Pizza Hut. Then he got a job at the Domino'—he really liked the Domino's—and now he's in love with a girl from Texas. He's gonna move out. I really hope it works out.” Blah blah blah blah blah.
So when the sisters were like, "Y'all like movies?" We were like, "Yes! Yes, that sounds nice. Let's watch a movie." So we watched Twilight
. And they were talking over the whole thing saying things like, “Y'all seen Twilight
? It is just the best movie you'll see. It'll just make you want to just fall in love with a vampire.” It was... remarkable. The way they interacted. They had this philosophy that was a weird mix of Stephen King superstition and evangelical Christianity. They'd be talking about vampires and demons and then they'd talk about Jesus and their church in the next breath. They made up some flavored coffee and we watched the rest of Twilight
and then we watched this really bad John Cusak movie with Samuel L. Jackson about some hotel room being haunted. Thirteenth Floor
kind of thing.
We're at about hour five that this point and Jesse had to go to a Western Union to get some money that his dad wired him, so one of them gave him a ride to Western Union, which was only three blocks away. He gets back and he pulls me aside, his face is just completely green. He almost puked in the car, he tells me, because they let their dogs piss in the back seat. She actually said, “Sorry about the smell, we let our dogs piss in the backseat.” Turns out Matthan had to sit in that car for a half an hour to get to their house and take look at this new van, too.
So yeah. We ended up being at that tire shop for nine hours with those two women before the new van finally came and we could pack up and leave.
Princeton West Virginia. Creepiest town. Terrible, terrible situation. A rough few days. Thank God for Budweiser.
WISH THEM BETTER LUCK ON THIS TOUR. Monarques are playing TONIGHT at the Doug Fir with And And And and the Shivas. Doors at 8, Show at 9. $7