BandWagon – Why Tour in a Bus When You Can Tour in a BandWagon? – Q&A INTERVIEW

Jeremy Clarke, who is the Rental Agent/Grease Monkey/Tour Coordinator/Muse, of BandWagon RV Rentals, talks to us about the advantages of using a Band Wagon while on tour instead of a Tour Bus. The interview can be read after the break.

Jeremy Clarke, who is the Rental Agent/Grease Monkey/Tour Coordinator/Muse, of BandWagon RV Rentals, talks to us about the advantages of using a Band Wagon while on tour instead of a Tour Bus. The interview can be read after the break.

Chances are that you have arrived at a show and have seen a tour bus sitting outside of the venue, right? BUT, do you know how much that bus costs the band? They don’t own them; they rent them for over a thousand dollars a day. Those expenses add up pretty fast and with falling music sales, artists have been forced in a lot of instances to downgrade back to touring in vans, which can be uncomfortable, smelly, etc. This is where BandWagon comes in! They make awesome, bus like, vehicles that are affordable to a lot more bands than buses are and you may start to see more of them on the road very soon.

Digital Tour Bus: Can you please state your name, company, and position?
BandWagon:  Jeremy Clarke – BandWagon RV Rentals – Rental Agent/Grease Monkey/Tour Coordinator/Muse

DTB: Can you describe what Band Wagon does?
BW: We provide an alternative to a bus for bands on tour.  We try to do so at a price where they can tour comfortably, but for nearly the same cost as a van+hotels.

DTB: Why was Band Wagon started? Any specific reasons?
BW: We come from planet tour bus, as we have leased Prevost coaches and trailers to bands since 1992.  I toured for over ten years, mostly indie/punk bands on the club circuit.  Every day I would roll in and there would be 2-3 bands climbing out of a van every day.  These are the guys who are usually without a dressing room, without a place to hang out, and nowhere really to go between load-in and the end of the night.  I guess they could hang out in their van, and I’m sure some do, but let’s be honest… most vans reek of buttfunk after the third or fourth day of tour.  So the reasons that we started BandWagon were to both help out those bands who are out there working their asses off under some pretty grueling conditions and to give another option to those bands who are in a bus because they just can’t do another van tour, but are in that bus giving literally every dime that they make to the bus & driver (believe it or not, the driver usually costs a band more money than the bus).  The short answer is, I’m really, REALLY into this circus that we call rock/punk/hardcore/indie or whatever label you prefer to use.  When I was a kid, coming up at rooms like the Emerson Theatre in Indianapolis, the Creepy Crawl in St. Louis, and the Fireside Bowl in Chicago, & countless VFW Halls, church basements, record store shows, etc. I was front and center, madly in love with what bands like Hot Water Music, Small Brown Bike, Planes Mistaken For Stars, etc. were doing.  But I also know that bands at that level have it pretty rough.  It’s not unusual to dumpster dive to get something to eat.  These guys are the hardest working people in music.  They do it because they love it.  It’s a part of them.  They don’t mind the long drives, the hard work, the lack of sleep, etc.  So more than anything we started it because we wanted to work with those bands.  I would say that we started it because we wanted to make bands more comfortable or appeal to a wider market base or whatever.  The truth is, I know that guys can only beat their heads against a wall for free for so long before they just can’t take it anymore.  This is a vehicle that those bands can afford where they can get some rest, have a place to hang out, and maintain some semblance of sanity but still pay the rent at the end of the tour.  So they’ll keep touring.  So they come back to this part of the world.  And I get to see them live again.  Everybody wins!

DTB: Can you name some of the bigger name bands who have rented your vehicles?
BW: That’s tricky because I’m so far from hip I don’t know what’s huge:)  I would say that, in our world and the music that I’m into, Senses Fail, Pierce The Veil, Between The Buried & Me, Strung Out (a personal source of pride for me), Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Thursday, Eisley (LOVE this band), blah blah blah.  There’s a pretty long list.

DTB: How many Band Wagons are in existence at this point?
BW: We’re building them as fast as we can, but right now we only have 15 BandWagons.  It takes us about 6-7 weeks to build one, so we’re shooting for 20 by the year’s end.

DTB: What are the differences between a Band Wagon and a bus?
BW: The short answer is:  there are tons of differences and very little difference.
1.  BandWagons are under 26,000 lbs gross vehicle weight.  That is a boring little fact that carries pretty huge consequences.  Because buses are over this weight rating and are LEASED for commercial use, you’re now in the wonderful world of Big Brother scrutiny and his swinging baton, the Department of Transportation (DOT).  There are restrictions on who can drive the vehicle, how long they can drive it on a daily basis, what kind of trailer you can pull, etc.  All of those things add up to a fairly restrictive barrier to entry for drivers, which means those that make the cut have their hands out for a premium.  And what is a band going to do?  They have to have the driver.  They need that magic driver’s license to get to the next show.  And with that driver they have to pay all of the maintenance costs, get him/her a hotel room every day, pay overdrives on drives over seven hours, and on and on until it eats them alive.  I drove a bus for a long time, and I always had a GREAT time with the bands that I worked for, but at the end of the day my presence on the tour was costing the band around $3,000 each week after it was all said and done.  The BandWagons have a shorter wheel base and are MUCH easier to drive than a bus, and because they fall under the weight rating, they are non-restrictive in their licensing.  You have to be 25 years old or older to be insured, but that’s pretty much it.  Now all of a sudden you can drive it yourself or hire a buddy to drive.  There is an isolated bunk for the driver so you don’t have to spend $1,000/week on driver hotels.
2.  It has a working, FULL-SIZED shower.  I’ve never understood it, but those buses that have showers usually only have about 40 – 60 gallons of fresh water capacity and the shower is the size of a shoe box.  It never made any sense to me.  The BandWagon is totally self-contained and completely eliminates the need for hotel rooms.  It just opens up a world of options, both logistically and financially for bands.
3.  There is no back lounge.  That space was used for the vanity/shower room.
4.  It sleeps up to nine people, whereas a tour bus can sleep up to 12.
5.  The bay space on a BandWagon is a bit less, since the bays don’t go all the way through.  That’s part of the reason that we provide a trailer for free.

DTB: Why should bands rent a Band Wagon instead of a bus?
BW: You’re trying to make me sound like a used car salesman!  haha.  I would say the two biggest advantages of a BandWagon over a coach are  1.  After it’s all said and done, it’s a little less than half the cost of a coach.  and 2.  You’re on your own schedule.  If a band is on a bus, they have a driver that gets to the venue somewhere in the late morning.  When that bus arrives, it sits there until it leaves the city after the show.  That means that everyone on board is now on foot.  Need to run to guitar center?  Take a cab.  No veggie/vegan food options near the club today?  Looks like you’re eating spoonfuls of peanut butter today.  With a BandWagon, you have the flexibility to run those errands if needed.  You can go to the movie theatre on a day off and you don’t have to ask anyone to do so.  That is pretty huge.

DTB: How can your company afford to rent these for such little amount of money?
BW: Well, there are a couple of reasons that we’re able to pull this off on the cheap.  The first is that our shop actually used to be a high school gymnasium.  When the school corp consolidated they sold us the school and all of the buildings for next to nothing.  That was in 1980.  We didn’t really have a desperate need for it at the time, but later the gym became our bus shop.  And now it’s the BandWagon shop.  The second reason is that we do everything ourselves.  I run the logistical side of things, my sister helps in the office, my older brother is in charge of building them, my father takes care of all of the maintenance, and we have a few guys that help us in the shop.  We do everything ourselves, and we love working for cheap


Our overhead is low.  So we’re able to pass that on to the bands.

DTB: When coming up with the layout of the vehicle, what were the most important features to include? Was there any features that you had to leave out because of cost?
BW: Our non-negotiables were as much interior storage as possible, a full-sized shower, a full-sized refrigerator that you can actually use, and a separated driver living space so that bands didn’t have to get a driver hotel room in the event that they wanted to hire someone to drive.  As for what we left out, there really wasn’t anything that we left out due to cost.  Our biggest constraint was due to size.  We wanted to make sure that we stayed out of CDL territory.  That means that the weight of the vehicle & the length of the wheelbase had to stay inside of certain parameters.  We hired a DOT consultant whose job it is to make sure that trucking companies stay DOT compliant to help us with the thumbnail sketch of its design.  Once we knew exactly what the rules were, we based the design off of that.  There is only so much room available to work with, and I think we were able to really make the most efficient use of the space available, but it would have been pretty kickass to have enough room available to make sure that every BandWagon came with a roofmount hot tub.

DTB: To my knowledge, all of the Band Wagons have the same layout. Do you plan to add any different models in the future?
BW: Nah… all of these for rent have the same layout because of the space constraints and we want to be able to make these as all-encompassing as possible.  But if anyone wants one built for them we can design it however they want.  We actually built one for Wiz Khalifa on his last tour that is basically a rolling Hot Topic that is dedicated to Wiz Khalifa merch.  It had TV’s that faced the outside and the whole driver’s side opened up like a taco truck.  It was pretty awesome and exciting to be a part of something that unconventional.

DTB: What is in store for the future of Band Wagon?
BW: Right now we’re just focusing on building and making these more and more user-friendly.  I want to focus on be able to spend their time and energy on their music and their live show, not their ride.  I’m not really worried about taking over the world.  We’re just trying to show our appreciation to what these bands are doing and the amount of work, sacrifice, and risk that it takes to do this.  I think the perception is that it’s all fun and glamour.  It’s actually a lot of work and heart to make a tour work.

DTB: Do you have any final comments of thoughts to add?
BW: The cliché is that if you do something that you love you’ll never work a day in your life.  The fact of the matter is that when you work with your family and you work with bands, effort and consideration are noted and appreciated.  There are people in my life that have produced some really awesome music and, in some small way, I get to be a part of their spreading their message.  I have an awesome job.  I get to work directly with the people that get it, that are doing it.  I don’t have to deal with all of the bullshit shenanigans that come with mega artists that are playing stadiums on the moon, with so many hands in the pot and layers of insulation around the “machine” that it loses all of its integrity.  We’re definitely not getting rich doing it, but we’re making a living and having a ton of fun, so I couldn’t ask for a better scenario.