Going on an international tour as a support artist is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s something that most musicians aspire to do at some point in their careers. Performing overseas allows you to connect to a new audience and new industry professionals, make new friends, and gain valuable experience. The exposure can be amazing, the memories will last a lifetime, but it’s a big endeavor that requires A LOT of planning. That’s why we asked our friends Empathy Test – who are no strangers to the road – to share some of their expert advice.
In 2015, Empathy Test booked and co-headlined their own UK tour, performed to an audience of 1,000+ at Wave-Gotik-Treffen Festival in Germany, headlined Riba Rocks Festival in Spain and shared stages with everyone from Bombay Bicycle Club to The Japanese House. In 2016, they joined Bristol Synth Pop legends Mesh on a two week tour of Europe and this year they will joining joining them for part 2 of #TouringSkyward. Their new single “By My Side” comes out February 17.
Do travel light
We were lucky enough to travel on the bus with the headline band for our first international tour. But there were two things we should have realised. One; there would be very little room for us on the bus and two; there would very little room for us on the stage either. Being the first of two supports at each venue, changeover time was tight and the other guys’ gear was set up behind us, leaving us teetering on the edge of the stage at the smaller venues. Turning up with our own stage set and lighting was never going to go down well. We couldn’t fit the extra stuff on the bus, which was already filled with the two other bands’ merchandise, and we couldn’t fit it on the stage either. So do yourself a favour and travel light – most of what you bring will probably be sharing your bunk with you!
Don’t peak too soon
It’s easy to do. You’re on your first international tour, you’re living the dream! There’s free booze at every stop and however hard you try, it always seems to end up in you. You wake up the next day in a new city and do it all over again. And again. And again. Suddenly, you realise you have been partying for six nights in a row and your body (and mind) can’t take it any more. It’s at this point it’s best to take breather. You’ve got another week – or more – left and if you want to make it to the end you need to calm down. It’s hard, because there’s always someone (like Daniel from Aesthetic Perfection, or our tour manager, Jan) with a bottle of vodka saying, come on, just a shot! Have a shot with me! Do resist as often as possible, or you might not make it home.
Do help the merch seller
Chances are, if you’re not paying to be on the tour, you’re not being paid. So merch sales are where it’s at. The merch guy or girl has a nightmare job on their hands every night, trying to shift as much merch as possible and keep track of the money. Possibly, they’re not getting paid either, and frankly, selling your merch is bottom of their priorities. That’s just how it is. So it’s a good idea to help them out as much as possible. And here’s a secret, too – you’re way more likely to sell merch if you are there selling it. People will recognise you, and if you did a good job on stage, will want to say hi. Some of them will feel obliged to buy a CD and have it signed. Bingo! Cash in the bank. So as soon as you’re done on stage, grab a beer and go help out on the merch stand.
Don’t piss off the crew
Your job is easy. All you have to do is stay sober enough to get on stage and at least half remember how to play your songs. The crew have to get up earlier than you do every day, shift a ton of equipment and make it all work, however hungover they are. Every venue presents new problems and new challenges. As they are the guys that make you look and sound good, it’s best to keep them on your side. Try and help them out all you can. Carry your own instruments and try and get it back in the bus before you get too drunk to remember where you left it. And if tempers are frayed and they snap at you, don’t drop the box of t-shirts you’re carrying so it splits and spills merch everywhere and then walk off swearing. If that sounds like we’re speaking from personal experience, it’s because we are. It won’t go down well.
Do make the most of it
If you have time, you should definitely go and explore each city you end up in. It’s pretty easy to just sleep, eat and drink the whole time. If your tour is being run with any kind of precision you’ll have plenty of time to kill. It’s a great opportunity to see some places you might never have gone if it wasn’t for this tour. Just make sure you don’t get lost and that you get back in time for your sound check. Although chances are, it will be two hours after your allotted slot so don’t worry too much. Likewise, if there’s an after party at “that famous club where The Beatles played,” don’t get so drunk while the other bands are playing, that you can’t physically get in a cab. Again, we’re speaking from personal experience.
Empathy Test have a new single out, “By My Side,” on February 17th. You can sample the track and find all their tour dates on their ReverbNation profile.