Marnie Stern and the misanthrope’s guide to touring
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Almost everyone who dreams of being in a band also dreams about the highly romanticized touring lifestyle. The opportunity to quit a dull day job (or at least take a few weeks off) and hit the road to meet new people, see new sights, and hone one’s craft in front of a different audience every night—it’s all part of the rock ’n’ fantasy, right? That is, if the rocker actually enjoys those things. Sometimes a talent for playing the guitar and a passion for songwriting don’t mean that a person loves to travel, is comfortable hanging out in dank clubs full of strangers, or enjoys sitting through set after set from the other bands on the bill—as is the case of self-described “homebody” Marnie Stern. In advance of the guitar shredder’s March 10 show at Subterranean, The A.V. Club bothered Stern with yet another tour obligation, asking her to offer some road tips for her fellow misanthropes.
Embrace your Internet addiction.
“You can get Wi-Fi on your van now,” Stern says. “You can be on your computer the entire time, if you get one of those chargers so that you’re plugged in. And then, you know, you don’t have to talk.” Which, she stresses, can save a lot of trouble. “We’ve been talking this whole tour. It’s really depressing.”
Bring your dog.
Nothing makes you feel more at home then taking a four-legged best pal in the van with you, but it’s important to be sure you’re making the right choice. “I don’t know—I feel a lot of guilt about taking the dog; I feel bad for her,” Stern explains of Fig, her furry tourmate. “But she loves me so much that it’s very difficult. And we’ve all gotten so attached to her that she gets a lot of attention. It’s more a selfish thing on our part—we want her around. On the road it’s amazing how many people come up to her and give her attention.” And while it’s unconventional to tour with a dog, it’s certainly not unheard of. “I know of dude-bands who’ve brought big, crazy dogs on tour. Everybody loves their animal.”
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“Find a text buddy from another band,” Stern advises. This technique accomplishes two things—first, it provides something to do with your hands besides stick up your middle finger when sitting through a set by yet another band on the bill that sounds like shit. And, after weeks of tapping out, “god these guys suck, im so bored” to your text message pal, it’s likely he or she is on the shortlist of people you don’t hate—a highlight for Stern. “Then you can meet up when you’re in the same city,” she says.
Stay in the car.
Even if everyone else in the band is into it, you’re not obligated to want to have a good time. “We were in New Orleans, and I’d never been there, so I said, ‘I want to see it.’ So the first night, we walk around, and I’m like, ‘Okay, I get it; I got the gist.’ And the next day, everyone else was like, ‘Let’s go back out!’ and I said, ‘Okay, that’s fine—just leave me in the car.’ And I sat in the car for three hours. I just am not a doer,” Stern says. This helps explain how Stern developed the playing style that’s made her such a hit. “It’s why the guitar thing ended up happening. It was something I could do by myself for eight hours at a time.”