Monday, February 26, 2007
Piercing screams leap from a tidy Victorian home in a quiet Lawrence neighborhood. Foul play? Tragedy? Little girls playing Barbie. Things are getting back to normal for Katie Euliss (vocals, upright bass) and Mike West (vocals, banjo, and guitar) of Truckstop Honeymoon-as normal as the life of two global troubadours ...
Piercing screams leap from a tidy Victorian home in a quiet Lawrence neighborhood. Foul play? Tragedy? Little girls playing Barbie.
Things are getting back to normal for Katie Euliss (vocals, upright bass) and Mike West (vocals, banjo, and guitar) of Truckstop Honeymoon-as normal as the life of two global troubadours raising children on the road can be.
After Katrina destroyed their home and studio in New Orleans' Ninth Ward, they moved to Wichita as guests of Split Lip Rayfield's Kirk Rundstrom. From there it was a short hop to a new home in Lawrence. In less than a year, Euliss and West have built a new recording studio, recorded a new TSH album, and created a new family member due this summer.
Street Level sits down to tomato soup and grilled cheeses sandwiches in the TSH kitchen to talk with Euliss and West about the riches of friendship, the benefits of home schooling, and the hard-won joys of a life on tour.
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lawrence.com: Can New Orleans ever be what it was?
Euliss: On one level, it's still there. All that shit going on there now-that's always been there. It's just a little more disorganized than it was before. All the poverty-inspired crime, people killing each other just because they don't have anything else going on: It's turned tribal, weirder. It's gone New Guinea. It was always the Big Easy because you could get your hustle on and do your thing. But when that infrastructure is gone, those tourists are gone:People are hungry; they're more desperate, they're more willing to go to extremes.
Are you sick of talking about New Orleans?
West: As with anything, you tell the story enough:
Euliss: We've turned the page, in a lot of ways. :Funnily enough, the new album has the most New Orleans-y stuff on it that we've ever done. And after leaving there, all I want to do is listen to old R&B; and funk music anyway.
Has being in the Midwest produced any thematic influences?
West: Thematic, certainly. A lot of the music we do is really about living in a car. It's about raising kids on the road, and gas stations. But on this new album, Wichita gets a couple of mentions:
West: Kirk is a big reason why we moved here, his support.
- Friday, March 2, 2007, 9 p.m.
- Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire, Lawrence
Euliss: He was the one who called us in the car that day and said: "Come live in my basement in Wichita." We started finding our way from there. We looked for a place in Wichita-just from having so many great fans and friends there-but it wasn't really for us.
West: People were great:
And then Lawrence?
West: Lawrence was a shot in the dark. :We'd found a place in Wichita but we were still on tour. Six weeks later we were off tour at last, for the first time in eight months after the hurricane. We were staying with Kirk-I was working on an album for him and recording a Grain and Demise album-and we realized we didn't want to live in Wichita, in some way we could not describe.
Euliss: Come on, girls!
West: So then it was: Where in the heck are we gonna go? We've got these kids, we need a home base:
Euliss: I said to Mike: "Go to Lawrence, find an apartment. We need two bedrooms-we don't have anything, we don't need much room. Let's just be like that for a while, not too rooted anywhere. He called me: "Well, I found this house." And I said: "Buy it. I don't care." I bought it sight unseen.
You've been supporting yourself with your music for a couple of decades.
West: Without being a rock star and never having a hit.
Euliss: You can do it, and keep a relative amount of obscurity.
West: (laughs) A great deal of obscurity. The obscurity is easily maintained.
Euliss: It's a service industry job.
West: You're an entertainer. You're there with the bartenders and the waiters and the musicians. You're there to provide something other than a workday for people.
Euliss: It's an inherently unglamorous and sober existence.
West: There was a point where I was about 28 or something, playing in indie bands, making videos and trying to get on the charts: Doing all that and never making a nickel, always listening to managers talking about strategies and careers. And suddenly, I was approaching 30, which for indie pop is death. And I thought: "I never expected that I still would want to be playing music when I was this old." So I decided to forget about what managers, agents, and strategists told me. Because at the end of the day, it's a completely self-serving industry and the last one to be paid is the artist. Which is totally bizarre. In any arts-related thing, where an artist can be rewarded with vanity and flattery, that's the way it works.
Euliss: Or when they want to pay you with "exposure." People die from exposure.
So you gave up being a rock star and became a musician. It's funny you chose to do that in two highly competitive, densely saturated music towns. You'd think you'd try to lessen the odds elsewhere:
Husband and wife team Mike West and Katie Euliss make up Truckstop Honeymoon, and they bring bluegrass and old-timey music with a vaudeville flair to the Gaslight Tavern in this family-friendly episode of The Turnpike.
Euliss: We do go elsewhere. We go to the ends of the earth. We don't just stay in one town. It requires travel-touring, other countries and all that. You have to hit all the towns, everywhere. This year's been slower because we're expecting another baby, but we were on the road three-quarters of last year. :The baby's due June 5th, so that screws us for Wakarusa this year.
West: Last year we did a two-and-a-half month tour of Australia, a six-week tour in England and Europe, then tours to the West Coast:
Euliss: We went to Norway.
West: We did two shows there. Awesome. Little fishing villages. We played an island of 300 people. I think six of them showed up.
(Screams: "I need blue high heels!")
Euliss: Sadie, let her have the blue high heels.
How are your girls on the road?
Euliss: They're really good. I did my first gig with Vega when she was four days old. :We home-school our kids because we travel and it's what we want to do. We get to give them really specific attention. We're blessed that way-we get to spend all our time with our kids.
You've already transplanted your studio to Lawrence.
Euliss: It's still the Ninth Ward Pickin' Parlor. We've been recording a lot of people from out of town.
Euliss: It's a full-on schedule, but it's a good life. We don't have to ship our kids off anywhere.