20 Watts’ own Carolyn Saxton met You Blew It! manager Jake Lang after a show in New York. He weighed in on everything from touring, to the music industry, to Kanye West’s best album, to the quality of Costco food court grub.
20 WATTS: How did you get involved with tour management?
LANG: I got involved by booking bands as they came through town in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then one of the bands that I booked a lot was Touché Amoré, and one of the time they came through they asked me if I wanted to just hop in the van and come on tour with them, and I said yes. And like two days into that tour, I had slowly become their tour manager and then just stuck with it from there.
20 WATTS: What are the general responsibilities of a tour manager?
LANG: Keeping track of the money, accounting, and advancing the shows. Coordinating all of the information from our end to the end of the venues back and forth. Then just little things like planning the drives, planning the hotels where we’re staying and all that stuff, and anything in between.
20 WATTS: Would you say there are certain qualities or skills you should have as a tour manager?
LANG: Yeah, absolutely. Mainly you just have to be able to deal with any type of person, especially if you’re working for multiple bands because everyone is different. You’re spending 24/7 for a month with these people, so you’ve got to be able to deal with different personalities and be able to cater to them since you’re kind of like a babysitter. That helps. Also organization obviously is the other big half of it.
20 WATTS: If you weren’t involved with music, performance or otherwise, do you think you could see yourself doing anything else?
LANG: That’s the thing, I think I really lucked out by being able to do this because I don’t like anything else. I suck at school. I worked at a roofing company and I honestly really liked that so I feel like I’d probably still be working there, which is kind of bleak, but it was pretty cool. But as far as actual ambition, nah, I really don’t have anything else. This is my everything, which is kind of terrifying.
20 WATTS: What are some of the best things about touring?
LANG: Getting to eat. Everywhere I go, it’s always just like, “where’s the best place to eat?” Asking around, and then doing that. Making friends. I’ve gotten to the point where I can go to any state for the most part and have someplace to stay, like someone’s couch or something. It’s cool to have friends all over, it’s cool to eat, and it’s cool that my job is basically just hanging out with bands and getting to go to a show every night.
20 WATTS: What are some of your favorite foods to eat when you’re on the road?
LANG: I eat like such a child, it’s so bad. And we always eat late, too, which makes it way worse. We eat a ton of pizza because it’s easy and stuff like that, but I love barbecue. I love this place called Slow’s in Detroit, or Stubs in Austin, or we went to this place called Sweetie Pie in St. Louis that was super good. I love barbecue that’s really the point here.
20 WATTS: Dinosaur Barbecue?
LANG: Dinosaur Barbecue. We went there the other day and put a big dent in our stomachs. Oh, Pappy’s. Man, there’s a place in St. Louis called Pappy’s. The first time I went there was in 2011 when I was with Touché Amoré. It was myself and Jason Parent, who books Citizen and Real Friends and all those bands. They’re one of those places that’s open until they sell out of food, and someone ordered the last brisket and there was an actual fist fight over who got the last brisket. And that place is incredible so I totally understand.
20 WATTS: What are some bands that you’ve really enjoyed touring with?
LANG: Like I said, I really haven’t had a bad time touring with any bands. Touring with Fireworks was one of my favorites only because they were one of the very first shows I ever booked, so it was cool in a legacy way and also because they’re a lot of fun to be around. The Caner Bats were really cool because so much shit went wrong with the van breaking down, like, five times and the trailer breaking, and the shows being rough, and them always just being super pumped. I’ve never met a band where the world could be on fire and they’re like, “This is great! We’re high fiving and having fun.” So they were cool. I love The Story So Far because they’re just my boys. I love every band I’ve ever toured with. This isn’t like a commercial, I’m not just feeding bullshit.
20 WATTS: Has being a tour manager shaped the way you view the world in the way that an interior designer might look around a room and immediately redesign it in their head?
LANG: Yeah, definitely. It applies mainly to when I first walk into a venue, and also because I own a venue at home, I’ll walk into a room and I’m like, “That doesn’t make sense that way,” or “This is against fire code,” or “Where are we gonna put this, where are we gonna put that.” Also I think it’s made me more of a mothering character in my life just because at this point I’m so used to it, just taking care of these 5 to 6 people all the time that I’ve become that kind of person.
20 WATTS: Do you have advice for people looking to break into the industry side of music as opposed to the performance side?
LANG: Don’t take tour managing classes at whatever that stupid school is that offers them. I think that is the dumbest thing ever. Books shows, go on tour with your shitty friends’ bands and sleep on floors. Just pay your dues. It doesn’t just happen; it’s not something you fall into. It’s something that you put in time by booking shows, or making flyers, or putting together a zine and all that shit. Eventually you meet more people, and you start that way. If you go to some fucking school, you don’t get any actual experience, you don’t know anything. You’re just paying a shitload of money to sit and do a class and read a book – which is cool, but if you’re gonna do that then become an accountant or something more useful. If you wanna be a tour manager, do it. Work hard, be a part of something.
20 WATTS: I have to ask: top three records of all time, and favorite current record.
LANG: That sucks! Top three favorite records of all time? Oh, my God. Okay. This might not be accurate, but I’ll just think of the first three real ones that come to my mind. Self titled – Foo Fighters, the very first record. A Kanye West record, I don’t know which one. I’ll say Yeezus for now, but they do kind of all alternate. Definitely In Reverie – Saves The Day. All three of those bands or artists, all of their records are just all my favorite at a certain point in time depending on what season it is. And then favorite right now. The Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World. That’s my favorite right now, they’re probably my favorite artist right now…
20 WATTS: Do you have any tips for people who are on the road and might not have the luxury of a tour bus?
LANG: Yeah. Most of the tours I’ve done have not been in a tour bus. Pack light, God help you if you don’t have a heater or an air conditioner depending on what the season is. If you’re really trying to save money, like if it’s your band’s first tour, if you’re not opposed to eating like garbage then eat at a Costco. The food court is so cheap and the food is awesome. There’s a million different little things that you do, you just kind of figure out what works for you, so just go do it. It’s gonna suck at first, and sometimes it still sucks, but it’s always way more fun than sitting at a desk pretending like I give a shit about, like, insurance or some other job that I could be doing right now.
20 WATTS: Any last words of wisdom about tour management and/or music?
LANG: Yes. I’m fucking rich. Nah, it’s the best job ever. Promoters are the worst. Merch rates are bullshit. Really though, merch rates are bullshit. It really is the best job ever, and if it’s for you then do it, but don’t sell yourself short or take away one of my jobs and do it for cheap.
Image courtesy of Jake Lang