From a fan’s standpoint, the touring life appears glamorous, but for an artist, life on the road can be dangerous: bands hauling equipment across the country often have a target painted on their back when it comes to robberies. In light of a rash of high-profile robberies over the past year, PropertyOfZack talked with Koji, Murder By Death, and For Today about what it means when their livelihood was stolen from them — and what they did to bounce back.
by Erik van Rheenen, edited by Jesse Richman
Murder By Death is still a fledgling band in 2003. Two studio albums deep into their career, the band tours out of a van: traveling with a trailer is still a plan, not a reality. In October, the plan for a trailer falls apart at the seams when the van is ransacked during a tour. All of the band’s gear — valued close to $10,000 — is gone. Murder By Death misses three or four concerts. Along with their instruments, the robber has pilfered the band’s livelihood. Admits vocalist Adam Turla: “It’s like they stole your job.”
Adam Turla can count on one hand the number of times Murder By Death has been robbed while out on tour.
The catch? It takes Turla the whole hand.
The five instances range in severity. Just a GPS and a smashed window when the band was a little less unlucky; gear, and everything else, when they found themselves a little more so. “It’s a shitty feeling,” Turla confesses, rattling off his recollections of the five robberies. “You’re just helpless. Expenses still come in, but you can’t go to work. And there’s not much time on tour, and you have to call insurance, you have to take the van to the dealer for repairs, and there’s just not enough hours in a day to deal with everything.”
In what philosophy students could study as “Turla’s Paradox,” the Murder By Death frontman’s call for caution is at once bluntly simple and deceptively tough advice to follow: “Don’t make it obvious you’re a band.” But being in a band in 2013 means logging long miles in a van, often hauling a trailer across the country — it’s tough not to get noticed.
When For Today’s van and trailer were stolen during a tight four-hour window when the band was sleeping off a show in a San Antonio hotel room at 4 a.m., singer Mattie Montgomery says he felt like the robbery wasn’t up to pure coincidence. “I think the people who robbed us were probably waiting for us to go to sleep so they could steal our van and trailer,” Montgomery says. “We literally had $200,000 of gear in there, so it was an amazing target for them.”
Come 8 a.m., on only four hours sleep, the band called a friend to check if the missing van might be a prank gone awry. It wasn’t, and For Today had to scramble to its next show sans lights, banners, and equipment. Montgomery met the circumstances with uncommon — he acknowledges his reaction “may seem weird” — pluck and aplomb. “I was genuinely excited when I realized our stuff was stolen,” he admits, “I love having fun stories to tell, and this was going to be a great one. While I didn’t know how, I was convinced that this whole situation was going to work out for the best, and I had peace in that.”