Guantanamo Baywatch are a touring machine. These road dogs know van life better than any other band, and have the stories (and nightmares) to prove it. And boy are they down to prove it. I stood outside the Echo with Jason Powell, Chevelle Wiseman, and ChrisScott one warm and sticky night in Los Angeles, and let them spill their guts. For a band that’s been living the Kerouac concrete dream, you’d think meeting an eight-foot tall drug dealer in a dominatrix mask would irk ‘em. But no. Nothing phases these lizards.—Maya Eslami
What Youth: How many months out of the year do you guys tour?
CHEVELLE WISEMAN: I’d say normally, maybe like nine or ten.
JASON POWELL: No, that much?
CHRIS SCOTT: Maybe six?
CW: Last year we were recording so we had more downtime, but some years we’re just touring nonstop.
JP: When they’re not really the recording years, cuz like right before we recorded we were just flying out to do one-off shows, like twice a month. So it’s not really road tripping. But now that the album came out, it’s gonna be crazy.
What’s the rest of the year look like?
JP: It’s what, August, September, October, November-
CW: Then March. SXSW. We’ve actually talked about this before. I know the Night Beats do this. They do the US, like really do it, go everywhere, and then do it again. They had one apartment that they just stored all their stuff in, and just looped it.
JP: It’s nuts.
CW: I don’t wanna do that.
JP: Like already, this trip, it’s like two weeks, then five or six weeks in Europe, and then two weeks off, and then another six. Like damn, I’m already ready to go home.
CS: It’s been five days.
Okay tell me some crazy road stories.
CW: I already have one.
CS: Which one do you have?
CW: Ozona. Do you have one?
CS: No, that’s a good one. You do Ozona first.
CW: No, you jump in, because we all don’t remember it that well.
CW: So we were on tour with the Mean Jeans, and we had just gotten this van. We got it all the way to the middle of Texas and it ran out of gas. So we pulled off in this little old gas station, totally closed down, and the tow truck guy shows up, and he puts gas in it, and it still wont start. I forgot what actually broke. But it was something really bad.
JP: And we couldn’t all fit in the tow truck, so half of us had to hide-
CW: No that was a different one. All the boys went in the van, up on the [tow], and I, just alone, me and the weird old guy, were in the tow truck for like an hour.
CS: And we could look down on them from the van, talking and stuff.
CW: They were laughing at me. I was trying to be friends with this guy, because we also didn’t know where we were going, and he lived in that town.
JP: We got dropped off in Ozona, Texas.
CW: He drove us around to every hotel, and every single hotel was completely booked out by the oil companies.
CS: There was nowhere to stay.
CW: He was like, well I’m gonna leave you at the mechanics shop. And we’re like, where’s the bar. And there’s a bar down the street, but it used to be a dry town until like very recently, so even that was kinda sketch- we were all pretty sketched out. Like guys with guns and shit. That kinda town.
CS: It was a weird town.
JP: We all got steaks at this place. We didn’t know where we were gonna go, so we asked the waitress if she knew a place to go. And obviously we don’t belong there, they’re like, “What the fuck are you guys doing here?” So she comes back out and she’s like, “Well, you can stay with me and my boyfriend in our trailer.”
CW: He was the cook.
JP: But she started it out like, “Alright so like, do you guys drink or party?”
CW: She said it in a way where we couldn’t tell if it was yay or nay.
CS: All of us were like, “We don’t really know?”
CW: We said we drank beers sometimes, and she’s like, “Awesome, because we like to rage!”
CS: No, she said, verbatim, “Good, cuz we get fucked up.”
CW: That’s it.
CS: And we’re like, “Oh shit, okay.”
JP: So we waited until the bar closed, and went over to their trailer-
CW: We got in their truck. I was scared getting into their truck cuz it was like, this is how horror movies start. Now we are away from our car, and it’s six of us-
JP: Driving out into the middle of nowhere.
CW: And she’s driving us deep. She also said, “Nobody walks here,” cuz we were like, “We’ll just walk.” So we get to their trailer – they live in a trailer – and the trailer’s in front of a house, or behind the house that they own, but the house is full of asbestos, and someone had spray painted “Bloods” and then crossed it out and wrote “Crypts” and then crossed that out again.
CS: On the truck in their front yard.
“Half of the siding of the house had been eaten off by goats. There was insulation everywhere. And they had this little weird baby.”
Oh my god.
JP: So we walk in, and there were two Native American teenage kids there. One that was maybe like fifteen, one that was, I don’t know, ten, or something. And a real little baby. And they were watching super violent anime. Like really crazy violent anime. And we walk in, and they didn’t say a word.
CW: Then the people who lived there were like, “This is Ninja and Jackie O.”
JP: The names of the kids were Ninja and Jackie O. They didn’t say a word the entire time.
Same people from the bar?
CW: Yeah. So they wanted us to drink vodka with them, but we couldn’t just drink the vodka. We had to put…
“They said they made infused vodkas at their house. We had to help them make it. But it was just vodka in water bottles with Jolly Ranchers in it. So we had to shake it and they wouldn’t let us fucking drink it until the Jolly Ranchers were gone.”
CS: We were like, “It’s good, it’s good.” And they were all, “No we can still see the candy.”
Wait. They were melting Jolly Ranchers in their vodka?
CW: So we’re all just shaking bottles of vodka and Jolly Ranchers-
CS: For hours.
JP: And it was so fucking bad.
CS: We couldn’t even really drink it, it was disgusting.
CW: The guy that lived there, the cook, had a KKK tattoo, but we didn’t really know — it was like a weird sword…
JP: We didn’t ask him about it.
CW: And he’s just like, “So you might think this is KKK but it’s actually from Legend of Zelda.” And I immediately Googled KKK sword and it’s a fucking KKK tattoo.
CS: He’s all, “This is a Legend of Zelda tattoo. I’m really into Legend of Zelda.”
CW: He also had, on his toes, E = MC2 across [one foot] and then A2 + B2 = C2 on the other foot.
CS: He said he had it because he was the smartest kid in his class.
CW: But only two in the whole class graduated. So he was the valedictorian. And that’s why he got those tattoos. Stick and poke math equations on his toes.
JP: Didn’t he make us some terrible fucking Totino’s pizzas with like smoked gouda on ‘em.
CS: Like sliced sandwich deli gouda on the pizza. Like great, this nasty ass cheese on this nasty ass pizza doesn’t make anything good.
JP: So the next day we finally get out of there, but the van is barely working.
CW: And the mechanic didn’t speak English.
JP: He was laughing at us.
CW: I had to pay like $200 for a starter, which wasn’t even the problem, but like, what else was I gonna do. And then I was like, “Do you think we’ll make it to Austin?” He just started laughing, like, “Austin? What?” We had a show that day, like mid afternoon.
JP: So we just had to go, and it wouldn’t idle. We had to keep our foot on the gas, and use the breaks.
CS: Four hours.
JP: We barely made it. Like it was dying, at every stop sign. Just dying, having to restart it. And we got within two or three blocks of the Spider House, and we literally had to push the van in to make our set.
CW: We were on next, and we literally pushed the van into the spot-
JP: And the promoter was like, “Where the fuck have you guys been?”
CW: We ran on stage, and the whole show I’m just like, “My car is fucked.” We didn’t have beers. I was like, “Someone get me a drink.”
JP: And then we had to jump the fucking van after.
CW: But then, one of the friend’s of the Mean Jeans, this guy was wasted, he was like, “I got this Dodge Ram big old Texas pickup truck, I’ll give it to you, whatever.”
CS: For a thousand bucks, cash.
JP: Just this wasted guy we tricked into selling us his truck.
CW: And then in the morning, we went to do it with the title and bill of sale and he was so bummed, he did not want to do it. But he was like, “I guess I told you guys I’d do it.” And we were like, “We need your car, man.” The Mean Jeans were gonna fly home, so it was just the three of us. But we had to get a tarp. All of our shit was getting wet, there were random rain storms.
JP: So we drove all the way back from Austin to Portland, playing shows along the way.
CW: In this gas guzzling truck.
CS: In a Texan pickup.
CW: That’s that story.
JP: Our landlord flew out to Boston to watch a show we did on Halloween at this ground house. He’s a nut, but he ended up stealing this MDMA from this drug dealer that lived at the house.
CW: The drug dealer was like eight feet tall. He had a dominatrix mask on with this harness thing, and a pacemaker on the outside of his body, and he was explaining to everyone that he does all these drugs and stuff, but he actually has extreme heart problems, so he needs the [pacemaker]. Really scary dude that I would never steal drugs from. And there was a table with the bag full of MDMA, and I watch [our landlord] put his elbow down on it and slide it off the table and pick it up from the ground.
CS: Then he lost it.
CW: He got so drunk he couldn’t find it. He got so drunk we had to lock him in the van. And he really hates cops. So I locked him in the van, and he must’ve had it on him at this point, and I put him in there and was like, “If you open the door – I’m locking it, and I have the keys – if you open the door the alarm will go off and the cops will show up and you’ll be in so much trouble.” So he was good.
CS: But also he was the oldest and drunkest person at this party. He was falling in the bushes and shit. Just a mess.
CW: He was having a good time, but way too drunk.
JP: And so he lost the MDMA, we went all over the country, probably got pulled over a million times, and then we got to Las Vegas-
CW: We had a day off.
JP: And we found the bag of MDMA in Las Vegas.
CW: In the cupholder in the backseat or something.
JP: And we had the best time. We were staying at the Hard Rock, and we got so fucked up.
Grab What Youth Issue 19 for more from Guantanamo Baywatch. Sold out online but available at Barnes and Noble.