By Crystal Lafata
The road is tough, but it's the only road Left Alone knows. Hailing from Wilmington, California, these punks do-it-yourself mentality and constant touring has landed them a spot as the 2005 Vans Warped Tour BBQ band. Frontman Elvis Cortez lets us in on the hardships of touring and what it's like cooking for 500 people a day on the Warped Tour.
SCM: What's the situation with your trailer right now? What's the problem?
Smelvis: Well from the start we have had a few problems but the major ones were the leaf springs broke in Texas so we fixed that then in Arizona like at 3am the whole axle broke in the middle of the dessert the tire went
flying and everything. We had to buy a flat bed trailer and have a crane drop it on top cause we didn't want to miss the Long Beach show and no one in Arizona had that axle. But now it's ok our good friends in Utah, Skint, helped us fix it while we were in Canada.
SCM: What's been the most challenging thing about being a complete DIY band?
Smelvis: I think its just trying to keep it going. People don't really know how expensive it is to be in a band. Recording, record pressings, van, posters, merch and so many other things. We didn't have someone to call for help. Every single dollar I made that didn't go to pay my rent at my regular 9 to 5 for the past 8 or 9 years I've put down for the band.
SCM: What bit of advice would you give to another DIY band?
Smelvis: Don't wait for a label to call you get off your ass and just do it. Tour as much as possible. People don't understand how important touring is if you don't put your bands name out there, no one will ever know who you are.
SCM: What does it mean to be the Vans Warped Tour BBQ band?
Smelvis: It means for 2 months you pull a bbq trailer across the U.S. And Canada and after every warped tour show you bbq for 500 people. In return you get to play every day on a different stage.
SCM: What times do you play at Warped? Describe a BBQ band's normal day.
Smelvis: Every day is different and we don't have a set time. A normal day is something like this. We get to the venue around 7am set up our merch tent then wait to see what time and stage we play. After we find out, we sell cds all day then I go to production, pick up the bbq money and leave to find a super market. When we return we play our show and rush to start the bbq. We then we'll cook from 8pm to whatever time bus call is, most of the time its 12am. After we finish we clean up pack up and drive to the next town. We do this for about 2 months. Its hard sometimes cause we really don't get to sleep much or see bands play, but hey, we are here to work right?
SCM: How did you get that gig?
Smelvis: In 2003 I was the roadie for the bbq band and met Kevin Lyman. I gave him a cd and talked to him months after the tour ended. We had a meeting and he liked our hard work, diy ethic, because that's what he's all about and hooked us up. Man if it wasn't for him we would have never ended up on Hellcat. We owe him big time.
SCM: What are your BBQ specialties?
Smelvis: bbq pizza and quesadillas.
SCM: What do you do for the vegetarians on board?
Smelvis: We hook them up with veggie burgers and p & j sandwiches.
SCM: What has been the best & worst part of being the BBQ band?
Smelvis: Best part is that we get to play warped tour and get to meet a lot of great bands and travel all over the US and Canada. The worst is, well, I miss my bulldogs when I'm out all summer long.
SCM: What is the most important thing you have ever given up for the sake of the band?
Smelvis: My car. My 1962 Chevy nova. Man it sucked selling it, but if things go as planned I'll have one by Christmas.
SCM: What is your favorite song to play live?
Smelvis: "Another feeling" cause I love seeing kids skank.
SCM: You guys are from Wilmington? I'm from San Pedro. What is the worst part about your city?
Smelvis: It sucks when I'm asked where am I from cause no one ever knows what the hell I'm talking about, I always say, its next to long beach, but people still have no clue.
SCM: Is Smelvin Records still around?
Smelvis: Yeah, but only as a label, not the record store. I still have the entire old Left Alone catalogue and I have many bands I've signed still on it. I love putting out records and will continue to do so.
SCM: What large acts have performed at the PCH club (when it was around)?
Smelvis: Jimmy eat world, the locust, los crudos, murder city devils a lot of underground bands that are quite popular.
SCM: What's your favorite band to tour with?
Smelvis: Skint from Utah cause they are always drinking and they are hard working and hella nice.
SCM: If you could play in any town, with any line-up, what would it be?
Smelvis: Okay, here we go. The troubadour in Hollywood with us opening, then Swingin Utters, then Rancid after that and the Clash to close it all up. Man the money I would pay to see that one....
SCM: What's in your CD player right now?
Smelvis: Everyone will laugh, but its Gin Blossoms. They are one of my favorite bands.
SCM: Anything else you wanna add?
Smelvis: Yeah, I want to thank you for helping us out with this interview and a big hello and thanks to the hellcat/epitaph family.