When a band goes on tour, there’s the potential to see humanity at it’s greatest. Whether the venues are massive stadiums or tiny basements, there’s the chance to witness people basking in their shared, undying love of music. Unfortunately, there’s also the potential for some rat-bastard to screw everything up. When that happens, there’s nothing left to do but to pick up the pieces, take stock of what went missing, and try to learn some lessons for next time.
Today, on the debut of Bandit Blotter, I had a chance to talk with Ken Taylor, drummer of the Oakville pop-punk group Seaway. Between 2012 and 2015, they’ve had their van robbed on three separate occasions. Fortunately, Ken was a good sport, and made some time to chat over Skype about their trifecta of misfortune. You can read the interview below.
Q: Could you tell me a little bit about when you guys were first robbed, back in 2011?
A: The first time was just us going into a BBQ spot in St. Louis. We went out for lunch and parked the van on a really busy street, thought it’d be fine, and got back from an awesome BBQ lunch and instantly were like ‘Oh shit, van’s unlocked’. We hopped in and instantly I noticed my backpack was missing, and then one by one everyone was like ‘uh-oh, mine’s gone too.’ We looked and they had punched out the key-hole.
Q: Wow! They actually managed to punch the lock out of the car door?
A: Yeah. It wasn’t fully out, but it was somehow pulled out. I’m not sure how they did it- they would’ve had to have used some wiring or something- but it was just the silver part was hanging out. And this was the same van that it’s happened in every time since.
Q: So that would’ve been 2012, what happened in 2014?
A: The second time, we were on tour with Four Year Strong. We were sound-checking, and I remember seeing our tour manager, Zack, run out of the venue, and we were just like ‘oh, that’s kind of weird’, and didn’t think anything of it. After we finished sound-checking we walked down to the green-room, and Zack was like ‘the van got broken into again’; they stole all of our acoustic guitars, and a lot of our clothing bags.
Q: Jesus! Didn’t some passports get stolen as well?
A: The first time we got robbed in St. Louis we had gotten our passports stolen, and that already sucked; we had to deal with hopping the border back to Canada without passports. The second time we got robbed, Patrick’s passport was in his bag, again. So he’s gotten two passports stolen, and almost wasn’t reissued another passport, because they thought he was selling them on the black-market, or something. They were like, right off the bat, ‘this is your last passport, if you loose this one, you’re screwed.’ So now he keeps it in his back pocket at all times.
Q: So, after that shock interrupted the sound-check, did you go on with the show?
A: We were like ‘oh well, better make the best of it.’ But we were definitely really bummed throughout the night. It’s pretty much a common theme that whenever we get robbed we get really drunk after, because it’s the one way to keep things positive, and I think the venue ended up giving us a free bottle of liquor because they felt bad so… we definitely didn’t end up having a bad night.
Q: Did these robberies shift the mood of the tour?
A: The first time it happened it didn’t even feel like real, we were just really bummed out; we had a friend on tour with us who had money and his computer stolen, and he was literally just helping us out, so we felt really bad about that. The second time it was just like getting kicked while you’re down, we were like ‘oh, I thought we had paid our dues with the last one,’ and then it ended up happening again! And it sucks, because San Francisco’s such a cool city, but I had heard from a couple locals that shows are being targeted because thieves just know that there’s going to be bands with expensive gear, and people staying inside. It’s just an easy thing to target, and I know it’s the same in St. Louis, where a lot of venues actually have security outside just to watch the vans, because people were starting to get smart and look up the show listings and act accordingly, so that they could break in without anyone seeing, while the band’s playing.
Q: So what about the third time?
A: Our guitarist likes to say ‘lightning doesn’t strike four times’, so hopefully we got our third one out, and hopefully that’s the last one. But, it was hard to even be mad, because the situation was so funny. Earlier that day we had picked up a new GPS from a friend of ours who lived in Arizona, because the one we had was awful. So, we’re in a hotel, updating the maps on the new GPS, and while we were doing that, someone was breaking into our van and stealing the old GPS. It was something we probably would have thrown out anyway. The only thing that sucked was that the window was smashed, so it was just another expense on the tour.
Q: Did you guys get any support on the road after your were robbed?
A: It was crazy to see how many people will lend a hand when you’re down. We had so many people sending money, and it was just humbling to see that people cared enough about us to give enough money to us to get our window fixed, or replace some clothes, although some of the stuff was not exactly replaceable.
Q: Like what kind of stuff?
A: The passports and guitars were really the bulk of it. It’s funny because some of the guys have had their wardrobes stolen twice. They got home from that one tour, and then all their clothes were gone, so they resorted to their older clothing, and when that was stolen, it was like ‘I don’t have any clothes anymore’. I remember, after that tour, we were dropping Patrick off at his house – usually we’d give everyone a couple minutes at each house as they grab their stuff and bring it inside – I just remember him being like ‘give me a minute to grab all my stuff, oh wait, got it all!’ and he picked up a small plastic bag. But the guitars were probably the most upsetting thing. We were writing a record at the time, that’s why we had the acoustic guitars; at that point we were like ‘well, I guess we’re not going to be writing any more, for the rest of the tour.’ The Four Year strong guys actually had a couple of acoustic guitars for some performances they were doing, and were nice enough to give us a couple of guitars. We really appreciated that, or else our guitar would probably not be finished right now.
Q: Do you think there’s any way this kind of stuff could be stopped, or is it just inevitable that people will prey on bands?
A: Honestly, it’s hard to be optimistic about it when it’s happened three times in the span of three years. As much as I’d like to say it could get better, I think it more just requires us to use extreme caution, and if you don’t want something stolen, don’t leave it in the van. Hopefully the cities that have troubles with it start to follow what a lot of St. Louis venues are doing, where if you don’t have a designated spot that the van can be safe, they have a guy outside just watching them. One thing we have stopped doing; we used to have a bunch of band stickers and logos all over the van, which I think just screams ‘BAND’ so we just took all those off to make it less obvious that we’re a band with gear in the back, and maybe people just think that it’s a company or something.
Q: My last question would be, if you could, would you have anything to say to one of the three individuals who jacked you?
A: I kind of always think of the friend of ours who just happened to be robbed – it was close to Christmas time – and he was like “I hope that whoever did it was doing it out of a desperate thing, maybe he needs money to buy his kids presents or something”. I try to keep that mindset… even though I know it’s completely bullshit. Oh, and if I could say something to the first and third guys, it would be ‘you’re both idiots, because you left the cash-box in the van, and you didn’t find them!’ The first time, because we literally went in to get lunch, nobody thought to grab the cash. There was probably a few grand in the cash box, and it actually looked like they had moved the cash-box to look for something else. So if you’re going to rob someone, actually be smart about it. The third time I think the cash-box was also in there, and they literally just grabbed a GPS worth 30 bucks.
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