There's a concept in the music world that a band needs a manager, that a band needs an agent, and that a band needs a ton of extra personnel. However, for a long time now, there have been a ton of bands who tour the globe without any of that, and do so with relative success. Enter Houston's Football, etc., a band with none of that who still tour the globe like any other band while using a contact list.
Last year, the band left longtime label Count Your Lucky Stars for New Orleans' Community Records, only to drop their strongest album to date with Corner. Jumping labels, tweaking their sound, and embracing all things new didn't stop them from recording with world renowned producer J. Robbins and trekking to corners of the earth, including Japan. Below, their tour diary as told by Mercy Harper about a band with no one but themselves doing everything bands with lots of personnel do like it's just what bands do.
After several mix ups that included Lindsay and Mercy going to the wrong airport, and barely making their flights to Dallas, the band settled in for the long twelve hour flight to Japan. This included watching some bad movies and eating some pretty good dishes, as per the band.
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Once arriving in Japan, the band found out that the airline left one of their bags back in Houston. As per Harper, "this happened the last time we toured Europe as well, and since it was merchandise and not an instrument, we didn't stress too much." The band was greeted by Hajime, who would serve as the tour's driver and organizer, while Rem Time Rem Time would tour as support as well. The band was treated to a drive to their hotel two hours away. "The last time we took a train and it was exhausting, so getting to ride with "Baby Bowser," the nickname we gave Uriboo of Rem Time Rem Time after a 'Lost In Translation' moment was far better. We then went to Fever, the club we were playing the following night and then hung out at Like A Fool records, named after the Superchunk song. After plenty of food and beers, we stumbled back to our hotel to sleep off our jet lag," Harper recalls.
The band started off with pancakes from 7-11 in Tokyo, served with hints of butter and syrup sandwiched inside. "The 7-11 in Japan have much better food than they do in the U.S.," says Harper. Because the band had plenty of time before their load in, they had time to explore Tokyo a bit, heading to a conveyor belt sushi spot as well as the famed Harijuku shopping district.
"It was much colder than we expected so I bought some long underwear and Danny picked up a jacket," says Harper. The band eventually made their way over to Fever for their load in. The band had to get to the venue for an early load in at 3:30. "It's our experience, that early load ins are common in Japan, where each band gets about a twenty to thirty minute sound check," says Harper. With doors at 7 p.m., the band gets to catch two openers with the almost Belle and Sebastian vibes of CHIIO and the female lead emo band Ayutthaya. Between sets, the band grabbed beers from a vending machine located backstage before catching tour mates Rem Time Rem Time.
Harper explains, "we knew Rem Time Rem Time were good, but their live sets blew us away all tour. They were a bit intimidating to play after honestly, but we performed for forty minutes and played an encore and things went great. We stayed after to take photos and sign autographs, and our merch bag left in Houston arrived via courier too."
The band woke at 7 a.m. and grabbed more goodies from 7-11 before making the trek to Osaka for their show at the venue, Conpass. The band did their load in, then headed over to grab an Osaka specialty, Takoyaki (pan fired balls filled with octopus) at a nearby eatery. "Hajime ordered a hundred balls, which we miraculously finished in minutes. It's so much better to eat in Japan than it is in the states," remarks Harper.
At this performance, Rem Time Rem Time performed in Football, etc. shirts, something that made the band feel "completely honored," as per Harper. The Houston trio dropped another solid set where Mercy broke a string, and Hajime captivated the crowd long enough for it to be changed. The band finished their set with a two song encore before heading into the smoky bar area for photos and autographs.
The band would then make their way to the city of Takamatsu, on the island of Shinkoko to play the record store and venue, TooNice. En route to the venue, the band stopped at a small Udon restaurant to partake in the city's specialty dish. "The shop was tiny and staffed by an older couple, and there weren't any menus. Hajime ordered plain noodles, and then dropped them into a bowl of warm water, adding broth and ingredients. We thought he was just helping out before we realized that it was more of a DIY kind of spot, and we followed suit getting the best Udon we all had ever had," explains Harper. The band also took a 'souvenir photo' at a nearby mall before performing where the band sold a bunch of tank tops ironically to fans who this time, didn't want photos or autographs.
After spending the night in a house without heat, the band soldiered on without showers the next day to the city of Nagoya to perform at the club Spazio Rito. As per Harper, "The show was at an art gallery, no backstage or green room, so we didn't have a soundcheck. There was only one other band, FOLIO, a twinkly nineties style emo band that sounded like Into It. Over It or American Football." After the show, the band headed to their Japanese label's brick and mortar location, where they also have a guitar pedal shop and an attached bar. The label is also home to bands like TTNG and Look Mexico, and while there the band got to see a pedal being designed for Mike Kinsella of American Football and Owen.
The following day, the band would make the trek back to Tokyo, to begin the final dates of the tour. "We were excited to play at Nine Spices because we would get reunited with two old friends, Hiro and Mari. Hiro speaks impeccable English, and we met him on our first tour of the country. He has always done a great job of making us feel at home. We met Mari at SXSW 2013, and she gave a speech about how we inspired her to start her own band, which made us well up with tears at the show," recalls Harper. The show was opened by Dear Student, a band that was inspired by Football, etc. and who has covered their music as well as Mercy & Lindsay's first band, Tin Kitchen.
"Hiro's band Eupholks would perform next and reminded me of Dr. Dog with sparkling guitars, vocal harmonies, and the best drumming we saw all tour. We took a photo with everyone who played, which is customary in Japan, though eventually the venue would kick us out after the show," Harper explains.
The last date of the tour in Tokyo in the Hachioji region, legendary Japanese band Sora reunited just to play with the band, and in a sudden twist, performed first. "They're Hajime's favorite band and he teared up alongside much of the crowd while they played. We played this venue, Rips in 2015 when we toured here last time. It's a six story space that also houses practice rooms, a smaller venue, and Senseless Records as well," recalls Harper.
"We played our final set of the tour after Hajime's band Malegoat played and Rem Time Rem Time played. It was such a whirlwind because even after an encore, the crowd wanted more. So we re-learned a song we had only played once on this tour and went down to play," remembers Harper.
The band would perform until they had no more songs to play, ending the night by taking the stage to wave goodnight and bow to all in attendance, thus capping off another successful tour of the country. Afterwards they would go on to eat gyoza and drink a ton of beers ordered to the venue by Hajime.
"We got tattoos to commemorate the tour with everyone, so we got the image of crossed fingers from our tank top merchandise with the word, 'Maybe' because that's what Hajime would reply when he didn't know what we were saying," explains Harper.
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The final day of the tour the band would go out to eat Yakitori with Rem Time in a chain restaurant that had enough space to fit them all. "We ended up at a spot that was a lot like a Buffalo Wild Wings if there weren't any televisions and you could smoke inside. Afterwards, we sad said goodbyes and Rem Time walked us back to our Air BNB, which turned out to be great because we spent an hour trying to open the key box. Maybe it was all the beer the night before," explains Harper.
The band then woke up five hours later to drive to the airport to fly back home. It's pretty amazing to note that emo music is a huge deal in Japan, though it's also amazing that Football, etc. can tour the country on their own. Without the aid of a manager or an agent, the band proves that touring can still be done with the help of friends like it was twenty years ago, even if it's being done on the other side of the world.
You can stream Corner in all of the usual places, or purchase the American vinyl colorway from Community Records, or the ultra-rare Japanese colorway from Stiff Slack Records. Football, etc. will appear on tour with Japanese Breakfast in April. You can catch them next alongside Prawn at Walter's on Wednesday January 24. The all ages show has doors at 8 p.m., with sets from Caravela and Talking Forever. Tickets $10.