Photo by Alex Udowenko
Jouska’s music sounds like the moments you don’t post about. The moments you just let happen. Those are, of course, the most authentic instances within our human experience, and touring musicians—specifically in DIY music—collect heaps of them. Below are a handful of excerpts from Jouska frontperson Doug Dulgarian’s personal tour journal. An edited version appeared in print– Vol. 2 Issue 15 of The Alt, but we’ve left the full, unadulterated collection for your enjoyment. They were written throughout the band’s U.S. trek in fall 2017, and they poetically narrate the mindstate of playing music because it’s the only thing that makes sense. The band is currently on a 40-day tour to Austin, TX for the SXSW festival:
two bottles of black nail polish on crappy patio furniture in a Chicago “backyard” and guy fieri jokes.
Allston, MA- it feels like factories forgotten where we’re playing. There’s this v particular smell of aerosol in the back like somebody has just been painting. people are stoic here, calm but pleasant. not always my experience with Boston. one of the coolest aspects of touring is seeing how the bands that came before left a definitive impact on the music that is happening now. Pile left a big impact here, I think it’s rad. other towns embrace certain styles or presentation methods, while others don’t. that’s another thing about touring. some places people will love what you do—and others might not get it. putting yourself out there continuously is amazing and defeating all at the same time.
starting a chant in some basement in Virginia.
these kids live in a strange area to have house shows in Connecticut. I mean it’s close to the college I suppose, but it’s purely residential. The basement in and of itself has a large, plastic Wendy’s sign behind where the bands play, but the basement is small. every band tonight is amazing. I talk to a buddy from another band about touring together. later we will, actually.
conversations that can’t help but be fleeting and awkward. my feet are freezing cold but standing around in a basement won’t help.
New paltz is a magical small town in the Hudson Valley. It’s our first night with the bus, and we pull up into a parking lot, basically student housing. It’s green everywhere in New Paltz, there’s a trail. My sister lives here. An old friend comes out to the show, and we walk down a former rail trail and he lights up a blunt. still feels comfortable to me, standing by this body of water, trying to sound pseudo-philosophical with an old friend, the crickets are here now but not for long, it’s October 11 or so. We go back to the show, and there are so many kids here. The cops show up, and ultimately the show gets moved around the corner. we play a concrete basement with no lights, I got shocked by the power strip and it gave me powers. the next morning I take a walk with my sibling in the bird sanctuary, back behind where they have a plot of land in a community garden. We used to talk about New Paltz in my hometown as if it was the perfect place to party, an upper echelon of getting fucked up. We never really left our town, though. here I am, older now, and this place is the most peaceful. I feel like if I didn’t have the opportunity to see a bunch of people I love in other cities I wouldn’t do this shit. if it was making music just to make money and going home like how I serve coffee I would puke. In fact- that serving coffee supports this. always. that’s obligatory and supplemental, purely. and this morning, touring feels fulfilling. today I’m happy I throw my life to a job to do this.
NYC is always an anomaly to me. there is nothing else like it. It doesn’t promise you anything.
he was in a warehouse in queens and wanted to shoot a session with us. it was a former factory where all the sushi for airports was made. it’s massive. most of it is unused space. the kind of shit that dreams are made of. we stay up til sunrise, spraypainting the walls and shit, there are no windows. I wake up with a sore throat.
Montclair, New Jersey- It reminds me of my grandparents house. It reminds me of youth. starting to make new connections with places or rekindle old connections is remarkable. I feel like the world is so full now. seeing new cities on a daily basis is like having a fully engrossing new flavor every day. it’s constantly overstimulating. moving to a new town, you have to grow accustomed to the layout, you have to build new memories on the new ground for it to feel right. that happens touring, but in a very rapid and violent way. but also you see these places you’ve always known from an older perspective sometimes. one time on tour, my buddy Erik and I revisited the house I spent summers and holidays in growing up, in North Jersey. in ways I wish I hadn’t. it wasn’t magic like it was in my memories. it was there and it was a house. there was a condemned paper on the front. sometimes it’s better not to revisit things that were once magic. when we arrive at the show later, though, I felt at home. it was our third time returning to the meatlocker, and this felt like a current memory, kind of being created in real time.
fav food- strong hearts, veggie heaven, taco trucks, champs? too expensive rn.
I get a call from an old friend. every time I mention to an old friend that I’m touring, they seem to think that we’re making money, which is just laughable. or that it’s nonstop action like the show Jackass or something and it’s just not. the misconceptions surrounding touring to people that are not involved in this world are so funny. this is just something you do, it’s totally doable. also something that is nearly required to do as a modern musician. with the way that music streaming dominates modern music and the incredible overpopulation of bands currently, you kind of need to be in people’s faces. the necessitation of touring is an interesting concept in light of the fact that we are fully okay making no money. as touring bands, I think it’s like we embrace the idea of the “starving artist”, or maybe it’s just not a good look to act like you need that money from the door. nothing feels like somebody not collecting money at the door. we’re out here counting on it. but we don’t talk about it as if that’s the case! it’s a bummer to talk about. I personally hate the concept and I get why touring bands are so modest. but it’s so defeating to steal food from a grocery store and smile at the folks who put the show on and forgot to collect money, because they were nice enough to do it at all. hasn’t happened to us in a really long time, but I feel like we as DIY need to start opening up that conversation. are guarantees something to be shamed about? I’ve never personally had a guarantee—but like a solid 50 bucks would be p sick and we can make that work.
the musky smell of beer in every house. used to mean something different. I don’t drink or anything anymore. it smells more inviting now, but in the same way that the McDonald’s hamburgers reminds me of rest stops, which reminds me of traveling. I am def not eating meat tho.
we’re making our way out of our show in Jersey, the concrete holds that kind of temperature that makes your ankles hurt while you walk. We stayed awake until 6 A.M. last night in a warehouse in Queens smoking cigarettes and playing music—and we’re all paying for it today. sitting around the show like flat, sun-worn blue paints on crumbling walls. leaves are finally falling; I was kind of afraid that they weren’t going to this year. It’s October 12. It has been hot until today. Nothing really feels like playing a bad show. You’re forcing it out until the end, you’re on display, and you feel the personal responsibility to kind of be a good sport about it and remain friendly. Shows aren’t about just you, after all. And they don’t feel that way when you play well, they feel like a community, like a celebration of sorts. But when you play bad, weird energy, whatever, in the back of your head, you realize that as everybody’s leaving, they’re discussing your band. saying, “I didn’t really like it. They were like zombies,” or something. Maybe I’m imagining it.
Philadelphia feels full. I have been living here for four months or so at this point, and the show I booked here is a massive success, it has that wonderful community feel. It’s in West Philadelphia. tonight I get to sleep at home. glad I moved. pulling into the city you live in is like watching a scratch-off reveal the right numbers.
College Park, MD- College Park is such a strange town. UMD is a massive campus. The town seems to be entirely centered around the campus itself. we played a show here in January, a 200+ house show, a massive party. this night in particular, though, the person who booked the January show is out of town, they are actually touring Korea. John and I walk through campus. families are flocking to a football game I guess? i feel so detached from that normalcy, but these folks are excited to go watch something together, so maybe it’s not different? me and John wander around, not really knowing anybody. that empty touring feeling. I suppose music and sports have similar “celebrity” tendencies in the way we view the participants as a culture. people get social clout and do shitty things with it, or they do something cool with it and try to make things better. I wonder how many people here are stoked that Colin Kaepernick took a knee, or if they realize why that’s important.
we stay in Hampden, which is a pretty cool little part of Baltimore. the next morning I run up the side of a creek, over some train tracks, and under an overpass, warehouses galore. mostly defunct now, with windows smashed open, showing empty darkness. I stop under one bridge and look at the spray paint there, over itself and over itself and over itself and over itself. the Northeast United States is the decomposing husk of the once-booming industrial revolution. that same feeling I had in Allston. the constant reminder in Philly, or Rochester. this was our grandparents and great grandparents world. we grew up in the death of all that.
I reach into my pocket walking up some massive hill in pittsburgh, my hand brushes past a bottle of stolen vitamins and purchased cigarettes. I suppose those both are the perfect amount of stupid obligatory symbolism in relation to touring, but I don’t want to spell it out. I’m sure u get it.
driving into Chicago, the sky is purple and we’re all screaming to Slowdive.
managed to get into a boiler room show last night in Austin, TX. huge warehouse hip-hop show with artists I know and love. haven’t danced that hard in a while. been playing with a lot of incredible bands. SXSW is Facebook in the flesh; all those people you see all the time who “you may know.” yeah, they’re all here and interacting. kind of weird, but also I’m glad to see that all the bullshit Facebook stuff serves some purpose.
it’s a strange feeling seeing somebody for the fourth time in your life and sensing they’re one of your closest friends. you only see people for one night at a time here, and generally in really good spirits—so honestly there’s not a lot of room for error. you have the opportunity to make some real friends on tour. the ones in close quarters are maybe more real, though. you grow to hate each other, you fully experience each of their quirks. what is more real? knowing the ins and outs and accepting that person, or brief, brief interactions.
I suppose the strangest thing about touring is all the time you have to think. when you decide to do it, anybody outside of the music community would probably say that you’re stupid at best. getting a few young people in a (probably terrible) vehicle and relying on other people in other places to provide you with enough money or whatever to get to the next place. continuously traveling? with gear that might stop working? with no regard or talk of mental health and its importance?
being in areas and on roads you’re not used to makes you feel kind of naked. being social 100% of your time every night in that naked state is so taxing. sleeping on floors. the in-betweens make you question not having the comfort of your home or money.
I suppose I haven’t thought about it in a while, but it doesn’t really make sense. tonight I kept revisiting the question: “why am I doing this?”…until when we arrived at the house in Athens, Ohio. the sense of community that night kind of answered my personal inquiry from earlier.
being in the presence of other people is the whole reason for doing it, and often the saving grace. when you realize that there are like-minded people everywhere, doing cool shit like you, you realize that’s what makes it worth it. and those other people doing it lets you know that it’s possible. and it is totally possible! ask other people for help, figure out the way it’s done. plot it out and ask for specific dates (that’s a big one).
often I find myself wrapped so hard into my own little bubble, my world around me. touring kind of yanks that veil off with haste. there’s a whole world of people doing this shit, too: and it’s kind of obsessive and trivial and beautiful.
i love this shit and I love playing music every night and I love my friends and shit goodbye see you soon//