We recorded The Kelvis on a rainy weekend in either October or November of 1998 with Mike Lastra. We had played every song live numerous times so recording went really quickly. Lastra was great, he really got us used to the idea of accepting things as they happened. Scratchy noise or a missed note? Who cares. If it sounds cool then leave it. My only regret is that the album went un-mastered, which is why it sounds so flat unless played loudly. I sure wish we could get a do-over on that decision. We also embarked on our first tour during this time frame. It was only two weeks long, but it was an amazing experience bolting to the East coast in record time. Things were going relatively well but despite it all, Bryan left in 1999. The pace of independent music, i.e. – no money, no fans, no glory, isn’t for everyone. He needed a change and although we were sad to see him go there wasn’t any bad blood between us for his decision.
Very soon after Bryan left we enlisted Jim, who we knew from Bomf! and Underhand. Jim was a different sort of drummer. He played fast and was often just on the edge of out of control. With the slightly more raw sound Jim brought, I knew I wasn’t going to cut it as a solo guitarist for much longer. We started shopping around and after a brief stint with our friend Lyle (also from Bomf!), we got referred to Justin. I remember he made a point to jump during his audition. It was pretty ridiculous to witness, but the enthusiasm is what we wanted. We didn’t even try anyone else out. He was the guy and Justin became official in 2000. This was the lineup where we finally found our sound.
During those years we practiced a lot, wrote a lot and played a lot. The high water mark was 2002-2004 when we averaged about 4-5 shows a month. For a touring band that’s not very impressive, but we were doing it ourselves while holding down real jobs and practicing twice a week. We’d drive out of town on the weekend, return home, work, practice, work, play in town, work some more and then play out of town again. As we got more offers we were driving farther and farther for weekend shows. Eugene, Ashland, Redding and many regions beyond. Once we drove to Salt Lake City for one show where about ten people watched us. Another time we played in San Francisco on a Sunday and rushed home afterwards to be at work on Monday morning. Justin rolled out the van and went straight to work at 6am, possibly without a shower. The farthest one night stand was a trip to Los Angeles to play on a weeknight where we performed to arm-crossed apathy from a legion of bored bros.
The van had rules, especially around music. Album selections must rotate fairly, roadies included. The exception is the drive home where the driver chooses all of the music. If you are playing a game or watching a movie you forfeit your musical selection. Never play the same CD twice or forever be mocked. If you don’t like a CD, shut up since it’s not your turn. If two of you don’t like the music you may complain, but you can’t veto. If three of you hate the music then Dave is likely driving and he will tell all of you to go to Hell. If Justin is driving then pay attention as each song may be your last. Seating also had rules. Equal time is given to the passenger seat, which is the most comfortable and least odorous seat. Whoever had to work the earliest got to sleep on the bench seat. Second due at work got the floor. Next got the passenger seat and he-who-started-work-last had to drive. That was usually me and I spent countless hours watching the miles pass by while everyone dozed off in peace. It was usually ok though since everything I cared about was in that van.
During that time we flipped 100,000 miles on the van, added a roof extension and embarked on a few more tours and extended outings. We recorded a few times, most notably The Return and Rise Again with Conrad Uno at Egg Studios in Seattle. It was surreal getting wisdom from someone who recorded so many bands that were influential to us. I’m really pleased with how those albums turned out and they are usually my go to if someone asks what we sound like.
We were also lucky that we got to play with a ton of huge bands: Face To Face, Guttermouth, Saves The Day, Sum 41, Bigwig, Strung Out, H2O, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, GWAR, The Misfits, The Living End, Tiger Army, TSOL, Agent Orange, Paint It Black, The Loved Ones, Zeke, UK Subs, No Use For A Name, The Deviates, Zebrahead, All, Only Crime and three slots on the Warped Tour. For a perpetually unsigned and DIY we did pretty well.
Eventually real life starts to catch up though.