Review: Made in America Tour Journals and exclusive interview

MIA COVER

Sleep On It is one of the fastest up-and-coming bands in the music scene right now. If you’ve been to a Sleep On It show or bought merch from them, you’ve undoubtedly met or seen Alex Fucking Smith. I had the pleasure of reading the Made In America Tour Journals AFS wrote for the most recent tour that Sleep On It was on.

I went to more than one date on this tour and it was fun seeing my favorite bands, but after reading AFS’ tour journals I realized touring wasn’t as easy as I had imagined it to be.

AFS gives us the behind-the-scenes info on all the good days, as well as the bad, and talks the reader through what touring is like for someone who is actually working on one. It’s a personal account of everyday of tour, whether remarkable or just a normal day. It was difficult for me to stop reading the journals — I was so interested in what AFS had to say.

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I thought tour life might have been a little easier and more glamorous, but AFS is quick to shut that train of thought down. Touring isn’t easy on a lot of bands. It’s expensive and adversity can come out of nowhere to ruin the whole run. Touring bands are doing something they love and that is what matters most.

My favorite part of the Made In America Tour Journals, along with everything else AFS has written, is the unfiltered and unedited approach. He’s not trying to sugar coat anything – who would want to read something that just wasn’t true? Honestly, as I read some this collection of material, I was inspired. I think you will be too.

Also, if you want some food recommendations, this journal is full of them.

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I had the opportunity to talk to AFS about the Made In America Tour Journals. Check out the exclusive interview below:

ST: What inspired you to write tour journals about your travels with Sleep On It?
AFS: The journals started as just something to pass the time on Sleep On It’s very first tour back in 2014. The structure was different, as I would write multiple times a day whenever I had time, but it was a way for me to track our memories.

ST: Has touring changed at all since your first time with SOI?
AFS: In some ways, yes but the bare bones of it are the same. The biggest difference is the band isn’t doing everything on their own anymore. They have support from a label and from booking agents. The stress of “self booking” is gone, but the grind has been pretty much the same.

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ST: For people who haven’t read previous tour journals, how did you come to be known as “Alex Fucking Smith”?
AFS: This dates back to high school when my perceived conceited nature was a point of mockery, coupled with the popularity of NFL QB of the same name was drafted first overall in 2005. I stood out from others in my school because I rarely adhered to the social norms/what was expected of me. I was a charismatic outcast, lots of people loved to hate me, and I played up the bit to form a sense self branding/psuedo importance.

From there, when I was at DePaul studying video game design/development I continued to use the moniker as a way to stand out among an influx of designers. It became a personal challenge to prove to people that “professionalism” can take many forms.

When I made the transition to writing I toyed around with a couple nicknames (including the failed “GEARS” moniker) and found that “Alex Fucking Smith” played really well with fans. I put it on the shirts as a harmless bit of rebellion that, when coupled with my big personality allows fans to feel like I’m goofy and approachable at shows. At least, that’s the idea. It’s an ice breaker that usually nets a smile.

Plus, when you Google “Alex Fucking Smith” I’m what pops up on the result. Which is absolutely by design.

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ST: You talk about food a lot in these tour journals — What cities stand out the most to you in this regard?
AFS: Gotta always try the regional cuisine, just to see if it’s worth the hype. Baltimore has crab cakes, Philly has cheesesteaks. Everyone knows this. But every so often you go to a place that has an unexpected gem, or just consistently quality meals. I suppose in this regard I would put Portland Oregon as a city that has pretty much anything you’re looking for while also being pretty good/affordable. (There was a city block’s worth of food trucks and everything looked great.) Other great places are like… Pan de Taco in Houston as that is probably the bestmeal I’ve ever had. And my hometown of Detroit because I can rattle off about a dozen places that I want right now and most of them have the Detroit Coney Dog.

ST: What is your writing process like? Everything read is unfiltered — but do you go somewhere quiet, write in the van when you get on the road, etc.?
AFS: It depends on the day and availability. As the band has grown, so has my responsibilities as a merch guy. I don’t like leaving the table while the show is going on because I never want to miss a chance to make a sale, so I wind up doing a lot of writing during the show. I used to write more during travel time, but for my own personal health I started taking that time to relax. (I still wind up writing on the move if I’m in a time crunch though.)

So yeah, a lot of the time I’m writing at the merch table duringthe show, pausing to help people when they come to the table, or when I need to get something done. ALTHOUGH I prefer to do all of the writing in one sitting, it doesn’t always pan out that way.

Part of the time crunch on the road means I don’t actually get a chance to really edit stuff (and google drive’s spellcheck is pretty bad), but for the first time I am releasing a book soon titled “Tour Survival Guide: OR How to Travel North America When You’re Broke as Fuck” that’s actually well thought out and edited. It was a refreshing change of pace for me as I was allowed to take my time and really think about what I was doing.

ST: Is it ever strange having people come up to you, knowing who you are or bringing you gifts? You mentioned a plethora of Arnold Palmers throughout the journals.
AFS: Yeah, it is surreal sometimes. The guys like to joke that I get more stuff than them (which isn’t true…probably). Just having people know who I am is just reinforcing that I’m doingsomething right and I am incredibly grateful for it. But in less than a year I went from having to explain what I do to have people stopping me outside the venue for a picture, not because they mistake me for being in the band but because they’re legit “fans.”

That day in Detroit where I got 15 cans, 2 jugs and a 12 pack of plastic Arnold Palmers was absolutely insane. But, in fairness, that was the 5th or 6th time in less  than a year the band played in Michigan so they were pretty familiar with me and my nonsense.

ST: Did you have a favorite city on the tour? You convey how particular shows went throughout the journals, but does one city stand out?
AFS: Detroit, and Chicago aside (as it’s my hometown and the band’s hometown), my favorite city that we hit during the MIA tour was PROBABLY Montreal. I know I rag on Canadians a lot, but we went to Montreal on like a Wednesday, it was like 19 degrees outside and there was a small contingent of fans who were there waiting to see us. And some even to see me. That was the third time we had been in Montreal that year and while the crowd was never massive, they always turn out, have fun, and make us feel at home. “Few but passionate,” is the descriptor I like to use.

A close second would be Denver, as we threw together a last minute DIY show after the primary show had to be cancelled. The people at 7th Circle Collective were absolutely awesome, as were the people of Denver who showed up to rock out. Plus we got to explore Denver and its ample greenery.

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ST: How did this tour compare with others you have experienced in the past?
AFS: This tour was a culmination of 5+ years of hard work on the part of SOI. It was long, it was grueling, the weather sucked and after a year on the road we were low on funds. On the other hand, it was rewarding, it was fun, and I think the band truly benefited from being in front of those fans.

ST: Do you plan on continuing the tour journals throughout Sleep On It’s upcoming performances on the final Warped Tour run this summer?
AFS: Warped Tour is an entirely different beast. The goal will be to document it the best I can, from my perspective at the tent, and within the WT community. I’ve never worked a WT, so it’ll be new territory.

There won’t be the long drives, the city adventures, the food or whatever that I’m used to. So the format might change a little, but I’m sure I’ll find something worth writing about.

Will I write about it? I’ll write about anything if people give me the chance! We’ll see!

ST: Where do you see “The Merch Life” going from here?
AFS: The next chapter for The Merch Life is up in the air, so to speak. I still intend on telling Sleep On It’s story, but at some point we will run out story to tell. And that’s okay, and it doesn’t mean we don’t love each other any less. I never thought it’d be a legitimate source of income. I never thought anyone would ever want to read about what I’d have to say. Yet here I am, answering questions from a very real publication which is tight.

I want to continue to write and to tell stories, to entertain, and most importantly affect people in a positive way. Maybe I’ll branch out to other bands, bigger or smaller. Maybe I’ll transition to traveling on my own or embedding myself in a different community to tell their story. The sky’s the limit. And if anyone is reading this and has ideas of what they’d like to see, or maybe they have a band in mind I’m always open to suggestions.

Whether it’s 1 person or 1 thousand, if someone is willing to read it, I’ll continue to write it.

Going forward I see The Merch Life expanding to include artists outside myself, to what end, I’m not yet sure. But the goal will always be to lift those around me. Because if you’re not helping other people, what’s the point?

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ST: How can fans best support you and your contributions to the music community?
AFS: The best way to support me is to become a patron of my Patreon. Even if someone only pledges a single dollar for the month, they’ll get all the writing and it goes a long way toward my self esteem when I see the number of patrons ticking up. There’s also the books available in my shop (themerch.life/shop) that they can purchase in physical or digital formats if they want to read past tours, as well as some other projects I have coming down the pipeline.

Finally following my Twitter (@Im_Alex_Smith) and boosting content is a free and easy way to show any artist that you support them.

Really though, I wouldn’t personally I say I contribute a whole lot to the music community. I simply tell the story of a group of friends trying to make their dream come true, and they’re kind enough to allow me to do so.

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You can get your copy of the Made In America Tour Journal, both physical and digital, here. Also, consider supporting The Merch Life on Patreon.

Have you read the Made In America Tour Journals by Alex Fucking Smith? Are you a fan of Sleep On It? Leave it in the comments down below or hit us up on Twitter: @SpinThoughts.

TAGS: Sleep On It | Alex Fucking Smith |


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Email: skylar.spinningthoughts@outlook.com
Twitter: @Skyxx97

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