TRAVERSE CITY —
From around 2003 to 2006, Andrew Dost was part of a rock band called "Anathallo," doing shows and driving around the country in a van that tended to overheat and dining out of gas station convenience stores.
Today, the Frankfort native and his band, "fun.", are up for six Grammy nominations. You can hardly go anywhere that has music playing in the background without hearing their hits, "We Are Young" and "Some Nights."
Fun. will perform during the awards program set for Sunday night on CBS. Locally, friends and family are to gather at Frankfort's Garden Theater for a Grammy Watch Party on Sunday evening that will double as a fundraiser for the Frankfort-Elberta Area Schools' music program.
The Record-Eagle attempted to talk with Dost, but his publicist said time didn't allow it. He recently did an interview with the alumni magazine at his college alma mater, Central Michigan University. He told them that studying journalism at CMU helped prepare him for his music career.
"When writing music, it's sometimes hard to cut away lyrics you spent so much time putting together," he said. "Then, going back to my journalism classes, I remember about writing compact sentences and editing out the fluff to make the songs better."
Back in 2006, Dost was writing a column for the Record-Eagle he called, "On the Road." Here are some excerpts.
Family away from home
The holidays are typically a time to be among family.
This past Thanksgiving, we were among a new family. And we were at a home away from home.
We spent the day in Atlanta, with two bands we're good friends with, Page France and Colour Revolt. We had a fairly late night on Wednesday, visiting with friends, and then once they had left, visiting with each other, telling tales of our favorite Thanksgivings, and memorable ones that hadn't quite been favorites. A few of us stayed up until around 5 in the morning.
We were woken up by my phone ringing a few hours later. It was a friend from Page France telling us that they were ready to shop and start cooking. So, we gathered and went to the store, and everyone moved through the aisles as a group, grabbing their necessities for the day and explaining why it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.
For example, a couple people needed cranberry sauce. We were hungry when we were there, so we ended up with seven cans of cranberry sauce.
Fortunately, we had a turkey donated to us so we were free to work on potatoes, stuffing, corn, pumpkin pie and all the other touches that make for the best meal of the year.
So we went back to the apartment in which we were staying, and began cooking. For most of us, it was the first big meal we've been in charge of by ourselves. We tried to time things right so they'd get done around the same time. We tried to estimate when we'd need the oven and when we'd need the range. We tried to figure out how to keep things hot once they were done.
We had a toast, and complimented all the food that we had worked on, even the stuff that hadn't turned out as well as we'd planned. We read "Trivial Pursuit"' cards to each other and marveled when people knew impossible answers. When we went around the room and told about what we were thankful for, everybody echoed the same sentiments.
We were thankful for our families, and not just the ones that share the same blood.
Late nights, late meals
When we pulled into our friend Gabe's house, it was 2 a.m. We were hungry after playing a concert, but also exhausted, and we were fully prepared to go to sleep without eating.
However, as the door opened and we stepped carefully inside so as not to wake his parents, we were greeted with the sounds and smells of a late-night meal. Tacos, nachos, pop, water and a basket of fruit adorned a table in the dining room. And they were being placed on the table by Gabe's smiling mom. At 2 in the morning!
We ate our fill. We talked to Gabe, but also to his mom. We heard stories about Gabe, a younger musician, and his budding abilities. We heard stories about concerts his mom had been to, both Gabe's and bands she liked. When all was said and done, and the table was cleared, everyone went to bed.
We couldn't believe that his mom had stayed up so late to take care of us. We were awestruck and slept incredibly well with our full bellies.
In the morning, we were awakened by roosters crowing. Gabe's family had several that roamed around the backyard. Accompanying the crowing was the sound of breakfast being made.
We rubbed the sleep from our eyes and made our way to the dining room, where we were once again presented with an amazing and unexpected meal.
I still can't really believe sometimes how kind people can be "¦ I hope I can keep that in my mind all the time and treat everyone like the amazing people they are.
Seeing the light
Night drives are an amazing chance to get to know someone. We've made a few all-night trips, and every time, something incredible happens.
Even if it's just finding out what's been bothering a friend, things come out into the open. Inside jokes are started, and barriers are broken. Things change. Being fueled by caffeine and gas station junk food does something to the psyche. Or maybe it's just being awake when it feels like everyone else on the planet is asleep.
It makes you want to be kinder and more thoughtful. It makes you want to share things you've never told anyone. The most extreme drive I've made was from Portland, Ore., to back home. It took about 48 hours nonstop. We pulled off for gas and food, and that was it.
The best part was that our van was rapidly falling apart, and the speedometer didn't work. Fortunately our cooling system was also failing, so we could tell our speed by how close we came to overheating.
With the heat on full blast in the middle of summer, and our brains already partially fried from two months on the road, we took off. I grew closer to my friends during those 48 hours than during anything else we've gone through. Even now we don't look back on the trip as a hardship; it was something we united for and overcame, and the memory is great.
Love the one you're with
Today marks the end of approximately two days in the van.
We had driven from Toronto to Phoenix and as the grand finale of the trip, we visited the Grand Canyon. We've driven by several times before, with no time to stop. We were thrilled to have the chance this time.
Having a day to ourselves reminded me that through being in the band for so long, I've forgotten how much I care about my bandmates. It's so easy to take them for granted, they're around 24 hours a day for months at a time. It reminded me of traveling with my family — when traveling wasn't an occupation, but filled with the excitement of getting to the destination. Usually the car ride for our band is a chore, just an extended period before we get to stretch our legs and play music.
But this was different. We were like a family. We genuinely enjoyed each other and even the time in the van. We were on a family vacation and we were happy to be together.
At the Grand Canyon, we were surrounded by families doing what we were — chattering excitedly and getting ready to see one of the most amazing sights in the world. We weren't a band, on the road as a job.
We took pictures for other families. They took pictures of us. We were doing exactly what the other families were doing — enjoying time together, enjoying a break from routines, and enjoying the beauty of a world that we ordinarily would have driven right by.
Just when it's safe to go into the bathroom
Over the past weekend, we played a concert as part of a festival in Pittsburgh.
The festival was held at the Hilton there, and there were several speakers, and a few other bands. It was a fairly large event and we were excited to be a part of it.
We were scheduled to speak, as well as play, at the festival, and after we gave our talk, our drummer Jeremiah and I used the restroom. It was an average-sized bathroom, with an outer door.
People were going in and out freely, but when we tried to get out, we couldn't. And nobody could get in. We weren't quite sure what was happening.
After a few minutes, the maintenance people were called to try and free us. They didn't have any luck, though. The door refused to open. So Jeremiah and I were trapped in a bathroom.
It wasn't dramatic, or scary, but we couldn't help but laugh and be a little embarrassed at the scene that would be waiting for us when we got out: a crowd of people wondering how in the world we managed to get stuck there.
So we kept trying, and the people on the other side of the door kept trying as well, but the door remained shut. We tried everything. We even attempted to pick the lock, and pull the pins out of the hinges. Nothing would make the door open.
Eventually, even the builders who had installed the door were called and did their best to reset the electronic locking mechanism, or take it out completely, but even that failed. The door remained shut.
Finally, after two hours, the man we had been talking to on the other side of the door said, "I was hoping we wouldn't have to do this ... Guys, stand back from the door. I'm going to cut a big hole in it."
And he did. Jeremiah and I plugged our ears and watched a circular saw peek through the thick door. He cut a hole that was about two feet by three feet, and kicked out the middle, and we climbed to freedom.
We were right about the scene waiting for us after we climbed out. Along with frantic hotel staff members was a crowd of people applauding and giggling.
We just smiled back sheepishly and warned them to stay out of the bathroom.
No place like home
Touring means, among other things, that sleep is often in short supply.
Every night is a late one, and if the drives are long, every morning is an early one. Bodies tend to get run down and exhausted, and sicknesses are often given an easy foothold.
I recently developed a cold that ordinarily would have been mild, but ended up being about a week of congestion and aches. I don't want to be overly dramatic about it. But there is definitely a difference between being sick on the road and being sick at home.
When I was growing up, having a cold was almost a treat. It meant a day at home with my Mom, and all the Hi-C Orange I could drink. The coughs and sniffles were tolerable if it meant a day of rest, in soft blankets, with plenty of games to play and cartoons to watch. I think that sped the recovery process — the environment provided for comfort both physically and mentally. I knew I was getting better every minute.
The past few days have been a bit different from that scenario. Last night I was awake until 4 a.m. due to the preposterous amount of noise in New York. This morning my body has not yet been treated to a dose of Vitamin C. That will come when we stop for gas and I can get a bottle of orange juice at the gas station.
What used to be my Mom bringing in juice with a straw is now me treating myself to a big bottle of juice instead of just filling up my water bottle. Staying home from school has become staying in the van and attempting to sleep while my bandmates unload our equipment, and getting back to the van or sleeping backstage as soon as we're done playing.
Some things don't change, though. My parents are still ready with encouraging words. They're through a telephone now, but they mean just as much now as they did then.
-- By Andrew Dost