Portland roots-rockers Quiet Life (Sean W. Spellman, Ryan “Lenny” Spellman, Craig “The Rupe” Rupert, Thor Robert Jensen and Jesse “The Ozark” Bates) write songs that sounds like they were written in desert out posts or while driving the whole of Route 66. In fact, the group got its start in New London, Conn, before heading to the West Coat. Not that they’ve stated still much. Thanks to their tour van, fueled by used vegetable oil, Quiet Life logs lot of miles. Their current tour, supporting The Head and the Heart brings the band to The Orange Peel on Monday, Oct. 21. (Thao & the Get Down Stay Down also performs. 9 p.m., sold out at press time.
Mountain Xpress: Does touring in veg-oil fueled vehicle ever make you feel especially like you’re in an episode of Portlandia? What led to the decision to tour that way?
Sean Spellman: Yeah, for sure. We were introduced to running a vehicle by our friend Mike Parziale who runs Greasebus in Portland. We decided there was no financially or environmentally better way to travel.
What are some of the best and worst aspects about touring on waste vegetable oil, and how often do you have to break down and buy diesel fuel? Does the free fuel make touring much more affordable? The satisfaction of driving hundreds of miles on someone’s trash is pretty rewarding, not to mention grease emissions are better for the earth and it’s cheap or free to boot.
With diesel prices as high as they are, running on WVO (waste vegetable oil) is the only way we can afford to tour as much as we do. If gas prices keep going up, ticket prices to see the band are gonna go up too.
We do get pretty greasy when fueling up, and the van smells like old egg rolls but that is a very small price to pay.
Photo from the band’s Twitter
How did you all hook up with Dr. Dave’s Automotive in West Asheville? We broke down in Tennessee and the mechanics we were forced to visit weren’t really doing a great job for us. So, we hit the World Wide Web and found this fellow in Asheville who worked on grease vehicles. We got the van towed from Knoxville and the rest is history. Dr. Dave and his dudes are the best grease-conversion guys that we’ve met in the country, aside from Mike in Portland.
Since you’ve spent a fair bit of time in Asheville, what are some of your favorite things about the town? In what ways are Asheville and Portland most similar? Asheville has so many similarities to PDX. Great beer, food, hiking. My favorite spots in town are The Admiral, Cucina 24 and that Korean food truck near Dr. Dave’s for food. For beer, I dig the Bywater (I’d love to play there one day) and The Wedge. I just stumbled upon Old North, too, they have some real cool stuff in their shop.
You’re about to release your new album, Wild Pack. Can you talk a bit about some of themes in that new project? The record is about two dreams that a friend of mine had. In one, she was running with wild horses. In the other, she was being followed by a wild pack of wolves.
Songs like “Record Time” and “Skin & Bones” sound as if they’re infused with the open road and a kind of poetic spaciousness, fused with roots-rock sensibilities. Does travel influence your songwriting, and are you able to write while on tour? I have difficulty writing on tour because there is very little time alone. Almost all of my writing is influenced by the places I travel and the folks that I interact with, though.
Do you take an environmental stand when it comes to recording music, too? Not necessarily, but I would if I had the opportunity to. Brushfire Records has a solar-powered studio in LA that I’d love to check out.
How would you like to see that part of the music business change? I’d like to see promoters and venues take a nod from Pickathon, which is a very environmentally-friendly festival outside of Portland. Heck, I’d tour with an acoustic guitar and a bike trailer and play in campgrounds if people would come to see the shows.