"We had a complete nightmarish experience in a parking spot in New York, where the parking attendants broke our trailer," says Christopher Tolle, exhaustion evident in his voice. "We spent two days freaking out and trying to get the hitch welded back on and getting it put back together." A language barrier with the attendants didn't make things any easier, and, Tolle says, "New York City's finest weren't helpful to us at all. So we really have our tour manager, Mark Tobin, to thank for getting us through it." Tolle says the ordeal "was potentially a tour ender, but [Tobin] kept all our heads together and took care of business, so now we're getting ready to continue on with the more exciting adventures of our tour."
With hitch firmly back in place and paid for courtesy of the dastardly parking attendants, now the band can get back to the business at hand: distributing its second record, last year's Teaching Little Fingers to Play.... Much like the Creature Comforts' first disc, 1998's The Politics of Pop (for which the then-three piece won Klammies for album of the year, band of the year and song of the year), Fingers is a tour through the world of carefully written power pop, with a decidedly Midwestern influence. For the first time, the original trio of guitarist Tolle, drummer Bill Brimblecom Jr. and bassist Brian Everard were in the studio together for as long as it took to make the album, aided again by Red House producer Ed Rose. They were joined by keyboardist J.D. Warnock after they completed Politics.
Tolle says the band didn't feel pressure for the follow-up. "It was actually a really relaxed atmosphere, and Ed made it a lot of fun, but we're more experimental in our approach. We did a couple of songs at a time [that were] far extremes from one another. We'd tape T-shirts over the drum heads and drop a mic inside a piano and yell inside to pick it up to get weird sounds and whatnot, getting broken bottle sounds. So we had a lot of fun doing stuff like that." Location probably contributed to the outcome as well, Tolle notes: "Recording it in a relatively haunted space, as we believe Red House to be, helped."
Though Fingers has been available for a few months around these parts, soon it'll be all over the country and even in a few others, thanks to a re-release though Hearbox Records of Boston. The group is still on good terms with local label Noisome Records, which released The Politics of Pop, but, Tolle explains, "after that album came out, we hooked up with our booking agent and started touring. It got to where we were playing out beyond the scope of the Noisome distribution, and we had to try and find someplace that was going to match distribution at least as far as we were willing to tour. The Noisome guys are super cool and were nice enough to wish us well, you know, and The Politics of Pop will remain available through Noisome. They really want to be a stepping stone to give a local band an opportunity to move up, and that's exactly what we did."
Hearbox, meanwhile, is the same label that distributes the Creature Comforts' tourmates, New York's The Figgs, a group whose reputation preceded it. "A couple of tours ago, just about every couple of shows someone would come up and go, 'Hey, have you heard of The Figgs? You remind me of The Figgs.' So we sort of sought them out and ended up meeting them in New York and becoming friends," Tolle recalls.
And except for the unfortunate parking-lot incident, the tour has gone well, due in no small part to the band's hard work on tours past. Tolle figures the Creatures spent three to four months on the road last year, and the fact that the current shows have been well-received indicates that "we're really starting to see the fruits of all our touring. I'm hearing stories about high school kids in New York who are huge fans of our band."
Sometimes the dividend comes in the thrill of delivering some rock to kids who might not otherwise get it. "We played to 400 kids in Chicago, and the next night we played a basement in Madison, Wisconsin," Tolle laughs. "In Madison, there's no Bottleneck or Hurricane or Replay Lounge or anything like that, so that's how they put on rock shows. They host them in halls or anywhere they can. The place we were going to play had some permit problems or problems with the authorities, and they switched it at the last minute. It ended up being the basement of a college crash pad, a really big old house that's sort of separated into apartments."
When the Creature Comforts get back home, they'll play a couple of local shows, but the band is mostly looking forward to taking it easy. "We lost a lot of sleep over the past few days, and we're really looking forward to having a night to watch some HBO and microwave some popcorn or something," Tolle says, drawing strength from the unlikely philosophical musings of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive."
"Sometimes you know the days by the bottle that you drink/sometimes when you're alone, all you do is think," Tolle says. "It is a classic. And we're living it."