Some bands think it’s best to solidify a following in their home city before embarking on a cross-country tour. Other bands find cramming three bandmates, a sound engineer and a considerable amount of musical gear into a van the best way to weed out the weak. The latter explains the mindset of Tony Aguilar, Cody Varga and Steve-o Gonzalez, the trio behind The Wistful Larks, who have recently returned from a twelve city tour less than a year after recording and releasing their debut EP.
Now that they’ve proven they can tolerate each other at each other’s worst, the three are working toward a collection of new goals, including a 6-song EP and more regular shows in their home city of Chicago.
Varga and Aguilar share their story:
Listen Live and Local: You guys just returned from your first major tour with stops at some significant places such as South by Southwest (SXSW). What was it like playing at such an iconic festival?
Cody Varga: We stayed in Austin for three days. We were supposed to have a show for SXSW. The show ended up getting canceled on day one [and getting] relocated to day two. Then that one got canceled. For the third day, we were just trying to hustle to get a show. Tony went out and gave business cards to different venues. We met some awesome people and cool venues, but it was SXSW and there were no openings, whatsoever. We had four days in Texas. Three in Austin and the fourth day we had a show in San Antonio. It’s night three in Austin and we’re like, “I guess we’re not playing SXSW.” Then we get an email. Right? It was an email?
Tony Aguilar: I got a text.
Varga: It was a text from someone [Tony] had left a business card with. They were like, “Do you guys want to play a last-minute show tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.?” [That was the] day we were supposed to go to San Antonio. None of us wanted to do it, but we chose to do it to say we played SXSW. We were supposed to play at 1:00 p.m. It wasn’t a big crowd initially, but people would hear music and gravitate into the venue. [After the show] we had to load everything because we had a show that same night in San Antonio.
LLL: Where did you guys head after San Antonio?
Varga: We had to be in Albuquerque.
Aguilar: We drove four hours into the night just to get a head start. Then we pulled into the rest stop, slept and woke up at 9:00 a.m. We were making good time. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New Mexico, but there are no gas stations for miles.
Varga: I was sleeping in the back, and this is what I wake up to.
Varga: It’s not false. It’s the one time I finally got to sleep. By choice though. Up to that point, I did most of the driving. But anyway, I’m sleeping in the back and I wake up to Tony and Steve-o arguing that we’re going to run out of gas.
Aguilar: I told myself [not to] get stranded in the desert. We’re at an eighth a tank and there are no gas stations for like 60 miles ahead and 40 miles back. Luckily, we were near a rest station.
Varga: We put our heads together and decided to detach the trailer and pack everything into the trailer so the van would be lighter and get better gas mileage. Two of us stayed with the trailer and two of us went with the van back to Roswell, New Mexico. Keep in mind, we had to make a show that night. I think my favorite part is that me and Tony lived out my fantasy of being stranded in the desert together.
LLL: Now that you’re back from tour, any plans on putting out new recordings?
Aguilar: [It’s really hard for] bands to release good music consistently. I feel a lot of bands, when they’re starting, want to release something, so they release a subpar recording. That can really make or break a band. We took awhile for [our first EP] to come out because we wanted to make sure we recorded it right and it sounded good. We have plans of releasing another EP before the end of the year.
Varga: Ideally, we would like to do six songs. Three are songs we have written and played on tour that we know are well-received. Then we have a decent amount that we have been working on. We want to do three songs from that batch. We’re just not really sure of those three yet.
LLL: In addition to recordings, what else is planned for the near future?
Aguilar: Along with the EP, we plan on doing some music videos. I think a big part of this year’s plan is to do more interviews, get to know more people and really build the social media fan base. We’ve always toured. We’ve done some small weekend warrior tours, weeklong tours, then just cranked out a two-and-a-half week tour across the country. I think that shows other people [we] mean business. Now that we’ve proven we can do it, we’re going to sit in Chicago.
Varga: [Touring] makes or breaks a band. It’s like, does everybody want to do this? There were definitely moments on that tour when we almost go in a fist fight, but we powered through. We’re definitely all stronger together than we’ve ever been. I think it’s safe to say that we could do this on a larger scale. But we really want to build that home fan base.
LLL: Even though you’re a new band, you’ve already had quite a bit of experience and success. Any advice for other musicians or bands?
Aguilar: Quit while you’re ahead!
Varga: For real though; hard work. All of us, for the most part, have full-time jobs. A lot of our income goes to the band. You can’t be afraid to spend money, especially on recordings and things like that. I’ve spent a lot of money over the years, but with no regrets because we have a lot of cool things to show for it. You also need to make smart decisions. This works for some people, but if you’ve just started the band and wrote fifteen songs, don’t just record those fifteen songs and release that as a thing. Polish them and get those songs recorded properly. Don’t jump the gun. And make sure everyone is on the same page. You have to have serious talks. It’s like any relationship, you have to communicate. You have to talk to everybody and make sure they want the same thing.
Aguilar: Exactly. It’s all about making the right decisions, working hard and not being scared. This tour, for me, was amazing and at the same time, one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. It’s a lot of hard work, but you can’t be afraid. I think everyone should try a weekend tour with their band. Like we mentioned previously, [touring is a] big make or break situation.
The Wistful Larks’ next performance will be at Red Line Tap on Thursday, April 20th at 8:00 p.m. The night will also include performances by Rebel Soul Revival and Stonebelly.