In a Van, Down by the River…
If you missed it last month, ReedKD’s new album The Ashes Bloom scored an excellent review here in Independent Clauses. With the casual rhymes, easygoing rhythms and infectious folk/pop melodies that the album was composed of all working together, it’s really no surprise. Stephen had a chance to catch up with Reed Dahlmeier, the mind behind ReedKD, for a quick phone interview about his album, his future and his latest living situation.
IC: So, did you plan on living in a van?
Reed Dahlmeier: No not really. After I finished the album I was gonna move to Newport for a while – I‘m working with The Militia Group right now – and I was going to plan a tour while I was down here. And the place I was gonna live fell through. I already had a big VW van, so I just decided to save 600 bucks a month and live out of the van.
I’ll have to send you some pictures. I just took a bunch of pictures and me and the van.
IC: So what are you doing up at Militia Group? Are you looking at releasing with them?
RD: Just an internship, because it’s basically my first release and I haven’t done much touring. I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting the support base I need, so I’m basically interning for them.
IC: And you have stuff stored in your girlfriend’s garage?
RD: Yeah, I’ve got a makeshift office in her garage right now. It’s kinda funny.
IC: Why don’t you just live with her?
RD: She has a roommate and some housemates and I don’t know. I’m a fairly considerate guy. I don’t want to impose, although I will hit them up for a shower.
IC: That’s hilarious…man. You live on the road. That’s pretty much the indie dream.
RD: It’s not that glamorous. I just had a gallon of windshield washer fluid spill and soaked the floor of my van. Now I’m seriously cleaning in a living space that’s four feet by five feet. I get woken up by garbage men. I’ve got a few parking tickets for parking in wrong places. I don’t think anyone’s really dreaming of it being like that. But it is kinda cool living in a van, planning shows, booking shows. Cause it’s my first tour, I have to seek out all those venues, and as far as singer/songwriter goes, it’s pretty tough to get good venues. I’ve got 30 venues picked out on the East Coast that I’m going to do in the fall. It’ll probably kick into full gear in the fall – it’s a lot of work.
IC: So how has the first real release been doing?
RD: I’m really happy with the response I’ve been getting. I don’t have anything to compare it to, but it seems like it’s going pretty well. I’m still waiting for my first hate letter. No one’s told me I suck yet, which is good. Small accomplishments! (chuckles)
IC: So are you writing new stuff already? What is your new stuff sounding like?
RD: I’m always writing. I’d like to do something a less folkish, more street-performer style like the Violent Femmes, Neutral Milk Hotel, down-tempo 90’s experimental style like the first LP of demos I released. I’ve been getting compared to Simon and Garfunkel, and I just don’t want to get stuck in the pop realm. I think inevitably with all the harmony, I’ll get compared to Elliot Smith and Simon and Garfunkel.
IC: So what did you listen to when you were growing up?
RD: I listened to Queen, Alice in Chains…
IC: Alice in Chains?
RD: Yeah, those guys are killer. I was listening of course to Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins.
IC: Man, the Pumpkins were awesome.
RD: Yeah they were.
IC: The Zwan thing didn’t work out so well, though…So does everything work on the van?
RD: No, the air conditioning is broken, and the panels are all falling apart. I gotta send you a picture. Not the owner before me, but the owner before that totally decked it out. It’s got lemon tint and so you can’t see in it. It’s got backward facing bucket seats with the table that backs out of the wall.
I actually just got back from Santa Cruz. I miss it up there so much, I can’t stand all this smog and heat and traffic.
IC: So how does living in your van work?
RD: I’ve planned out a circuit of places to sleep so the neighbors don’t catch on that I’m sleeping in their front lawn. I wake up 7 or 8, and get on the road. I’ve been sneaking into the university right where I park, Chatman University, and using their lab.
IC: This will make a great press release someday.
RD: Heh, the hard part is really the bathroom issue. You wake up and you gotta fire up the car and boogie woogie somewhere quick. And you have to eat out. But I’ve found this taqueria…
IC: A what?
[a conversation ensues detailing to a Midwesterner what a taqueria is”>
RD: So I’ve found this combination Taqueria and donut shop, with no wall in the middle. They sell tacos for a dollar. Tacos and donuts – the perfect combination. I have never seen it before in all my life. I guess it is kinda the indie dream – just fun stuff like that. I’ll go hang out in the laundromat and play video games while I do my laundry.
IC: Sounds like a carefree life to me.
RD: It’s pretty carefree except when I tell people that I live in a van… but I’m doing my best to avoid the bum stereotype. I heard that some people carry around pee containers in their van – I figure as a s long as I don’t do that I’ll avoid the stereotype.
RD: I just got a haircut for the first time in a couple months, that’s a step in the right direction.
IC: So what are you gonna do right after you finish this interview?
Well, I’m supposed to go meet with some girl who wants to sing for me. I’m gonna go and see how she’s doing and do some singing and then I don’t really have anything to do. Try to find a tree to park under and read a book.
IC: That sounds ridiculously carefree.
RD: I don’t really consider music a job, and that’s all I’m doing right now. That’s kinda why I opted to live out of a van. The hardest thing to do is try to find a place to take a shower. I wish I could get someone else with a van and do a van convoy. It could be a homeless van gang: drive around, hang out and sleep out. There’s gotta be some group. If there’s not one I’ll start one. Maybe that’s what I’ll do this weekend – I’ll go start a van coalition. I feel like I talked to someone about that…. and the problem is that anyone who’s really excited about it is kinda a scary person.
IC: [laughter”> But if that’s your only problem, you’re doing pretty well!
RD: It’s pretty nice. I got everything I need right here except the bathroom. The best thing about McDonald’s and all those chain restaurants is that Starbucks and McD’s have to have really clean bathrooms. Because they think that having really clean bathrooms will get people to come into their store. And it does.
IC: Wow…I didn’t even think about that.
RD: These are things you don’t think about but all of a sudden when you’re living in a van you start to think of this. There’s probably more that I’ve discovered since living in a van.
IC: This almost makes me want to live out of my van.
RD: Yeah, man – I’ve got a makeshift closet for my clothes built into one of the walls of the van, it’s not that tough to get it comfortable.
IC: And you could just go anywhere whenever.
RD: I had a great trip with my girlfriend when I first got the van. I drove all the way up Highway 1 to Oregon, all the time up on these cliffs overlooking the ocean. It’s one of the most beautiful trips I’ve ever taken. I must do that again. It’s a really long drive…it took us three days to get to Oregon. You can do it in a day if you do 101 instead of 1.
IC: Yeah, I’ve actually been told to drive highway 1 before…by multiple people.
RD: You’re giving it serious consideration. Hey, summer trip, it’d be one hell of a road trip.