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The rewards of DIY touring: Gab De La Vega

10 mins read

With a laundry list of countless intimate DIY performances in his past show catalogue, Italian folk punk rockers Gab De La Vega is heading on yet another touring adventure and we caught up with him to discuss this unique experience, its pros and cons and many different aspects and passionate dimensions of his solo craft. See the details of his upcoming UK tour, kicking off this Wednesday in London, and scroll down to see our full interview!

Gab De La Vega UK tour

Gab De La Vega – UK tour dates – June 2018:

13.06 – LONDON – Freedom Bookshop
14.06 – BRIGHTON – The Pipeline
15.06 – BRISTOL – Base
16.06 – WARRINGTON – Old Town House
17.06 – MANCHESTER – 0161 Festival
18.06 – BRADFORD – 1 in 12 Club
19.06 – STOKE-ON-TRENT – The Exchange
20.06 – EDINBURGH – The Banshee Labyrinth
21.06 – STIRLING – The Settle Inn
22.06 – GLASGOW – New Hellfire Club
23.06 – DUNDEE – Conroy’s Basement
24.06 – LEEDS – Temple Of Boom

The top photo of Gab with the Pride Flag colors was created to remember that we’re all equal and we need to remember to fight against discriminations. Here’s what Gab had to say about its meaning:

June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Italy recently got a new government and there’s a “Family Minister” who’s openly against homosexual couples and has the most absurd theories about homosexuality.

I took this picture of mine, shot by my friend Andrea Pezzotta and I edited with the colors of the Pride Flag.
I want everyone to know what I stand for and what I stand against.

Whoever you are, whoever you love or whoever you are attracted to: be yourself and don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed of that. Love and respect each other. You’re not alone out there. – Gab De La Vega

Gab UK tour promo

Hey Gab! Soo, here you are, on the verge of yet another tour! You don’t do things lightly, buddy! Tell us about your recent treks and what thoughts have you been consumed by after traveling more miles across Europe.

Hi! It’s nice to be back on Idioteq! Well, 2017 ended with one of the most incredible adventures: my very first US and Canadian Tour, with my friend Greg Rekus.

I took a break in the winter until February. At the beginning of that month I started playing almost every weekend around Italy; last year I didn’t play much in the Country where I live.

I am happy with the feedback and I once again had the feeling that I couldn’t live without playing music. It’s just too much of a part of me now, it would be a trauma to stop.

It’s also one of the best excuses to meet people, talk to them, become friends and eventually go back home with extra wisdom, some thoughts and richer in human experience. That’s what touring is to me.

Has touring affected your creative process? Do you experience some bursts of inspiration while being on the road?

Oh yes, definitely! Touring means playing almost every day, so it’s a great exercise and every show is unique, so you can train in every situation and scenario and this makes you eventually a better performer. But it’s not just that. My creative process involves a deep analysis of what I want to offer to the audience at my shows, so the live test is definitely an influence to my songwriting, because I want my shows to be enjoyable for the other people as much as for myself.

Plus, you get the chance to play with other musicians and that’s always good. Go to shows if you’re not on tour. Watch other people’s shows, even if it’s not exactly the music you play. You can only get something good out of it. You can learn about what you want and what you don’t want in your music.

Sometimes I play with incredible musicians and performers and that’s definitely something that makes me think that I don’t want to settle for the level I am now, but I want to get better and better.

Also, touring is one of the most intense experiences in a musician’s life and that’s definitely a great source for thoughts and inspiration.

How has your booking and touring process changed over the years?

Booking tours is very hard, even if you played many shows around before. A promoter’s “active life span” is very short and sometimes you can’t get to play through the same person twice. It’s a constant quest for contacts, names, shows… It’s exhausting, especially when you’re not a professional musician and you have to focus also on other things in your life.

I now try to be more careful, prepared and more thoughtful when it comes to booking. If a show is not really worth a long drive (costs, effort, driving hours…), I tend to look for easier solutions. But on the other hand, I hate days off, so I always try to play as much as I can. I guess it’s always a struggle between these two souls. Maybe I’m getting older… but I’m now trying to focus on quality more than quantity.

Playing a million of bad shows is just exhausting and sometimes frustrating, often there’s not even the “visibility” perk involved, since you might end up playing in front of very few (non interested) people. It eventually wears you off and when you also have a limited amount of days to dedicate to touring, you should probably use them in a wiser way.

Touring didn’t really change much. I have quite a lot of experience (both with my band The Smashrooms and my solo project and I’ve also been a driver for touring bands in the past) and I’ve always been quite well organized.

Gab De La vega!

Has touring developed you as a person? How do you cope with performing at intimate venues so close to a bunch of different people in various countries, specifically as a one man act? Are you an extrovert or an introvert, and how does that translate for your solo performance?

Touring is a big part of my human experience, so it’s normal to think that it also has an impact on my identity. I guess it made me a bit more open-minded, curious and it helped me develop this “always-be-ready” attitude that I have now. Ready to leave, ready for what comes next… Ready to embrace the next challenge, in every field of my life.

The performance itself is a special moment for me. I consider myself a discreet person, more than an actual introvert. I don’t really open up easily in general. I always share just the right amount, I guess. But when I play, because of the nature of my music and my show, I have to include the others in my own private sphere, to open up and share bits of myself, sometimes very intimate ones. There’s also a very extrovert side of my personality, which got stronger because of this solo project. It comes out when it needs to come out. Playing solo shows helped me become more self-confident and this has big role in live performances in general.

Do you miss touring with a full band?

I can’t lie. Every time I go watch some band play I miss that feeling, that communion.

I miss playing in a hardcore punk band, but I’d love to play in almost every kind of rock band now.

I am writing new songs and the arrangements are going to be full band on the record, just like I experimented before with “I Want Nothing”, but with a wider range of sounds.

But full band life performances are not being seriously discussed right now. We’ll see. It’s something I can’t exclude, I’d love to.

Ok, so back to your upcoming tour, how are preparations going for the UK run? Is everything set and ready?

Yes, all shows are booked, I am collecting the last information, getting everything ready and I’m ready to take off.

Tell me about the cities you’ll be visiting this time.

Mostly cities I played in my first UK tour in 2015. London, Brighton, Bristol, Bradford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee. But also new ones, such as Warrington, Stoke-on-Trent, Stirling and Leeds. I’m sorry I couldn’t book shows in Wales this time, I loved Cardiff three years ago, but on the bright side I am visiting other nice places and Scotland is 4 shows this time.

What kind of venues are there for you to play?

DIY places, anarchist bookshops, small venues, pubs, an antifascist festival and rock venues. You can play an acoustic guitar basically everywhere.

Gab DIY Fest in Rimini
Gab De La Vega live at DIY Fest in Rimini, Italy

How do you find the British DIY punk scene? What kind of relationship have you developed with it?

I’ve always had a soft spot for British bands of every kind. I think that the UK has some very good bands and many very interesting solo acts. I experienced it even last time I was there. Such a lively scene. It is my understanding that setting up DIY shows is a bit hard though, since many promoters told me that they need to pay high fees to rent spaces.

I really like the way the scene developed in the UK. It is similar to the rest of Europe for the most parts, but it has some very peculiar features that make it unique. It’s always interesting to meet, watch and play with British acts. They always have that “something more” that makes them very interesting.

Ok Gab, lastly, Is there any advice or tips you can share for all the up and coming solo acts out there?

Yes, something I learned throughout the years and probably the most valuable lesson I learned from playing solo. Be yourself. The nature of a solo project is very personal and intimate and if you fake it, people will sense it. Just go there, play your best show, give something to people and be yourself.

Since you’re so active, I wonder, how do you find the balance between juggling what must be a very demanding touring, recording and running a label experience and your everyday life at home?

Well, it is very, very hard. And it’s stressful. I can say that I somehow traded stability for the possibility to do the things that I love and that I’m passionate about. But sometimes it’s really hard, you need to keep doing things to keep it rolling and there are moments in which you’re overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you need to take care of and a burnout is just behind the corner.

I don’t live a very expensive life, so it’s not impossible to reach sustainability in that sense, but when you need to plan and schedule your whole year on one, two, three or even four different fronts, it can be really stressful to keep everything under control.

Gab De La Vega! on tour

This is the “price” to pay to be able to do what I love, so I’m happy to do that. I wish thing were a bit easier to get, but you know what they say: “good things never come easily”. You always have to work hard, keep pushing, especially when you’re discouraged and everything seems to be not working. I have my “tricks” though. I have these massive to-do lists and sometimes they are very useful. When you have so much to process on the table you don’t even know where to start from, scroll your to-do list and pick one!

Have you been writing new music as of late?

Yes I have! I’m currently writing a new full-lenght album. I hope to record it before the end of the year. I’m very excited. My latest release is “I Want Nothing” 7”, but my previous LP is dated 2015, recorded in February, which means it includes songs I’ve been writing probably between the end of 2013 and 2014. It is 4-5 years ago! I’ve changed so much as a person and a musician and touring helped me grow for sure. I love these new songs, I can’t wait to record them and put them out there.

Awesome, thanks so much for your time, buddy. Feel free to drop your final words or share anything you feel we should know. Take care!

Thank you for the constant interest and support. Friends in the UK: see you in a few days!

Friends in Germany: I’m visiting you in July (I’m playing the Hardcore Help Foundation Summer Fest!) and I’m still looking for a few shows, so get in touch!

If you want to help me continue making music, feel free to buy a record or download a record and donate something in return.

Gab De La Vega live with xIRONx by Snap Live Shots - Mauricio Melo
Gab De La Vega live with xIRONx by Snap Live Shots – Mauricio Melo

More about Gab De La Vega and his latest EP “I Want Nothing”:

After years playing punk and hardcore, Gab starts this solo project, putting The Smashrooms hardcore punk aside for a while and taking up an acoustic guitar. Minimal and direct melodies, where the punk three-chords theory meets vaguely folk veins.

Stories of real lives, political practice, criticism and theories, some daily life glimpse and personal thoughts come along with the warm sound of the acoustic guitar, soundtrack of a journey, told with self-criticism and self-irony.

Throughout the years he’s toured Europe extensively, with shows in Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain, Poland, Serbia, Macedonia, Hungary, Denmark to name a few, and he’s got the chance to play as an opening act for Against Me!, Chuck Ragan, Kevin Seconds (7 Seconds), Austin Lucas, Tim Vantol, Ceremony, and many more.

In 2017 Gab De La Vega toured Spain in the Spring and Europe in September, for 20 shows, and has embarked in November on his first North American Tour with his friend Greg Rekus, from Winnipeg (Canada), who toured Italy with Gab and shared the stage with him several times. They played several shows on the US East Coast and in Canada, in Quebec and Ontario.

“I Want Nothing” (recorded in May 2017) is Gab De La Vega’s new single. The italian punk-folkhardcore singer-songwriter worked this time with drummer Marco “Cello” Cellini (previously with Gab in the hardcore punk trio The Smashrooms) and with Simone Piccinelli, who worked on two of his previous LPs (Songs Of Existence and Never Look Back).

It’s the first time with a full band arrangement in studio, which Gab defined as “a real attempt to come out of my comfort zone and I feel like I made it with the best of results.” Side B is an acoustic rendition of The Misfits classic “Some Kinda Hate”.

Gab De La Vega’s discography:

I Want Nothing 7” (2017 – Epidemic Records, Backbite Records, Vegan Records)
Never Look Back LP (2015 – Backbite Records, Ugly & Proud Records, Vegan Records and more)
Songs Of Existence LP (2013 – Vegan Records, Goodwill Records and more)
Death On The Shelf 7” (2012 – Annoying Records and more)

Karol Kamiński

DIY rock music enthusiast and web-zine publisher from Warsaw, Poland. Supporting DIY ethics, local artists and promoting hardcore punk, rock, post rock and alternative music of all kinds via IDIOTEQ online channels.
Contact via [email protected]

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