A couple of months ago, one of the most exciting extreme metal tour packages in recent memory hit the road for a packed month of shows. Louisiana doom crew Thou, Michigan grind punks Cloud Rat, Minnesota black metallers False, and UK sludge fiends Moloch rocked and rolled their way across the continental United States on the aptly-named Friendship Tour, stopping at every vegan breakfast joint and swimming hole possible along the way. No one headlined; rather, the four bands all took turns playing last, taking a sort of lackadaisical and fully non-hierarchical approach to the proceedings. I was lucky enough to tag along with them for a few days and witness both the awesome power each band brought to the stage every night, and the goofy camaraderie between them.
The decision to call this the "Friendship Tour" wasn't a case of Thou exercising their typically acerbic wit, it was a fully earnest way to signal their joy that they'd soon be traversing the country with over a dozen of their best friends. I've been friends with three of said bands for a good long while now, and a fan for even longer, so it was an especial treat for me to get to hit the road with them for a spell. Watching Thou, Cloud Rat, False, and Moloch play five times in four days to enthusiastic, grateful crowds made me realize just how strong the American underground still is, even in the face of political turmoil and sectarian disruption. At that moment, these bands gave me hope for the future of our dark little world—and that's something I continue to hold onto as divides deepen and poison infiltrates our community.
For the past seven years, Thou bassist Mitch Wells (who works in film when he's not stuffed into a tour van) has been creating quirky, heart-warming, chaotic videos to chronicle the band's touring experiences, mostly because, as he tells me, he wouldn't remember them otherwise. "I'm the worst at remembering… well, practically anything about tour. Andy or Bryan can tell you which bands we played with in Chicago in 2009 and the name of the punk house we played at, and who put us up, and I'm like "We were in Chicago?" So I started filming stuff. "
Wells also filled me in on how he ended up making them in the first place. "Eventually I got a better camera (thanks Kathryn!) and then I bought a mic, and then I got an even better camera, and now I think these things are actually watchable!," he told me via email. "(There are some very old tour videos on this same youtube channel that are tough to watch, but also super fun for me to revisit.) (Matthew: Laughing is the best). After I had all this footage I needed to learn what to do with it. My friend Lawles introduced me to a real life editor/director who sort of took me under his wing and taught me how to edit. Thanks Andrew! He let me do some assistant work on a few things, and I really started to love editing."
"During all of this, I was constantly writing, filming, and editing things with my friends and brother and wife, and just always making something. A few years went by and a band called The Body asked me to do a music video for them. This was my big break (according to them). Somehow after that, I was getting paid actual money to shoot music videos and sketches, and it's all been really amazing since then. Next month, I get to start writing on a show I sold to Netflix ,and I couldn't be more excited. It's a very small thing, but I'm loving the cast and other writers we put together. AND IT'S ABOUT METAL! That should be out next year, and I can finally quit touring!"
Here's hoping that last part isn't true, but just in case, get your fill of live Thou hijinks here: