New Tour Dates Added!
October 19, 2016
A Special Holiday Message From Terrance & Saar
December 14, 2016
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Follow Yer Compass!

I like living out of a backpack. Having been away from the Van Nuys apartment that I call home for the better part of the last two months, I’d been traveling and surviving on only the most slim of personal cargo: a laptop, some toiletries, and a few changes of clothes. I prefer it that way. It’s simple, practical, and leaves no confusion as to which possession to grab in the event of fire. I’d save my trusty backpack, everything else could burn.

lavinia-cosplay

I’ve never been too sentimental about material things. There’s some artwork and memorabilia from the various projects I’ve worked on over the years that I’d be bummed to lose, but nothing that I wouldn’t shed if the right adventure called.

I say all of this not because I hate belongings, but because I love adventure more. And returning home to the domestic life of stationary things and routines is a difficult transition to make, especially after just completing a journey that was oozing with daring and passion and purpose.

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The journey was The American Wake Tour. The six-week adventure was a mix of live music, performance art, historical reenactment, and, most importantly, community. It was the debut trek of a project dreamed-up by my longtime friend and creative partner, Saar Hendelman, and I. We wrote a collection of murder ballads set in 1816 America, assembled a caravan of friends and strangers, asked audiences to dress up in period-appropriate mourning garb, and invited everyone to join us for a live historical wake.

wake

The journey spanned thirty-five American cities. Although our backpacks were kept trim, our tour van was loaded with costumes, props, set pieces (including a coffin), and a sound system. We were a modern traveling medicine show that could turn any room with electricity into a themed event. And we did.

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The crew included three musicians who Saar and I performed with nightly. These talented and brave souls—who we’d never met in the flesh prior to rehearsals a few days before the start of the tour—crawled into a van with us and three other strangers. They didn’t quite know what to expect, but were game for adventure, and trusted that Saar and I were crazy enough to pull off this imaginative and ambitious caper. We shared not only the stage, but hotel rooms, and all eight of us virtually lived together for a month-and-a-half in a fifteen-seat passenger van that we dubbed “The Murder Wagon”.

murder-band

Our trio of musicians, who changed their band name nightly, included Corinne Olsen on fiddle, Jonathan Sloan (our token Canadian) on upright bass, and Jada Wagensomer on banjo and keyboard (and sometimes kazoo). Having never performed together previously, they were quick studies with our music, rolled with the punches during wildly unscripted portions of our set, and became characters who played a major role in the narrative arc of each Wake. They also became fast friends with each other, with us, and with our awesome fanbase.

tour-crew

Darius Hamilton-Smith and Begoña Fernández Martin were also newbies to our touring crew, as was Spencer Watson, who joined our wayward team for an extended week of tour dates in November, driving The Murder Wagon through some of the most grueling overnight treks along the Pacific Northwest.

Darius acted as ninja of all things technical, running and overseeing sound and lights for each Wake, and Begoña served as roady and tour photographer. She took our nightly VIP (Very Important Parishioner) photos, which are available in albums, labeled by city, on American Murder Song‘s official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/thekillingplace).

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I met Begoña online when she won The Molting Comic’s “Leave Yer Mark” Art Contest in 2010. She flew in from the UK to be a part of The American Wake Tour, which allowed us to finally meet in person.

Leave Yer Mark

Our tour manager, Kelly “Scully” Rybarczyk, was the only alumni to our expedition. Scully and I have survived three tours together, and she is the lynchpin of our murder team, acting both as den mother and slave driver to our sorry lot. She’s such a badass that during The American Wake Tour she attracted the attention of the management of one of her favorite artists, Mike Doughty, and has since been hired to assistant manage his 2017 US tour.

On The American Wake Tour, this team of old and new blood became family. We loved what we were creating, and this sense of kinship seemed to extend to and from the audience as well. There were of course rough nights, but there were also brilliant ones.

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Touring, we spent Halloween together, partying and performing for a room full of exuberant, beautiful weirdos in Tampa. We mourned on election night with a Denver crowd who, like us, seemed to need a distraction from the bizarre course on which our country is embarking.

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The ups, downs, highs, and lows all came together in a journey that was magical, both for us and (we hope) the audience. The experience was so transformative that, at tour’s end, half of our murder crew went to a tattoo parlor in Hollywood and got marked together, including yours truly.

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Speaking of markings, during the tour, Scully would manage the weekly disbursement of crew payments. She’d fork over cash in envelopes with the caveat that everyone had to draw something on their envelope and return it before they’d received their next payment. This tradition began on The Devil’s Carnival tours and has always produced imaginative and hilarious (and sometimes disturbing) results. It also presented the very real challenge of trying to draw in a moving vehicle—especially one towing a twelve foot trailer—as it traversed bumps, hills and turns.

napkin-doodles

Envelopes weren’t my only canvass aboard The Murder Wagon. During the tour, Saar and I made the decision to manufacture a comprehensive American Murder Song Box Set. We wanted said Set—which wold consist of two compact discs of music and one DVD documenting the complete American Murder Song journey—to be boxed inside a replica of the hexagonal compass featured in our murder music videos.

compass-in-progress

The task fell on me to draw diagrams of how the Compass Box Set might work, drawings that would communicate our ideas with an overseas manufacturing company. After a few back-and-forths with doodles, we pulled the trigger on a design that is currently in production, and is available for pre-order in our online store.

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I know I opened this blog with an anti-possession sentiment, but I’m now revising the contents of my emergency backpack to include this sweet ass Compass Box Set… because what better instrument to signify adventure than a compass.

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We’ve tried to squeeze all of the adventure and love and art of this past year of American Murder Song into this Box Set. It’s a truly special item, and we’re only making 1500 of them. So if you’re looking for something to give (or get!) this holiday season, you may want to consider stuffing your stockings with a little bit of adventure… and murder: http://www.AmericanMurderSong.com/GetBloody.

Compass Box Set

There are so many more tour stories to share and people to thank—too many to include in a single blog post—so I’ll be sharing more tour tales and photos in the weeks to come. In the meantime, get yer compasses and adventure on, Trav’lrs!

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  • Heather Baker

    I’m so glad I got this experience, especially given that I wasn’t around for the first TDC tour or even moreso, Repo! This has been such a refreshing look inside your mind and the brilliant work you can do!

  • Tiffany Fallon

    Im totally excited about the Compass. It looks beautifully crafted. Im glad as a fan and love of art were able to have something very dear to the American Murder Song project. I hope everyone from the Tour, Have a Happy Holidays. : )

  • Lee

    This looks like it was an amazing tour! I really admire your dedication to what you do – taking your original productions out on the road is truly a labor of love.

  • KrysTurtle

    As excited as I am to receive the compass box and new music, I think I am more excited about the behind the scenes DVD. I’ve always loved seeing what goes into the making of the things I love. I appreciate the hard work that goes into a project before anyone really knows about it as well as the blood, sweat, and tears that are shed to bring it to the world. And even though I know these things happen, being able to see them helps me appreciate the work that much more.

  • Brooke Violet

    Terrance, you know I love ya and consider you a friend. Though much of our discourse has been online, dating back to the ole days of Myspaz…I mean, Myspace, bleeding over to The Book of Face and occasional emails; one telephone interview; and a handful of meetings in person…..you are and always will be a friend and inspiration to me.
    I love hearing of your travels and endeavours, and will always do anything I can to help these unique visions come to light. Thank you for sharing so much with all of us.
    And to the rest of the crew, I’m so elated I got to meet you all as well! Stay weird, it’s where all the cool folks are. ;P
    Once the compass arrive in my paws, I can truly say I own all the AMS merch, and they are all indeed prized possessions, material memories. I cannot wait for the next adventure, and you know, without a doubt, I’m game for anything you throw my way.
    Much crazy love,
    ~Violet/Brooke

  • Ophelia

    You have no idea how happy I felt when I found out Seattle was added to the American Wake tour. Seriously, if I wasn’t in a waiting room at a doctor’s office when I saw the announcement I probably would have screamed out in happiness. Your guys’ music has helped me get through these past few months, which have been rather dark for me. I struggle with social anxiety, hence why I was quiet and shy, and going to see the wake without anyone accompanying me, helping out at the show, and getting to meet you guys was actually a huge leap for me. A leap that was very much worth taking.
    I first discovered TDC a few years ago, and little did I know a movie my family found to watch on Netflix on a whim would change my life greatly. Shortly after finding Devil’s Carnival I discovered Repo, along with my love for musicals and cult classic movies, and then later the Molting comic. I am an artist myself, though not nearly as skilled as you lol, and Repo helped me rediscover my dream of creating my own comics and whenever I need inspiration I would pick up and reread my copies of the Molting comic (I still need to get my hands on chapter 6 and 7). Also, while standing in the crowd at the wake I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. Now that I think about it, I went through a lot of self-discovery these past few years with the help of these projects heh.
    But I digress. This has been a pretty big year for me in general, but I consider that AMS wake to be one of my main highlights. It’s truly one of the best decisions I’ve made and I really enjoyed every moment of it. Now I get to look forward to receiving the compass in a couple months and treasuring it for all of eternity.
    Thank you, once again, for bringing your wonderful, murderous tour to the PNW and for doing what you do. You, Saar, and the rest of the crew. Continue to create, to inspire, and being just amazing individuals. <3

  • Andromeda Aristy

    You are a major inspiration for me, Terrance. The Wake was truly the greatest night of my life in a really dark time. I’m totally preordering the compass as soon as I can! (and the deck of cards. I wanted one of them ever since I laid eyes on it at the Wake!)