Beloved Binge isn't a punk band. Their most recent album, 2012's Pockets, actually packs short, bright emotional tunes, loaded mostly with rock and a little bit of pop.
But like a roaming hardcore troupe, they've taken advantage of a nationwide web of fellow DIY die-hards to set up strings of low-budget tours. Next spring, that network will even lead them to Europe.
The duo of Eleni Vlachos and husband Rob Gilbride, who record as Eleni Binge and Rob Beloved, relocated from Seattle to Durham in 2005. Their idiosyncratic tunes became an early staple of Durham's then-developing music scene, even inspiring a Megafaun song named after the band. Their shows in these parts have been less frequent in recent years because they spend so much time on the highway, coupling slow, extended tours with road-trip tangents. After several months traveling in celebration of their 10-year "bandiversary," for instance, Beloved Binge finally returns home for a show at The Pinhook this week.
Even after a decade as a band, Beloved Binge is still attempting to perfect its own peculiar brand of touring, whether that means finding ways to advocate for veganism on the road or playing shows in spaces many people forget exist. From Nashville, Vlachos talked about the trials and triumphs of life on the move. —Allison Hussey
We had just gotten married in 2002. We bought a $500 car, a station wagon, and drove across the States. Instead of having a wedding, we just traveled for six months, really cheaply. We were in Los Angeles and had this awareness of how people love their food, shopping, anything like that—a binging that we do in this culture, myself included. We thought we'd start a new duo we called Beloved Binge. We had been playing as a four-piece in another band called No Complaints in Seattle for a couple of years, but we just wanted to start fresh.
The idea for Beloved Binge came around 2002, but our first recording was released in 2004. On Facebook, I was asking bands, "What is your anniversary? Is it the day you first practiced together. Is it when you made up your name? Is it when your first album was released?" Everybody had different answers. The tour worked out now, so we're doing 10 years based on our first album.
Our first tour was in 2006. At our first show, in Richmond, Virginia, they unplugged us. It was not a good start. We were playing, and all of a sudden it was silence, followed by Lynyrd Skynyrd or something like that. But the second show, we met some friends that we're still really good friends with in D.C. That made up for that first show a thousand fold. That's part of what drives us to tour: It's a way to connect with communities. We don't really do the back-to-back show thing.
The other thing with Beloved Binge—part of what we're all about, too—is we mention that we're vegan. We're trying to help people decrease the amount of meat they eat. We're not an activist band, but we do promote activism as we tour and play.
At first for people, when they look at it from the outside, it would seem like something that's pretty daunting. But once you know where to look, it's very easy nowadays. There's a site that we use called Happy Cow. It lists all of the vegan-friendly places. There's pretty much a Whole Foods in every town, or a co-op or something where you can buy food pretty affordably. Even Iowa has a vegan restaurant; come on, Durham, you can do it.
We're at Whole Foods right now in Nashville. We're not connecting with the community, really, but we are getting some good vegan food. If you don't have too many places to choose from in a town, you can find this one place and go again and again and connect with local communities.
What we haven't cracked is how to know you're going to have a successful show. Maybe that's something you can't crack entirely. But you have some shows that make you feel like, "Gosh, why are we doing this? Let's just quit!" All bands that I've talked to have had those experiences.
The key is setting it up with bands that promote the show well, but they're also interesting and you like the band. How do you find those people? I admire the people that run these DIY spaces. Like this guy Steven we met in Detroit, he works so hard for his shows. We set up our tour fairly last minute, and he was working hard to get good bands on the bill, get people out, get people interested and promote it. He didn't have to do that for us. We knew him barely through a connection in Georgia.
With touring, you continue to make connections on the road, so it's easier the next time. We had a good show in Phoenix, where the guy had seen us on our other tour in Tucson. He booked us, and he's friends with the Fellowship Hall guys in Durham. It's such a big world, but it's a very small DIY community of people who know each other.
When we tour, we combine it with visits to family, places we want to see, things like that. It's a way to connect with our family and friends that we know on the road. This past tour, we spent a month in Seattle. We had a show, but we were there most of the month with my mom, family and friends.
One thing that is making it more interesting this time around is I'm doing a series of documentary shorts that I'm going to publish after our tour. I'm asking bands, as well as music-related people that set up the show, three questions. I have them answer those questions, and I post those on YouTube.
As I'm sure a lot of people do, I get really bored of small talk. I want to get to a more interesting level with people, asking them things like what are the essential ingredients for a happy life for you, what makes a song last, or something more silly—like, if you could be in a TV show as yourself, which one would it be? I have this list that I pull out if I'm at a bar. I just want to know what they think. It's a way to connect with folks and share some of the thoughts that they had on the road.
We've never toured Europe, so I booked a ship for April. We're going to do a European tour and visit my family in Greece and go around that way. Whenever you do something like touring, you learn through doing it. I hesitate to ask people who are more experienced than me how to do it, because I feel like I'm trying to cheat. You have to learn on your own.
As we've grown, we've tried to find more ways to interact. On this tour, we brought drawing paper, so wehave people answer the question, "What are you going to do today?" by drawing. Not today, literally, but a "seizing the day" sort of thing.
When you're a kid, you have a chance to draw. When you're an adult somehow, these things fall off, and you don't do them anymore. It's nice to see people engage with that on different levels. Some people don't engage that much, but most people really have fun with it, and have said how much they enjoy that. We like that.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Tour of duty"