The Rochester, New York-based emo band talks their biggest tour yet, life on the road and their upcoming EP – while still making time to horse around.
Words & photos by Andrea Colasanto Haenggi
They’ve belted out songs, they’ve penned to sold-out venues, yet here I find Carpool’s lead singer and guitarist Stoph Colasanto working up the courage to make a simple request at lunch. I recognize the fear in their eyes, the trepidation in their voice. It’s that distinct mix of generalized anxiety and overwhelming compassion for service industry workers that Millennial-Gen Z-cuspers specialize in. “Please don’t be mad at me,” they start, “but can I get two drinks mixed?”
The cashier laughs and tells them thetheir concoction (3/4 Mountain Dew, 1/4 Loganberry) is how she prefers it as well. Visibly relieved, Stoph relaxes and takes a giant swig. They offer me some, and it’s surprisingly good? My mind is blown. I hate Mountain Dew! They tell me: “This is a true Western New York move.” Noted.
I sit down with the members of Carpool in a small bagel café— – jazz pumps through the speakers as rain pelts the windows on a dreary day in early May. The weather does nothing to dampen the mood after an exhilarating visit to the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, NY, though. Everyone is still reeling from the very specific high that occurs only when riding a carousel: – bobbing and weaving on handpicked horses, hair flying in the wind, their cacophony of giggles punctuating the blare of the organ. I – it was like watching a core memory form in real time.
As they tuck into bagel sandwiches (carbs are necessary for a carousel comedown), I notice how they all seem to move as a unit, right down to their gestures. They are protective and gentle with each other in the way they act and speak (guitarist and& vocalist Tommy Eckerson will later tell me they all have Stockholm Syndrome with each other). – Ttheir chemistry is almost palpable. It’s for this reason, I think, that most patrons in the café are staring. Not because of the blue and green hair, or whatever other stereotypical motive people have for staring at an emo/indie/punk band. But, more so, the vibrant energy they exude is as arresting as it is eye-catching – and they know it.
“They are protective and gentle with each other in the way they act and speak – their chemistry is almost palpable.”
Editor’s note: At the time of writing, Carpool was still yet to embark on their summer tour.
You guys are hitting 31 cities within 38 days. That’s wild. Tell me about tour life. Van life. What’s an average day consist of?
Stoph: I feel like all of us have different average days. For me, I’m either reading, smoking my dab, socializing or watching the Simpsons with my headphones in.
Alec Westover, drums & vocals: It’s basically wake up, drive to the next venue, play, find a place to sleep, sleep, then repeat.
Do you have planned out places to sleep? Or do you sleep in the van?
Tommy: There’s a few options. Staying with family and friends, or if the promoter or band we’re playing with that night has a connection, or we might splurge on a hotel. But there will be no sleeping at a fan’s house.
Stoph: Definitely not.
(I did not press this seemingly traumatic topic.)
You’ve played everywhere from dark, dingy basements, to music festivals, to concert venues and dive bars. Do you have a preferred setting?
Tommy: It’s hard to say – it goes both ways.
Stoph: The energy in a basement is unparalleled.
CJ Westcott, bass & vocals: It’s like comparing a show to a party. In basement shows, you know you’re not going to sound good. You’re just down there playing your instruments hoping for the best.
Alex Ryan, synth & vocals: At one [basement show], the sound guy saw me bring in two synthesizers and I saw their face just drop. I was like, “No, I get it! It’s okay! We’ll get through this together!”
Tommy: I will say I’m feeling a little spent right now on basements. I’m really looking forward to having some legit space when we play.
On that note, what cities or venues are you most looking forward to?
CJ: The Peppermint Club in West Hollywood. There’s this Roddy Ricch acoustic performance Tommy showed us, he’s on the piano with a full orchestra there. It’s one of my favorite videos of all time.
Alec: The Masquerade in Atlanta, and also John Henry’s in Eugene, Oregon, – which is my hometown. Eugene was the place I saw my first local show ever, so it’s full circle.
Alex: I’m stoked for The Grog Shop in Cleveland. I went there a few years ago and it was sick. And just everywhere on the West Coast. Not even the venues, but for the weather and people.
Tommy: I’m looking forward to any large-scale venues where we get really good sound.
Stoph: Okay, I have two. This is really lame and corny, but ever since I was a kid, my dream has been to just go to Arizona (venue is The Trunk Space in Phoenix). I don’t want to see anything. I don’t want to do anything. I just want to go there for music and leave and that’s it. And Salt Lake City to see the high school where High School Musical was filmed.
(Reader, at time of publication, I can confirm both of these dreams were achieved. They even got to go into the school and see Sharpay’s pink locker! Go Wildcats!)
How do you protect your mental health on the road?
Stoph: You don’t.
Alex: You just hope everyone doesn’t break at the same time.
Tommy: Whatever semblance of normalcy or consistency in your schedule, you try to keep it up: – get some amount of sleep, take vitamins, eat somewhat healthy.
CJ: I’ll eat a banana now and again.
Alec: No matter what, this is what we want to do. So, we always pick each other up when needed.
Alex: I’ve been on a two-person tour— – those are the worst. At least with more people, somebody can be in a bad mood and everyone else can still work around it.
“No matter what, this is what we want to do. So, we always pick each other up when needed.”
What are your favorite songs to perform?
Alec: “Driving Under the Skinfluence” (Erotic Nightmare Summer). I love the drums on it.
Tommy: Right now, it’s one that’s on the upcoming release: “Tommy’s Car.” It’s super fresh and high-energy, with a banger of an ending.
Alex: I’m going to agree. “Tommy’s Car” for me. It’s the jam.
CJ: I would say either “Tommy’s Car” or “Whiskey & Xanax” (Erotic Nightmare Summer).
Stoph: Also going to say, “Tommy’s Car,” and I really like playing “Local Joke” (I Think Everyone’s a Cop). It’s fun as shit.
What songs do audiences go crazy for?
Stoph: “Idaho” (I Think Everyone’s a Cop) and “The Salty Song” (Erotic Nightmare Summer). For sure.
Alec: “Salty’s” something we could play in a random town in the U.S. and people will know the words.
Let’s talk your upcoming EP. What can you tell us?
Stoph: We’re aiming for an early fall release and going to be dropping one song while we’re on tour from the new EP – called “Anime Flashbacks.”
Your previous album, Erotic Nightmare Summer, was conceptual with a storyline. Will the new EP follow suit?
Stoph: No, not as much. It’s more of an explanation of the ethos of our band.
What is the writing process like?
Stoph: For this new batch of songs, I brought some ideashad some ideas and brought them to Tommy and Alec – and then we basically wrote the music together. Some lyrics come from poetry I’ve written beforehand, which I’ll cut and paste to an idea. Or when I’m sitting with my rhythm guitar, I’ll freestyle ideas and words.
Alec: We do a lot of writing the music just as is. “Anime Flashbacks” started as a riff first.
Tommy: Every song felt like we put like a lot of like individuality into it. We weren’t jumping around from song to song, we really put in the work on each one before moving to the next.
Stoph: When Alex and CJ joined, that helped a lot in the studio with writing harmonies and adding synth parts. There was one demo I made on the PlayStation for a synth line, I sent it to Alex, and they made it a million times better.
Bug Jar has played a huge role in defining Carpool. W – what impact has it had on the band?
Stoph: Bug Jar is home base. Nothing we’ve ever done would be possible without Bug Jar.
Tommy: It’s the perfect combination of being intimate enough and creative enough as an art space. There’s definitely an energy to the room. It has a reputation for having a built-in crowd— – people will go there for the sake of checking out bands, which is really cool.
Stoph: It’s a welcoming community where everyone is really respectful. You meet some of the best people in the world at Bug Jar.
And it’s your homecoming venue— – the last stop of your tour. What will that be like?
Stoph: Insane. It’s going to be fucking wild.
“You meet some of the best people in the world at Bug Jar.”
By this point, with bagels and hybrid sodas long gone, it was time to go our separate ways. Our afternoon together felt like spending time with a cast of characters from a show you’d binge all in a day. Each band member brings their own flavor and personality to create a perfect arrangement of music, talent and style that keeps you wanting more. Tommy told me over the course of the interview that, “Stoph’s got the juice.” But I’d argue that each of them have the juice, whatever the juice may be. They just have it.
This is a band that practicesband practices what they preach, or rather, sings: Radical acceptance, positivity, sincerity, kindness. Of course, they don’t shy away from the darker aspects of life – addiction, depression, rejection et al, but at its core it’s a band about friendship, being supportive, and championing each other’s success. Afterall, their slogan is: “Sharing smiles with friends.” (Just listen for it on “Stolen Self Help (I Like You)” on Erotic Nightmare Summer.) I ask if Carpool is still a band about sharing smiles with friends, nearly three albums later. The response is unanimous: “Always.”
Mark my words, Carpool is one to watch.
Find Carpool’s new single, “Anime Flashbacks,” from their upcoming EP, and their previous albums, I Think Everyone’s a Cop and Erotic Nightmare Summer wherever you listen to music.
Keep up with Carpool on Instagram and Twitter @CarpoolNY.
Carpool is a recording artist with Acrobat Unstable Records. Their national tour was put together by Pathfinder Booking, and their tour manager, Dan Doyle, drove the van to 31 different cities. Go Dan!
Please visit the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. It’s a hidden gem in our community and absolutely worth your time. Ride the one-of-a-kind vintage carousel from the 1900s and feel how freeing it is. And as a gift shop connoisseur, I assure you, the gift shop there is elite.
Editor’s note: The author of this article is the older sister of Stoph and enjoyed her birthright of bossing them around all day.