Santa Barbara punk band Versus the World has come a long way in 10years: playing shows with Blink-182, touring the world, and even starting families despite their whirlwind lifestyle. The quintet returns to town this summer for the unveiling of the band’s third album, Homesick/Roadsick, at Velvet Jones on Saturday, June 13, at 8 p.m.
In anticipation of the band’s long-awaited homecoming, I talked with lead singer/guitarist Donald Spence about songwriting and surviving life on the road.
Why did you name your album Homesick/Roadsick?
This album came from the last three years of trekking around, having adventures, and missing home. The title is about striking a balance between those worlds — you can’t really be touring all the time, and you can’t be home all the time. When you’re touring, every night is a different town. It feels like you’re not in the real world. You have to keep it from controlling the way you look at things.
It must be disorienting to fall asleep in one place and wake up somewhere completely different.
Definitely. But sometimes you take that for granted. The first time I went to Japan, I thought I would come back the next year — now I realize it’s tough to get to some of these places. Being a touring, travelling band it is a hard thing to break into. Touring is a privilege, and remembering you’re lucky to be here keeps you humble and smart.
What are some things you think new musicians should know before they start touring? Anything you need to bring on the road?
In Europe, touring is very different. Every single club has an apartment for the band, and every venue has showers. Then you tour the U.S., and things get a lot harder. So keep in mind, if you tour the U.S., you’ll likely be living out of a backpack. I always bring baby wipes. You never know — we’ll keep the baby wipes in the fridge to clean up and cool off after a show.[laughs]
I would tell any touring band to keep in mind that good songs are important. Friends supporting you live are important. All the likes on Facebook in the world don’t mean people are going to show up. You really need to have good music before anything else. And then bring your baby wipes, and you’ll be good to go.
How do you keep from getting sick of songs you’ve played for years but you know everybody loves?
We change our set list every night and experiment with playing different songs live. We figure if we play two nights at towns two hours from each other, there will be at least a couple people at both shows. There are the songs we have to play, but the ones in between we can keep switching out and keep our sets fun for us. That way all the material stays fresh in our minds, so if someone requests a song it won’t be something we haven’t played in five years.
Do you ever change it mid-show if fans are requesting songs?
That happens to us all the time! There have been times people have requested songs, and I’m like, holy shit, how did you even know that song? We always try to bring those out. You have to play the songs your fans want to hear. Every band wants to play all of their new songs, but you’ve gotta do what’s best for the tour.
What are the best and worst parts of a long tour?
It’s always a really great thing to go on a long [tour], and I think the best thing is getting really close to whomever you’re with. Our longest tour was nine weeks in a row, and you become brothers and sisters with everyone you’re with. The hardest thing is being away from our families. Our bass player has a little girl. I’ve been in the band for 10 years, and I’ve been married to my wife for seven. We know we can’t do more than three or four weeks apart, so if a tour is longer than that, I fly home or my wife flies out. As long as you can feed your family and keep doing what you love, you’re set.