Monday, June 15, 2015

How Vancouver's Hawking Survived a Horrific Car Crash & What Other Bands Can Learn From Them

Catch Hawking at TT the Bear's Monday, June 15th.

Roughly a year and a half ago, Vancouver indie rock band Hawking (formally Tommy Alto) experienced a horrific car crash. With a lineup change, a repositioned musical path and some significant life experiences, the quartet is back on a massive 3-month North America tour, supporting the upcoming release of their S/T EP (pre-order here) and stopping at TT the Bear’s tonight (6/15) with local support from I/O, Today Junior and Speed Trials. 18+, $8, 9PM showtime (Facebook event page).

With stories of van crashes littering the pages of music websites annually, we talked with vocalist and guitarist Tom Vanderkam about his experience and what advice he can provide to other touring bands.

"All I remember is staring at my feet with glass flying everywhere,
and going 'NO NO NO NO NO NO'”.

Bishop & Rook: What are the vague details around the event (weather related / drunk driver / car trouble)?

Tom Vanderkam: None of us are particularly sure. We’ve had a lot of people suggest that driver fatigue is the most likely culprit, which seems reasonable considering it was a 12-hour drive, but we’re not really in a position to speculate personally. I’m the only one with any recollection of the crash itself, and all I remember is staring at my feet with glass flying everywhere, and going “NO NO NO NO NO NO”.

B&R: How did the accident affect the band’s moral? How did fans react / support the band?

TV: Immediately after the accident, there really wasn’t a band for a bit. I continued writing music as soon as I got home from the hospital, but Paul [Engels] (our old bass player) was in a coma for 5 weeks after the crash, so there wasn’t much we could do but hope for him to wake up. Once he snapped out of it though, and even after he left the band to deal with his injuries, we all kept writing new material and made sure we didn’t let the accident affect our friendship. Our fans were incredibly supportive, also. We were absolutely floored by the tremendous amount of loyalty and encouragement everyone sent our way. If it weren’t for them, I don’t think we would have pulled through as well as we did. We’re honored to have such an amazing group of people listening to our music.

B&R: What precautions does the band take on this new tour to avoid another accident?

TV: If we listed everything, we’d sound like an after school special. We pretty much take every safety precaution in the book. I know that’s not super rock and roll, but we all really like being alive. But besides the usual, we travel in a mini-bus instead of a 15 passenger van now. Those vans are death traps and aren’t made to carry people. Our bus is a behemoth named Disco Stu and we love it to death.

B&R: What advice can they give to touring bands?

TV: Get rid of your damn 15 passenger van. Please. Those things are deadly, and touring in a mini-bus rules; it’s way comfier and is cheaper in the long run if you get one that runs on diesel. Don’t drive tired. Ever. Pull over on the side of the highway, surround your vehicle with traffic cones and take a nap if you need to. Also, go 5-10mph slower than you feel like you should. Your van/bus is big and top-heavy. You’re not driving a Prius. Stay alive. Keep touring. Rock out. Make cool music. Shred gnar.

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