Road Blog: About Touring by Ony Ratsimbaharison

  Jenni Scott, Dylan Kittrell, Cody Roberts, Josh Latham, Ryan Morris, and author Ony Ratsimbaharison


Touring is an interesting experience because it feels so unlike real life, and it’s pretty surreal. I don’t always have the opportunity to play music for people in a new place every night, and moving from place to place each day becomes surprisingly comfortable. I feel like there is progress in motion, and a tour is a good representation of how movement can help us progress—playing each night is great practice, for one. But you also have the opportunity to meet new people and hopefully take back something positive from your interactions.

I recently got back from a quick 10-day tour with my band, fk mt., and another local band called Mybrother Mysister. Despite our van needing some work, and an altercation with some bigoted “cowboys” along the way (we’ll get back to that), it was an overall fun tour.

So to list just a few things going through my mind, I was reading Dune by Frank Herbert, had just watched Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, and had just learned about, not one, but two recent shootings of black men by police. And with all this, I also saw numerous updates regarding this year’s upcoming election. All of these things made me think heavily about resources, like the very limited water on the planet Arrakis, and government control, and how tenuous my existence is on our own planet and within our governmental systems.

What a time to be alive, indeed.

Josh Latham, Ryan Morris, and Ony

For anyone unfamiliar with touring, we packed everything needed for playing, sleeping, and staying alive on the road. This included all of our gear, sleeping bags, pillows, vitamins (those help a lot!), clothes, books, a computer, and even some roller blades, since we had some extra room. We didn’t necessarily have a place to stay for each night, but asked around at each show and hoped someone had some room for six people to crash on their floor (which worked out very well). For food, we would usually find some sort of diner or coffee shop in the morning or early afternoon, and anything else on the road that was fairly cheap and convenient. There were also a few incredibly gracious hosts who cooked us a meal, which we very much appreciated.

Each band drove a separate van, and we started to have some trouble with ours on the second day. We broke down on the way to Tallahassee, and stopped to get it looked at somewhere in Georgia. Luckily, all our drives were fairly short (around 4 hours max), so we had enough time to take it to a shop. They gave us some leftover food that they had in their break room, and said we had to replace the radiator, which they couldn’t replace but they sealed a leek which helped us get to Tallahassee. We bought another radiator on the way and got it changed the next day in Gainesville. Gainesville is also where the cowboys were.

To make a long story short, we played a show in Gainesville right next to a bar called Cowboys. The show went well and we didn’t really interact with anyone at Cowboys until we had to load our vans back up, right in front of the place, after the show. They didn’t like that we were unloading from the sidewalk and threatened to call the cops and yelled distasteful comments at us. Even after we had finished loading out, their bouncers and several patrons were verbally harassing us, yelling out racist and homophobic slurs. With everything I was reading being so politically driven, this whole dispute really disturbed me.

These words were acts of violence, the kind of violence that exists on a larger scale around the country. This event was just a microcosm of the terrifying and very real discriminatory views that reveal themselves through other acts of violence every day. These views seem to be held by many, which is not difficult to see given the amount of support a certain presidential candidate has from racists all over the country who see no problem with white supremacy, and are in fact fighting to maintain it. After watching Green Room (and having lived my life as a person of color in the south), this was not a situation I wanted to be in.

Luckily, we got out of the situation unharmed, and this was the only deliberately awful encounter we were faced with. After that, it was all beach hangs and roller blades with tacos and pizza and, oh yeah, some music sprinkled in between. One night in Sarasota, we all took different sets of wheels (blades, skateboards, longboards, and bikes) almost a mile out to a “fake beach,” which was just a shore by a body of water. It was around two in the morning, and we only stayed for a few minutes, but it was all worth it for the ride in and out. I honestly haven’t even roller-bladed that much at home.

Ony, Josh Latham, and Ryan Morris - photo by Gwen Kittrell

This tour seemed to go by really quickly, but I’m still sort of amazed that I’m able to tour at all, thanks to my love for music and the DIY scene. What I love about it is seeing and meeting people who are creating spaces for people in their community and on the road to create and perform art. There is a transient nature to the DIY scene, people are always moving in and out, which keeps it more alive, in my opinion. For example, two of our shows happened at houses that were no longer going to continue being venues. This has happened in Columbia’s scene as well, but there are always more people coming through as well as new venues being created.

As far as playing for people, it’s hard not to get into playing after sitting around all day. It’s also interesting to see how different crowds can be. I’ve noticed that people tend to have more fun when it’s a house show, probably because it feels more like a party than a “concert.” Our best shows were probably at houses when people moved around and had fun with us. We even saw a few people crowd surf during our set at a house in Charleston. Those are the moments when I feel the least tense. There were, however, a few shows where people didn’t feel as comfortable moving around and just sort of stared at us. I never really quite know what to think at that point, but just keep playing. The cool thing about tour, though, is that no matter how the show goes, there is always another one the next day to hopefully make up for it.

So overall, tour was a great experience, and I would recommend touring to any band that’s trying to reach more people with their music, or if you’re just trying to get out of town for a bit and see what else is out there. There is always something one could bring back and try and incorporate into their own scene. It’s also a great way to make a band play better, just from playing each night. Even though we had some van trouble and came across some unpleasant people, we didn’t let that ruin our experience.

Ony - photo by Shane Sanders



Nominations for Jasper Artists of the Year are due August 26th! More info here.

Jasper's Best Records of 2015

1117 Magnolia This is what it comes down to at the start of every New Year. We Columbia music fiends must look back and take stock of all that happened in the past twelve months. A lot of music was hurled at the listening public and, as the case always is, some of it stuck and some of it slid sadly to the floor. And so, Jasper proudly brings to you our list of the top ten favorite records coming out of our city in 2015. Remember, this list is not the product of one mind, but of many – a rag-tag team of editors, artists, and general ne’er-do-wells. Dozens of albums got votes, but these are the ones we (mostly) agreed on. As always, we hope you enjoy or at least satisfied by our conclusions. Good, bad, or ugly, all comments and criticisms are welcome and can be directed to


Michael Spawn, music editor

10. Ugly ChordsHarbinger

True to the band’s name, Harbinger isn’t always pretty. It’s sometimes dissonant, often cacophonous, but never, ever, dull. The odd moment of quiet intricacy is nothing more than the tornado’s eye, with a dust storm of howling vocals and frenetic guitars lurking only moments away.

9. Debbie & the SkanksLive & Buck Wild

The philosophy behind Live & Buck Wild exemplifies what Debbie & the Skanks are all about in a way that a ‘proper’ studio debut could never match – hit the Jam Room, gather your friends, stock the cooler, set up the mics, and hit Record. It’s both a studio recording and a live album from one of the few bands cavalier enough to ignore the pitfalls and smart enough to see the rewards inherent in such a venture.

8. ColorBlindColorBlind

This is easily one of Columbia’s most satisfying hip-hop releases of the year. On paper, the pairing of local hip-hop don Fat Rat da Czar and singer/songwriter Justin Smith might seem a bit strange, but it’s hard not to get behind a project whose entire reason for being is the promotion of racial equality and an honest look at how we, as both Americans and southerners, take stock of our past and present. And it doesn’t hurt a bit that the record shirks none of the sonic quality we’ve come to expect from da Czar.

7. ET AndersonET2

There’s some debate as to whether this sophomore release lives up to its predecessor, Et Tu,____?, but as valid as either view might be, an equally strong case can be made that it really doesn’t have to. As a standalone record, ET2 finds mastermind Tyler Morris allowing his musical paranoia stretch to potentially dangerous limits while never losing or altering his innate gift for indie-rock songcraft.

6. Abacus En Theory

It can be safely said that no Columbia metal band had a better year than Abacus, and En Theory is the unapologetically rotten fruit of their labors. For listeners who aren’t wool-dyed devotees of hardcore heavy metal, it can be difficult to digest something this aggressive and impenetrable. It’s even more difficult, however, to deny it when a given record has sufficiently rocked one’s ass clean off.

5. New SCMore Success

New SC’s debut, New Success, introduced Columbia to this six-deep collective of emcees, guided by Fat Rat da Czar. As solid as the mixtape was, More Success finds New SC a little older, a little wiser, and draped regally in the sort of swaggering confidence perfectly suited to a group with the single-minded, sink-or-swim-together mentality that defines their latest work.

4. fk. mt.fertilizer

The best kind of punk rock always arises when a band simply wants to rock as best they can, only to find that they can’t repress their natural penchant for raunchy aggression and a spitfire attitude. fk. mt. may not consider themselves a punk band, but neither did Nirvana, the band’s closest aesthetical antecedent.

3. Danny Joe MachadoD A N A S C U S

With Danascus, Daniel Machado gave us not only another document of his exceptional songwriting, but the most lovably unlikeable musical character since Tony Clifton. It’s a pie-eyed treatise on the egos and insecurities of creative people and, like all good satire, the truths it illuminates are funny and uncomfortable and brilliant and sad.

2. Marshall BrownSecond Childhood

Reviews of Marshall Brown’s early work were prone to Jeff Buckley comparisons because of his extraterrestrial vocal range and light musical touch, but Second Childhood’s pop adventurousness reveals an artist more in stride with Sergeant Pepper-era Paul McCartney or Pet Sounds’ Brian Wilson. This may well sound like bold praise, but it’s also a bold record, and one that only gets better with each listen.

1. Brian Robert1117 Magnolia

At least from a male point of view, appreciating Brian Robert’s solo debut is a dual exercise in catharsis and masochism. On one hand, his everyman tales of late-night bars, unreachable women, and the painful process of getting to know oneself transcend those of most country and Americana artists of any level. On the other hand, to uncover bits of your life in his lyrics is to confront the aspects of yourself most of us would prefer to sweep aside. Brian Robert sings on behalf of every well-intentioned asshole among us, and does so with a vocal sadness that all but wrings out the heart.

Ballots collected from Kyle Petersen, David Travis Bland, Greg Slattery, and Michael Spawn. All words by Michael Spawn.


In Jasper Vol. 3, No. 4: Record Review - FK MT's Underwater Goddammit EP

"Beginning somewhere between a Modest Mouse riff and a Yo La Tengo drone, “out ov it” – the second cut on fk mt.’s EP underwater goddammit – bristles, demanding to escape a distortion pedal. The vocalist, Ryan Morris, jumps into the fray, channeling what may have been Wayne Coyne’s younger brother. Ryan pushes the upper range of his voice into often uncomfortable spaces, bemoaning an oft-heard sentiment in under-30 guitar rock: why, oh why, must I continue to screw it all up? The lyrics – few and sparse, unadorned and direct – channel straight to the heart of angst, with cleanly-grafted and driving guitar work pushing against the often-dragging, less insistent and much more unsure drums laid down on the track. “Good listener,” the EP’s opener, demonstrates a thoughtful riff and sophisticated harmonic treatment, and a much more mature lyrical treatment, at least from a formal standpoint. The track still suffers from an unsteady pulse in the drums, though the tension and push-me, pull-you does not go unnoticed as the singer laments “I had a plan to get myself together / But it all fell through on account of the changing weather.”

“Take it slower,” the most accomplished cut on the EP, stands out for numerous reasons, though chiefly for a much-needed differentiation in the treatment of guitars and more tempered approach to texture. Lyrically, it’s the strongest too, clearly showing the decentered desperation the other two songs dance around. The length is right, too – the musical pacing fits well with the straightforward vocals, which Ryan delivers in a broader, though more comfortable, range." – Tom Dempster

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