By Barbara DeLollis and Felix Contreras
As the alt-pop band Fire and the Romance (current single, “She’s a Devil“) prepares the release of their new album and supporting tour through the US northeast, frontman Dion Roy checks his to-do list: strategic venues, radio station appearances, media interviews and reliable hotels.
These days, musicians are forced to use the road to make money as the record business falters and bands count more on ticket sales than record sales. Fire and the Romance begins its Northeast Tour with a New York concert on Nov 10. (Details: Fireandtheromance.com/tour.)
In an earlier era, touring rock and roll musicians were more likely to destroy a room than actually sleep in it. Now decent hotels have become as necessary as guitar tuners.
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Roy tells Travel Update about a 2013 incident that found them looking for a place to sleep after adding a last-minute gig to their itinerary while all four members of the band fought off the flu.
“So we stopped at this hotel. I can’t remember the name, but it was right outside Cambridge. The sheets were disgusting. The pillow cases were disgusting. It looked like somebody had trashed the hotel room before we got there, and all we wanted to do was sleep so we stayed.”
Musicians these days have to be as adept at living out of a suitcase as working a crowd from the stage. And Roy points out how musicians have different hotel needs than the average business or leisure traveler.
“We talk about it on the road all the time how different is it for traveling musicians vs. regular people,” Roy told me. “Like all of a sudden, being able to do laundry in a hotel’s important. Usually, you wouldn’t care.
“Then there are the check-in times and the check-out times. They don’t really make sense for musicians because a lot of times you’re going to arrive at 2:30 a.m. in the morning – then you have housekeeping knocking on your door at 10 a.m..”
He and the band shoot for hotels with at least 2.5 stars to 3 stars: “When we get a Doubletree, for example, we’re usually pretty stoked.”
Roy cited the complimentary breakfast, the chain’s consistency of cleanliness from city to city and the “decent” size of the rooms, which is important to a four-man band that usually sleeps two to a room.
Holiday Inn Express properties also get high marks because, in part, the absence of valet service.
“There’s no way we’re gonna get our large van in and out of a valet parking lot easily. At the Holiday Inn Express, it’s always easy to get the van in and out without a hassle,” said Roy, who’s become a loyalty points junkie.
While the newer alternative forms of lodging are catching on with road warriors it doesn’t work for working musicians.
“Airbnb takes too much coordination,” he told me. “They want you for more than a day and we rarely get more than a day in a city.
“If you can spend two days in a hotel, that’s like, oh man, awesome! We might even talk about working out. Your whole world opens up. It’s an amazing thing!”
While the traditional structure of hotels might make touring a bit challenging at times, Roy generally loves being on the road.
“I love to travel and love food,” he said. “We’ve got the Yelp thing down.”
Roy and his band relies on the Yelp consumer review app and friends’ recommendations to discover new taco joints whenever they’re in a new destination. And then, they rely on social media to share their quirky road obsession. His recent favorite find? Tower 7 in Wilmington, N.C. (“Best hot sauce ever,” he said.)
“They (fans) know I’m obsessed with finding good Mexican food. And if they’re at a taco place or see a funny taco meme, they’ll tag me. That’s in my inbox all time,” he said.