The four members of The Social Animals band pride themselves on accepting any gig — no matter how far away — and never getting a hotel room.
"We sleep in a lot of Wal-Mart parking lots and a lot of truck stops," said lead vocalist Dedric Clark, with a chortle. "We pull up with our little tiny van next to, like, 50 huge semi trucks. It's pretty funny."
They do it to save money and "maybe to preserve a bit of our hardcoreness," said Clark, adding: "If the booking agent gets us a show in Delaware, we'll drive 20 hours to get there."
That dedication — along with some key connections — appears to be paying off for the homegrown band, which will embark on a 20-stop U.S. amphitheater tour with bands Dashboard Confessional, The All American Rejects and The Main later this month. The four bands will perform in larger venues across the country, from the Pearl Concert Theater in Las Vegas to Big Flats, New York and all places in between.
The Social Animals features two Cloquet grads — lead vocalist Clark and Tony Petersen on banjo and guitar — plus Esko grad Boyd Smith on drums and Roger Whittet of Lino Lakes on bass guitar. The foursome will play for crowds as large as 3,000, a considerable jump in size from the Northland bars and coffee houses where they cut their teeth.
Clark said the group starting playing some shows with Chris Carrabba from Dashboard and Dan Layus from Augustana after forming a friendship — all three are signed with Folsom Records and Dan has the same manager.
"It's weird the people you meet on the road and just playing," Clark said. "It's been great."
Even when it's a little embarrassing.
Case in point: Clark tells how the band was playing a Halloween party somewhere, and people in the crowd kept shouting out "Chumbawamba," the name of a British band that broke up in 2012. Thinking the crowd was asking for a Chumbawamba song, they finally gave in and decided to play "an awful version of this song we didn't really know," Clark said. "I was mocking it."
He realized afterward that they were yelling Chumbawamba because the lead singer was there at the party. Oops.
He cracks up.
"I met him afterward," Clark said. "He was cool."
Clark and his band mates do share a certain zany and sardonic humor, which comes through on stage, as well as whatever social media platform they happen to be using.
Sometimes it's posting unusual band photos — even the bathroom isn't off limits — showing off Dedric's basketball shooting skills, threatening in a tweet to play nothing but Kid Rock if Donald Trump became President, and, yes, even sometimes doing something musical, like performing a mini-concert for Facebook on top of the ski jump at Pine Valley.
"Funny? It might just be the weirdness of being isolated all the time with four smelly adult men in a van," Clark deadpanned.
When asked if there is a particular recipe for success that the band is following, Clark said he feels like everyone is making their own way these days. Some get on live streams, others make it on shows like The Voice. The Social Animals, well, they just keep on playing as many shows as possible.
"That's what we did and it's how we're doing it now," Clark said.
One thing will change this summer: The Social Animals will leave the Chevy Express van behind, and ride in a bus for the tour.
Clark is betting it won't affect the chemistry between the band members, although they may not have to experience each other's chemistry quite as closely as they have in the van.
"I just feel really fortunate to somehow have gotten together with four guys from a similar area that actually can get along for like 20 hours in a van," he added. "I don't know if it's northern Minnesota or what but it's great. These guys are the best. They're my best friends."
Don't despair, hometown fans. You can catch The Social Animals at Pizza Luce in Duluth on June 23, before they embark on the big tour. Advance tickets are available for purchase at Pizza Luce and Carmen's Restaurant in Cloquet. They will also perform at 7 p.m. Friday, July 21, at Myth in Maplewood, Minn. Find a tour schedule and more at thesocialanimals.com.