Road Trip is not your average band. Based in Oshkosh, the talented sextet boasts two lead singers, one male and one female, that help shape their unique rock and roll sound. They have amassed a loyal, cult-like following in Wisconsin as well as other states throughout the Midwest. Bassist David Geschke talked with us about the creative process, touring, opening up for famous bands and much more.
OnMilwaukee.com: Why two lead singers?
David Geschke: When the band started out in 1991, Rich Plath was the only vocalist. Since the other guys in the band weren't great singers, at some point it was decided that they'd look for a female backup singer. Amy Johnson got the job and joined the band in 1993 strictly as a backup vocalist. Road Trip is the only band she's ever been in.
At some point she got to sing lead on "Me & Bobby McGee" at a show and the crowd went crazy. So then she had one song to sing lead on every night and it eventually grew to the 50/50 lead vocal split that we have now. Rich wasn't very happy about having another lead vocalist in the band at first, but now Amy and Rich are best of friends, they have a lot of fun together (onstage and off) and their voices mix well. Their chemistry together on stage is a huge part of what attracts people to our shows.
OMC: How do you decide who is going to sing a particular song? What is the writing process like?
DG: There are several ways a song can begin. Sometimes Rich or Amy will have an idea and they'll bring it into practice and the band will start fooling around with it -- in that case the lead singer is pretty obvious (whoever brought up the idea). At other times the musicians will either bring in an idea or get some sort of "groove" or "jam" going and if one of the singers takes to it and comes up with a melody and lyrics then that song is theirs.
On our new CD "Please Disturb" you'll see credits for writing on the songs that were brought in by the vocalists. Songs that were more of a "band" effort don't have the writer listed -- we all had something to do with their creation in that case.
OMC: The band has been together, albeit with a few changes, since 1991. How have you managed to survive this long?
DG: Guitarist Dan Doty and Rich are the only founding members still with the band and they're cousins. Dan and Amy have been going out for years and will be married this September. So those three lives are pretty much entwined together, band or no band.
Road Trip has had 16 different members since its inception. As members came and went the three mentioned above would just keep replacing them with new people. It wasn't hard to do because Road Trip became a pretty popular band in the Fox Valley area relatively quickly, so finding musicians willing to do the gig wasn't too hard. (But) getting the right chemistry is always tough.
OMC: You've opened up for some big names (Sheryl Crow, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac). What's that been like? How has it helped the band?
DG: Opening for big name acts is nice, mostly it has just helped get us in front of large crowds of people that might never have heard about us because they're there to see the headline act and not us. So far this summer we have opening dates set with Three Dog Night and Edgar Winter.
It's interesting to see how the various acts will treat the opener -- it's not always how you'd expect.
Take Ted Nugent, for example. I'm a strict vegetarian and into animal rights, so I figured doing a show with Ted would suck and that we'd be treated like crap, but his crew was great. You just never know. Most of the people you meet that have had success in the music business are very cool people; humble and down-to-earth.
OMC: Road Trip plays around 135 shows a year. Do you ever just think, "God, this sucks and I want to go home?" How does it stay fresh and fun?
DG: We have six people in our band that love and care about each other very much. We can tell when someone's having a "down" night and either pick them up or pick up the slack. It really doesn't happen very often, though, we all love playing music. Having the crowd support we do doesn't hurt either. Knowing that pretty much every show we do will be to 300-plus people is great. In the areas we're strong in -- Madison, Oshkosh, Manitowoc -- and during the summer festival season getting crowds much larger than that is pretty much the norm. It helps to have that crowd energy to feed off of. Our fans kick ass.
OMC: You've built a large Midwestern fan base. Who comes to the shows? Do you have fans of all ages?
DG: The crowds are mostly younger people I'd say, 21-35 with most people in their 20s. Most of our shows are 21 and over, especially in the winter. We love doing all-ages shows, though. When you get the "under 21" kids in there you really get the energy level up.
OMC: What can someone who isn't familiar with you expect from a live show?
DG: Tons and tons of energy and fun. Every band member giving 110% for three one-hour sets (usually). Some very high quality musicianship and vocals as well. I've been playing over 27 years and have never been in a band this solid -- no weak links. We have a lot of fun and that spills over into the crowd. It's just a great time every night. We expect that much of ourselves, if our fans are willing to give us their cash to come see us. It's our duty to give them all we've got every night and we do.
OMC: Where do you see the band in the future?
DG: We live off the income generated by our cover shows, but we spend 80% of our practice time writing and working on our original material. We do all-original shows whenever possible, but we have to keep the cover shows going to live off of in the meantime.
At some point we're hoping to get a record deal and start focusing even more on original material and regional/national touring. We get some flack for how we're going about things -- playing covers -- but none of us would last long with a "real" job. So we continue to play as often as possible, write and record, send material to every record company that will listen, and push the boundaries of the areas that we play in. Markets that we're targeting right now are Rockford, which is going very well for us, and Milwaukee.
OMC: Do you have any upcoming shows in the Milwaukee area?
DG: Yes, Sat., May 12 at Rooter's in Waukesha, the 26th at the BBC with Framing Amy and at Summerfest, Mon., July 2, opening for Three Dog Night on the Briggs & Stratton Stage.
OMC: How can people get their hands on your music?
DG: You can buy it online, as well as download/listen to clips from our website at http://www.roadtripband.com. There is also a list of retail stores here in Wisconsin that handle our CDs listed on the website as well.