Dad on the Road: An Interview with Jon Rooney

Jon Rooney, Virgin of the BirdsThis Ball of Wax thing has been fascinating over the years I’ve been involved. One key figure in the shaping of this project has been Jon Rooney, who matched wit and energy with Levi Fuller to grow the presence of this project. Of the many aspects of his character reflected in the site and project—Jon was the first of us to become a father.

This week, Jon and his band Virgin of the Birds set out on a US tour, bringing with them Storm the Palace from the UK. (They complete their tour on Saturday, March 12 at Conor Byrne Pub in Seattle.) While many contributors to this project are touring musicians, this seems like a milestone for a man who usually puts intelligence first and foremost. I asked him for his perspective touring as an otherwise sensible father, husband, and blogger.

How does this tour compare to a road trip with a four year old? Are there more or fewer bathroom breaks?

I haven’t ever driven 28 odd hours in less than a week with my four year old son, but in my experience all road trips/tours seem to reach a state of either peaceful boredom or sequestered agitation. Luckily for us, this tour has pretty much just been the former. If I were on such a massive road trip with my family (which is a total hypothetical – my wife would never agree to so much driving in such a short time), there’d surely be more kids’ music and less fast food (big up to Del Taco in Redding, CA).

What are your major fears related to this tour, 1-5, in reverse order?

  1. Getting our gear stolen (we pack out every night and don’t leave the van unattended, so a minimal risk)
  2. Bed bugs (so far, so good)
  3. Leaving San Francisco early enough to make the 9-ish hour drive to Eugene (we did it!)
  4. Leaving Portland early enough to return the van by noon on Saturday (fingers crossed)
  5. Navigating traffic / parking in San Francisco (huzzah to Colin and Ken!)

What music have you listened to in the car so far? Does Hunky Dory sound good on a Suburu stereo?

We’ve listened to hours of music so far (though not Hunky Dory – I’m still in mourning), including Cate Le Bon’s Mug Museum, lots of Angel Olsen, Felt, a song by America from some ’80s era film called The Last Unicorn, mixes from an unreleased Foghorns album, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan’s unfairly-derided Dylan record from 1973 and a mix of heavy metal classics (Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”, Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” and “Search and Destroy”, some Megadeth, some Celtic Frost) at the request of Pippa, one of the Storm the Palace folks from the UK.

How have you explained this to your parents or other responsible people?

Uneasily. Arriving at this feels less like executing a grand plan than like boiling a frog, and yet here I am writing this from a $60 a night motel in Eugene, OR (big up to Burrito Bob’s!). It’s a vacation, I guess. I don’t hunt, fish, play golf, scuba dive, race cars, rock climb or (shiver) camp. So this is my hobbyist getaway, necessary for placating people like me in this age of Late Capitalism.

So your son will know you were once fucking cool, what were your thoughts as you packed your gear for the tour? What were your thoughts as you arrived at your first gig?

I’m a worrier, so my thoughts were either ruminating on the above list or the sounds of the approaching footsteps leading to this:

You are showing America to foreigners. To foreign musicians. Has it helped you to rekindle a love of our beautiful country that has likely been dulled by instagram and instagram related cynicism?

Well’ there’s this:

Growing up right outside of Philadelphia (and thus next to Pennsyl-tucky), I discovered pretty early in life that there are essentially two Americas and one surefire way to discern which you are in any given point. In the super-urban bubbles where one might find artisanal ketchup, people who subscribe to Mother Jones, and record stores with “Brazillian Psych” sections, you will mostly find only one FM country music station on the radio. Everywhere else, there are often several FM country music stations on the radio. And lots of camo and chain stores. I forget that this arrangement makes up most of the USA – road trips remind me of this fact. But San Francisco, despite the current cultural and socio-economic siege it’s enduring, is one of the most magical cities I’ve been anywhere in the world. And in Eugene, we went to Max’s, the bar that apparently inspired Moe’s on the Simpsons!

Please provide five photos that represent your first day on tour.

See above for one.

Also, do you think we should make this a regular Ball of Wax feature? Asking Ball of Wax contributors about their tour experience just as they set off away from the city? How long do you think it will be until another Ball of Wax contributor has the ability to leave the city of their day jobs?

Yes, yes, and possibly never.

Congratulations, Jon. We’re proud of you.

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2 Responses to Dad on the Road: An Interview with Jon Rooney

  1. Levi Fuller says:

    For what it’s worth, I hope to be able to go on tour some time – maybe when my son is the age Jon’s is now – although I might have to fold Ball of Wax to make it happen. Stay tuned!

  2. Bart says:

    You should get to tour. I think we can help keep this thing going while you’re on the road.

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