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Trial by fire 

The Pink Spiders keep crawling after bus blaze

You might think that a fire destroying your bus – along with numerous personal and band items – would be discouraging to most people. They pack up, go home ... maybe mope around the house about it. Those people aren't The Pink Spiders.

After a blaze burned their touring rig to the ground in mid-March, the band was back on the road in days. They had their gear and the clothes on their backs -- that's all they needed.

"We don't know what happened because there wasn't much to inspect after the fact," singer/guitarist Matt Friction says by phone from Nashville. "We were driving and it just filled up with smoke -- where the engine was, there was a pretty big fire. It was about 30 seconds of running followed by a series of pretty big explosions -- the tires, the gas tank, the windows -- and then it burned to the ground."

When the fire first started, Friction says he considered running back onto the bus to get his laptop which had some recorded songs and demos on it, but he wisely stayed back. He says he brought a backup hard drive on tour with him for the first time, and it, too, was lost in the fire. The band's gear was in a trailer behind the bus that was far enough away to not catch fire. He says the "merch" -- T-shirts, etc. -- was in the trailer and only suffered a faint burnt smell.

The main things lost were cell phones, iPods, laptops and clothing. Friction says he still has some lyrics to some of the demos and they'll try to re-record them when time permits. They cancelled that night's show in Atlanta and the following in New Orleans, but joined back up with the tour in Texas two days later.

"John our bass player literally only had one pair of pants, and he wore those for the rest of the tour," Friction says. "I don't think we ever talked about not finishing the tour. We just got back on the road. We had a lot of stuff replaced and insurance covered some things -- laptops for recording were considered band gear. Fans donated money to PayPal, too."

The Pink Spiders, based in that home of country music, isn't the typical act to come out of that city. They play a pop/rock/punk music and usually dress in a lot of pink and black clothing. Sounds a little more like The White Stripes than Rascal Flatts.

Just don't ask them where the name comes from. Friction says they've lied in every interview they've given, saying that it started one night when they were drunk or that it's a phrase bluntly meaning "asshole." "It was a deliberate intention when we started the band that people would love it or hate it -- people hate The Beatles, too," Friction says. "The whole [clothing] thing was nothing we set out to do, but now it's become part of the show. Of course, we've been wearing less and less pink. It was never perceived to me to be a gimmicky thing. I thought we were just being flashy. When we got known for being the band that dresses in pink, we kind of stopped doing it as much. When it's expected, it kind of defeats the purpose."

The trio, which formed in 2003, has released two albums so far, with another on the way. To hold fans over in the meantime, they're offering a six-song EP on their current tour. It's has three songs from their upcoming album and a couple B-sides. It's also the only time you'll be able to pick one up.

"It's nice to have so much material to draw from during the live shows and be able to do long sets," Friction says. "The new album -- we're still working on it and keeping it under wraps until we're ready to announce something. It's definitely a lot more of a rock 'n' roll album. I'm biased, but it's much better than anything else we've done. We're putting out the EP to remind people that the new album is hopefully coming soon."

The band hopes to release the new album this fall. Friction calls the first album "garage rock," but says the more recent efforts have been more punk.

Aside from the band's upcoming June 18 show at Snug Harbor during a three-week stint as a headliner, they'll be back in town on July 14 during their three-week run on the Vans Warped Tour.

The band has touring members who are good friends, but aren't involved in the writing process. Friction says they help with harmonies and the layered guitar parts that they wouldn't be able to play as a trio.

"It's absolutely completely different for Warped Tour," he says. "We have a keyboard player and a backup guitarist -- we can't play some of the new songs without them -- and a sound guy and merch guy. We have some stage stuff we won't bring with us -- lights and TV screens. We're used to a hectic touring schedule. Usually it only feels weird when we have to come home. It's a long and lonely road."

The Pink Spiders will perform at Snug Harbor on June 18 with Drive By and The Stellas. Tickets are $8.

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