BACK TO LIVE: Listen to an Alestorm song – really, just pick one at random – and you’d likely come away with an obvious conclusion: these guys drink. (Sample lyric: “We are here to drink your beer and steal your rum at the point of a gun.” There’s not a ton of room for interpretation.)
What else would you expect from the world’s leading pirate-themed metal band? To go to an Alestorm concert is to be regaled with tales of… well, gales on the high seas, but also swilling alcohol at an alarming rate.
Unfortunately for fans of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, but fortunately for the band members’ livers, the reality of life on a tour bus is much different from one on a pirate ship.
“I think that’s a bit of a misconception that we must all be raging alcoholics,” says Alestorm guitarist Mate Bodor.
“Since I joined the band, every tour I would say we have two or three silly, drunk-y nights but it’s not out-of-control craziness. I drink onstage, I have some beers or whiskey and Cokes and people think I do that all the time. But someone who has a 9-to-5 job and goes home and has three or four beers, that’s more than I have onstage. So it’s not that crazy, really.”
For Bodor, who joined the largely Scottish Alestorm five years ago after spending years in bands in his native Hungary, moving up to a higher level of touring has come with some perks. One of those being a tech to take care of gear, which is key for a guitarist who describes himself as “not a guitar nerd” and struggles to change strings on a Floyd Rose-equipped guitar. Not that life has always been so easy.
“My first-ever tour was pretty much a huge disappointment because we were so broke,” he says. “Everyone was just sleeping in other people’s places and couchsurfing. It wasn’t like I imagined it to be.”
Bodor’s living conditions have also been upgraded – he’s grateful to have his own bunk on Alestorm’s very own, not-shared-with-another-band, bonafide tour bus. But while that means he’s able to eat better – Alestorm’s rider requires a nutritious backstage meal for the band members – it also comes with higher expectations.
A pirate metal band can’t just go out, play an hour of sea shanties while staring at their instrument necks and call it a day. Alestorm have built their following by being one of the most entertaining live acts out there, complete with a gigantic crowd-surfing rubber ducky.
Being able to consistently give the fans their money’s worth is not a skill learned overnight, and it’s also not one that can be picked up in the rehearsal room. The key to being a great live act is to play live – a lot.
“All the stage stuff we do, the movements, we pretty much do it every day, the same sort of things. But it’s not because it’s been practiced or choreographed. We just play so much that when we start doing a certain thing, that just becomes the natural thing to do in those situations in the songs,” he says.
If this all sounds rather tame for the band that wrote the immortal lyric, “Yo ho Mexico/Far to the south where the cactus grow/Tequila and a donkey show,” Bodor and his shipmates still live up to the pirate’s creed of adventure.
To break up the monotony, they make it a point to get out of the backstage dressing room and play tourist. That ahoy, matey attitude has taken the band to some unexpected places – Bodor points to Colombia and Russia as two favorites.
“It’s like treating it as a holiday,” he says. “It’s not just the grind and being on the road, which can be miserable. So I always like to go somewhere, at least.”