Touring musicians have a great gig. Rock and roll! It’s doubly great when they’re interested in exploring the international culinary world. We do realize some bands subsist solely on Taco Bell and Coke Zero. Shame on them! There’s Hatch chile to sample in New Mexico. Pappy Van Winkle in Kentucky. Doppelbock outside Hamburg. Tortas on the California-Mexico border. In Good Food, Rocks, we track down a band member serious about their grub—and who has held a job in the food industry too.
The dudes in White Denim—who released my favorite record of 2011, the psych blues boogie stoner jam rocking, 245 plays on Spotify jewel, D—also live in one of my favorite American food cities (Austin, Texas) and cite Eastside migas-mecca Cisco’s as one of their favorite Mexican restaurants. Love these guys. On the eve of SXSW I checked in with bassist Steve Terebecki to find out about touring eats and where he likes to hang out when Austin basically loses its shit.
Describe a job you had in the food industry — restaurant, bar, delivery, coffee, grocery store…
I used to work at an Italian restaurant in Chesapeake, Virginia. I was the head pizza cook and it was really intense, especially on Fridays. There would be 25 pizzas in the oven at the same time and one time I pulled one out and it was sort of an ellipsis shape, nothing too crazy, and my boss slam dunked it in the trash and said: “That’s not a pizza, that’s a football!” The entire family worked there and hung out there as well. The grandma just sat around and yelled at me in Italian in a manner that reminded me of the pigeons from Animaniacs. I quit that job. It was tough. I was 17, but I got paid under the table in cash plus tipped out. Overall, it was a valuable experience.
What is your favorite city to visit for the food while on tour?
Anywhere in the “dirty south” is my favorite by far. Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Chapel Hill and Richmond have great authentic food. However, my two most memorable meals ever on tour happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Madison, Wisconsin at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen and Kabul Afghanistan Restaurant, respectively. I make it a point to find the best place every city has to offer and usually I find a place that is pretty fantastic.
You live in Austin. What a food city! Describe your favorite place for: tacos, barbecue, something non-Texas clichéd?
For tacos: Joe’s Bakery, Julio’s, Cisco’s, Habanero’s and Guero’s. I definitely feel like I’ve left some places off. I don’t really like fancy tacos, just the real deal. Nothing beats a perfect al pastor taco, or a potato-bacon-cheese. All these places nail it. For barbecue: I’m going to have to say Franklin’s. It’s worth the wait. If you know someone that is going, pay them extra to pick something up and deliver it to you. It’s just as good. They serve beers in the line, so if you have a few hours to spare then that’s the spot. If you are visiting Austin and want something quicker then go to Bowie’s BBQ in Whole Foods. They have my favorite pulled pork in town. The best meal I’ve had that isn’t Mexican or BBQ is at Pho Danh in North Austin. Best pho I’ve ever had!
What’s it like to live in Austin during SXSW? Are people always hitting you up to stay at their place?
I haven’t experienced SXSW since being in White Denim as a resident. We’ve stayed really busy the past five years. It is definitely bonkers and I try to ride my bike as much as possible. This year, we aren’t playing as much and I look forward to going around and checking out music. I need to replace my stolen bike though—driving around during the middle of March is one of the worst things you can possibly put yourself through. People always ask to crash, but I always tell them that someone is already staying. Usually I’ll meet up with someone and we’ll party and they end up crashing at my place. It’s a completely different city during SXSW. I don’t hate it, it’s just different.
Where do you go out with friends in town for SXSW?
I try to hit up spots that aren’t crowded. So, anywhere that is away from downtown or the east side. I’ll hit up HEB really hard before the week starts and grill a bunch of food at my house as well. I’ve never had the chance, but if I ever had time I’d take someone out to Hamilton’s Pool. It’s the most beautiful place to swim and it’s about 40 minutes southwest of Austin.
When on tour, what are some of your band’s food and drink requests?
We keep it simple. We get a 12 pack of local beer, chips and salsa, hummus and pita chips (pita bread is usually terrible on the road for some reason). We also like a fine liquor, but that changes constantly. Josh [Block, the drummer] really loves tequila.
Have you ever heard one of your songs being played in a restaurant? Weird or cool?
Yes, it was weird and cool. Cool because one of your songs is being played in a restaurant! Weird because it was a DJ in a seafood restaurant and he said: “The bass player of this next band is enjoying his meal with us tonight! Here’s ‘I Can Tell’ by White DENIM!!!!!”
And 10 songs you would cook to…
Bootsie Collins – “Yummy, I Got the Munchies”
Minutemen – “Cut”
Killing Joke – “Chop Chop”
Pantera – “The Art of Shredding”
R Kelly – “Sex in the Kitchen”
Missy Elliott – “All N My Grill”
Prince – “Hot Thing”
Sly & the Family Stone – “Don’t Burn Baby”
Brazos – “Feeding Frenzy”
Cass McCombs – “It’s Getting Colder”