FEATURE INTERVIEW with Sean Spellman of Quiet Life

Interview by Corrine Jensen

Quiet Life emerged onto the New London music scene in 2004 and soon became a local favorite. In 2009, the then quartet packed up and moved to the other side of the country where they’ve been living, creating, and performing up and down the West Coast.
Over the years, the group has featured a variety of talented musicians with it’s current line-up featuring original members Sean Spellman (vocals, lead guitar), Ryan Spellman (drums), and Craig ‘The Rupe’ Rupert (guitar), now joined by Thor Jensen (guitar, bass) and Jesse ‘The Ozark’ Bates (steel guitar, bass).
Quiet Life is in the middle of a jam-packed tour (17 states in 33 days!) in support of their latest album Big Green and they’re doing it all gasoline free in a converted Ford Diesel Van appropriately named 'Greasy Pete'. The local rockers will be home in Connecticut later this week with multiple shows throughout the area and two in New London.
Somewhere outside Chattanooga, TN., easy-going front man Sean Spellman charmed WailingCity.com while talking about Quiet Life’s "ultimate road trip", going gas-free as an economical choice and his memories of New London.

WC: You grew up in New London. Tell me about the music scene from back then. Any memorable stories? Bands? Shows?
Sean: Yeah, actually, I used to work at the El ‘N’ Gee when I was about 17. Yeah. (Laughing) It was great. I was the runner. I was the dude who went and bought all the all the energy drinks and backstage food, like veggie lasagna, for the bands. It was cool. I got to go into all the shows for free and I hung out with all of my favorite bands at the time. There were a ton of emo, punk and hard-core bands. I saw a ton of hard-core shows there. I also used to work at The Oasis. I bartended and my brother, Ryan, used to work the door. We were there all the time and one of my favorite shows there was definitely the Justin Townes Earle show. One of the best shows at the Oasis.


WC: In 2009, the whole band decided to move out to the West Coast and now live in Portland, OR. How has the music scene been for you guys out there?
Sean: It’s been great. There are a lot of bands and a lot of places to play. There are a lot of great bands. Some of my favorite bands that are well known all over the country live in Portland and we get to be a part of that whole music area which is really inspiring. It pushes us to do more and be more productive and work harder so that’s the most beneficial thing about living there. There’s always room to grow.

WC:  Now you’re on a pretty intense tour with some very talented bands in support of Big Green. How’s that going? Enjoy being on the road and playing and seeing the country?
Sean:
Yeah, we’re opening for a few bands. We did 2 weeks with Dr. Dog and then rode up to Philly and met up with Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside for a few shows with her. Now we’re doing about a week of shows on our own before meeting up with Cotton Jones for a few days. It’s kind of a hodge-podge of bands for the tour. Being on the road has been pretty great. Just getting to see places is the added bonus to getting to play music every night. Discovering new bars and restaurants and meeting people in different towns that want to show us the things that they enjoy about their city because they know we’re out of towners, it’s like the ultimate road trip really.

WC: Let’s talk about why your band decided to convert your tour van to run on used vegetable oil vice gasoline?
Sean: We’ve been trying to do the conversion, running on grease, for a long time. Really, it’s the only way we can actually tour because it’s unaffordable to pay for gas. We’ve only spent $160 bucks on diesel so far on this tour and we’ve been out for 3 weeks and driven from Portland to Cleveland, down to New Orleans, over to Charleston and back up to Tennessee, we’ve been all over the place. We actually just filled up. We got 60 gallons of used vegetable oil here in Chattanooga and that’s probably gonna get us up to Philly.

WC: So, what does it smell like?
Sean: Right now it smells like a mix between garbage, egg rolls and french fries. (Laughing) We got some stinky grease a week ago and it still smells a little funky. I think we all get used to it though.

WC: I read that you guys are taking donations. Are there restrictions or a minimum?
Sean: We’re just looking for used vegetable oil that’s golden and clean and doesn’t have a bunch of sediment in it. We’re trading people tickets into shows for some fuel. It’s cool. We’ve had people in different states come up to us and give us grease and it’s working out pretty nicely. We’re hoping people will continue to do that so that we don’t have to search everyday for hours. It’s nice to get about 5 gallons but there’s no minimum. What we’re really hoping for is somebody will say "Oh, I work at this restaurant" or "My friend owns or manages this place and they have a grease trap and you should come get our grease" that means we can get a lot of grease. We are trying to spread the word so that people can get in touch with us. They can email us at quietlifeband@gmail.com

WC: So this week you’ll be back home in New London. Are you excited? 
Sean: I’m stoked about that. We’re doing two shows in New London and I don’t think we’ve done that since... I don’t even know when? We’re playing The Bank Street CafĂ© on Thanksgiving and then we’re playing The Oasis the next night. We’re going to get to see a bunch of old friends. It’s going to be great.

WC: This is where it all started for you guys 7 years ago; you have to have a good Quiet Life and New London story from back then.
Sean: Basically, what happened was Quiet Life needed to book a show with this band called The Only Children from Lawrence, Kansas and we had booked the gig at this place called Heroes, which is this old bar on Golden St., but it actually closed down and we wound up doing the show at the Oasis. From then on out, Sean Murray pretty much started working as the promoter at the Oasis, I got a bartending job and my brother started working at the door and we had such a great little scene happening. There were so many local bands coming out at the time and we booked as many shows as we could and had as many out of town bands come through as we could. I think it was great for all the local bands, especially for us, to play with them. It was just a really awesome time. I think New London’s definitely changed a little bit but I think hopefully there’s a new breed of younger bands that are going to do that because that’s what it takes. It takes people like Sean Murray to book the shows and bands to get out and play the shows.

WC: What is Quiet Life going to do after the tour is all over?
Sean: Oh, we’re going to relax for a little bit and then we’re going to hit the road again in February. We’ll go home and try to finish the record in January and we’re still trying to figure out the tours but ultimately we’ll do a full U.S.

WC: Last question, do you have any advice for singers, bands, or musicians out there who want to get into the business or are just starting to emerge?
Sean: Work your ass off and play as much as you can. Play wherever you can and keep doing it. We’ve been a band for almost 7 years and we’ve played at all sorts of places, everywhere from H.S. football fields to bars that fit literally 15 people. We just played as much as we could and I think you just have to do that. Have the motivation to play wherever you can because if one person likes your band and that one person buys a CD, then it’s worth it and it’s a step up.