Curl Up and Die met its end in a van with a failing transmission at a gas station in Mesquite—an unceremonious demise for one of the most storied outfits on the Las Vegas music scene.
"We had to make it to Indiana in two days and there was no way in our slow van. We made it to Mesquite and we had the talk," says singer Mike Minnick. "We came home broken up."
Never heard of Curl Up and Die? You're not the only one. Though the metalcore outfit built a devoted following on both coasts—not to mention enough overseas fans to make a 2004 European summer tour successful—the band stayed under most locals' radar throughout its seven-year odyssey.
Though Curl Up and Die announced the breakup in October, its Myspace page continues to attract comments, many pleading with the four Las Vegans to change their minds. "I love you. Please don't go!" implores one fan. "Please find a way to continue on. You guys are one of the 10 bands that I like," offers another.
Listening to Minnick, such appeals have no chance for success. Though he, guitarist Matt Fuchs, bassist Jesse Fitts and drummer Ryan Hartery intend to get together once more for a local farewell show (date and location as yet undetermined), the four Las Vegans have no other plans to rehearse, record or perform together anytime soon.
"It feels weird moving on to the next stage of your life, but I'm starting to get used to not being in a band," Minnick, 24, says as he picks at a grilled cheese sandwich at the Tap House. "It's been my main focus for so long. It's the longest relationship I've had, longer than most people I know stay married."
The timing of Curl Up and Die's demise seems especially strange, considering it comes on the heels of their second full-length album, August's The One Above All, the End of All That Is, a disc produced by noted studio man Alex Newport (of At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta fame). Just as reviews—many quite positive—began to appear and a slate of U.S. tour dates was finalized, the band announced with a short post on label Revelation Records' website that it was "calling it quits," without further explanation.
"Not everyone put the band as their first priority, and some of us had been waiting to make it our first priority for a while," Minnick explains. "I'd been waiting since we were in high school to do it full-time. We'd do 40 to 60 shows each summer, but every time things were going well, we'd start and stop and have to regroup. I think we were our own worst enemies. I'm surprised that people even liked us, but they did, so we could have done more."
Minnick says a joint decision not to spring for a new van before the tour leg foreshadowed the breakup. "We were getting ready to buy a new van when we were home, but we weren't agreeing." Hartery was intent on pursuing a graduate degree, while Fuchs and Fitts had begun writing melodies outside Curl Up and Die's dense, grinding musical sphere.
So the four longtime friends, who once played high-school parties during their days at Cimarron-Memorial, Silverado and the Las Vegas Academy, cancelled their scheduled shows and instead played two "final" concerts in Southern California, November 12 and December 11.
In addition to its two albums, three EPs and assorted singles, Curl Up and Die's legacy will be the fanbase it cultivated in locales as disparate as New Jersey, Nebraska, Michigan and Italy.
"There was a time when I liked shitty music, but that was before I learned how to CURL UP AND DIE!!!!" one Floridian recently posted to the band's Myspace page.
For his part, the slender, mild-mannered Minnick hardly resembles a rock star with legions who adore his growling vocals and onstage energy. He's working as a runner for a local advertising firm and drives a Hyundai. "That's why all the girls like me," he jokes. Then again, he didn't exactly embody the sex and drugs quotient of the famed rock 'n' roll triumvirate when he fronted Curl Up and Die, either. "We were in the band for seven years, and I kissed one girl once. Everyone thinks that there were tons of drugs, but we'd just go to Iowa and go swimming and jump off bridges."
Many of his new coworkers don't even know he played in a band, which doesn't seem to bother him. Much.
"I do kind of miss that feeling ... like when you get that random e-mail from Malaysia or South America, or people wait to talk to you after the shows ... that's like the greatest thing ever," he says with more than a hint of remorse. "At one of our last shows in California, people were showing us Curl Up and Die tattoos, and I looked at Matt and said, 'Dude, I can't believe this isn't gonna happen anymore.' "
Though unsure of his next career move, Minnick concedes it probably won't involve music. "Being in a band was cool, but music's not my favorite thing ... I like the pissed-off, angry stuff, to get that all out of my system, playing live. I just want to scream and go nuts, you know?" he explains. "But I'm really interested in writing ... I like the way words work. You can either add a melody or place the words in the right order without a melody and somehow create a flow. I'm interested in trying to do that, maybe doing a mini-comic or a book of short stories."
And, of course, there's that pesky final show to plan, though no one would be shocked if it never actually happens.
"We have to and we want to do it, but I'm kind of the type to run and hide from things," he says. "We haven't practiced, so I don't want it to be a bad show. And once you do the last show, you want to be a band again and you forget that you have problems. It's like when you see an old girlfriend and you know you guys don't get along anymore, but you still have that feeling for her ... sometimes."