Checking in with Alaska as the band parties its way across America

On a two-month tour made possible by a DIY network of venues (mostly basements), Alaska doesn’t fear van sleeping.

In a few hours, Joel Kirschenbaum will be onstage, dressed as a Juggalo, in a basement somewhere in Akron, Ohio. But for now, the Alaska frontman and I are on the phone, chatting about the post-hardcore band’s beer-fueled, 64-day, cross-country tour with Henderson support band Twin Cities. It’s Day 38—and Halloween—and so far, Alaska shows no signs of slowing down.

“We’re all super-amped on just playing more shows and keeping at it,” Kirschenbaum says. “I would’ve thought I would’ve been a little burnt out, but we’ve just been playing house shows, so it’s pretty much just like going from party to party every day.”

The two-month tour—unheard of for most local bands—is made possible by the expansive DIY community throughout the country, a network of emo/punk/hardcore venues (mostly basements) run by college-aged kids, musicians and fans. So far, the guys—Cody Furin (guitar), Nick Strader (drums), Tyler Kawada (bass) and Kirschenbaum (vocals/guitar)—have played a pie shop, a library, a record store and plenty of basements—and have slept in the van more times than they can count.

Kirschenbaum plans to don his Juggalo costume one last time for the band’s Halloween show, hoping it won’t offend Insane Clown Posse fans in the Midwest, the birthplace of the Juggalo. “I didn’t want to be antagonizing,” he says. “DIY spots are safe places where you should respect everyone’s culture and gender.” Those are the guidelines Alaska lives by.

That was last week. By now, the four-piece is somewhere between New Jersey and Virginia, with their sights set on Florida, Texas, Arizona, then home, one day before Thanksgiving. The members’ future—Jobs? School?—is uncertain, but one thing’s for sure. “I’m so inspired to write music,” Kirschenbaum says. “The plan is to just write for December, then see where we’re at.”

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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