Trainwreck Riders lead singer Pete Frauenfelder is doing laundry at his mom's house in San Francisco when I call - we joke about the perks of coming home and being taken care of by the parentals.
For Frauenfelder and the rest of his band mates, it is also a therapy session of sorts. Several days before our chat, Frauenfelder was in a van with his band while in Texas tumbling upside down on the freeway with equipment falling on his body, the result of a drunk driver taking a side swipe at their tour vehicle. All four guys were able to actually walk away from the wreckage after a passer by pulled them out.
"You know, we had just started to gain momentum for this tour...getting into what to play, getting drunk, that sort of thing," says Frauenfelder in a June 27 interview. "We were in Dallas [playing a show], and we always try to get the fuck out of Texas after," adding that there was no ill intent toward the state but that things always seemed to happen while the band toured there. In October, Trainwreck and tour mates Two Gallants were involved in a Houston police incident that left several people tasered and a few members from both bands in jail for the night. The prior week, Trainwreck had received their bail money back from the incident.
After the Dallas show, the plan was to drive straight to nearby Arizona for the next show, a drive that required ten to twelve hours on the road nonstop. Around 2 a.m. the morning of June 24, bass player Garritt Heater took the wheel with guitarist Andrew Kerwin, drummer Steve Kerwin, bass player Garritt Heater, as well as Frauenfelder in the back, taking naps for the drive.
"I remember everyone started screaming and yelling," recalls Frauenfelder. "It was also sort of ironic because we had noticed [earlier] people being fucking wasted on the roads, people getting pulled over, driving erratic."
After the drunk driver hit Trainwreck's van, the van fishtailed to hit a sign, the median, and then proceeded to flip and spin several times, ending with the band being trapped in a vehicle with a ruptured gas tank, the smell filling the van, and a drunk driver who sped for the aftermath. Frauenfelder stayed in fetal position the whole time, everyone's equipment hitting his spine and parts of his body to leave large purple welts and bruises in return, as well as a large laceration the length of his back. He is waiting to see a doctor this week for tense neck and spine muscles as well. The other guys have suffered range of damage, from bruises and cuts on the face and body to torn cartilage and cracked ribs.
"I guess in a weird way, though, [the equipment falling] actually probably saved me more than I think," said Frauenfelder. "It probably broke a lot more of my fall than I know."
Once the band realized the problem of the gas tank, they knew they had to someone maneuver themselves out of the van. A passer by who saw the accident came to their aid, pulling them out and helping them find authorities and other assistance. The same drunk driver had almost hit the passer by's car in a similar fashion.
"[After we got out] and realized what the hell just happened, we just... hugged each other," Frauenfelder said. "It's some hairy moments you go through. That drastic of a situation you don't know what you're gonna do. I mean, how do you react in that situation? It's such a mindfuck in itself after you realize that line of reality."
The drunk driver was caught a few miles away, arrested and charged for a hit and run. Within the next few weeks, the band will be in talks with insurance companies and completing police reports in hopes to move past the accident.
True to the determination and spirit that has become to be known by the Trainwreck Riders, Frauenfelder then got back in a car less than 24 hours to salvage the last of the equipment that had not been severely damaged, the van hopelessly totaled. As the rest of the guys flew back to California that Sunday to be with family and girlfriends, Frauenfelder hopped in a rental for a three hour drive to take his band's artifacts from the accident to an aunt's house back in Austin, also having to obtain new glasses in the process as his were shattered from the collision as well.
"I just felt like I needed to be responsible...that drive was painful though physically. My back and legs were tensing up the whole time. Honestly though, I don't want to stop playing music, or stop touring, so I'm gonna take a deep breath and just go."
The remainder of tour dates with Alive Records label mates Black Diamond Heavies had to be cancelled, including a show in San Francisco tonight. Local indie pop kids Or, The Whale are stepping into the spot to fill in, Frauenfelder saying that the band has also been extremely beneficial in assisting Trainwreck get their lives back together.
Now that the band is back in their hometown, Frauenfelder says that they will be taking the time needed to recuperate and then possibly go ahead with the original plan of recording an album at the end of the year, but nothing is set in stone.
"Understandably we are all weary of this sort of thing happening again... but I don't think it will prevent us from ever playing ever again," he said. "We love playing anywhere, anytime, and that requires you to get out of the city."
Fans and friends of Trainwreck have come to their side, setting up a PayPal account to help with medical bills and replacing lost equipment. The bail money acquired from the October incident with Two Gallants went to paying for flights for the band home. Frauenfelder also says that fans who have written to them on the band's website, given them notes of encouragement, and have voiced concern and support is also greatly appreciated.
"I have to give thanks for everyone's support and interest, especially for a local band. Sometimes it's hard to determine how successful we are or if what we're even doing is working, but for those who have asking if we're okay - we are. We're not slowing down, and we will continue to write good music."
By Jenn Hernandez