As The Airborne Toxic Event rolled through Europe earlier this month, we took a stroll down memory lane by posting TATE’s daily video blog entries from the 2008 30 Shows in 30 Days UK tour on our Facebook page. On Day 10 of that series, we met Stephanie, one of TATE’s first and most enthusiastic fans. This Is Nowhere recently caught up with Stephanie, who shared some fun stories from the band’s early days.
This Is Nowhere: You’re known as one of the biggest, earliest UK fans of The Airborne Toxic Event. How did you discover the band, and what drew you to them?
Stephanie: It still blows me away that other fans think I’m one of the band’s biggest fans. To me, I just found them early on and fell in love with them like everyone else!
The story is a strange one about how we first came to find them, we being my friend Sean and I. We found them on Myspace and ripped their songs from the page and listened to them daily, and just followed them around on Myspace. We put them in our ‘Top 8’ and pushed them into everyone’s faces!
Sean was going to go to Los Angeles for a holiday with some friends, and I saw that The Airborne Toxic Event were playing the Viper Room on the same night Sean landed. I quickly wrote a message to the band and said that Sean would be in LA; would it be possible for him to come to the show? Sean was only 20 at the time, so he would need to be smuggled in. Various emails were sent between Mikel and I about how we were going to get Sean into the show, and Mikel said they would wait out front for him before the show and get him in. From this day on, TATE have been true friends to us.
TIN: What was it like following them in the early days, when no one knew them? Were you an “Airborne evangelist?”
Stephanie: In the early days, I wore my TATE tees and hoodie all the time; if I was going to a place with lots of people I’d wear it hoping someone would mention them. In the Myspace days, a bulletin about the band would be posted almost on a daily basis, just to get people to remember their name more than anything. At the first KOKO gig in London, we brought along our friend Steve who we managed to coerce into coming along; he was probably our first person we turned to TATE! It was funny when “Sometime Around Midnight” was played often on BBC’s Radio 1, and my friends would text me and say, “I just heard that Toxic band you like on the radio!” Or when “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” was used in the trailer for the movie Role Models – we then had to watch the whole film to see if it was in there. It wasn’t! But that’s when people started to realize that the band we liked was actually getting pretty big! The BBC used an instrumental version of Midnight for a few ads for the 2012 Olympics too; that was a pretty special moment!
TIN: How did you come to star in one of TATE’s video blogs during the 30 Shows in 30 Days tour?
Stephanie: We had been following TATE for just over a year at that point, and we always made the effort to get to as many shows as we possibly could on a university student’s budget. They totally recognized that and really appreciated when we could make it to shows. We discussed a few months before about having dinner together during the 30 Shows tour; we were even going to have it at my parents’ house (and if I’m honest I probably would have made my mum cook!); however, at the time my Grandfather lived with us and wasn’t well the night of the Southampton show, so it wasn’t to be. So we just got some fried chicken from a dodgy takeaway, and then we made the movie! Mikel was like, “Right, I’m gonna ask you guys some questions.” He didn’t say that it was part of the NME video blogs or anything, but the next day it was posted and we were super touched.
The 30 Days tour was incredible; we saw them around 20 times, in places where there were almost more people on stage than there were in the room, to sold out places like Camden and Cardiff. Almost every time we saw them, we met up for a drink beforehand or a natter afterwards, and that’s when our friendship solidified I think. I had made them a momento scrapbook from the tour and gave it to them at the special extra show they did at a music shop (I think Sean and I were the only fans there). By the time we saw them play at the Dublin Castle in Camden, Mikel gave me a special personalized CD with a couple of TATE tracks on it – that is something I will treasure forever!
TIN: You created your own TATE t-shirts before they had merchandise available for purchase. Can you tell us about your favorite design?
Stephanie: The first time we saw the band I had made my own t-shirts for Sean and I. They both had The Airborne Toxic Event on the front; mine had the EP logo on the back and Sean’s had “Let’s not Die.” I designed them the night before the show, just a spur of the moment, wouldn’t-it-be-cool sorta thing. I remember drying them with a hairdryer the morning of the show as they weren’t ready!
We walked out of the pub in Camden and they were walking towards us. When they saw our t-shirts they were like, “No way!” It was a really great moment; we had our pictures taken with them and they put us on the guest list to come backstage. Sean and I were buzzing so much we forgot to mention that we brought our friend Steve along too!
It became a bit of a running thing that each gig I would make a TATE shirt. Sadly I don’t have pictures of them all… I think they may be in the garage though, so perhaps one day I will dig them out! I would usually write lyrics on the front and the band site or name on the back. There were a few special ones, like the tour dates shirt for the 30 Shows tour (that was a nightmare!), and another one that said something like, “2 tickets to TATE show £15 – 2 Eurostar Tickets £150 – 2 nights in a hotel £100 – seeing The Airborne Toxic Event in Paris – Priceless!” Or translating The Airborne Toxic Event into French on a top was also a good one! All the band members have their own handmade t-shirts too, as I gave them each one at the KOKO gig in 2009. They loved them!
TIN: You got a shout-out in the band’s live video, NME Presents Does This Mean You’re Moving On: The Airborne Toxic Event Live at Koko, London. Mikel dedicated “Echo Park” to you. How did you feel when you discovered the video?
Stephanie: I am so pleased this video exists! I remember being at the show as my brother was too young to get in with his ticket (he was only 17), so I had to call Steven to try and smuggle Pete into the show. Of course, TATE obliged, and Pete went in as Daren’s drum roadie! During the show I heard Mikel dedicate “Echo Park” to me, but I wasn’t 100% sure that’s actually what he said, so I completely forgot about it. When I saw the video and you can clearly hear Mikel say “This one’s for you Stephanie,” my heart skipped a beat! I love “Echo Park.” You don’t hear it very often any more so it’s nice that, that song that night was for me, and even more special was that it was caught on video!
TIN: The band has just finished their most recent European tour. Which show(s) did you attend? What keeps you coming back to see them again and again? How have you seen them change and grow as artists over the past 5-6 years?
Stephanie: Sadly, with a career in the National Health Service, it meant I could only get to one show this tour, but I got my TATE fix from that! I went to the London show on the 7th of October; it was a birthday gift from my parents. The show was great. It’s magic how many people know of the band now. I think back to KOKO 2007, where only we knew the words, to people moshing and singing along now. It makes my heart swell.
TATE are something else live; on CD they are awesome, but live they are mind blowing. I took my whole family to see them in Portsmouth a year or two ago; my brothers, sister-in-law, boyfriend and parents all came along; they then understood why I love to see this band live! Even though I have seen them countless times, I still get nervous and excited before they come on and am still in awe every time they play. Looking back at the KOKO video and then thinking about the latest London show, they have grown massively as a band. They’re a lot more polished, more confident, their look is completely different and they play like they have completely found their footing on stage, something that makes me proud to have known them for the past 6 years.
TIN: What’s your all-time favorite live TATE song?
Stephanie: That’s a tough question. I think my all-time favorite TATE song is, “I Don’t Want to be on TV.” I love how it sounds so raw and Mikel’s voice is a little bit different, almost sexy! The song I love most in concert is “Wishing Well;” since hearing the story behind the song at the 229 Club in London many moons ago, it makes my hairs stand on end, and often I shed a tear when I hear it live. I think it’s hard to pick a song because they’re all true stories in one way or another, and that’s what makes them so special and unique as a band: they don’t just write songs about girls breaking their hearts or being in love… I mean, they write those too, but not just that!