Queer musicians Sara Jaffe and Mia Clarke write about their travels

For those of us born without musical skills (raises hand) it’s nice to live vicariously through talented friends who get to experience being in a touring band. While life on the road for many bands means roughing it in vans and eating entirely too much fast food, it’s still a romantic notion to the rest of us, which is why a new book full of true stories, art and photos from some of the best indie bands around is voyeurism we can get into.

The Art of Touring is a 156-page book chock-full of stories, art and photography by dozens of musicians, all about life on the road. Le Tigre’s Johanna Fateman, out music writer Sara Marcus, Mecca Normal’s Jean Smith shared some writing (along with many others), with photographs and artwork from the Yeah Yeah YeahsNick Zinner, Thurston Moore, Lesbians On Ecstasy’s Veronique, Au Revoir Simone’s Annie Hart and Erika Spring Forster, Tara Jane O’Neil and more.

The book was edited by former Electrelane guitarist Mia Clarke and Erase Errata’s Sara Jaffe, who know a thing or two about waking up in a different city every day. They also shared their stories in the book, which was put out by Yeti, a small magazine and publishing company run by music writer Mike McGonigal.

Erase Errata (Jaffe is second from right)

“I originally approached Sara about collaborating on the book about four years ago,” Clarke said via e-mail. “I am a big admirer of her writing and music, and just felt like this would be a good project for us to work on together as we know a lot of the same people.”

The two contacted touring friends and gradually collected pieces for the book, Clarke said. In the end, they rounded up 50 contributors that were happy to share their stories.

“Everyone seemed comfortable discussing that aspect of their lives, probably because it’s such a wonderful, and often difficult, part of being in a rock band,” Clarke said, adding that it was “impossible” to chose favorites among all of the book’s contributions.

“I do have a soft spot Jem Cohen‘s photography and Jeffery Lewis‘s comic strips. I’m also a big fan of [Electrelane drummer] Emma Gaze‘s Polaroid shots, and it’s good to see them in the book as I remember being there when they were taken,” she said.

The book also includes a live DVD, with tour footage from Electrelane, Erase Errata, Tara Jane O’Neil, The Ex and more.

Clarke, who is still playing music with Chicago-based band Follows, and with Andy Moor of The Ex, said it’s nice to have a break from life on the road — but that doesn’t mean she won’t go back.

Mia Clarke

“I do miss touring,” Clarke said. “I wouldn’t want to tour as relentlessly as Electrelane did in the past, but I have so many amazing memories from being on the road. It is a really interesting way to travel the world, and we were lucky to meet a lot of great people along the way — including those artists included in this book! So, while it’s been nice to have a break, I would definitely love to tour again in the future.”

Pick up the book at the publisher’s website , or at an independent bookstore near you. A third of the book’s profits will be donated to the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund.

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