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Alex Fucking Smith is The Merch Life

Ever wondered what it would be like to travel from city to city, slinging merch for your favourite band? Enter Alex Fucking Smith of The Merch Life.

Alex is living the dream of anyone who’s ever gone to a concert and thought “I wish I could do this every night”. As you can imagine, there’s never a dull moment for Sleep On It’s resident merch guy. Lucky for us, he doesn’t keep those memories to himself; he’s kept tour journals from his adventures & compiled them into books on his Patreon.

We spoke with Alex about the pros & cons of touring, his craziest memories, and how to live the merch life for yourself.

alex smith the merch life

This is Alex. Photo by @anammerch


How did you get started living the merch life?

Well​ ​I​ ​met​ ​Teddy​ ​Horanksky​ ​in​ ​college​ ​and​ ​became​ ​friends​ ​with​ ​him.​ ​At​ ​one​ ​point​ ​he invited​ ​me​ ​to​ ​come​ ​to​ ​Cleveland​ ​with​ ​him​ ​to​ ​watch​ ​his​ ​old​ ​band​ ​(Goodnight​ ​City​ ​Lights) play.​ ​They​ ​had​ ​merch​ ​they​ ​were​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​sell​ ​so​ ​I​ ​offered.​ ​Did​ ​that​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​times​ ​in Cleveland,​ ​and​ ​when​ ​Sleep​ ​On​ ​It​ ​became​ ​a​ ​thing​ ​he​ ​asked​ ​me​ ​again.​ ​From​ ​there​ ​on​ ​I​ ​just became​ ​the​ ​go-to​ ​merch​ ​guy​ ​for​ ​Sleep​ ​On​ ​It.

When did you decide to start The Merch Life? Was there an “AHA!” moment?

So​ ​I​ ​started​ ​The​ ​Merch​ ​Life​ ​blog​ ​as​ ​something​ ​to​ ​do​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​time​ ​on​ ​our​ ​earliest​ ​tours.​ ​I thought​ ​it​ ​would​ ​be​ ​neat​ ​to​ ​document​ ​our​ ​travels​ ​and​ ​how​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​on​ ​a​ ​day-to-day​ ​basis.​ ​At the​ ​time​ ​I​ ​was​ ​in​ ​college​ ​studying​ ​game​ ​design,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​was​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​any​ ​sort​ ​of​ ​new experience​ ​that​ ​I​ ​could​ ​draw​ ​upon​ ​in​ ​order​ ​to​ ​make​ ​different/more​ ​compelling​ ​games.​ After​ ​a​ ​while​ ​people​ ​started​ ​really​ ​reading​ ​and​ ​enjoying​ ​what​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​write​ ​about,​ ​so when​ ​the​ ​band​ ​asked​ ​me​ ​to​ ​go​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road​ ​with​ ​them​ ​back​ ​in​ ​May​ ​with​ ​As​ ​It​ ​Is,​ ​I​ ​decided to​ ​make​ ​the​ ​leap​ ​and​ ​try​ ​out​ ​Patreon​,​ ​and​ ​it​ ​really​ ​solidified​ ​that​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​market​ ​for​ ​my type​ ​of​ ​writing.

Can you give us a tl;dr version of one of your craziest road stories?

The​ ​craziest​ ​has​ ​to​ ​be​ ​dressing​ ​up​ ​in​ ​a​ ​luchador​ ​outfit​ ​and​ ​going​ ​on​ ​stage​ ​at​ ​Riot​ ​Fest​ ​in front​ ​of​ ​1,000+​ ​people.​ ​Which​ ​included​ ​an​ ​impromptu​ ​lifting​ ​of​ ​Zech​ ​that​ ​our photographer​ ​Anam​ ​Merchant​ ​took​ ​a​ ​picture​ ​of.​ ​(A​ ​picture​ ​that​ ​would​ ​eventually​ ​become the​ ​cover​ ​of​ ​The​ ​Road​ ​to​ ​Riot​ ​Fest​.)

the merch life road to riot fest

That​ ​entire​ ​day​ ​at​ ​Riot​ ​Fest​ ​was​ ​so​ ​wild,​ ​I​ ​had​ ​to​ ​split​ ​the​ ​day​ ​up​ ​into​ ​multiple​ ​posts​ ​in​ ​my Tour​ ​Journals.​ ​Them​ ​playing​ ​to​ ​that​ ​big​ ​of​ ​a​ ​crowd​ ​was​ ​a​ ​sight​ ​to​ ​behold,​ ​but​ ​actually being​ ​able​ ​to​ ​get​ ​on​ ​stage​ ​and​ ​to​ ​personally​ ​be​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​that​ ​moment​ ​was​ ​amazing.

What’s the best/worst thing about being on the road for weeks or months at a time?

The​ ​best​ ​thing​ ​is​ ​being​ ​able​ ​to​ ​travel​ ​the​ ​country​ ​(and​ ​Canada),​ ​seeing​ ​cool​ ​cities,​ ​eating new​ ​foods,​ ​and​ ​making​ ​new​ ​friends.​ ​And​ ​not​ ​just​ ​making​ ​friends​ ​within​ ​the​ ​tour​ ​package, but​ ​making​ ​friends​ ​in​ ​the​ ​new​ ​cities​ ​you​ ​get​ ​to​ ​visit.​ ​Whether​ ​I​ ​meet​ ​them​ ​on​ ​Twitter​ ​or whatever,​ ​going​ ​to​ ​places​ ​and​ ​seeing​ ​friendly​ ​faces​ ​is​ ​the​ ​reason​ ​I​ ​get​ ​out​ ​of​ ​bed​ ​when days​ ​get​ ​real​ ​tough​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road.

The​ ​worst​ ​thing​ ​about​ ​being​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road,​ ​honestly​ ​is​ ​the​ ​financial​ ​stress.​ ​And​ ​that’s​ ​not me​ ​complaining​ ​or​ ​asking​ ​for​ ​pity.​ ​But​ ​it’s​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​come​ ​out​ ​here​ ​and​ ​try​ ​to​ ​maintain​ ​a budget,​ ​eat​ ​healthy,​ ​eat​ ​cheap,​ ​all​ ​while​ ​watching​ ​your​ ​bank​ ​account​ ​drain.​ ​You​ ​do​ ​your best​ ​to​ ​work when​ ​you​ ​get​ ​home,​ ​(assuming​ ​you​ ​can​ ​find/keep​ ​a​ ​job​ ​that​ ​allows​ ​you​ ​to travel​ ​for​ ​months​ ​on​ ​end),​ ​but​ ​at​ ​this​ ​level​ ​there’s​ ​certainly​ ​more​ ​going​ ​out​ ​than​ ​coming in.​ ​It’s​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​sacrifice​ ​I​ ​make​ ​by​ ​deciding​ ​to​ ​live​ ​in​ ​Chicago​ ​while​ ​also​ ​having​ ​this​ ​be my​ ​main​ ​source​ ​of​ ​income.

What’s your advice to those who also want to live the merch life?

​Go​ ​support​ ​your​ ​local​ ​scene.​ ​Do​ ​the​ ​daily​ ​volunteer​ ​work​ ​for​ ​your​ ​town’s​ ​Warped​ ​Tour. Meet​ ​people​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​get​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road​ ​and​ ​be​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​commit​ ​yourself​ ​to​ ​hard​ ​work​ ​for little​ ​pay.​ ​Because​ ​we​ ​all​ ​know​ ​that​ ​the​ ​bands​ ​are​ ​out​ ​there​ ​doing​ ​the​ ​same.​ ​Meeting​ ​the right​ ​people​ ​and​ ​being​ ​personable​ ​are​ ​all​ ​gateways​ ​to​ ​better​ ​jobs.​ ​ ​So​ ​be​ ​nice​ ​to​ ​people you​ ​meet,​ ​and​ ​be​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​work​ ​hard.​ ​That’s​ ​really​ ​it.

Oh​ ​and​ ​be​ ​able​ ​to​ ​count.​ ​At​ ​least​ ​to​ ​12.

What’s next for you? What should we be keeping an eye out for?

Well​ ​I’ll​ ​be​ ​heading​ ​out​ ​with​ ​Sleep​ ​On​ ​It​ ​when​ ​we​ ​tour​ ​North​ ​America​ ​with​ ​Waterparks​ ​this November/December​ ​which​ ​will​ ​culminate​ ​in​ ​another​ ​book​ ​but​ ​if​ ​people​ ​want​ ​to​ ​read​ ​as​ ​I go,​ ​they’re​ ​welcome​ ​to​ ​subscribe​ ​to​ ​​​ ​or​ ​follow​ ​me​ ​on Twitter​ ​@Im_Alex_Smith.​ ​I’m​ ​always​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​ways​ ​to​ ​get​ ​fans​ ​involved​ ​when​ ​I’m​ ​on the​ ​road!

And​ ​if​ ​they​ ​want​ ​to​ ​read​ ​about​ ​everything​ ​that’s​ ​happened​ ​so​ ​far​ ​they’re​ ​welcome​ ​to check​ ​out​ ​to​ ​grab​ ​themselves​ ​a​ ​copy​ ​of​ ​either​ ​book​ ​using​ ​promo code:​ ​ATB15​ ​to​ ​get​ ​15%​ ​off​ ​their​ ​order.​ ​(Good​ ​until​ ​11/3/17)

Thanks​ ​again​ ​for​ ​taking​ ​the​ ​time​ ​to​ ​interview​ ​me!​ ​Can’t​ ​wait​ ​to​ ​get​ ​back​ ​to​ ​Toronto!

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