Roll Call are a new band out of NYC who got together just last year. In October of 2022 they released the 6 song “Perpetuate” EP on Bridge 9 Records. B9 put out cassette versions with vinyl currently in the works. Using their scene connections the band put together a short Southeast Asia tour this past February and if you read through this interview you will read one crazy ass story from their guitarist Brian Kemsley who was interviewed in early March. Graphics by: Paul Turano. Photo sources unknown... contact us for photo credits.
IE: Hey Brian. Roll Call recently got back from a pretty crazy short run of shows in Southeast Asia. How did the idea to take Roll Call to four countries 8000 miles from home come about?
Brian: Kinda crazy that it all worked out to be honest. We’re a brand new band, so playing anything other than regional shows is already rather ambitious. I head out to Southeast Asia each year from January to April to escape the winter, and this year our bass player Cornell was gonna meet me out there. So since half the band was gonna be in SE Asia anyways, I asked Chad and James if they had any interest in coming out as well for a little tour, and they were all for it. It was my homie Riz in Hong Kong from King Ly Chee/UniteAsia.org that booked the tour for us. We let him know that since we were a new band, we had no expectations of getting paid, or even getting our flights and accommodations paid for. We were just stoked about hitting up these countries. It all worked out in the end, some promoters sorted out our accommodations, some promoters gave us a huge chunk of the doors, everyone we worked with was awesome… minus the whole Jakarta debacle, which I’m sure we’ll get into later, haha!
IE: As a collective unit what were you expecting as far as a response considering that Roll Call is essentially a new band with only 11 minutes of recorded material for people to wrap their heads around?
Brian: We didn’t have any expectations. We didn’t know whether there were only gonna be 20 kids at the shows, or 200. We were just happy to be there. One of my previous bands toured for 5 months straight thru 10 different countries off a 3 song demo years ago, so the fact that we had an EP out on Bridge 9 seemed plenty this time around.
IE: Yourself and Cornell traveled out before the rest of the band for Muay Thai training. What is your background with Muay Thai and can you tell us more about the training you were doing?
Brian: Cornell and I have both been training Muay Thai for over a decade. When I first started in the sport, Cornell had a fight at Madison Square Garden, so he came up in the scene before me. I’ve been taking these trips to Thailand for 10 years now, fighting and training out here (currently in Phuket at the moment). The training in Thailand is different to back home because you’re training with fighters from all over the world here for the same reason, and the skill set of the local Thais are on another level. Also, it’s hot as fuck here. There ain’t no air conditioning, we’re training under a tin roof in 90 degree weather. When I’m in NYC, I help coach the fight team and teach classes at Evolution Muay Thai in Manhattan, in air conditioning.
IE: The first show of the tour was on February 4th but you had the other 2 members fly in on the 1st so you could get some rehearsals in which I am guessing had some sightseeing included?
Brian: It was great having a few days to explore a little and get over the jet lag. The crew in Kuala Lumpur were awesome, they took us to some good eats and since we were staying in the middle of the city, we had access to a bunch of shit on our own as well. They also hooked us up with a practice space so we could have a couple rehearsals before the first show. We actually had our friend Eric fill in on drums this tour because James had to stay home for the birth of his first child or something silly like that, I guess that was more important than making no money playing music to strangers in a faraway land… Those rehearsal days were the first time we played our songs with Eric and he killed it. Eric and I had been to Kuala Lumpur before, but I believe it was Chad and Cornell’s first time. Chad has been to Japan, but hasn’t traveled through SE Asia before, so it was his first time in all 4 countries.
IE: The first show was in Malaysia on February 4th and then you played Manilla and Cebu in the Philippines on February 5th and the 7th. Can you take us through how those 3 shows went?
Brian: All 3 of these shows were headlining shows before we met up with One Step Closer. In Kuala Lumpur, we played on the roof top of a 6 story building. The opening band was called No Title and I think they should have headlined. Those foos were sick. In Manila, we played the basement of a Chinese restaurant, the venue was called Mows. That was tight because it’s where every touring band that’s ever played Manila plays, kind of a legendary spot. In Cebu, we played another roof top, it was huge. There was this band called Oppressor that was from a different island in the Philippines that played right before us. To make it to the show, these motherfuckers left at 1AM, took a vehicle to a ferry, then took a bus, then hitchhiked all the way to the show and got to the venue at 4pm. Fucking insane. Never gonna complain about touring in a van ever again. Those dudes are straight G’s.
IE: Bangkok Thailand was next followed by Jakarta in Indonesia where the shit hit the fan. Can you take us through the rest of the tour?
Brian: The Bangkok show was probably one of my favorite shows I’ve ever played, ever. These shows were with One Step Closer so they were bigger than our headlining shows. We have friends from the states that live in Thailand training Muay Thai that all came out, and also some friends that were coming for vacation that flew in for the show as well. So Bangkok was a happy reunion. Indonesia the next day was fucking wild. We were doing 2 shows there, and One Step Closer was doing 3. When we landed in Jakarta, it was a complete different vibe from all the other shows. This was a much bigger production. They had a film crew at the airport with us, and a big van with “One Step Closer” painted on the side. This show had sponsors from rather large clothing and shoe companies and a much bigger team bringing us around. Obviously it was all for One Step Closer, we were just guilty by association, which was sick cause that meant we all got free shoes too! But the only issue was, because it was such a large production, immigration officers went undercover and raided the show in Jakarta. They wanted to see if all members of the bands had work visas to be playing shows in Indonesia, which started the insane shit storm whirlwind that lasted 84 hours.
It turns out the promoters from the other cities in Indonesia all chipped in and sent the Jakarta promoter money to get working visas for the bands, but the Jakarta promoter pocketed the money. So when immigration raided the show, we were stuck in the green room trying to figure out if they just wanted to get paid off, or if any of this was legit as none of them had any ID visible since it was an undercover operation. One of the dudes even had an X swatch on, and another officer said he used to play in metal bands. Things got pretty tense, one of the local dudes with us squared up with one of the immigration officers at one point. The officers wanted us to get in their bus and go to their office to hand over our passports. At this point it was 1 in the morning, and we were convinced they were gonna lock us up there. After all, we’ve heard some horror stories about bands getting stuck here. Once we got to the immigration office, we were on the phone with the US embassy trying sort things out. We eventually made a deal with the immigration dudes where we didn’t get detained, but we had to hand in our passports, pay a few hundred dollars under the table, and then we would be able to get our passports back the next day when we bring in a few more hundred dollars.
That night, we kept the promoter with us so he couldn’t bail since we had just found out he pocketed the visa money and got everyone into this mess (He may or may not have had his eye split open… not by us…). We checked into the most rancid hotel I’ve ever seen in my life at 4 in the morning, and some dudes took turns staying up making sure the promoter didn’t split on us. Yo, this is actually a long ass story, I’m gonna skim over the next 3 days. When we showed up with the money to grab our passports the following morning, immigration changed the price on us. The price is now in the thousands. The local crew made a bunch of phone calls to collect funds, and we all went to the ATM and pulled out our personal money to meet this demand. At one point, a local company said that they would donate over $1000 if they could license the right to sell One Step Closer merch in Indonesia. After we got all the money together the immigration dudes ended up canceling the meeting that evening. Some of the Roll Call guys were meant to fly out the next morning, so we really needed our passports back. We ended up missing all of our flights over the next few days.
We kept getting assurance from the locals that they now have a connected person in government that was helping us, and that we were just one meeting away from getting our passports back, but it just kept falling through over and over and over again. In the meantime, we were hiding out in hotels because each time immigration canceled the meet up, we assumed they did so because they wanted us detained. We eventually went into the immigration office for an official interview and sentencing a few days later. But before we willingly walked ourselves into where they could detain us, we sent 2 band members to camp out at the US embassy in case things went south. To expedite the whole hearing process, there may or may not have been even more money exchanged under the table. Shout out to all the locals that helped out and put in money as well by setting up a benefit t-shirt sale and shit. So many people picked up the slack for that promoter that pocketed the money. Now, I’d like to add that if you are the Indonesian authorities and you’re reading this, I’d like to state for the record that I made every bit of this story up, and none of your officers took any bribes.
IE: All of that sounds really intense. Were there times that you thought that you could end up not getting out for an extended period of time?
Brian: Oh for sure. Our homie’s bands from Australia, Hong Kong, and the UK were all texting us some wild stories about bands getting detained in Indonesia. But at the same time, we kept reminding each other that there was only one way this could possibly end … us getting our passports back, and leaving the country. I feel like everyone in Roll Call and One Step Closer took turns freaking out a little and also kept each other calm.
IE: Has the bad experience made One Step Closer and Roll Call come closer together or did each band have separate experiences?
Brian: Oh for sure. We were camped out in 3 different hotels over 4 nights together. At one point all of us were hiding out in one hotel room with all our luggage and gear. It was cool to see how everyone treated each other under stress. ONS guys were great, I have a lot of love for those dudes. There was also a local kid named Moh that stuck with us throughout the whole thing, acting as a translator and homie. That dude didn’t go home or shower for the first few days. Straight roughed it with us.
IE: Any advice that you may want to share for bands that may tour there in the future?
Brian: It’s tricky because work visas are typically really expensive. Sometimes even $400-$500 per person. So for a 5 piece band to swing through and play a show, it would cost the promoter $2500 before the band even shows up. Now this doesn’t even include the flights or accommodation or guarantee. So unless you’re a big name band, it’s def not worth it for promoters to go through proper legal measures to book your band. Which is why most hardcore bands just go through on a regular tourist visa for free, play the show, and bounce. Most countries don’t really care, and you’re probably not gonna get caught doing it, but Indonesia? Fucking forget about doing that shit DIY. Get that work visa for sure. It sucks because hardcore bands don’t make money, and promoters can only charge so much at the door for a hardcore show, so going the work visa route very likely means the promoter is gonna lose big.
IE: Trying to get things back into a more positive vibe here and will ask you next how it felt when you had shows where people were singing along to your music and going off to your set so far from home?
Brian: Shit was cool. But I think I’d be just as surprised if someone from Dayton Ohio was listening to Roll Call as I’d be if someone from Manila was. 100% of the people who have heard our music heard it online. They didn’t discover us on a CD, or a cassette, or through any other means of tangible media, so it’s not really surprising that someone across the world with access to internet is listening online. HOWEVER, It IS surprising that anyone is listening at all.
IE: What were some of the cooler things you got to do or see while you were on this recent tour?
Brian: Roll Call loves food. Anywhere we go, we’re trying to eat as much as possible. Half the band is vegan so we always hit up both vegan spots, and norm ass spots. Our travel schedule was rather grueling… sometimes waking up at 3:30am for a flight when our set time was 11:30pm the night before, so we weren’t able to do too much sightseeing. But, we chilled hard with crews that showed us around.
IE: Any noticeable differences in going to a show in SE Asian versus back here in the USA?
Brian: Kids mosh just as hard. There were no fights. They wear the same band t’s kids in the US wear, but some of them were counterfeit though, which makes it that much more dope. Other than that, they’re rather appreciative of bands coming out… even a small time band like us.
IE: Can you go through the musical resumes the band members of Roll Call have and is anyone still in any other active bands?
Brian: Outbreak (Bridge 9/Thinkfast! Records) Gravemaker (Thinkfast! Records/Victory Records) James: Final Fight (Deathwish) Seahaven (Run For Cover), Cornell: Count Me Out, Chad: Perfect World (still active).
IE: What's next for Roll Call as we get rolling deeper into 2023?
Brian: We’re trying to stay busy in 2023. I get back to the states in April, which is when our vinyl should be coming out on Bridge 9. The test press was actually just sent over to B9 earlier this week. We are solidifying some NY/NJ shows and have shows in Philly and Worcester booked for April. Gonna hit up the West Coast this summer, record/release a couple singles, and then get working on a full length record this fall.