Last summer, the playful vaudevillian folk duo the Ditty Bops—vocalist/guitarist Abby DeWald and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Amanda Barrett—attracted national attention by touring cross-country from Los Angeles to New York City. On bicycles. For three months and more than 4,500 miles, which is surely an impressive achievement by any standard. So with the band about to mobilize for another national tour, we checked in with them the day before their departure and, frankly, came away a little surprised.
"I'm going to have to start packing in a minute," Barrett told us. "The van just arrived."
Wait a minute. The van? It seems the Ditty Bops do in fact enlist a mobile hog to transport their various costumes, stage accessories, instruments, and touring players from city to city. Now, one would think that if they're already paying the expense (and committing the modest environmental foul) of chugging a van around, that the Ditty Bops wouldn't waste their time with the pedal politics. What are we missing here?
"For one, the adventure of riding your bike," explains Barrett. "And, secondly, I think we showed that bikes are not only a valid, but a great form of transportation. It was the trip of a lifetime and, after the tour, I realized I didn't need my car anymore, because I was used to riding 75 miles every day. Living in LA without a car was something I didn't think I'd be able to do, but it's been almost a year now."
It's also been several months since the band parted ways with Warner Brothers, with whom they released two records, most recently last year's charming Moon Over the Freeway. But while this tour may mark the Bops' first tour without Warner's financial support, they're hardly coming into it empty-handed. In addition to their new, self-released Pack Rat EP—which is made up of b-sides from their Moon Over the Freeway sessions, and finds the duo adding a little more vintage punch to their already crisp mix of bluegrass, Western swing, and modern pop—the Ditty Bops are also prepared to flash material from their recently recorded and as-yet-unreleased (and untitled) third album.
"We actually just finished recording, but we don't know when it's going to come out," says Barrett. "Overall, [the songs] are more relaxed than the crazy party feeling that Moon Over the Freeway had. We'll be playing a lot from that batch of songs at the show."
Turns out DeWald and Barrett will be performing in plastic outfits to protest synthetic oversaturation. But don't be fooled by their annual bikini calendars, folks. They'll only be flashing new songs.