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INTERVIEW: Train talks new album, wine and Family House

SheKnows sat down backstage with the guys of Train in the midst of their Mermaids of Alcatraz Tour. Pat, Jimmy and Scott discussed everything from their sixth studio album California 37 and their family-friendly tour to their support of the nonprofit organization Family House. Even better — they have their own brand of wine!

SheKnows: First off, congrats on releasing your sixth studio album California 37! Why was it decided to name the album that?

Pat Monahan: We have a lot of history on California State Route 37. It was our gateway out of where we all lived, into Sacramento and different parts of California, but also into parts of Nevada. We’ve had some really funny times there with cars breaking down and vans breaking down on the side of the road — just laughing and taking pictures. It’s funny now, but at the time it wasn’t as funny.

Scott Underwood: We’re a San Francisco band, and a few years ago, when we released our Save Me, San Francisco record, we decided to embrace the fact that we’re a San Francisco band — again. We all realize we lost touch with our roots along the way of being a San Francisco band. This was another way of doing that. We had a lot of history on that road [California State Route 37], and it made a lot of sense to name it that.

SK: One of the songs on the album, “Mermaid,” has an interesting call-out to Johnny Depp.

PM: Scott saw Johnny Depp at Chipotle the other day.

SU: It’s really bizarre to see Johnny Depp at a Chipotle. And he looked very Johnny Depp-ish — he was wearing his whole outfit; it was him. It almost looked like a guy in costume. I thought about going up to him, and saying, “Hey man, I’m in Train. Do you know our song ‘Mermaid?'” But I was terrified he’d be like, “F*** off.”

SK: About your tour Mermaid of Alcatraz, why was it decided to name it that?

PM: We realized that when we have girls come up onstage or guys come up onstage, it becomes a family event. Kids come up, moms come up, sometimes the dads. It’s really fun, so we wanted to make this tour a family event. It seemed like a family Grateful Dead concert because at Mermaids of Alcatraz, we encourage them to dress the part. There are a lot of cute mermaid outfits; some of them are really intense with mermaid tails and they have to be wagoned in on Radio Flyer wagons. And then there are other guys dressed up as either mermaids themselves or escaped convicts. We get to have almost 100 people on stage every night.

SK: Which city has been the most mermaid-tastic so far?

Jimmy Stafford: Albuquerque got pretty crazy. There was a girl standing behind me, and she was a very scantily clad mermaid. And she would not stop grabbing at me, and I had to sing right in front of her.

PM: Are you talking about my sister?

JS: No, that wasn’t your sister; that was in Pittsburgh.

PM: But in Chicago, though, we had to turn away hundreds of mermaids that couldn’t be on stage with us.

SK: Your very own brand of wine, Save Me, San Francisco, is also incorporated into this tour.

JS: What’s great about this tour is that we’re able to sell our wine at every one of these venues.

PM: And not just for our shows — the whole summer these venues are selling Save Me, San Francisco. In Albuquerque, there were the posters of all of the acts coming, and then there were posters of the Save Me, San Francisco wine and how much a glass was and how much a bottle was. It was really fun to see.

JS: The cool thing about it is we’re proud of the wine. It isn’t just a gimmick wine that you put up on the shelf as a souvenir bottle. I always tell people, it’s a $20 dollar bottle of wine for $10. It’s actually a nice, drinkable wine. And I think when people try it at these shows, they’ll go home and look for it and buy bottles, and we’re helping out our Family House charity in the Bay area, which is really awesome.

SK: Definitely, and you guys are huge supporters of giving back, especially to Family House. How did this come about?

PM: A couple of years ago, things started to go well for us again. And [as] part of the process of going well, we were really appreciative of this brand-new second chance. We knew we can’t ignore the fact that something positive has to come from this. We can’t just go back to the old Train that we were before and think of it as a “more, more, more for us” kind of thing. We’ve grown to know that we have to give to get. We knew that we had to find a really lovely charity that we could agree on. We all have children; we all know what it’s like to have children in the NICU. So we asked, how can we help in that way?

This is the one that stood out as the highest level, the best rated… exactly what we were looking for because we believe in really trying to make an effort locally — because then you can see it and we can be a part of it hands-on. And when you go national or worldwide sometimes you can’t see the effects of the good that you’re trying to do. Our relationship has only gotten greater with Family House; we know a lot of the kids, the staff and a lot of the people who volunteer, and they’re a big part of our lives.

SK: Can each of you recall a moment with Family House that really touched your lives?

SU: It’s such a profound experience to meet these children. Some of them are terminally ill; they’re just not going to make it. To have that experience of meeting someone like that whose spirit and passion for life is intoxicating to be around… it’s so inspiring, it’s hard to describe. And then to meet their friend who’s there and their mom and dad, brother and sister, and how it’s affected their lives —  there’s not a lot of sorrow in that house. It’s so bizarre, it’s so different than you’d expect. And it’s inspiring. To have that experience has been really beneficial to us. It just makes you think of how amazing life is. And then a lot of these kids do come through, and they’re cured, and it’s really great to hear those stories, too. Everything about it is just the best experience.

SK: Another way you’re supporting Family House is through your mobile game 50 Ways to Survive.

PM: There’s a father-son team in Iowa, and they’re the smartest guys on Earth. They wanted to build a game based on 50 ways to say goodbye. So they did, and it’s an outrageously fun game for anyone — I don’t care what age you are. We know 8-year-olds who are addicted and 80-year-old grandparents who are addicted.

I like playing as Gabby. There are five characters: There’s the three of us; there’s Virginia, of course; and then there’s Gabby. You pay 99 cents for Gabby, and I didn’t know why. I was like, “Who’s Gabby? I don’t even know Gabby!” Paid the 99 cents, and found out why: That b**** is good!

Within one month, we had more than half a million downloads, so it’s a real serious thing. If it continues to grow, it’ll be an enormous amount of money for Family House — and for these guys who are building their company. I think Fall Out Boy will also have a game.

SK: You guys have an exciting cruise coming up, Sail Across the Sun. Why did you guys decide to take this on?

SU: It’s an idea we came up with after we did the VH1 Best Cruise Ever a couple of years ago. It just planted a seed with us. We’re going to bring bands that represent the Bay area. It’ll be an eclectic bunch of music — everything from jazz to rock to this band [Yacht Rock], who does soft rock, soft pop hits. A hilarious band; we love them. So it’ll be three days of wine, music and food.

PM: We’ll have some chefs from San Francisco coming out, such as our good friend Ryan Scott and a few others. It’ll be a lot of fun for everyone who comes out.

Tune In

Don’t forget to check out Pat’s podcast, Patcast, where you’ll hear a few familiar voices, including Ashley Monroe, Michael Franti and more.

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