Years from now, the members of irreverent punk rap troupe Terminally Ill will have to separate their career into two major phases: pre-Doggie Bus and post-Doggie Bus. On the outside, the vehicle once dedicated to the transportation of man's best friend still has all markings of its former life. There's the wrap-around graphic of a sunny Califoria beach, a cute puppy staring at you with his big brown eyes, and a defunct web address for www.doggiebus.com with the slogan "A Ride For You and Your Dog From Tustin to Dog Beach." But thanks to the Terminally Ill crew, the inside of their new tour bus is a completely different story.
On a recent weekday parked outside the Doll Hut in Anaheim, the band sits in their smoke-filled, palatial crash pad on wheels. Rapper Ryan Risetter cranks up the volume on some newly-installed subwoofers as empty beer cans rattle underneath the seats. TI's other comical, blond-haired rapper Steffan Buratti is busy horsing around with the band's manager/handyman Rooster and their videographer Kyle Cox. The large kennel cage on the left side of the bus is now a storage area for the band's gear. They installed a 37-inch flat screen and DVD player at the front of the bus and at the back they've fashioned the beginnings of a "VIP area" with hookahs, lamps made from little red Solo cups and a beer cooler. On any given day, they can ride around partying in plain sight.
"I've driven by a cop inside this thing and they drive by us and slow down and read the sign and then they're like, ok, whatever…and just speed off," Risetter says with a smirk.
The band bought the bus off of Craig's List on the cheap from a guy who used to own a graphics company in Tustin. Since then, it's become the vessel for their "Realest Realist Tour"–a summer schedule full of weekend road trip gigs that the band takes within a reasonable distance (bouncing between OC, IE, Las Vegas and NorCal). The idea is to party like rockstars and still return to their 9 to 5 lives when necessary. Tonight the band plays at the Doll Hut with 45 Grave, Clepto, Bad Ass, Not a Chance and Smak City. Apparently they'll also be giving out free burgers and hot dogs to anyone who shows up to satisfy their munchies.
"It's the most realistic tour we could do," Risetter says. "We all have to work and on Tuesday and Wednesday nights we know people aren't gonna come out to shows. So for a band like us that can't always draw on a Tuesday or Wednesday and we're starving, every weekend we need something like this."
Combining hip-hop, nihilistic humor, thrashy skate punk and occasional nudity is a balancing for this OC eight-piece.
"A lot of punks hated us for a long time because we were too hip-hop and and lot of hip-hop people hated us because we were too punk," Risetter says. "But now that we've finally honed in on this sound we're getting both."
The group's four main rappers (Risetter, Buratti, Chris Rock, and Antone Bartolic) are backed by the energy of drummer Brian Lubeley, guitarist John Doherty, bassist Cody Snowden, and their breakdancing midget hype man known as MicroBro.
Unleashing a steady stream of quality lowbrow/high-action music videos for songs like "Box of Wine," "White Boy Problems," and "Nostalgia Circa Yesterday" have allowed their sound and reputation to precede them as openers for Guttermouth, Angry Samoans and rap legends like A+ and Del the Funky Homosapien.
"Now with all this shit people are saying about us, even we're starting to believe [the hype]," Buratti jokes. "So on top of being delusional from our prior dreams, now we're getting delusions from actual accomplishments."
With the addition of the Doggie Bus to their arsenal, the band are better able to live their weekend dreams of ballin' on a budget while increasing the pack that follows them wherever they roam.
"That's where we're trying to go, just doing whatever we want, whenever we want with whoever we want," Risetter says. "And now that we've got the bus, everyone's down to roll."
Terminally Ill plays tonight at the Doll Hut with 45 Grave, Clepto, Not a Chance, and Smak City. Grilling starts at 6p.m., bands start at 6:30 p.m. $10, 21+ and on August 21 at the Yost with C4mula, Chucky Chuck, New Ethics and Dirty Words. 10 p.m. $15 presale and $20 at the door. For more info on the band's tour schedule, click here.