By Laura Ferreiro
A massive arena tour is enough to keep most bands pretty busy, but Train isn't content to travel in just one direction. While gearing up for their extensive "Mermaids of Alcatraz" North American tour, which kicks off July 11 in Virginia Beach, the San Francisco rockers sell their own brand of wine and chocolate to support a renowned charity that helps ill children and their families. They're also gearing up to release an action-packed mobile game based on one of their songs, all the while juggling active family lives. Whew!
The Grammy-winners are also re-releasing their latest album, California 37, on June 25. The deluxe, limited-edition version of the album is called Mermaids of Alcatraz Tour Edition and features three new songs and live versions of several tunes in addition to the hits "Drive By" and their newest single, "Bruises," featuring Ashley Monroe of Pistol Annies.
"There are some songs that didn't make it onto the [original] record and I still want them to be heard," lead singer Pat Monahan says of the album's re-release as he prepares to board a plane from Seattle to London. "There's the song 'Futon' that the whole band really loved and now it made it onto the [re-released] album. It will also help raise awareness and give people the chance to revisit it before coming to our shows."
Monahan says he's looking forward to hitting the road on Train's biggest tour ever, and connecting with fans not only onstage but face-to-face. "It feels like a family reunion," he says of the "Mermaids of Alcatraz" tour. "We share email addresses with some fans and we have dinner. I [direct message] fans over Twitter and Facebook. I've given a lot of fans my email address. People that aren't well, I try to get them good tickets. I feel very fortunate that I'm able to do that."
The band is also excited share the road with the Script, Gavin DeGraw, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Monroe, who will be touring with Train. "It's like having a bunch of friends out," Monahan says. "It's so lovely that tickets have sold so well all over the country."
Train are also gearing up to release the mobile game, "50 Ways to Survive," based on their song "50 Ways to Say Goodbye."
"It's incredibly fun!" Monahan says of the game. "It comes out on June 25 around the same time as deluxe version of the album. Basically you have to try to save me from the things in the song like the shark and the purple Scion and you have to help me get to my girlfriend."
Despite evidence to the contrary, it's not all fun and games for the band. Train have been actively involved in supporting Family House, a Bay Area charity that provides temporary housing to families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital.
"We always try to do things as a band, and coming to an agreement about things can be difficult," Monahan confesses. "But coming to an agreement about where we were going to spend our extra time and money was quite simple when we did some investigating."
Monahan explains that he and his bandmates Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood share some important things in common – they're all parents, and they all wanted to get involved with a charity that benefited children. "We also wanted it to be local in San Francisco, and we wanted it to be a charity without a bunch of high-level executives flying around in helicopters," he says. "They're also the loveliest people. When I get back from London I plan on going there because there's one little boy that may not be doing so well. We'll try to play a bit of music there and go and say hi."
One way they raise funds for Family House is by donating proceeds from sales of their Save Me San Francisco wine and chocolate to the charity.
"We teamed up with Ghirardelli to create the chocolate because they make the best chocolate in North America," Monahan says. "We give 100 percent of profits from that [to Family House] and a bit of money from the wine that we don't invest back into the business." Proceeds from sales of the "50 Ways to Survive" mobile game will also be donated to Family House.
As if he weren't busy enough, Monahan plans to go back into the studio and work on new material as soon as he has the chance. "I want to put together that masterpiece record everybody always dreams of making," he says with a laugh. "I'm being told by the universe that now is the time. I wrote one song so far. Writing is like cooking — you make something and you think, 'Yeah, it was good, but it needs this.' So it's always a work in progress."