In its heyday, the FBM bus was literally fire beer and mayhem on wheels. This blacked out, FBM logo emblazoned, straight pipe exhaust attention grabber transported the FBM team up and down the East Coast and as far deep as Austin, Texas. After five years of road wear, the general unreliability coupled with the cost to maintain the beastly vehicle became too great and Steve Crandall hung up the keys for now. For the last two years Crandall has called the decommissioned vehicle home and has repurposed it into a live-in art studio complete with a wood burning stove. A BMX party bus turned serene creative space… Crandall walks us through the evolution of the FBM bus.
Video: Kaleb Bolton
Photos: Puck (bus jump), Steve Crandall (selfies)
Can you describe the situation where the bus is currently parked?
I pay rent at a house in Richmond VA, like a normal housemate, but I have the bus parked near the alleyway behind the place, across from an abandoned slave cemetery. It’s kind of like it’s a separate apartment, but flat black and on wheels.
What are some stats on the bus… miles driven, states visited, notable trips, tours, etc…There are something like a quarter million miles on it, at 7 – 8 mpg—that-s a lot. We’ve had it as far west as Austin several times, and countless trips up and down the east coast from Miami to Boston, and as many places in-between we could manage. Every trip was memorable for countless reasons, whether it’s cops trying to get on the bus, [Mike] Hoder trying to get on top of it, the FBM crew crawling out of it, random people asking what band we are in (Piss Bombz), our friend Mikey Jumping over the bus, urban camping in totally illegal spots, running into shit while parking, sleeping inside while hearing gunfights within a block while parked in sketchy parts of town, the wild drive by karaoke parties across state lines, random kooks just getting in at stops, so many events, tours, jams, laughs and good times in this rigs it’s hard to recount. One time while leaving NYC, a befuddled cop pulled us over (the exhaust had cracked and was really loud) – he yelled in the window- ‘what’s going on here? SOMETHINGS WRAWWWWNG, it’s TOO loud!”- I replied – ‘YA, it sounds like a DRAGON!’ He gave me a ticket for violating noise ordinance. It has a straight pip exhaust on it, we call it the black dragon!
How much maintenance does it require? And was there a point on the road where you just wanted to say “fuck this thing” and get rid of it?
It’s an old diesel motor, 7.3L with no turbo or fuel injection so it’s pretty basic, I’ve been able to do most of the maintenance myself, minus a couple ball ups that I had friends help with. On Maiden America Tour a couple years ago, I was living out of it at the time, and it wouldn’t start while we were in Baltimore, on the way home from NYC/ Philly, I got it running and decided we had pushed our luck enough times, and parked it where it is now when I got back and decided to let the tags expire. The thought of breaking down and not having a place to live stressed me out. Also, a blown out tire can cost about 400 bucks if anyone is curious.
Was there an all-time low for the bus?
We broke down about 30 miles from home at the end of a tour, and it took 18 hours for a tow truck to show up and it cost like 600 bucks to get it back to its parking spot. Only time we ever had to get towed. Mostly it’s been pretty awesome.
From the buses prime touring days to now, how different is it? In its current state, could you see it being loaded up with riders and bikes and hitting the road?
I removed one of the front seating areas and added a wood stove, with the chimney going out the window I wouldn’t drive it like that, and I wouldn’t want Gary Ginch spilling sardine juice in my bed, aside from that it’s still ready to roll. You’d be surprised how quickly shit will tumble around the bus while driving it however if it’s not secured properly, including passengers.
How much work went into the bus from the time you got it?
It’s all been kind of like modifications in progress, it’s seen several different incarnations, the first few trips we had couches and carpet, and between the dirt, sand, spilled beer and piss, I realized we needed something more practical. Wood is easier to sweep/mop. Hard to say how much work has gone into it, as it’s constantly been modified.
Do you have another vehicle?
For a long time all I had was a Harley, my bicycle and the bus, hardly practical. I have a regular car now.
How has living in a bus affected your lifestyle?
Wanting and needing less shit in my life makes me feel less anxious and cluttered. I remember the first month I didn’t have as many bills, and living cheaper, with less to have to think about, even simple shit like forgetting to pay bills cuz I’d be on the road to who knows where, or who knows how long, that was like a relief. Streamlined, simplified, less worries…
What about your art?
Sometimes I feel like my lifestyle has started to become one big art project. It’s becoming all connected… I think it’s easy to become anesthetized in your own existence. Lately I feel more in tune with my own little world. I really do believe less is more, I think for me, right now, it inspires more creativity to live this way. I can’t be as lazy in the way I think about things—everything is more intentional. It all transcends.
How does has the bus influenced FBM?
It’s like a looking glass. A strange parallel world, an FBM metaphor on wheels.
Which came first, the bus or sobriety? And do they have any correlation?
Oh, I was definitely hammered when we first got this thing, some questionable behavior in and around the rig. I’m not sure there is any correlation, but I’ve been sober the entire time I’ve lived in it, which seems pretty weird now that I think of it, a 40 something year old sober BMX kook living in a school bus, probably not what a younger, wilder Steve Crandall would have envisioned, but I am pretty stoked.
What are some great things about your current living situation?
In the morning in the summer, when it’s cool, and the sun starts peaking through the windshield, sort of bronze, and I wake up and just chill and listen to the nearby trains go by, and crickets, birds and the breeze, those moments are kinda really awesome. Being able to use the “gypsy bus art studio” inside the bus or outside of it, is cool, and when I have friends over and we make bus tacos, all cooked over a campfire, just being outside and enjoying time, that’s the good stuff.
What are some not great things?
I don’t have AC, so the doors and windows are usually open, the other night I got in bed and got stung by a wasp that was in my blanket. I had also left it open recently and a summer storm popped up unexpectedly while I was at the jumps, and I got home and all my shit was soaked, puddles on the floor, art supplies got soaked, everything was damp, that sucked. Sleeping in big cities on the road can be uneasy, people messing with it. Hearing someone peaking in or a cop running the plates at 4 a.m. will make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes in the dead of winter, when the wood stove goes out in the middle of the night, that’s not fun, or when you step outside to take a piss, and the frozen ground is so hard, a piece of it slices your foot, and it’s so cold you don’t notice until you get in the sleeping bag and feel blood seeping out as your feet thaw—that’s a unique experience. Oh, and one time it didn’t stop raining for like a week and it was parked in some soft soil and it sank like 4 inches—that was almost a disaster. Mostly I like the challenges, it’s good to check yourself once in a while and see what you are made of. Winter and bad weather will do that to you.
If you suddenly came into more money, like enough for rent, would you move out of the bus?
Maybe, eventually. I don’t really have a plan, or any expectation of having plenty of money anytime soon. I really enjoy living the way I do right now, but I don’t own the land it’s on so it isn’t forever. Finding suitable spot to park the bus can be tricky. I’m lucky the guys in the house and my neighbors are cool, but who knows what the future holds. Learning about the ideas of reverse prosperity can feel pretty good. Money and possessions don’t always have all that much to do with happiness or success. I’m lucky to be part of community of good people that inspire me in other ways.
If there was one thing you took away from this whole bus experience, what do you think it would be?
Aside from keeping a roof over my head, and forcing me to think about life from a more unconventional perspective, its provided and inspired countless smiles, miles, good times, crazy adventures, as well as comforts on the road for my friends and I. I feel really lucky to have been able to share some many stories with such good friends, in the bus. To me, the best tales come from the misadventures on the road, and the bus became a part of our FBM family and enabled so many laughs and learning experiences.