Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995  Current Issue: Thursday, October 26, 2006





Local Limelight: Riding the greasemobile

Piebald's unconventional wheels reflect their style

 by Si Robins
 published on Thursday, October 26, 2006

Instead of being half-baked, you could say this musical foursome is fried. Piebald tours the  country in a vegetable oil-powered van, saving the environment from  pollution and unwanted grease/issues/arts/698480
Courtesy of Piebald
Instead of being half-baked, you could say this musical foursome is fried. Piebald tours the country in a vegetable oil-powered van, saving the environment from pollution and unwanted grease


If you were heading down Interstate-75 toward Jacksonville, Fla., last Thursday afternoon, you may have smelled french fries.

Chances are you were behind Piebald's veggie van as they made their way down the coast.

The members of this Andover, Mass., indie rock foursome converted their camper to run on vegetable oil to help the environment - even if they all end up smelling like greasy fast food.

Singer/guitarist Travis Shettel says it isn't so bad. "We have a big tank in the back of the van and we just throw the grease and waste oil in there and we're good to go," he says.

After converting the van to a vegetable oil calibration, the driver simply flips a switch and the group is set. The result is optimal for a band on a tight budget - the fuel is free because they take used oil. And it doesn't hurt that they produce no gasoline pollution from all those miles logged.

Instead of planning which places to snag oil in each city, the band just wings it.

"We don't head to the grocery store, because that means paying money," Shettel says. "McDonalds is difficult too, because they usually use their grease to the point of it being more like Crisco - so full of animal fat that it's not really vegetable oil."

So the search is on every day in a different town to find reputable spots to snag some oil. "Usually the best places are Asian restaurants," Shettel says. "Japanese cuisine and sushi typically produce the cleanest oil.

"I've heard of people using Kentucky Fried Chicken, but that sounds crazy. I can't believe they'd find clean KFC grease."

The boys in Piebald - Shettel, guitarist Aaron Stuart, bassist Andrew Bonner and drummer Luke Garro - have been churning out their blend of clever, in-your-face rock since their high school days in 1995.

It seems vegetable oil has become a lucrative product for the Piebald boys. But it isn't too difficult to find. "We just roll up [to the restaurant] and ask for grease," says Shettel. "Sometimes we just take it from the oil trap in the back of the place."

Although it might seem criminal to steal another's grease, Shettel is certain he isn't breaking any laws. "These places actually pay you to take it away," he says. "We've never had a problem finding the grease."

The money saved on gas helps the band spend more time on the road. Instead of the typical Ford van, Piebald is able to cruise the highways in a spacious camper.

"The new veggie van is more like a home," Shettel says. "We built some real cool stuff in it to keep us busy on the road. There's much more room than in a regular van."

Piebald is currently crisscrossing the country on a sold-out tour with L.A. scenesters Say Anything. They are supporting their new record, "Accidental Gentlemen," to be released January 22.

"This record is like a punch in the face," Shettel says of "Gentlemen." "It's a rocker; it's fun and completely spontaneous."

The veggie van will roll in to Tempe on Monday. If you work at a Japanese restaurant, be on the lookout.


Accidental Gentlemen

Release: Jan. 22, 2007

Piebald has always been a quirky exception to the indie-rock scene. While most singers take a literal, serious approach to their lyrics, Piebald crooner Travis Shettel has always taken the tongue-in-cheek route. The band's latest CD is no exception. His uninhibited attitude and clever observations about life and boredom pour out song to song. Ditties such as "Getting Mugged and Loving It" are fun, bratty rock tunes that prove the band is in no hurry to grow up.

If you go...

Piebald with Say Anything at the Clubhouse

Monday, Oct. 30, 6 p.m.

1320 E. Broadway Road

$12 in advance, $14 day of show. All ages.

Tickets at and

Reach the reporter at

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