Touring is hard — the long nights, heavy gear and extended drives from town to town. But here's a little-known fact (that literally every touring band already knows): the hardest thing of all just might be finding good food on the road. Some bands do things differently: planning meals ahead and stocking up at supermarkets, trying to eat clean and live with a belly full of nutrients. But many, many, many others go down the hard road of eating at truck stops , 7-11s and, of course, fast food restaurants.
Gatecreeper vocalist Chase Mason and Full of Hell guitarist Spencer Hazard are all too familiar with these catch-as-catch-can food options. The pair did extensive touring in 2017 and 2018, and all the while lived off of fast food — by choice. As a matter of fact, both individuals — whose bands will tour together again as part of the full U.S. jaunt Sweltering Ecstasy — are self-proclaimed experts on fast food.
So in light of the bands' forthcoming tour — during which they will continue crushing fast food — we caught up with Mason and Hazard for a ridiculously in-depth chat about soggy fries, bargain tacos, which franchises serve the best chicken, fried cheese curds and burgers, and much, much more.
SPENCER, FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT QUALIFIES YOU AS A FAST FOOD EXPERT?
SPENCER HAZARD I've been touring in numerous bands since I was 18 and I would say I'm a fast food expert because I come from a resort town and all the local businesses are too expensive for even the locals to go to. So you gotta go to the chains to get a reasonably priced meal.
CHASE, YOU'VE BEEN TOURING LESS THAN SPENCER, BUT YOU ALSO CONSIDER YOURSELF A FAST FOOD EXPERT.
CHASE MASON I eat fast food even when I'm not on tour, like Spencer. So it started a long time ago. It's easy on tour, but it's really not any different from when I'm at home. It's just how I grew up. I remember my mom taking me to Taco Bell in preschool. It's just how I was raised. I still [eat at fast food restaurants] to this day just because I'm lazy. It's the convenience. I don't want to really go do all the work and cook for myself. I can just go somewhere and get some food quick.
DO EITHER OF YOU KNOW HOW TO COOK?
MASON Yeah ... I don't want to do it.
HAZARD Not really, very rudimentary stuff like boiling pasta and stuff like that.
SPENCER, WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE FAVORITE FAST FOOD CHAIN?
HAZARD It's hard for me to say because home versus on the road it's completely different. But I would say Popeyes because I can splurge a little. It's like my fancy restaurant, because I'm going to be spending $10. On the road, it's gotta be like Taco Bell, but every single one you go to differs in quality, so it's always a gamble.
WHAT'S YOUR USUAL ORDER AT TACO BELL OR POPEYES?
HAZARD Popeyes is always just the chicken strips. You can either get the big meal which is like $10 or you can get the $5 box, which is the combo with everything for five bucks. But at Taco Bell, it's basically whatever is on sale for that week, the new item. Literally everything at Popeyes has meat in it — even the vegetables have chunks of meat in them for some reason.
CHASE, WHAT RESTAURANT DO YOU SPLURGE ON, AND WHAT IS YOUR REGULAR FAST FOOD FAVORITE?
MASON That's a good question. I could spend $10 plus at Taco Bell if I'm not careful. I don't know about a splurge one, but it would be a Chick-fil-A or something that's a little bit more expensive. But yeah, Taco Bell is my favorite at home and on the road.
LET'S TALK ABOUT EACH ONE OF YOUR INDIVIDUAL FAVORITES AND WHY. SPENCER, YOUR NUMBER ONE IS A $5 THREE-STRIP BOX WITH DOUBLE MASHED POTATOES. WHY DOUBLE MASH? THE BEANS AND RICE ARE KILLER.
HAZARD I just feel like compared to say KFC, the mashed potatoes at Popeyes actually taste like [they're from] a real restaurant. Popeyes puts a little more effort into it: adding herb and spices to the gravy and a little bit of meat flavor to it. And you can get full on it but not feel terrible for $5.
WHAT'S YOUR GO-TO DIPPING SAUCE FOR STRIPS?
HAZARD I like Popeyes BBQ sauce. I feel like all the other ones like KFC and Wendy's are a little too sweet, but the Popeyes [has] a little kick into it, it's spicy.
CHASE, WHAT ARE YOUR OPINIONS ON HIS DIPPING SAUCE?
MASON I like a good barbecue sauce. I don't go to Popeyes often, but when I do, I get the popcorn shrimp.
HAZARD See Popeyes also had the Fried Crawfish Basket, which they used to do once a year, but now they haven't done it in the past like four or five years. Maybe I was the only person that would ever get excited when it was the new menu item.
YOU DON'T HAVE ANY TREPIDATION ABOUT EATING CRAWFISH FROM A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT?
HAZARD No, I don't. It's fine. I have more problems with people eating seafood in the Midwest. That I have a problem with.
YOUR SECOND FAVORITE FOOD ITEM IS THE FIVE-LAYER BURRITO ROM TACO BELL. WHY FIVE INSTEAD OF SEVEN?
HAZARD During the formative years of Full of Hell, we would literally go to Taco Bell every day, three times a day and only spend .89 cents on it. The seven-layer [burrito] is a little too much.
YOUR NUMBER THREE PICK IS WENDY'S SPICY CHICKEN SANDWICH, WHICH YOU THINK IS THE CLOSEST THING TO AN ACTUAL RESTAURANT ITEM. WHAT BLOWS MY MIND HERE IS THAT YOU ARE CHOOSING WENDY'S OVER CHICK-FIL-A ...
HAZARD From a personal standpoint, I don't know if I can support Chick-fil-A, they have some backward views in my opinion. I don't know if I can support them. I know Chase has his own personal preferences, but me personally; I can't support giving money to them.
TRUE, AND THEY ARE OUTWARD WITH THEIR VIEWS. WHO KNOWS WHAT SHADINESS GOES ON IN SOME OF THESE OTHER CORPORATIONS.
HAZARD That's very true. And I can be considered a hypocrite because I've heard some things about like the Yum! Corporation having some shady backstories too. I would go with the Wendy's chicken sandwich, it tastes like you can actually get it from like a local bar or something. It's like perfectly battered and has like a little bit of spice to it.
CHASE, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HIS CHICKEN CHOICES?
MASON A chicken sandwich isn't really my go-to unless it's a place where that's the main thing like Chick-fil-A or [Raising] Cane's [Chicken Fingers]. My problem with Wendy's, and it's the same with like Jack in the Box, there's just so much mayo on everything.
HAZARD Yeah, I get you on that. I only think I've been to Jack in the Box two or three times and my experience each time was not very good. And Jack in the Box is only I think a West Coast thing, like they don't have them on the East Coast.
SPENCER, ONE THING YOU DIDN'T ANSWER IS WHERE YOU GET FAST FOOD BREAKFAST AND WHY?
HAZARD None of the places have fast food breakfast I like anymore. The only place that surprisingly had the fast food breakfast that I did like was the McDonald's Southern Chicken biscuits and they got rid of it. Usually, if I'm at work or something, I'll just wait until afternoon to get lunch.
NOW ABOUT FRIES. SPENCER, WHO SERVES YOUR FAVORITE?
HAZARD Personally — and it's a very controversial opinion — I would say Wendy's has my favorite fries of the big names. They're a little bit soggy for some reason, you can tell they've been sitting there for a little bit. But I like that. Burger King fries are too dry. The McDonald's ones are too greasy, too salty. I would say Popeyes has the best fries.
WHY DO POPEYES FRIES STAND OUT? BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY ARE SEASONED? DO YOU NOT LIKE ARBY'S FRIES?
HAZARD See, the only fried item I like from Arby's is the mozzarella sticks. Everything else has that like weird, bitter old grease taste to me.
CHASE, WHERE ARE YOUR FAVORITE FRIES FROM?
MASON I gotta say that the best fries have got to be from McDonald's. I like the McDonald's fries and Arby's curly fries are good. I feel like they made the Wendy's fries different in the past few years because they wanted it to be more natural. It has a little bit of skin on it, which is cool.
HAZARD I think I like the Wendy's ones because it reminds me of boardwalk fries.
BUT BOARDWALK FRIES ARE SO LIMP AND GREASY. YOU LIKE THEM LIKE THAT?
HAZARD Oh yeah, limp and greasy and just like completely soaked in vinegar. You can't even taste the potato, that's the boardwalk style.
SO YOU'RE A FIVE GUYS FRIES GUY
HAZARD See, I don't like Five Guys though. If I'm gonna spend a ton of money on fries, I might as well go to the local classic of Thrasher's.
CHASE, WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE NON–FRENCH FRY FRIED ITEM.
MASON The fried cheese curds from Culver's. It's a chain but I think it's newer, like we've only had it in Arizona within the last 10 years or maybe even shorter than that. I think it's like a Midwest thing. But they have these deep-fried cheese curds, which they're basically just like small mozzarella sticks basically, like little balls. I don't even really care about the food there but there's one real close to my house and I'll go through just for the curds, dude.
CHASE, YOUR NUMBER ONE FAST FOOD ITEM IS THE DOUBLE-DECKER TACO WITH THE DORITOS FIERY SHELL, ADD NACHO CHEESE FROM TACO BELL. IS THE DOUBLE DECKER THE ONE WITH BEANS BETWEEN THE TWO SHELLS OR CHEESE?
MASON Yeah. The cheese is the Cheesy Gordita Crunch, dude. I've been eating a double decker from Taco Bell, since I was like a kid. I think I remember when they introduced it. Do you remember when like Shaq was in Taco Bell commercial?
HAZARD Vaguely, yes.
MASON I think that's when it came out and I've been fucking with it since.
SO, YOU DON'T EVER SAY. "I WANT A COOL RANCH ONE!" IT'S ALWAYS FIERY?
MASON Fiery. I think they have a Nacho Cheese one. The Fiery is good. I gotta give it up to my friend Shelby for tipping me off on that, customizing the order is just like, one of the beautiful things at Taco Bell. I'm sure you could do it at other places, but I've seen a lot of people do it whether they're vegan or vegetarian, they get stuff without the meat or beans, but you can really go kind of crazy with it at Taco Bell.
We have Del Taco here too and there's people that are either team Taco Bell or team Del Taco. I don't think Del Taco is very good, at least in comparison to Taco Bell. There's no competition for me.
CHASE, YOUR FAVORITE BURGER IS THE WESTERN BACON CHEESEBURGER FROM CARL'S JR. WHAT'S ON THAT?
MASON Burger, bacon, onion ring, cheese, barbecue sauce. Yeah.
LET'S TALK ABOUT BREAKFAST, WHAT'S YOUR GO TO?
MASON Usually McDonald's. I'll get some sort of the Egg McMuffin, whether it's just the classic one or the sausage one with no eggs, which is like a dollar and some change. And a little hash brown and wash it down with the McDonald's Coke, which is better than any other Coca-Cola available anywhere else.
I'M SURPRISED THAT NEITHER OF YOU ARE ON BOARD WITH TACO BELL BREAKFAST
MASON I haven't messed with it too much.
HAZARD Yeah, I haven't either. I just feel like I kind of don't trust like scrambled eggs sitting around because almost all of their items have just like scrambled egg shoved in it, I don't know, I kind of don't trust that.
CHASE, YOU ALSO LOVE THE FRENCH DIP FROM ARBY'S, WHICH YOU SAY IS MESSY BUT DELICIOUS AND IS SHRINKING IN SIZE.
MASON Yeah. And it is getting more expensive too. It's like they are weaning the consumer off of it but still making money off of it.
YOU LIKE THAT MORE THAN OTHER ARBY'S RELATED ITEMS?
MASON I mean the classic roast beef is decent. I like the Arby's sauce a lot.
LET'S DISCUSS ANOTHER FAVORITE ITEM OF YOURS, CHICK-FIL-A CHICKEN NUGGETS WITH POLYNESIAN SAUCE. HOW MANY PIECES DO YOU GET USUALLY
MASON Whatever the biggest one is.
MASON Yeah. Sometimes I get the sandwich, but yeah, the nuggs. And the waffle fries. I have a question for Spencer. How do you feel about Whataburger?
HAZARD I've only been there once and I'm not sure how I felt about it, I know it's always a toss up between In-N-Out and Whataburger — what people debate on. But I don't like In-N-Out burger that much anymore either. I did at first for the novelty, but not anymore.
MASON I think Whataburger sucks. In comparison, I think In-N-Out is better. I don't think it's really a contest. People from Texas are like super about Whataburger, and I think that it actually might be better when you're in Texas. In-N-Out Burger is good but it's funny because of all the fast food places — and I eat like straight up garbage — In-N-Out Burger is supposed to be like the healthy one with fresh ingredients. If I eat a burger from there, it makes me feel like shit. It makes my body hurt, which is very interesting considering all the bullshit that I eat.
CHASE, YOUR LAST FAST FOOD PICK IS THE THREE-FINGER COMBO FROM RAISING CANE'S. WHY CANE'S OVER ANOTHER SPOT?
MASON I don't know, it's just good. I feel like I trust a place where that's the only thing that they have. "We have chicken fingers and that's it." If they put that much effort into just one specific item it's usually good. But for Cane's you gotta eat it there or if you get it to go or drive thru, you got to pop the top to the lid on your way home or else it gets like soggy. So pop that top.
PICK ONE PERSON FROM YOUR BAND AND A SHITTY FAST FOOD PLACE THAT THEY LIKE AND WHY THAT PLACE SUCKS.
HAZARD I would say our bass player, Sam [DiGristine]. I would say he sucks not because of something he likes, but [because of] something he doesn't like. There's a place down in Florida called a Pollo Tropical, which is like a Cuban or Peruvian type of fast food place. We always make a special trip to stop there and anytime we go he just complains the entire time. "Oh, it's not that good, it's overrated." And it just pisses me off beyond belief. You watch them cook it on the grill right there in front of you and it has a sauce bar of like 10 different types of barbecue sauce and two different types of dressings for it. It's good. He doesn't know what he's talking about.
CHASE, YOUR TURN.
MASON I don't know if there's a place that someone in my band likes that I don't really like. Sometimes we'll have to stop at like Subway, which I think is one of the worst options that you can possibly eat as far as fast food. It's just ... it's not good.
HAZARD Before our interview is over, I'd like to give a shout out to one super underrated fast food restaurant, Fazoli's — fast food Italian.
WHAT IS IT EXACTLY? ITALIAN HEROES AND ALL OF THAT?
HAZARD No, you can get chicken parmigiana and spaghetti and stuff. Imagine Olive Garden, but it's a drive thru. Very underrated. Very underappreciated. Anytime we take someone there, they're like, "Wow, you guys were right. This is actually like good quality food for a reasonable price." You can either eat healthy and get a salad with your meal or eat shitty and get slices of pizza instead of salad.
LAST QUESTION. I KNOW YOU TWO ARE HUGELY INTO ENERGY DRINKS TOO. ARE YOU TEAM RED BULL OR TEAM MONSTER?
HAZARD Chase is Red Bull, I'm Monster — that's why we don't get along.