PLAYA DEL REY, California (CNN) -- The black sedan pulled up to the parking lot at Dockweiler State Beach in California, and the five members of The Lost Trailers stepped out -- no chauffeur, no publicist, no manager, no entourage.
From left to right, Jeff Potter, Stokes Nielson, Ryder Lee, Manny Medina and Andrew Nielson of The Lost Trailers.
But that's the way this rising country band rolls these days.
When they embarked on their current "Lean, Clean and Local" tour, they streamlined their operation in the greenest way possible.
Since September, they've reduced their carbon footprint by 132 tons.
That meant giving up their tour buses, as well as their road crew and traveling with their own equipment.
Their new buzz phrase is "hiring local" -- local roadies, local T-shirt vendors, local suppliers for amps and equipment. If they can't stuff it in a suitcase, they don't bring it.
The Lost Trailers have also partnered with Keep America Beautiful, a national organization dedicated to litter reduction and recycling.
On a recent day off in Los Angeles, singer Ryder Lee, guitarist Stokes Nielson, bassist Manny Medina, keyboardist Andrew Nielson and drummer Jeff Potter met up with a group of young adults from the L.A. Conservation Corps for a little coastal cleanup -- country style. Watch the band at work on the beach »
Three of the band members sported cowboy boots as they sifted through the sand. The kids were from South Central Los Angeles, an inner-city area not generally known for its love of country music.
After the cleanup, we pulled the CNN van up to the beach, popped in The Lost Trailers' CD, and hit "play" on their hit single, "Holler Back." As the fiddle and banjo strains of the high-octane hillbilly tune blared through the speakers, there were blank stares all the way around from the students.
But after joining in the chorus of "heys" and "hos," one young man named Virgil LaFlora started rapping over the verses. It was the most unexpected country/hip-hop mash-up since Tim McGraw and Nelly joined forces for "Over and Over" in 2004.
All of a sudden, the two camps had discovered some common ground, and the song ended in cheers and hugs. One girl asked if she could have the CD.
CNN talked to the Trailers' members about their activism and their tour. The following is an edited version of the interview.
CNN: "Lean, Clean and Local" isn't just about recycling. You guys are actually going into the community and hiring local people.
Stokes Nielson: We did a show with Tim McGraw in New York at the end of last year. It was a fly date for us, so we hired local, and this guy came up to us and said, "Thank you so much for hiring local, 'cause I haven't had a check in three weeks." And we realized as the recession was heading into place, that one of the things we could do to benefit these communities is hire local, and not just bring in our own crews and just extract money form the locals and then leave, but we could also leave a small stimulus of our own.
CNN: As rising artists, you work hard to earn the right to have a tour bus. Now you're giving it up.
Stokes Nielson: Since we won't have a crew, we thought, "OK, we're not going to have the bus anymore, and we're just going to fly to dates," and that cut down our diesel consumption.
Andrew Nielson: We travel really light so that we can roll into town, hire the crew, and also hire local equipment. Potter's a drummer, and everywhere we go, we rent drums.
Jeff Potter: We were trying to figure out a way that was practical to get a drum set on a plane, but it didn't really work out. I like it because I get to show up, and somebody working there locally has already set it up for me, and I get to just sit down and play.
Ryder Lee: We were trying to get Potter some of those electric drum pads (which will fit into a suitcase), but that's just not as cool.
CNN: Or you could just get a drum machine and eliminate the problem altogether! That would save the most money.
Potter: I like being in the band.
Manny Medina: I'm afraid they're going to hire local bass players, and I'll be out of a job! (Laugh)
CNN: Do you save money by hiring local, or does it cost you more this way?
Stokes Nielson: No, it's about even. It's not about the money. Obviously, the government is putting a lot of money into trying to get this thing (the economy) kick-started. As small-business owners, we want to do our part as well. It's also really been great to realize that we actually can do something besides just writin' a song and singin' it.
Lee: We've set up a Web site: LeanCleanAndLocal.com, and that's become kind of a Yellow Pages for the local businesses we've hired. And we have videos on there, and a directory of the folks we've used, so if other acts were to hire this way, they could come in and use these same people.
CNN: Doesn't that lead to disaster sometimes?
Medina: So far, it's been great.
Potter: Either we've been very lucky, or we've really come up against some great people, but when you're a national act, there's a certain level of competence with the people you deal with, and that's great to see.
CNN: I'm sure there were a lot of organizations you looked at before partnering up with Keep America Beautiful. Why that organization?
Lee: I think as country artists, it's really important to preserve the things that we grew up with. We're naturally outdoors men because of where we grew up, and keeping the rivers and streams clean is part of being country, and we're really proud of that. And Keep America Beautiful and their efforts in recycling and litter cleanup was really fitting for us, so it was a natural place to reach out -- not to mention, at our shows, there tends to be a few bottles and cans that build up. (Laugh)
Stokes Nielson: This tour may not last forever. Maybe just until the recession is over. But definitely, we want to do our part to give back.
Medina: Plus you really get to know the towns better. You meet the people. You don't just stay on your bus, play a show and leave. You really get to know the towns.
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