For most casual fans of music, the forty-five minutes that a band spends on the stage is all they can see. However, when the guitar cases are closed and the venue’s floor is littered with empty beer cans and trash, most bands load their gear into the van and return back to their normal lives.
Mother Church Pew’s Off The Stage is a series that celebrates artists’ paths to where they are and the things they do behind the scenes to stay there.
Des Ark’s Aimée Argote has been vegan for over 10 years; “I follow a really strict whole foods diet, I don’t eat any sugar, I eat mostly raw. To me, it’s an overall health thing, and being vegan is just part of that,” she explains. “I went vegan for ethical reasons, but I’ve stayed vegan for health reasons.” About 10 years ago, Argote’s mother was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer, and began doing research about her disease and her chances of survival; her mother changed her diet to raw veganism, and she went into remission. Argot firmly believes that the radical diet change saved her mother.
For Argote, it’s not just a diet, it’s a way of life. “I am a super happy vegan, I don’t go down the guilt road with people. I really want to be able to do everything in my life that I want to do. The best way for me to do that is to be healthy, and I’ve had so much experience with it at this point, I believe from first-hand experience that if I take a little bit more time out of my day to be healthy, I spend a lot less time in my life repairing myself,” she says. The amount of time she spends touring presents its own set of challenges, but Argote has learned to navigate the pitfalls of road life when it comes to maintaining her health. IN order to ward off the temptation to eat poorly, her band doesn’t share a tour van with other bands anymore, and she surrounds herself with aware and supportive band members. “I have realized that I really need bandmates who know that I have to stay healthy, and that there’s going to be extra time spent every day getting me to an organic food store so I can get vegetables and fruit. It’s funny, so many people who join this band are like ‘I’ve never felt so good!’ because they’ve ended up going vegan,” she declares. “I love food and I want to be healthy, and the best way I know to do that is to take people with me on my food journey.”
“Ethically, being vegan is so incredibly important, environmentally, it’s so important, but I don’t think those are the things that keep people vegan,” she adds. “People are kind of selfish and self-involved and usually have to see a direct physical benefit to eating that way.” Besides witnessing her mother’s cancer battle and subsequent remission, Argote can personally testify to the miracles that changes in diet can accomplish. “I was also diagnosed as being bipolar, which has been a something I’ve struggled with on and off my whole life; I made a commitment to stay off of medication, so I cut out sugar. I don’t think medicines they make for my kind of situation are very effective. I knew there were other ways to go about it, but I really had to be committed to it,” she says. “Long-term, if my choice is to wait another hour to eat so that I could get something that will nourish me, then I will wait; in the moment, it might be a hard decision, but it would be harder to not be able to go on tour because I have some kind of breakdown or I get really sick again, or I get cancer like both of my parents. Everyone in my family has or has had cancer. I would hate to think that, at the end of my life, the decision to eat french fries was more important to me at that time than the decision to live a long, happy, healthy life.”
Argote admits that veganism is a “sick” fix, but it’s not a “quick” fix; it took her a long time to relearn how to cook, and at times, the process was very difficult. “I really feel for the people who were dating me during that period of my life,” she says with a laugh, and adds “but now, it’s really easy. Giving yourself a hard time about it doesn’t make it fun, and it doesn’t make you likely to try it or go back to it.” She uses an app called Happy Cow to point her towards vegan options at restaurants, and the band also treats touring like an adventurous camping trip. “We love camping,” she says. “We’ve figured out if we make tour a lot like camping, we can make it feel fun and intellectually engaging. We bring a Coleman stove with us on the road, it helps save money and the band works together and helps each other. We also get to eat what we want if we’re cooking it. We can make our own comfort food. I trip and fall sometimes, but it happens less and less, and I feel way more empowered than I did. I toured like this 10 years ago, when there were no Whole Foods stores around. It’s so accessible now, it’s interesting to me when people say to me ‘it’s so hard to be vegan on tour.’ It can be done, and the reason why it can be done is because I want it, I want to be healthy.”