While some well-timed bat pee in the eye might seem like a good way for Torche guitarist Andrew Elstner to promote their forthcoming Harmonicraft album (due April 24) and tour (kicking off in Tampa tonight), Torche guitarist Andrew Elstner assures Hive that it’s no laughing matter. After playing with his other band Tilts in St. Louis last week, he and band friends James Leg drove to Wildwood, MO to stay the night at an old house where he used to live. They entered a room, flipped on a ceiling fan light and disturbed a bat. What seemed like an innocuous animal indoors turned into something potentially lethal.
Walk me through the incident, how did this happen?
It circles around the room, at one point it comes pretty close to my face and I guess just because it was a terrified mammal, peed on my face into my eye…It was a lot, enough to where you sort of pause, I close my eye, am like, “Oh you gotta be kidding me!…There’s pee in my eye, like it burns. I’m gonna go rinse this out in the sink.”
“I think the doctors at the hospital were especially like, ‘What happened again?’ And I really got a strong vibe that they do not believe me.”
Initially afterwards you just went to bed?
Yes. that was the clincher…I made the mistake of telling my parents the next day ‘cause I was in town, they still live in St. Louis and so I stopped by the house to tell them what I thought was a pretty hilarious story and they were more terrified than amused. My mom, unknown to me, is out in the yard on the cordless phone calling Animal Control, calling our vet, calling anybody, a doctor. They put her in contact with CDC here in Atlanta where I live, and they proceed to take down all of my information and I believe they have to record that as an incident of possible outbreak of rabies if there’s any sort of contact…You have to get five shots then and then three days later and then seven days later and then 14 days later, another single shot each time.
The doctor and the nurse, everybody I spoke with personally — people thought the story was weird in the medical community — but nobody was laughing at me for getting treated [saying], “Well no, you definitely want to play it on the safe side. The weird, the dumb thing you did was stay in the house with the bat.”
Why is that?
It could’ve been saliva, if it was a rabid bat – what are the odds of that? It’s pretty slim. But bats, like most people I guess who get them from bats in their house, don’t know that there’s bats in the house and they get bit in their sleep, which is pretty creepy and I guess where the vampire myth sorta comes from.
If you actually were bitten I’d think you would see the bite mark, or might I actually be talking to a vampire?
You might. That’s the thing, the nurses and the doctors I’ve spoken with so far are like, “Oh it’s really tricky” because bats, you’ll see pictures of them they’re huge, but a lot that are common that transfer rabies aren’t that big. Imagine like a little mouse with wings… if they did really bite you or scratch you, if it was a rabid bat, there’s a super good chance you’re not gonna see it, you might think it’s a mosquito bite.
So there’s actually a chance you could come back as a vampire along the way?
Yeah! I mean, I know it will jumpstart my movie career, my acting career.
How are you scheduling your vaccinations on tour?
You’d think it’s such a deadly disease that it would be more easily treated. It’s really a pain. If I really truly did have rabies and was bit for sure by a rabid animal that they caught and tested for rabies, you do a lot of sitting around and waiting to get treated while you’re sort of terrified, like “Holy shit, am I gonna die of rabies?” You have to wait for a lot of people to make a phone call and talk to their advisor and “I’ll call you back in an hour” and then, “No, we don’t do that here we have to order that vaccine it takes three days to get here.” “Like really? Wow.” I learned a lot of stuff I did not know. There’s a worldwide shortage of the vaccine at the moment.
After reading about your plight I Googled “Bats and Rabies.” The CDC website makes bats sound like pretty friendly creatures that are good for the ecosystem, but then it says, “To be safe, never handle a bat.” So I gotta ask you, is this really what went down or did you really handle that bat?
I think the doctors at the hospital were especially like, “What happened again?” And I really got a strong vibe that they do not believe me. I never touched the bat. I mean it might’ve crawled on me. I slept in an adjacent room like sort of diagonal from where the bat pee incident happened on the same floor.
This is the kind of thing that immortalizes you, everyone recalls the Ozzy-Osbourne-biting-off-the-head-of-a-bat deal. Would you ever recommend provoking or handling a bat for extra cred?
Uh, no. I mean, no. If you really want to, make sure you’re stationary in one city for a long time. And you have really good health insurance. Otherwise I don’t advise it. Yeah, my friends made some pretty awesome comments. It’s like, “Man, at least you can be immune for awhile you can just go around and bite the heads off of bats with total impunity.”
Harmonicraft is out April 24 via Volcom Entertainment.