The Eli Young Band brings a taste of Red Dirt music to the forefront of Country music. The band has an upbeat and distinct sound that has caught on quickly on a national scale. EYB saw mild success through the years touring on Jet Black and Jealous and hit a major stride with its most recent album, Life At Best, featuring the hits “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and ACM "Song of the Year," “Crazy Girl.”
The Eli Young Band has now reached a new height, opening Kenny Chesney’s current tour (which is hitting mostly stadiums). CityBeat was able to catch up with band drummer Chris Thompson to get the band’s feeling on its new found success and life on tour with Kenny. The tour comes to Cincy tonight at Riverbend Music Center for a sold-out stop (the tour moves to Crew Stadium in Columbus on Saturday night). It is truly the most impressive tour in Country music.
CityBeat: How did the tour come about with Kenny Chesney?
Chris Thompson: A lot of people don’t know this but Kenny is really involved in who he picks to go on tour with him. In a lot of other tours, a record label will put someone on the bill or management will partner up with other management to find a tour that works with that kind of artist, but Kenny is super hands-on.
Two years ago at the Academy of Country Music Awards, we were nominated for "Song of the Year" and so was Kenny, and we actually beat him, we won the category. I guess shortly after, there was a text going around from Kenny to his management, “Who are these guys that beat me?” and “I want to find out more about them.” He started getting into our music and shortly after we got the phone call that we were invited to go out on tour with him.
It’s just a huge honor. Like I was saying, he hand picks the folks that are out here on the road with him. It’s the biggest tour in Country music and we are just happy to be here.
CB: I was there the night you guys won the "Song of the Year" award. I was so happy for you guys. I know you have worked very hard over the years. What was the highlight of CMA for the band this year in Nashville?
CT: We were only there for a couple hours really. We flew in that morning and did a signing for two or three hours and then had a couple meetings. Then, we were out of town.
We have been going to CMA Music Fest for seven or eight years now. Back in the day we would stay for three or four days and play a show or two and be able to hang and meet as many people as we could. It seems like more and more nowadays, especially with the tours we have been on and our headlining tours, we are only able to get in for a day and get out.
It is always fun to do the signings because you meet people from all over the country and from all over the world really who love Country music. They are so excited to meet you. They are die hard fans. They bring pictures from five years ago when we met. It’s just cool that Country music does that. We are the only genre of music that has anything like that where fans can go and interact directly with the artists and have one-on-one face time with them.
CB: Tell me a little bit about “Drunk Last Night,” the new single.
CT: I think “Drunk Last Night” is a lyric we can all relate to. When we all first heard the song, we were like, “Yes, this is a song for us."
A lot of people hear a title and automatically think it’s a drinking song. We went through some of that with “Crazy Girl.” A lot of people saw the title and went “Oh, I know what this song is about,” and I think they were wrong.
I think people will find this is not the standard drinking song. It is all about, I hate to sum it up as drunk dialing, but it is kind of like the thought of doing that and alcohol feeding that desire a little bit more than in daily life.
It is also a song that we went in the studio and recorded (and) as soon as we finished the session, we could go out and play (it) live right now because it’s a great track, it’s rocking, it’s in our wheelhouse and we actually did. We started playing it at the very beginning of the Chesney tour before it was even picked as a single. The crowd really seemed to dig it and now here it is, going to be a single. Good stuff.
CB: Do you guys know or do you have a feeling when you have a hit or when you hear a hit presented to you?
CT: Yeah. I think sometimes you hear a song, sometimes people say the song gives them chills and they know that’s the one. Sometimes you get that feeling in your gut. When you hear a song sometimes, you write a lyric and you feel that, it is almost like that feeling of falling in love. Your chest kind of swells.
When multiple people feel that way at the same spot or for the same song, then I don’t know if anybody can guarantee a hit, but you know that it is at least a lyric or a song that people can relate to and I think typically good songs are universal in that sort of way.
CB: I loved your “The Cuss Jar” video — I could buy a house if I implemented that process. I wanted to know if you had bought anything fun with the money?
CT: No, actually I think that era ended. The jar got too full and I think we used that jar for laundry money one day when we stopped somewhere on the road and had a few days off and emptied the whole thing for band and crew’s laundry. Then we got too lazy to keep up with it.
CB: What has been your craziest tour story recently?
CT: I think playing Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on the Chesney tour was probably the craziest thing because we are from Dallas and we have played every tiny bar around the stadium. To just get up on stage at the biggest stadium in America was totally wild. All of our families were there; it was craziness.
CB: That’s such a special moment, I am sure you have plenty of those all the time. Do you do anything special yourself to keep the tour memories? Do you take photos or journals? Some bands blog or journal and do things to keep it fresh.
CT: Yeah, we have been fortunate on this tour, since the beginning of this year, we have had a guy out on the road with us that has started doing social media. Mainly he is taking pictures. Since January, this whole thing has been documented and we really appreciate that.
It is definitely hard for us to get good photos when we are on stage playing, when we are really in the moment, because we are playing, so he is out there doing that. This is the biggest tour we have ever done and just the momentum that this year is building, we are just happy about that.
CB: What does a typical day look like for you?
CT: On the Chesney tour when we are doing stadiums like we are doing today, we will go out and do a tailgating event, at 1 or so in the afternoon, we will all get into some golf carts and we will go out to where all the fans are tailgating and they will bombard us with jello shots and beer bongs and the local foods they have.
We hang out with them for an hour or two then we will start doing radio events where we will play a couple songs acoustic, sitting on our bus or backstage for various winners. Then we will do a meet and greet for about 60-100 people. Then, we will grab a bite to eat around then. Then we hit the stage and rock out for about an hour.
After that, we will go hang out with some radio folks or some friend that are in town and wind down about the time Kenny hits the stage so we can watch him. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty unreal.
CB: If you could trade places for anyone for about a month, who would it be?
CT: Right now it feels like we are living the dream. I think the four of us are really happy with what is going on in our careers right now. We have had some national success. It feels like we have broken out of being a regional band and it feels like we are on the cusp of something more than that. It’s a great time for Eli Young Band and it is important for us to enjoy this. I probably wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone right now.
CB: What can the fans look for from you guys tonight in Cincinnati?
CT: We try to always bring a high-energy show. We were playing a show last night and there was this older gentleman almost in front row sitting in his chair arms crossed and it looked like he wasn’t really enjoying himself. About halfway through our set he leaned over to his wife and he points at us and he goes, “Those guys are workin’ up there.” Then he smiled real big.
We want to bring that energy. We want to get on stage and have a good time and fire up the crowd. We go on right after Kacey Musgraves. Kacey is real cool and laidback and all that when she does her thing and it’s great. Then we get to come in and kick the audience in the butt a little bit.
During our set we have some new music in there and some cover songs I think gets the crowd up and clapping. After that Eric (Church) comes up and burns it down. Then Kenny Chesney comes out and the place goes nuts.
One of Cincy’s more popular Pop Punk bands has decided to call it quits. But first, they're giving fans some new music and one final blow-out show to remember them by.
The quintet Loudmouth has played well-attended gigs regularly around town for the past half decade or so, eventually becoming headliners of self-booked multi-band shows at places like Madison Theater in Covington. Tonight, the group returns to the club for its farewell show and the release party for its final album, the eight-song Future Boredom.
The band is splitting because guitarist Mike Ulanski took a job teaching English in Abu Dhabi.
I sent Loudmouth a few questions about their experiences as a band in Greater Cincinnati and their individual plans moving ahead. The tight knit group of pals got together and answered them as a band.
CityBeat: You guys have your last album coming out at the farewell show. Tell me a little about Future Boredom. Was it material you were working on before you decided to split or did you know you were splitting and went in the studio to record these final tunes?
Loudmouth: The songs were written or were in the process of being written before Mike announced that he accepted the job offer, but we all knew this was our last record when we went into the studio. The toughest decisions we faced were which songs to record, and how many we could afford to do without sacrificing the quality of each songs production. Tim and Mike were writing lots of songs at the time, but their styles were heading in two different directions, which can be seen on Future Boredom.
The songs weren’t written about the break up, but they were recorded as if they were the last songs we’d ever do, which means we couldn’t afford to leave anything unsaid. Between Eric Tuffensdam’s (Moonlight Studios) expertise and our previous studio work with him, we definitely got what we wanted out of this record, a definitive and uncompromised collection of our best written songs.
CB: You guys had a great run of about four or five years. What are you most proud of from your time playing around the area?
LM: We’ve been fortunate enough to share a stage with just about every one of the bands we grew up idolizing, but opening for NOFX takes the cake on moments that we’ll remember forever. The proud moment there was that the 2000 people crammed into the Madison Theater didn’t boo us off the stage like NOFX crowds are prone to do.
But besides that, we have a lot to be proud of, and more importantly a lot to be thankful for. None of the amazing moments we had as a band would have existed without the help of some amazing people. Frank Heulfeld and Kevin McNamee with the Madison Theater, and before that the Mad Hatter, Rome and the Clifton Heights Music Festival (which we’ve only missed one since the beginning of the festival because we were on tour), Rich and the entire Southgate House staff, Adam and CincyPunk Fest, the staff at the Madison Theater, who among other things, talked the cops out of arresting Tim seconds before we hit the stage, Chris Joselyn and Brian Carothers for all their help booking tours.
Above all else, and we mean this with all sincerity, the thing that makes all of us proud and grateful is the support we’ve gotten from day one. We’ve never, not exaggerating, played a show where people didn’t dance by the end of our set. We came up in an age where kids were too cool to dance at shows, and we’ve watched so many great bands play killer sets to a bunch of stone faced hipsters gently bobbing their heads in jaded approval. Those kids got pushed to the back of the crowd when we played, and we couldn’t be more proud to have that kind of effect on people. All that dancing and moshing and shouting of our lyrics translates that people get it, and what’s more, they actually like it, and nothing is more gratifying then having that kind of connection with your friends and fans.
CB: Anything you would have done differently?
LM: Tour. Tour all the time. We did three tours; the last one to Florida was our most successful, but touring would be the No. 1 priority if we could do anything differently. We probably could have been more business savvy and networked a little more, too.
CB: What's been the low point?
LM: The worst show we ever played happened at the Blue Rock Tavern in Northside. There were a lot of people out that night and we were headlining and everything that could have gone wrong did. The P.A. kept over heating, it was 900 degrees and Mike’s guitar broke four songs in, and there was no replacement. We had to just stop. It was embarrassing and people got pissed.
Moving out of Loudhouse and losing that as a place to party and throw shows was also a bummer. We had to pay for a practice space again, we lost our afterparty, which had become a huge part of our shows, and, of course, we couldn’t invite a bunch of awesome bands to play the basement. The Bike House died shortly after that, and it seemed like Cincinnati’s basement scene sort of dried up all at once. We went from a city who had an entire weekend fest dedicated to basements to having no real basement venues to speak of. That was definitely a bummer.
Shortly after that Sam Duff left the band and the months leading up to and following that time were pretty rough. We practiced in a moldy closet sized room in the back of the Mad Hatter, we weren’t sure who was going to play bass, how we could afford to tour; it was a cold wet winter and things were just all around crappy.
CB: Can we expect future musical projects from the Loudmouth members? Any concrete plans as of yet?
LM: None of us will ever stop playing music, but where, how and with who is bound to change. Tim, Adam Bret and Chris have already talked about their next project and things are in the works.
Mike will be playing acoustic Journey covers at an open mic in Abu Dhabi to pay rent.
CB: What can people expect from the last blow out concert from Loudmouth?
LM: You’ll have to come to find out.
Tonight's 9 p.m., all-ages show features a great support bill: The Frankl Project, Horsecop, Situation Red and The Milky Way Persuasion. Tickets are $5.
Visit www.loudestmouth.com for more on the group and to sample some tunes.
Classic Rock band Styx originated in the 1970’s and enjoyed hits like “Lady” and “Come Sail Away." Today, while they may not have the exact pieces of the original band from the late ’70s intact, Styx travels the globe annually to give a show similar that of its early days, though these days the group is fronted by J.Y. Young.
CityBeat recently spoke with Styx keyboard player and vocalist Lawrence Gowan about his musical influences and what led him to the band 14 years ago. Styx performs at Riverbend Music Center tomorrow (Tuesday) night with fellow classic rockers REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent.
CityBeat: First off, have you had any memorable Cincinnati experiences on the tour over the past few years?
Lawrence Gowan: They are all incredibly memorable. The audience there has always been fantastic for us. One of the experiences I remember was the first time we played Cincinnati and I saw that classic fountain downtown. The last couple of times, we stayed on both sides of the river finally now so I have gotten to know a little bit more of the town just by walking around. The audience reaction in Cincinnati is always tremendous for Styx. We are really geared up and really looking forward to the 26th of June.
CB: You were one of the later members to join the band in the ’90s. Were you a Styx fan growing up playing music?
LG: I loved Classic Rock. I loved Progressive Rock particularly and Styx was the only really successful band outside of Britain to make a great mark in that style of music, so yeah I loved the whole genre of music they were playing and I loved the band. Funny enough, I had a long solo career with a number of albums in Canada that were never released in the States but I was always very aware of Styx. I did a couple of shows with them in 1997. There was something in the air that kind of felt like we were going to connect again in the future and I am entering my 14th year with the band now.
CB: When you joined the band, was there any initiation or hazing they put you through?
LG: Yes of course there was. You actually had to cross the river Styx which I don’t recommend for everyone.
CB: You are a classically trained pianist.
LG: Yes I am.
CB: How do you think that better prepared you to be in a Rock band?
LG: I always find that Classical music inspires or makes its way into a lot of the melodic content of some of the best Rock music. The moment I heard “Eleanor Rigby”, with the Classical string quartet playing through that song, I realized the profound connection between both styles.
Both styles are not very afraid to be very grandiose when they need to be and cover a great emotional spectrum. It’s funny, I remember reading (that) Elton John and Rick Wakeman particularly had gone to the Royal Academy in London, and in Toronto they have the Royal Conservatory which is the same pattern, the same message of teaching so I wanted to go through that. I really love it and I still do. Before we go on stage every single night I am backstage playing some Classical piece just to get my chops together and get my head ready for the show.
CB: You had mentioned and you were a pretty large solo artist before you joined the band. What was the biggest transition from being on your own and being in other bands to being in a band like Styx?
LG: Learning to play with others. It’s a completely different dynamic when you are a solo artist and you have got the band behind you. You have a string of hit songs that you are responsible to play every single night and it all kind of falls on your shoulders.
With Styx, I love this as well because it is a break from that entirely because I am on stage with five other frontmen who are all very capable of commanding the stage on their own. We trade off on who is up front in every single song, and even within a song there may be several sections where section after section the strongest dynamic on stage is being traded off. I love that and it is a completely different thing. I love just being the keyboard player at some points in the band. It’s great.
CB: Have you ever been starstruck?
LG: In my life? Well, let me see now — yeah, I guess a couple of times sure. When I made my second solo album, I got a chance to record at Ringo Starr’s home near London, England, in Ascot, England. It was the house where John Lennon had recorded “Imagine” and when I went to the door the first day with the producer — it was a home studio there he was letting us use — (and) he actually answered the door. I remember finding it difficult to bring words to my mouth which usually isn’t that hard of a thing for me to do. That was quite an experience. I remember it took me a few minutes to realize I wasn’t in a scene from A Hard Day’s Night but actually talking to a guy in his house.
CB: There is a lot of debate now about Rock music in general and how it has changed so much. Other forms of music are coming to the forefront. Do you think Rock & Roll music is a dying art?
LG: That is a tough one, isn’t it? I have heard that kicked around most of my life. I think we can agree now that Rock music was the big musical statement for the last half of the 20th century, the electrification of music and the fact that Rock makes such a gigantic sound and changed what people embraced as popular music. I don’t think it is going to ever go away now because we have history on our side. There has been 50 years of it or more so I think it is a style of music that is going to continue to evolve and to dig into different areas.
I think you can trace a lot of the newer things you are talking about, trace it back to that gigantic statement that Rock was in the last half of the 20th century and I think it will be embraced and loved my millions for years to come because just like people still love Jazz or they love Country or they love Classical music or Ragtime; it is a style of music and a way of performing that I can’t see it entirely slipping off the planet any time soon.
CB: Do you keep journals or any kind of history of the tours over the years, memorable things for you?
LG: The best history I kept for a number a years was every night at the end of shows I took a Polaroid picture on stage or took three or four of them and tossed some of them out to the audience but I’d keep one for myself. My wardrobe case is stuffed with all these Polaroid pictures because we have played over 1500 shows together since I joined the band. That is a fantastic journal. You know what they say about pictures and words. They do tell a huge story over the course of time. It is funny, last night in Kansas City at the end of the show when I am reaching down and shaking people’s hands and somebody threw a picture up at me of the first year I was in the band and we had a great laugh backstage after because we realized there are old pictures of us now together. It was back when we did a little acoustic set in the middle of the show. My best documentation of the shows is that collection of Polaroids.
CB: I am a music photographer so I have got years of histories of bands and it is, I think, the best way to tell a story.
LG: It kind of is. I like putting my thoughts on paper very much but that usually morphs into becoming a song. I find that just what pictures evoke and the flood of memories you can get from them it can be astounding every time you look at them particularly when you are in a heightened state like being on stage in front of 10,000 people, the feeling of that moment is well captured.
CB: Any regrets over the years?
LG: I think like any human being there are things you are going to regret I suppose but it is a useless endeavor because they all kind of amount to where you are today and I like where I am today so I really can’t waste much time on that. I am sure one day on my death bed I will think, “You know, maybe I could have been a hockey player.”
CB: You guys are playing over a 100 shows a year, huge amounts of time on the road. Are there any plans to slow down?
LG: Not really. There is such an insatiable demand for Styx to play around the world and I have got my solo shows back up and doing a number of those in Canada every year. I think I enjoy it now more than I ever did and I am in a band of like-minded people. We have no plans to do that. We plan to keep pushing as hard as we can for as long as we can. Really, the only real question for us is how we find time to make another full album and we are kind of coming up with novel ways of being able to come up with that at present.
CB: I know Ted Nugent is on tour with you guys this time and he has been very vocal all the time about political views and gotten in trouble the last few months. Do you have any election picks for us this year?
LG: As the only Canadian that is involved in this whole thing, I think that is the easy way to duck out of the U.S. political debate and the hot question. I have a feeling that it is between Obama and Romney. That is my big prediction.
CB: What can the fans expect from the show next week?
LG: We are going to ram as many Styx classic hits at them as we can in the hour and 20 minutes we are playing. We will also throw in one or two of the album cuts from The Grand Illusion. We noticed there are songs on that record that were never singles that have become great favorites of a lot of the audience so we like to include one of the more unusual pieces in the show as well.
CB: What do you do on your down time on the road?
LG: Well I usually, myself, I like to do something to keep myself in shape so I am always doing a bit of yoga. Although I am the keyboard player, I am a huge guitar lover so I am usually practicing my chops in the hotel room. We also do all the social media things like Facebook and our website. They need to be looked at every few days just to see where things are and I love to go for walks around cities. That is one of the things I enjoy about Cincinnati. As I said, the last couple of times, walking across that bridge across the river is one of my favorite pastimes in that city. I am a walker.
CB: It is amazing how much time you spend on Facebook and the internet that is lost doing those things.
LG: It is a nice way, it is an easy way, depending on how you treat it, to feel like you can engage with people you really don’t have the opportunity to with the shows because we are too busy getting ourselves back to the tour bus afterwards. We can shake a few hands. It is a way to kind of feel a connection to people on a human level where we happen to be in a career that it is hard to do that just because of the demands of the day.
CB: Are any current bands influencing you now or what are you listening to?
LG: There are so many things I have listened to lately, I heard a fantastic band from England recently called Everything Everything. Todd, our drummer turned me onto them. I like Keane. I like them being keyboard players. I like My Chemical Romance, I kind of dig that band a bit. There is a Metal band I really like called Children of Bodom. That is the kind of stuff I have listened to lately.
Everclear has joined forces with other acts that may be best described as ’90s Rock and Pop groups for the Summerland Tour 2012 to get rid of the stereotype and prove their music still resonates today. Everclear saw its biggest fame with the release of the 1995 album Sparkle and Fade and the chart topper “Santa Monica.” The band has continued representing its West Coast roots and just released its eighth album, Invisible Stars.
CityBeat spoke with Everclear frontman Art Alexakis and discussed the Summerland tour. We also made Alexakis face a lighthearted game of quick-fire questioning which led to some very comical and real responses. Everclear will be performing at the PNC Pavilion at Riverbend tomorrow (Wednesday) alongside Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Marcy Playground and Lit.
CityBeat: You guys have been out on tour for a few weeks since June. What is the craziest band on the tour?
Art Alexakis: The craziest band on the tour? Crazy in which way? My band has probably got more time with therapists. Does that count? I don’t know. I’ve got to tell you, every band is crazy in their own way. The Sugar Ray guys are just knuckleheads because they are playing ’80s music and ’90s Punk and singing it at the top of their lungs before every show. Lit are the party dogs. The Gin Blossoms are just old school pros and sweet guys and we are just a bunch of knuckleheads. I don’t know. It depends on what time and what day you are looking.
CB: I have been listening to your new album, Invisible Stars. My favorite song on the album was “Santa Ana Wind” and I wanted to see if you could tell me the story behind that song.
AA: It’s funny because that is one of the co-writes on the record. I had wanted to write a song about moving back to L.A. and I don’t force things. If it doesn’t come, I don’t force it, because it always sounds disingenuous when you do. A friend of mine, David Walsh who is in a band with my old bass player, came by my studio just to hang out a little bit. I remember him sitting there and he picks up the guitar and goes, “I got this music that I just can’t figure out a melody or words to it” and he just started playing it and I just started singing the melody. Within two hours, we had a song.
I took it home that night and finished it, finished all the words and got all the nuances and then we went in and recorded it a week later. It is my emotional favorite song on the record, it is definitely my favorite, even though I love all the songs. I am really proud of this record, but I am glad you like that song. That song means a lot to me. It’s weird because when I turned that song in, no one was talking about it as a single. I was kind of disappointed, but since the record came out, it has been the No. 1 song people write me about on Twitter and … Facebook. That is the No. 1 song, I think, that and “Jackie Robinson” is probably neck and neck. I am glad it resonated with you. I like that a lot.
CB: You guys have had produced major hits. I grew up with your music and love you guys. When you are writing, do you know when you have a hit?
AA: That is a real good question. I think a lot of people would be hesitant to answer that. I know when a song writes itself. I don’t know if you are familiar with my song “I’ll Buy You a New Life,” but that song basically wrote itself in like two hours and “Santa Monica” kind of wrote itself like that, and “Santa Ana Wind” kind of wrote itself like that, and “Jackie Robinson.” I had the idea for it in the music but I didn’t write the lyrics until later, but when I wrote them they came out in like about an hour.
Songwriting is the creative thinking. The craft part is easy for me but the creative parts, you can’t control it.
CB: There are definitely political tones on the new album, and I know you can be political at times. We are heading into a big election. Are you planning to do any campaign work or work with any candidates?
AA: No one has asked me. I am a tried and true Democrat and a huge fan of Barack Obama, was in 2008 and still am. I think he has done a great job. He is trying to climb a mud hill uphill, straight uphill, and he is doing it. It’s a hard job. I sure as hell wouldn’t want that job. I’ll campaign if people ask. It’s not like I go out of my way. I am political because I believe everybody should be political. It is our role. It is one of our key responsibilities; it is like falling in love or working or eating. Voting is so important. I feel like it is our right and our obligation as an American. I have always felt that.
CB: You guys are going out with all of these iconic ’90s bands and touring. What do you feel is the state of Rock music today?
AA: I don’t know. That’s a big, kind of $10 dollar question I don’t have the answer to. From my perspective, one of the reasons I wanted to start this tour, the reason I called Mark (McGrath of Sugar Ray) to get involved and be my partner and do this thing with me was I felt there was a need for this. I was talking to a lot of people who felt very disenfranchised by contemporary Rock and Pop and felt a huge connection with the ’90s era more than from a nostalgic point of view. This type of guitar Rock resonates with them and resonates with me as well. I think those are the people that are picking up on our record. We aren’t on a major (label). We don’t have major promotion. It seems like they are picking up every week which is bizarre because they usually go down at first. It just shows me, especially the way word of mouth on this tour has been, that my hunches were right. This isn’t nostalgia. This is a valid connection with people and music. People still feel excited about it and have a great time, and I think that is what it is all about.
CB: I just got a new table game and I have “Lightning Round”-sort of type of questions for you.
AA: You just what type of game?
CB: It’s a table game. You pick it up and ask questions. You should get one for the bus. Have you ever ran away from home?
AA: Have I ever ran away from home? OK. Yes. You should do your homework, missy.
CB: I know. I did. That is why it is kind of funny that I drew that one first.
AA: That is why you were laughing when you asked the question, you already knew the answer too.
CB: Sort of. What habit would you like to break?
AA: I can’t say what just came to mind.
CB: Yes you can. We print anything. That’s the point of this. Don’t think.
AA: The habit I want to break is my aversion to world peace. That didn’t work, did it? The habit I’d like to break is hitting on my drummer. I think it bothers him, makes him feel uncomfortable.
CB: I thought you were going to say getting married or something along those lines.
AA: I see where you are going. Maybe it is getting married to women half my age.
CB: That may be a good habit to break.
AA: I see. Just live with the band.
CB: Have you ever been fired?
AA: Yes. I have been fired, several times.
CB: What adjectives do you hope describe you at 75?
AA: Alive. Is that an adjective? That’s not really an adjective, is it? Virile. Exciting. It’s a working dream. It’s not that far away. 75 is probably a long way off for you; it is not that far off for me.
CB: I’m not that young. I’m 36.
AA: You’re not that young? You’re older than my wife but you are younger than my ex-wife.
CB: What is your best excuse when pulled over for speeding?
AA: To be honest with you, I never make an excuse. I always come clean and I always get off. “I have no excuse officer. I was speeding. I was just excited to go where I want to go. I broke the law. I’m sorry. Give me the ticket.” I never get a ticket. The truth is good but being in a multi-platinum band probably helps too.
CB: I’ll try it but I don’t think it will work as well for me.
AA: When girls say that, they try to cry. My ex-wife, beautiful, she was beautiful, she was an actress and she would try to cry and get away out of tickets and she always got the ticket.
CB: I don’t cry. I just try to make up an excuse and that doesn’t work either. I am the worst driver.
AA: I believe you.
CB: What is the most unusual gift you ever received?
AA: My wife now, when we were dating, gave me the gift of a party on my birthday that was like a role playing game, you ever done that?
CB: I have done murder mysteries.
AA: This was a murder mystery, but this was cool because I was a Columbian drug lord and she was a Columbian drug lord and we became partners in killing and murdering and it was awesome. It’s a game. It’s awesome.
CB: I love it. Obviously, I am playing the table game with you right now. I like games.
AA: I think you are making this up off the top of your head.
CB: I am not. It is called Table Topics: Questions to Start Great Conversations. Any crazy Cincinnati stories from the past?
AA: Oh yeah, but I am not telling them to you.
AA: I have some really good Cincinnati stories. Just because.
I will tell you one. I was in my room and I was at some posh hotel and I was fooling around with some people and I hit the door and … I got that, what’s that called … Staph Infection.
Five Finger Death Punch will be one of the headlining acts of Rock on the Range, one of the nation’s biggest Hard Rock and Metal festivals that takes place in Columbus this weekend. FFDP has become known for its “active” show, encouraging crowd participation that can get on the edge of out-of-hand at times. The band released its third studio album last year, American Capitalist, which quickly shot to the top of all Rock and Metal charts.
CityBeat caught up with drummer Jeremy Spencer to preview next week’s Rock on the Range and discuss the grueling nature of the industry (especially as a drummer) and the advice that has driven him to be in the position of leading the rhythm and timing of Five Finger Death Punch. FFDP performs Saturday night on the main RotR stage in Columbus.
CityBeat: I was excited to talk to you because I know you just won the Golden God award for Best Drummer. How was that experience for you?
Jeremy Spencer: It was really great because I am a fan of all those drummers in the category and to be put in the same category was humbling already, and then to win, it was “Wow, this is really cool.” We couldn’t be at the show because we were out on tour. I got a call saying, “You know he won and if you could put together a video for the acceptance that would great.” So I made this really ridiculous acceptance speech video where I dressed up as redneck fans mocking me giving a speech, so I did a multi-character video for winning the award and it was really funny. It is all over the internet in case you get a chance to see it. Everyone got a kick out of it, but overall it was a really humbling experience and really cool.
CB: You guys just made another trip to Kuwait as well. I know it is really important to the band to support the troops. What was your most memorable experience this time around?
JS: We got to hang out with the troops a lot during the day and talk to people and we do extensive signings for them. The shows were pretty crazy. They don’t get a lot of entertainment over there so they are really excited when we get to come and play. And it is exciting for us too because they are such huge supporters of the band so it is the least we can do to give back to them because they sacrifice so much to be away from their families. It was very cool.
The only thing that wasn’t cool is that there is an 18-hour plane flight to and from Kuwait. That is the only brutal part but the rest of it was incredible.
CB: I actually did see some of the YouTube videos from the shows over there that were posted and they looked like they were crazy with the crowd surfing and the moshing and they really go into it.
JS: They really do. They get after it. It’s insane, like I said it is all pent up energy so they really get after it.
CB: I have listened to the album since it came out but in a lot of the recent songs there is serious hardcore drumming action. How do you stay in shape and how do you condition for that kind of hitting?
JS: I do a lot of stretching. That is the thing I didn’t do much growing up but now as I am getting older I have realized that stretching is vital. It is almost like doing yoga really. I use hard foam rollers to roll out my muscles and get the knots out. Stretching is key; any drummers that are doing this I would recommend doing that starting as young as you can. I also don’t party anymore. I try to take care of myself. I try to eat things that are relatively healthy. So that is pretty much what I do.
CB: I think that is a misconception for a lot of people. I talk to a lot of bands from a lot of different genres and I think people think the road is a continuous party and for some bands it is, but for a lot of bands it is about having a healthy lifestyle because it is so grueling.
JS: It really is. We are kind of like athletes. We have to get up there and perform for 75 minutes sometimes or 90 minutes and it takes a toll on you physically. We are not playing Pop music. It is pretty aggressive. It is physically demanding.
When we started out, we definitely participated in that party lifestyle. I am one to try it, but if you are going to be successful and have a long career then you can’t get wrapped up in that stuff. Rarely does it work so I figured it was time to treat this like a job. It is a job but it is a great job.
CB: Let’s talk about Rock on the Range. I have seen you play there before a couple years ago. It is always a good time. Is there anything that you are looking forward to specifically around that show?
JS: Last time, we had one of the biggest crowd surfing experiences that Rock on the Range had ever experienced and it is well documented on YouTube. So we will see how crazy the fans can get there this time. We certainly enjoy it. Every time we play there, it has been great. And you know, all the other great bands, and hanging out with our friends, it has always been a positive experience and I look forward to getting back there and doing it again this year.
CB: I was there last time. I am a photographer so I am always down in front for the beginning parts so it is always a little sketchy with the crowd surfing for us.
JS: Absolutely, you might want to wear a helmet or something.
The inaugural Kanrocksas Music Festival took over Kansas City's Kansas Speedway last weekend, with headlining performances by Eminem, Muse, The Black Keys and many others. Impressive and well-organized in its debut year, the festival is being called a mini-Lollapalooza, as many of the same bands performed as they made their way to and from the Chicago fest (held the same weekend). Along with Eminem's epic performance, Bowling Green, Ky., AltRock sensation Cage the Elephant was an energetic highlight. The band's current tour in support of Thank You Happy Birthday (featuring the hit "Shake Me Down"), kicked off in Cincinnati in March when CtE also became part of Cincinnati Reds history, leading fans through the first "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" of the season on opening day. CityBeat sat down with lead guitarist Lincoln Parish and rhythm guitarist Brad Schultz (pictured) before they took Kansrocksas' stage to talk about that Cincinnati visit and more.
Red is a Christian Rock band that has ascended into the mainstream alongside Rock acts like Papa Roach and Korn. The band members let their faith creep into their music and their message, but do not let it define them. Earlier this year Red released its fourth studio album, Release the Panic. The album debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard album chart, showing their strength as a national act (Red's previous release, Until We Have Faces, debuted at No. 2 in 2011).
CityBeat recently caught up with Anthony Armstrong, the band’s guitar player, who spoke about the band’s inspirations and vision for the future of Rock music. Red is playing on Friday at King’s Island in Cincinnati for Spirit Song 2013, which runs Thursday-Saturday and features some of the biggest names in Contemporary Christian music.
CityBeat: I saw you guys at (Columbus, Ohio, Hard Rock fest) Rock on the Range. What was your favorite Rock on the Range moment this year?
Anthony Armstrong: That’s a tough one. You know what is really sad, our good buddies Sevendust played right before us and we didn’t get to see their set so I was really disappointed. Papa Roach put on an incredible show every single time they take the stage, so I would say they are up there as one of the best. It was cool to see Bush. That was really cool to feel like I was in high school and to see those guys doing their thing. When they started playing “Come Down” I felt like I was right there back watching. There was an old movie from the ‘90s called Fear with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg, and I think Bush was the entire soundtrack to that movie. I just felt like I was back in the ‘90s and high school listening to Bush records. It was cool.
CB: You guys play Christian music and are a Christian band. Is it ever hard to be on tour or at these festivals in this non-Christian atmosphere?
AA: It’s never for us. I think media outlets and sources, even in interviews like this, people are so curious about that. They ask the question because they want to understand and know the answer to how we deal with that. For us, we don’t see it any different than if we are playing a Christian show. We are all just people in general. You are going to see crazy stuff happen at those shows too. We like to hangout and we like to have a good time. We don’t get too out of control. We hang out with all these guys. We love these guys and they love us. We just show them we aren’t any different than them because we love God and we believe in God. We don’t feel like it should be something that draws a line or creates a wall that we can’t get past. It is just what we believe. There are plenty of guys up on those stages in all the different bands that believe different stuff. I say come see one of our shows. We are going to do exactly what those bands do just as good if not better. We aim high and we really try not to focus on that kind of stuff. It just complicates things. We are just a Rock band.
CB: I have seen you tour three times over the years and you never look any different or sound any different than the other bands. It is just a different message through the words.
AA: Yeah, that’s the thing with the message. We are not going in there with some sort of agenda. We are not going into these shows with some sort of recruiting mentality. We are just going to play some Rock songs. Wherever these songs reach, wherever they are in their life, if these songs inspire them, then we did our job. That’s all we care about doing. We’ve done many of the things people standing in the crowd are doing. We know they don’t work out for us. We know they are bad for us. We know the one thing that works for us is our faith. A lot of people want to hold you over the coals for it because they think it’s lame; they think it’s cheesy and you are not hardcore if you believe in God. I know more crazy, jacked-up people that believe in God than I know that don’t believe in God. We are the ones that are here because we need God because we can’t get out of our own way. A lot of the guys that turn to God and live that lifestyle were at that point. Brian (“Head” Welch) from Korn is a perfect example of that. The guy was literally on his death bed constantly getting high. He reached out and said, “If you are real I want to know. I want you to show it to me.” And God did that for him. That was just a cool story for him to hear.
CB: I know you tour a lot over the years. Do you take time out to write as a band or do you write when you are on the road?
AA: We write so much it’s ridiculous. It’s a love-hate relationship. It takes more love than anything. It’s really cool. We just released a record. We probably won’t really start diving into writing until about January or February of 2014. We usually put records out about every two and a half years. That’s about the time you start digging into the new stuff. You take this first part of a new record release to key in on the new songs and translate and see how everything goes, start paying attention to what is going on in the world. You start collecting the inspiration you need to write another record. That’s one of the things we’ve always focused on.
CB: One of my favorite songs that you guys have was your first single, “Perfect Life” — could you tell me the story behind that song?
AA: Yeah, we were out in L.A. with our new producer, we had never used him before, his name was Howard Benson. We had three records with the same guy that we still love. We will probably do another record with Rob Graves. It was just a transition for us. We wanted to try something new. We were out there in the Hollywood hills hanging out at Howard’s huge house. You could probably fit our tour bus in there three times. We were hanging out on his back patio talking about the record and what we were about to do. He said, “Check this out guys,” and we look out and there is Kim Kardashian in the compound in front of us. We started talking about that TV show and that transitioned into what it is really like out in Hollywood and what the media projects as what life really is on the Jersey Shore and all this other stuff. What life is all about when you can have these things and be this glamorous and have this lifestyle. This is the perfect life. This is what you want. This is what you can attain. We were like, “This is complete bull. You can be happy no matter what you are doing” It’s about chasing down the things people think are important. The perfect life is projected to us in a certain way. For us we are saying, find out for yourself. What is the perfect life for you? It shouldn’t be what other people do. It should be what you do.
CB: Is it hard being on the road with your brother?
AA: No, it’s not. It’s amazing. It’s really cool because in a band, when you have a band of four individuals, when you have a fight or an argument it gets pretty awkward. Randy and I are like the unofficial leaders of Red. We take care of everything from the administration to the music. I am really involved with the writing side of things. Randy is really involved in managing our affairs. When something goes down, Randy and I can usually sort it out between the two of us. We will discuss things together as a band and a group of guys. Ultimately, Randy and I can bounce things off each other and get a little heated but the guys just know we are brothers and that’s the way brothers are. We have been competitive towards each other our whole lives and now we are in a rock band together. We have never been separated. We have always been together. We went to college together. We roomed together for four years. We might as well have dated the same girls. It was just wild. I love the dynamic. They say never mix business with family, and I haven’t really experienced it being a bad thing with me and Randy being in the band together.
CB: I hear also that you cause the occasional accident over the years on stage. Any new accidents lately? I am personally surprised Michael doesn’t hurt himself more jumping around the way he does.
AA: We are more afraid of the fire now. We are pretty scared of getting burned. We have had a couple near accidents. If you get too close to the flames, it singes all the hair off your arms. Nothing has been like it used to be with injuries. I hit Michael in the head twice, sent him to the hospital once. I opened his eye and had seven staples in his head with my guitar. My brother has hit me in the face with his bass guitar and cut my eye wide open. Rock & Roll.
CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?
AA: I have a custom 24 PRS that I named Vegas after my Bulldog. It was my first PRS guitar they made for me and only me. I have a love affair with that guitar.
CB: A lot of people right now are saying that Rock is dead and Rock music is dying, that Country is the new thing selling out the stadium, it’s the new Rock. Do you believe that?
AA: I don’t believe it because when I went to Rock on the Range and I saw it is alive and well. I don’t believe that Rock & Roll has its act together. We live in Nashville, Tenn. We see the CMA Awards and the CMT Awards. You see how it is such a different animal. It would be really cool to see Rock get its act together and have that sort of Rock N Roll Awards. The MTV Awards used to be about Rock. We don’t have anything specific to us. We don’t have anything specific to Rock Music in general. It’s the Grammys or we are part of something. I would love to see that sort of thing happen. Other than that, I don’t think in a million years the world would be livable without Rock N Roll. It’s something in Rock music makes you feel. It gets you fired up and people love that feeling. It’s like drugs.
CB: What current music is inspiring you guys or you personally?
AA: There is such great music right now. In Rock N Roll right now, I’d say, we are big Muse fans. We have always been huge Sevendust fans. When we first moved here, I think I had to buy their record three times because I listened to it over and over and over. We are inspired by not just the music. We get out on the road with these guys and see what kind of guys they are. They work their tails off. We are all scratching for our place and hoping things just work out and it is just cool to see other bands doing things we do.
CB: I am sure you guys are going to have a great set here in Cincinnati at Kings Island.
AA: They won’t let us use fire this weekend.
CB: I have seen your show with fire and without fire and it is always good.
AA: We consider it icing on the cake, another cool thing. We want to be able to stand alone without it. When we can use it, we use a lot of it. What is funny, Rock on the Range, this summer when we play festivals, we do 28 points of flames, 28 different nozzles of fire. It’s just fire but it is so much fun. It is such a cool thing.
CB: After that show, are you going back on tour this summer?
AA: Yeah. Right now, the summer is chalked full of festivals. We will play festival dates and it is really cool for us because we play the big late night stages where we can do the pyro and stuff. After that we will get into the fall and have a couple tour options but we are not allowed to talk about the yet because they haven’t been announced. We are going overseas. We are going to Europe for three weeks right before Thanksgiving. We have some stuff happening.
There is no denying the legendary status of Black Sabbath. They are all Rock & Roll superstars, defining Hard Rock and Metal, both as forms of music and lifestyles. Without Sabbath, we would not have seen the likes of the Metal acts of today, like Slipknot and Tool, or fellow legends like Motorhead and Megadeth, as well as much of Grunge (and all of Stoner Metal).
Frontman Ozzy Osbourne does not see Black Sabbath as a Metal band. At a pre-tour press conference Osbourne elaborated on this: “I’ve never really liked that—- using that word 'Heavy Metal' — because ’80s Metal was all Poison, Motley Crue, Ozzy and so on, and the ’70s was a different thing, you know? And it got different in the ’90s. I mean, it’s like it doesn’t have any musical connotations for me.”
The new Black Sabbath album, 13, is not a Metal album. It is more like their earliest work together, not the Paranoid or Masters of Reality years, but the time they were grinding it out as a heavy Blues band. This is, of course, not your typical Blues album, nor has Black Sabbath abandoned what made them the legends they have become.
What gave the band the inspiration to produce their first No. 1 album (yes, I repeat, first No. 1) was one simple concept, one simple word — freedom. Ozzy explains, “There’s a lot of free spirit, which is what (producer Rick Rubin) was looking for, I suppose. It must have been. We did very well, his idea of a Black Sabbath album.”
On Sunday night, Black Sabbath rolls into the Klipsch Music Center in Indianapolis. After nearly 45 years of Black Sabbath, a lot of lineup changes have been made. This is not a different lineup. This is the original crew (minus drummer Bill Ward).
This is Ozzy, clean, sober and still with that distinct sound that no one else in the business can touch. It is guitarist Tony Iommi, who beat cancer while the new album was being made, truly the “Ironman” of the band (as Osbourne refers to him). It is bassist and band lyricist Geezer Butler. Rumors are already flying that this may be their last tour together, so it will be a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.
Here are a few more snippets from the pre-tour press conference to get you fired up. The humbleness and pride really shined through in all of Ozzy’s answers.
Q: Hey, I remember back when Sabbath originally got back together in the late 90s and you guys did a lot of touring then into the next decade. The band had tried back then for a time to get a new record together and then it didn’t materialize. Can you put your finger on what made things different this go around that did enable you to come up with some pretty raw material?
Ozzy Osbourne: You know what? I was doing this television thing with The Osbournes back then, and I had my own career, and I suppose it was a clash of egos and it just didn’t feel right. We tried to force an album. In fact we did — we recorded a demo with a bunch of stuff, which is nothing like the way we used to do. We were forcing it out of ourselves. Whereupon this album, the 13 album (that) just kind of came out, we just clicked. I mean, you know when you’re in a band and you go into something that is working. You know, we didn’t have to force it. It just came naturally.
Q: When did you realize that?
Ozzy: There’s no answer - there’s no formula. There’s no magic — it just happens or it doesn’t. I wasn’t really into it (during the earlier attempt). They weren’t really into it and you can’t force it. It either comes or it doesn’t and I said before in the press that the reunion album was going to have to be something special, the most important album of my career.
When it comes out naturally and you get that tickling feeling in your spine and you know you're on a sort of that spiritual thing you sort of — you know that everything’s working right, you’re not forcing it.
Q: 13 has already proved to be very successful for the band. It’s the band’s first No. 1 album in the U.S. How does this feel after 45 years?
Ozzy: You know what? You’re asking the wrong guy, because when it went to No. 1 in England, it just went No. 1 in England, America, Germany, New Zealand and I’m like, "What?" I mean, I’m still kind of pinching myself, like I’m going to wake up and it’s all been a dream, because had this happened in 1972 after Paranoid, I’d have gone, “Oh, yes, OK.” But now after 45 years up the road and we get our first No. 1, it’s kind of a hard thing to swallow, you know? You just kind of — it’s great. I’m not saying I don’t want it to be No. 1, but I just don’t understand why now, you know? I mean, we’ve been around for a long time, in one way or another.
Q: OK, so now you’ve got the album that you wanted. What’s the live show going to be like?
Ozzy: You know, all I can say is a month or so ago we were in New Zealand, Australia and Japan, and it was astounding how the reception was. We’re going to do some old and we're going to do some new and it’s just kind of interesting to be able to do some new stuff because in the past I haven’t been able to do a lot of new stuff because of the fact that my range is too high and I couldn’t do onstage what I did in the studio.
But now on this, on 13, I sang it in a range that I could do most of them on stage so we did new things, “End of the Beginning”, “God is Dead?" and a couple of others, but we couldn’t do most of the cuts off the album, if you want to change them around and all. We’re not going to go and just do new stuff with very limited old stuff. We’re going to do “Paranoid,” “Black Sabbath,” a good mix of the old stuff as well as the new stuff.
Q: I wanted to see if you could talk about Tony Iommi, just how inspirational for you it was watching your friend battling cancer while making this album, and his courage.
Ozzy: You know, when he came down with cancer, it’s been the way of Sabbath. That is, we’d try to get something going again, and the last time, (original drummer) Bill Ward had a heart attack and we couldn’t do it then. The easiest part of getting back together with Black Sabbath and doing an album is just sitting down and just saying, “Yes, you know,” but then all kinds of crap gets flown in the works.
And Tony kept going. He said, “I’ve got this lump,” and I said, “You know what? If I were you, I’d go and get myself checked out, because you know in a way, it was what I said to Sharon — my wife Sharon went to get checked out early part of of 2000, and she found she had colon cancer, so she had to go and get it checked out.” So he came back and he said, they’ve found I’ve got lymphoma, and I go, 'This is unbelievable.' Every time we start to get going -—it’s like a curse, you know? And believe me, I know from firsthand with my wife that treatment for cancer is not like doing a line of coke and going to a disco. It knocks the crap out of you, you know? But fair play to Tony, it just came down to the studio.
The only thing we had to do was make it easier for him to get treatment. In other words, we started off at my studio in Calabasas, but we all moved to his studio in England, and we all stayed in a hotel for a while to accommodate him, and he would come down to the studio every day. I’d go, “Tony, you’re sure you’re okay to do this, man, are you ready?” And he goes, “No I'll do it," and he came down, he came up with the goods.
I thought my God, man, he is “Ironman.” You know, I mean, my hat goes off to him, because I mean, believe me, I don’t know if you have ever known anybody who had chemotherapy before, but that really knocks the life out of you, man.
Q: I’m just curious what the impetus was that — when you called Tony back in 2010 and said, you know, let’s get the band back together, I want to make another Sabbath album, what was going through your mind at that time?
Ozzy: I can’t really remember who called who. I think it originally was me and Tony doing an album and then we tried various bass lines and we tried the instruments out and we tried a whole bunch of people, and I don’t know who said, what’s Geezer up to and, you know, and it just kind of came together by accident and we all started to write stuff and it started to gel. Whereas we tried before and we all sat there and it just wouldn’t —- it … just wouldn’t work, you know.
But it came together very naturally and it wasn’t too long to where it was like, 'I like that, that’s pretty cool,' and so you can’t force anything, right? You can just, you can try and be Black Sabbath, but we all knew that we didn’t want to put an album out called Black Sabbath, just for the sake of us guys getting together and doing stuff together. At one point there was even talk like not calling it a Black Sabbath album, but eventually it rolled into itself.
Q: I wanted to ask about the lyrics on the album. Now I know Geezer has a big hand in that. How does the process work? Who create the lyrics?
Ozzy: Well, what happens is I get a melody, and I’ll just sing anything, and sometimes it can be like a beginning or a hook line or a couple of words that he gets inspiration from. He’s the main lyricist, although I wrote a couple of the sets of lyrics on the album, but Geezer gives Black Sabbath’s vocal message verbally. I mean, over the years, he’s given me some phenomenal lyrics, you know.
He’s just one of these guys that can do that. I get an idea like “God is Dead?” for instance. One day I was in the doctor’s office waiting room, and Time magazine was just sitting on the front with “God is Dead?” and I thought, 'Wow, that’s a good idea,' and I started singing that on the track, you know, the “God is Dead?” bit.
You know, I thought, 'They've flown planes into the World Trade Center under the name of religion and God and all this shit, and that is not my idea of what God should be.' My idea of what God should be is a good guy, you know? I don't think there's any good in killing people in the name of your God. And so Geezer — that was my idea — and Geezer took it to another level.
Q: Did you ever have to have discussions about things that he writes that you might not agree with?
Ozzy: No, no.
Q: Is there ever a back and forth?
Ozzy: He’s very careful. I mean, if you listen to the lyrics on “God is Dead?” at the end of the song it says, “I don’t believe that God is dead.” people just look at the face value of the title, and I know on this tour we’re going to have Bible thumpers and people picketing us and people telling us that we’re evil and all that. We kind of laugh at it, because people just go the face value (of) “God is Dead?" and it’s all about Satan and it’s just quite amusing, actually, because they don’t really know what they’re complaining about.
Q: This is just a little bit off-topic. In the movie God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, I noticed toward the end you were learning to drive. I just wanted to know what was going on with that.
Ozzy: See what happened, I got a driving license, bought a Ferrari, I bought an RA Spider, and the people would get out of the bloody road when Ozzy was driving, I’m telling you. I was always getting stopped by the cops or running into somebody else’s car, so one day I said to my wife, “You know what? I’m 64. I don’t really want to be found dead in a Ferrari.” I’ve survived this long of all my trials over my life. I don’t want to drive over a cliff in a car, so I haven't really been driving since I sold the Ferrari and the RA.
Lucero developed their unique sound — a mix of Country, Roots, Rock and Soul — in Memphis, Tenn., and provide a big production every night on the live stage. You will hear everything from a three guitar assault to a horn section to steel guitar pinings on the band's ninth (and so far most successful) album titled Women & Work.
CityBeat spoke with guitar player Brian Venable from the road to preview the band's show Wednesday in Cincinnati at Bogart’s.
CityBeat: I wanted to catch up with you guys to try to talk about the show that you have at Bogart’s on April 11.
Brian Venable: Well thank you. I am excited about that.
CB: I actually caught you guys at Orlando Calling this year. That was the first time I had seen the band live. It was an amazing show.
BV: Oh, thank you.
CB: I am kind of sad that the festival is not going to happen this year. They announced last week it wasn’t coming back.
BV: Is it going to be a different “Calling” in a different city?
CB: No, I think it just lost a lot of money. Unfortunately, that happens. It’s a lot of overhead.
I just wanted to start and ask you a couple questions about the album and yourself. I know you had the new album come out recently, Women & Work. Can you tell me the story behind the album name?
BV: I think it just sums up everything sometimes. It was more of a flip or a funny line, like “Hey what’s going on?” “Oh you know, women and work.” You are always doing something about work. You’re at work or you are working, and whether it’s your wife, your ex-wife, girlfriend, soon to be girlfriend, girl you met that night, there is always something involving a woman. I think it is kind of where we are right now. We are always on tour. We are always leaving our wives and girlfriends behind, trying to just make it all happen.
CB: Do they ever come out on the road with you?
BV: Every once in a while we will do a weekend. I have three kids so she can’t get away too much, but she’ll come out for a weekend every once in a while.
CB: Well you guys have a pretty large band to move around.
BV: Yeah, we have the bus right now.
CB: What is the best and worst thing about being on the road for you?
BV: Missing the kids. Everything that you know is at home. Some days it is nice to sit on the porch and hang out. But in the same breath, you play rock shows every night which is awesome and you tour with your friends and you get to see the country. There is good and bad in everything.
CB: I am originally from Tennessee and I spent a lot of time in Nashville and Memphis over the years and the music scene in both of those cities is incredible; there are huge amounts of talent that will probably never be discovered.
BV: That is always the thing with Memphis, there are always great bands that will be together for six months or a year and then they break up. Yeah, that is definitely a true statement on your part.
CB: What is your favorite track on the new album?
BV: I like the “Downtown” song but I also like “Sometimes.”
CB: Can you tell me the story behind one of those?
BV: “Downtown” is like the happy beginning. The night is full of promise I guess. You are getting dressed or you are having a few drinks, you are about to go downtown and hang out and do your thing. Nothing good or bad has happened but anything could happen, and I think that air of optimism is exciting to where we might end up hammered drunk at the police station or I meet my next wife of 30 years, you just don’t know. I think it is just that kind of feeling, where it is happy and a “let’s see what happens” feeling.
CB: You guys just played South by Southwest. Any crazy stories from Austin this year?
BV: Not really so much crazy. We did two shows a day for three days plus interviews and in-stores. It was pretty busy. It was exciting to get to play with Dinosaur Jr. Any chance that you get to play with people you listened to when you were younger and looked up to musically is always a fun thing.
CB: That was one of my other questions, do you have any current musical influences that are giving you inspiration today?
BV: We just did a five day run with Larry and His Flask. Those guys are amazing and really energetic and fun to watch. Todd Beene who plays pedal steel, he is in a band called Glossary. Their songs are awesome and their live show is great. They make good records. We have been really lucky to be able to play with all the people we like usually. We did 15 weeks with Social Distortion. You are able to grow up with a band and then get to see those people who started 30 or 40 years ago still make relevant music and be fresh. It is exciting to know that you can get to a certain age and you don’t fall back and rest on your laurels and still keep pushing.
CB: I love those guys.
BV: Personally, I listen to crazy Southern Metal and Modern Country right now.
CB: What is Southern Metal?
BV: Bands like Black Tusk and Weedeater. There are a lot of bands out of Atlanta, Ga., and Wilmington, NC, and that whole Southern coast has spawned a whole crazy group of bands. There is Coliseum in Louisville and Skeleton Witch in Ohio. They are pretty awesome if you like Metal.
CB: Can you tell me what your writing process is as a band? Do you guys write together, lyrics separately, music later? What is your process?
BV: With the last few records, we have a practice space and a studio space we use upstairs. We will come to the practice with a part or half of a verse or a bridge and a chorus and just a section a lot of the times. Sometimes it is a full song and we work it up but most of the time it will just be a few pieces. We’ll work with Roy and get a tempo going and a pattern going and a groundwork and then we just add our parts while he is working on the words for it. It’s been pretty awesome. This last record, which was fun for us, horns came in after the fact and we put horns on top of the record, so this one we actually wrote with the horns and the pedals, everybody was there helping with writing and arranging.
CB: What can we look forward to in Cincinnati next week?
BV: Eight dudes getting wild on stage unless the night before was pretty hard then it might kind of be the standard. We will do about two hours. We will do a lot of the new songs. We will do the back catalog. We are all going to have a good time just playing music.
Honeyhoney is an up-and-coming group out of Los Angeles that offers a soulful, folksy sound that has led to comparisons to The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. A combination of Suzanne Santo's strong voice and banjo/fiddle playing and the voice and guitar of Ben Jaffe, honeyhoney's sound (despite the comparisons) is a unique hybrid that has been intriguing audiences since last October's release of Billy Jack and the subsequent relentless touring.
The pair spoke with CityBeat by phone to promote Saturday's performance in Cincinnati at Bogart's (in the club's "Front Room"). (Click here for more info.)
CityBeat: I picked up your latest album in the fall when Billy Jack was released and I love it. I saw you were also previewed in Country Weekly in the fall and I just wanted to ask if you consider yourself a Country band.
Ben Jaffe: We don’t but that is kind of a genre that has been thrown at us now, of course, not in a bad way. I should have said "tossed gently to us" and we caught it. It has been a kind of interesting opportunity because we have had a lot of trouble aligning ourselves with a specific group. Everyone says “It sounds like this” or “not enough this” or “not enough that.” I think we are really happy to be embraced by Country people and we love to play in front of them, but I don’t think we call ourselves a Country band.
CB: It’s actually a hard genre to break into. I cover all kinds of music and it’s one of the harder types of music to get the fans to rally around you.
BJ: Completely. And it’s such a citadel, there is a real industry around it so I think that explains why it is tough to make a wave and whatever little ripple we are making is cool and we like to pursue it. Actually, it is interesting, Jamey Johnson was at one of our shows the other day and he expressed some support for us and we might play some shows with him so it kind of seems like it is pulling us in, like in Godfather: Part II.
CB: Would you modify your sound or your songs to adapt to Country music?
BJ: No. How it works though is the more you listen, the more you can integrate subconsciously. This record that we released most recently, both of us got obsessed with Hank Williams. I don’t know if it is out of respect or out of interest, (but) there are songs on the record that are straight Hank Williams rip-offs. I don’t see it as adapting to fit in to a genre or section but the more you get exposed to it, you can’t help but integrate it because it is great music.
CB: Can you tell me a little about the song “Little Toy Gun”?
BJ: That came out a while ago. That was something that I actually recorded on my own separately before the band, and when we got together, eventually, it became part of our set. It was the one that the label believed in, so we made this crazy video which was an amazing experience. Kiefer Sutherland directed it and we had a trailer. We were like movie stars for 20 minutes. It is one of those songs that has stuck around. People still reach out to us to use the song.
CB: You guys are on the Coachella roster, correct?
BJ: Yes ma’am
CB: That is pretty exciting in itself. What else exciting do you guys have coming up this summer?
BJ: We are opening for a guy named James Morrison who is doing a tour in May. Then we are playing this thing called the Sasquatch Festival that Tenacious D is playing. So we are accomplishing some of our, highest, loftiest goals to play with Tenacious D. This could be our shot. Sheryl Crow has asked us to open up a few dates. All of this has been happening really recently. It has been really crazy. Then we are playing at the Newport Folk Festival and then hopefully after that we will become addicted to hard drugs and our careers will be over.
CB: We will find you in an alley somewhere in L.A.
BJ: (laughing) Yeah
CB: I have a couple funny questions. I have been playing this table game where you pick out questions to answer. Some of them are funny so I am going to try them out on you guys.
CB: What was the last thing you bought at a drive-thru window?
BJ: Oh, God. (asking someone else) Hey what was the last thing we bought at a drive-thru window? They don’t allow vans through the drive-thru a lot of times so I guess it was at the bank ATM.
CB: So money?
BJ: Yeah, cash.
CB: What is your favorite dirty movie?
BJ: My favorite dirty movie, like pornographic film?
CB: It doesn’t have to be, it can go either way.
BJ: Yeah, we are mainly streamers. You can say that. I would say either Dark Side of the Poon or Wild Things Part 3. At this point can I hand you over to Suzanne?
Suzanne Santo: Hello Amy.
CB: I ran him off with some of my questions I guess.
SS: No, I think he was more looking forward to me answering any more pornographic questions that you may have.
CB: No, I got a new table game so I have been trying out some of the questions.
SS: What is your table game called?
CB: It’s a cube of cards that you get and you put it on the table and you have people pick a card out and they have to answer a question.
SS: OK. Have you played Dirty Jenga, that’s fun too?
CB: No I haven’t. I have to look that up.
SS: It’s not dirty-dirty, like totally inappropriate. It’s like “Bite the ear of the person to your left” or “Make an orgasmic noise.” Each block has a dare written on it.
CB: You not only have to take the block out but you have to do what is written on it. Nice.
SS: It is kind of a “do it yourself” kind of game so it is at your discretion what you want the blocks to say. So if I were you, I would choose my company wisely.
CB: I wanted to specifically talk to you about growing up in Ohio. I know you are from Cleveland and the Midwest. How did growing up in Cleveland or the Midwest influence your music?
SS: Well, to be honest with you, I wouldn’t say that the Midwest has influenced my style tremendously. Well, that’s not true because there was a lot of music growing up. I grew up in Strongsville which is 25 minutes South of Cleveland and there is definitely adjacent farmland that is not very far, within a mile or two.
When I was in L.A. about a month ago, I met Drew Carey at a diner. I went, “Hello Drew, my name is Suzanne from Parma, Ohio, and I just want you to know that I love you.” I said, “I think you are the greatest and I love what you do for Cleveland.” I tweeted at him later in the day and he retweeted my tweet and I was, “That’s it. I’m done. I have achieved my goals.”
I guess there were Country elements I grew up listening to but my family owned an Italian restaurant and they played a lot of Jazz music like Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and that kind of thing. There was definitely a Jazz influence from the get-go, I love Jazz with a true, infinite passion. It never ends, is what I meant to say. I grew up with a lot of that and Country music, it was mainly Pop Country that I was hearing here and there but I really got into Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline and that kind of stuff later, after I had already left Ohio. When we started our band in L.A., we frequented Nashville and every time, we got a little bit deeper into classic Country like Johnny Cash.
CB: Do you have any fun Cincinnati memories from playing or being around town?
SS: We played Bogart's once and I remember being really excited.