OMG this is really happening

Tim Bluhm

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2014 is shaping up to be a productive year for the Hips, with the recent download release of the band’s fan-fucking-tastic second Ultimate Setlist Show, the forthcoming archival release Chronicle Man, the sixth annual Hipnic Festival in Big Sur next month, and choice live dates throughout spring and summer including the group’s happy return to High Sierra Music Festival in July. The Impound will be dishing out fresh Hips content throughout the year, including a lengthy chat with bassist Scott Thunes and an advance review of Chronicle Man in the not-too-distant future.

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

A fine gauge of an artist’s merit is how well regarded they are by their peers. Yes, one wants to please their fans and awards & rewards are swell, but respect, admiration, and influence carry a price above rubies and applause. There are few modern rock singer-songwriters more widely cherished and valued by his peers than Tim Bluhm of Bay Area champs The Mother Hips. His songs are gorgeously etched, an engaging interplay between dead solid fundamentals and clever, unexpected twists, and the way he delivers them – a voice filled with curiously curved emotion and unmistakable intelligence riding melodic waves and rushes of guitar goodness – further draws one in.

Other musicians, if they have half a brain, recognize that there are valuable things to be learned from Bluhm, and those fortunate enough to work directly with him categorically say he brings out the best in them, helping reveal what works in their music and helping them jigger what’s not. Put more simply, Tim Bluhm is a resoundingly great all-around musician who has proven ceaselessly interesting since he first emerged in the 1990s. Those that know his music understand that Bluhm is a cut above the vast majority of rock in 2014, and it’s only the general injustice of the universe that he isn’t rich as a sultan and as revered as Conor Oberst, Jim James, and Ryan Adams.

The Impound thought it would be fun to peel back a few layers of Bluhm’s musical mind so we asked him about the latest Mother Hips album, his thoughts on the Grateful Dead, working with David Simon-Baker, and more. As one might suspect, Tim had insights and off-handed wisdom to spare in his responses.

It’s not as if you’ve ever shied away from philosophical subject matter but Behind Beyond dives directly into some heady ontological waters – you send us back into the ocean by the first chorus, evolution in reverse. What prompted the exploration of big ideas in your tunes this time around? Was there some underlying “thing” you were trying to work out, get at, etc?

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

I suppose as we get older our experiences start showing us that life is fragile, that “safety” is a superstition. And that is a sobering thought. I had an experience that is addressed in the song “Behind Beyond” involving my dad and me. We had met up in the backcountry for a day and night. When we parted he was simply walking away from me down a ridge, turning and waving every so often. Due to the open terrain I was able to watch him for quite a while, growing smaller and smaller, disappearing into the vast alpine landscape. When he was finally out of sight I found myself alone in the silence, crying uncontrollably for a long time. I tried to write the song for months before I figured out how to make it work. You can’t just tell the story. It needs to operate on a deeper level because it’s dealing with some archetypal stuff.

Both you and Greg have matured a lot as songwriters over the decades, a fact resoundingly clear on the new album where you both move with confidence into interesting spaces that still rock. 20 years into this collaboration what traits do you think stand out in your songwriting and what stands out for you in Greg’s writing?

Greg Loiacono by Jay Blakesberg

Greg Loiacono by Jay Blakesberg

I suppose our most outstanding trait is originality. I feel like Greg and I have, for the most part, consistently challenged the clichés of rock. It hasn’t always been graceful or successful, but it has worked for us much of the time and it has protected us from the largely unsavory arena of commodifying one’s art. You’re not going to hear a lot of bands covering the Hips because the song forms and the guitar voices and the vocal arrangements are intentionally “encoded.” That is not because we want to prevent other people from playing our songs but just because that was how we strived to be innovative when we started out as songwriters. Lyrically, too, Greg and I both choose content and/or topics that we deem to be relatively untapped.

For myself I have noticed that, while still writing about personal subjects and experiences, I have tended to submerge them into contexts that are fictional or historical or abstract. I still want to expose and explore the human experience, but long ago I grew bored of always singing about “me.”

Tell me a bit about working with Dave Simon-Baker. You two collaborate a fair bit and this creative relationship is a bit different than what you share with the Hips because it plays to your ever-developing producer side. To my ear, what you guys do together is weave a sound a lot of modern producers and engineers have a hard time getting on tape (or digital storage format), which is an immediacy that’s redolent of a live performance but with greater separation for the instruments and punch & clarity in the vocals. It has a feel that’s wise to the ways of musicians rather than layering something over what a band has laid down.

David Simon-Baker

David Simon-Baker

Dave and I made a lot of records together at Mission Bells and we learned plenty about all the bands we worked with and we learned plenty about recording in general. With the Hips we had the chance to do two records back-to-back, which gave us the opportunity to learn exponentially more about how the band could work best in the space we had. Playing to the strengths of the Hips, we all decided we’d do as much live performance as we could and then resist the powerful temptation to do a lot of digital editing afterward. Of course, we over-dubbed a bit of guitar and voice and keyboard on most songs, but we staunchly preserved the original performances. That is the easiest way to make a recording have “an immediacy that’s redolent of a live performance.” But the band has to be able to play well in the studio setting or that approach won’t work. As for the pleasing sonic qualities, that is attributed to Dave’s talent, experience and hard work.

“Jefferson Army” may be the prickliest tune you’ve ever penned, but it’s also become a fast fan favorite from the new crop. Where’d this one come from? Were you conscious of the Tea Party overtones? Is it okay that I chuckle every time I hear the line about Red Dawn? Are you championing the idea of secession? Are you feeling ornery these days, what with the lead flying in “Jefferson Army” and the fistfuls of whoop-ass on “Creation Smiles”?

OMG_Tim_Jefferson

I read Jack London’s The Iron Heel and it really felt like it was set in and around the Bay Area. The novel is a kind of future history, a fantasy that has its roots in actual events. It reminded me of the State of Jefferson secession movement. I thought it’d be a worthwhile thing to kind of extend the State of Jefferson concept into a dramatic future history. I am not real up on the Tea Party line, unless we’re talking about the Boston Tea Party. Because of that I’m not concerned with any political slant within the song. I don’t like that. It’s just a narrator that we’re listening to who is a soldier in his self-proclaimed “Jefferson Army.” Those guys say some crazy shit but I find it very interesting.

I would say I’ve always been a bit ornery, no more now than ever before. There’s plenty of good vibes on this record, too, for what it’s worth.

What are your thoughts on the Grateful Dead and any influence/overlap they have with The Mother Hips today and in the past?

OMG_Tim_Grateful

The Grateful Dead is a part of the psychic landscape of California. I came to their music late and it’s been so enjoyable to hear it and learn some of it. Theirs is such an appealing legacy, too, because it encompasses more than just music. They played a key role in the birth of a significant social and cultural movement that continues to be hugely influential. Not many groups can claim that. The fact that most of them are still around and are still making things happen is great. That many of us next-generation Bay Area musicians have had opportunities to make music with them is so fortunate. It’s a special time to live in the Bay Area.

The Hips had always intentionally tacked away from the Dead’s influence. But then we stopped doing that. Behind Beyond has a number of deliberate Grateful Dead references.

What makes a good song? When you first began writing your own songs what sparked you in other’s writing? What sparks your imagination now as you draw inspiration from other craftsmen?

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

Because I’ve been playing so many live shows in the last few years I have mostly been experiencing other people’s songwriting in a live setting. Perceiving what is happening to the audience as well as to myself is something my performer-brain is always doing. If I am getting touched by a song I can’t help looking around and seeing how other people are reacting.

If I get moved by a song, then it’s a good song. If I don’t get moved, I guess it could still be a good song. Who knows? There are different ways to look at the thing.

I grew up listening to old rock music – Buddy Holly, Little Richard, the Beach Boys. Most of it was pretty straightforward lyrically. Later, of course, I got into Zeppelin and Sabbath and the Stooges but that didn’t make me think about songwriting. That was about power and strut.

When I first heard Neil Young’s early solo stuff I had a shift inside. His strange, high, pretty voice was saying some words that expressed stuff that wasn’t straightforward. It was self-reflective but it was also innocently mystical, almost childlike, a strange foreigner. Musically, he was using familiar forms but he was tweaking them a little so you couldn’t quite recognize them or predict them. I internalized those things and they became important to my songwriting.

These days I read a lot of books, searching for a voice that makes me put the book down and start writing.

Just as I’m sure you’re the only rock songwriter to ever use the word “egress,” I’m also sure you’re the only rock ‘n’ roller referencing history like Richard Henry Dana and his grizzly bear observations. What’s the allure of going deep and specific about history in the song format?

I came to songwriting from studying and trying to write poetry in college. The lyrical content has always come first for me. Since I was interested in history as well it is only natural that I would write songs that contain historical references. Rock songs don’t have to be always be about love, angst, drugs, touring, and Lord of the Rings. They can be about whatever you want them to be about as long as the voice is believable.

More than a few folks have commented to me recently that your guitar playing of late is particularly fiery, tasty and other complimentary adjectives. How do you think you’ve developed as a guitarist? How does what you do on the instrument dovetail with Greg?

The Mother Hips by Andrew Quist

The Mother Hips by Andrew Quist

Since I never learned anything formal about guitar I have always felt a little like an outsider when playing with other guitarists, with the exception of Greg. He and I value the same things in guitar expressions. Many times those values do not “compete” with chops that most experienced guitar players use frequently to express themselves. I have had to come up with my own way of getting to where I want my guitar parts to go, and to overcome insecurities related to that. It has taken a long time, and it is still a work in progress, of course. It helps me to have consistency of tone. Over the last few years I have worked really hard on getting the right sound to come out of my equipment. It has taken patience and the help of many people smarter than me. That makes a huge difference in how well I can perform and do what I feel like doing with the guitar.

Have The Mother Hips ever considered crafting an epic studio work akin to The Who’s Quadrophenia or even a thematically linked album like The Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow? Your albums hang together well but it doesn’t seem you’ve ever tried to impose an overarching theme or contiguous storyline. Any interest in such bold creative statements?

We’ve definitely considered doing a concept album. It is a very ambitious thing, and I think it is often the result of one of the band members kind of taking over the creative vision, a creative coup, and not necessarily a blood-less one. That isn’t gonna happen in the Hips. But who knows? Maybe someday Greg and I will put our heads together and come up with a concept.

A fair amount of Mother Hips fans still gravitate to the early material, especially the first three albums and live rarities from those days. What do these songs mean to you now, and any theories about why this music has remained so relevant for many fans? Is there anything you’re tired of playing that you simply can’t take out of the rotation because it would upset folks too much? The drummer from Journey has told me about the “Dirty Dozen” they have to build every setlist around or they’ll get lynched by the audience.

The Mother Hips by Andrew Quist

The Mother Hips by Andrew Quist

We sort of have the “dirty dozen” I guess, but not like bands that have had hits. The Hips only have favorites. People will argue about which are the best Hips songs but there are no charts to back anyone up. It’s kind of nice, really.

As the older songs get older and their inceptions recede into the good old days, I find it easier to enjoy them objectively, taking no responsibility for them, just checking them out and letting them work on my emotions like any other song I’d hear. But there is a satisfaction with seeing all of them build up and not disappear. After all, the hope is that one’s body of work will outlast one’s body.

As far as getting tired of playing any one song too often, of course that happens. There’s an easy fix for it though, and like I said, none of our songs could ever be called a hit, and therefore none is essential for any given setlist. I’ll just refuse to play a song I’m sick of until I’m not sick of it anymore.

Tell us a bit about playing with John Hofer. His swing and style have become marbled into the Hips’ sound since he joined but he’s a lot different than Wofchuck. How is it different to ride the rhythm of these two dudes?

John Hofer by John Margaretten

John Hofer by John Margaretten

When John joined the band, Greg, Ike and I quickly realized that we had developed a very odd collective sense of tempo. With Wofchuck on drums, the whole band would unconsciously do these very pronounced tempo shifts. John started playing the songs with us and we would get to a chorus, and he would keep playing the same tempo and we would slow down about 8 BPMs and the song would train wreck. Hofe would look at us and say, “What the fuck are you guys doing?” And we’d say, “What do you mean? You fell off the horse.” But we soon realized it was us that had never even learned to ride a horse. We fixed that after a time, but then we started reintroducing it on purpose because it has a tremendous power to it. The exaggerated tempo shifts are kind of a Hips trademark. Hofer is such solid drummer that the listener just believes the story that he’s telling, even when it involves a surreal element.

What do you think the biggest misconceptions about The Mother Hips are? What is on the money and what is off the mark in the Hips’ general impression/pop culture soundbite? Perhaps the real question here is what are the Hips about at their core?

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

Tim Bluhm by Andrew Quist

The Mother Hips are about amalgamating the obscure sounds and ideas that we were exposed to in our collective formative years as youngsters, musicians and songwriters. There is a distinct landscape that was created all those years ago, and the possibilities that we can extract from it, when we can connect to it, are limitless and will certainly outlive all of us. It was created when we were young and music was always pure magic. We brought our childhood influences and impressions together with some old but new-to-us music and had the time and the innocence to be a part of creating a unique little world.

Sometimes I hear someone say that the name is the worst they’ve ever heard, that it scared them off for years until they finally, accidentally, heard the music. That is unfortunate, but I can relate to that kind of judgment. The band was named so long ago that I can neither defend nor condemn the naming of it. It is what it is. People have to get to the music however they need to, and some people just won’t. It’s not for everyone.

For whatever reason, I think the way we were perceived, especially early on, was as a jam band or a hippie band (back when hippies were not very cool), which is ironic because no one hated that genre and that label as much as the Mother Hips. How that label was bestowed upon us I will never know. But it just drove us deeper into a place where we simply didn’t give a shit what other people thought or wrote about our music. We recoiled into our own world instead of actively trying to re-brand ourselves with an image that was more agreeable to us. That reaction served the music very well, but it probably hurt our commercial prospects at a time when we had some legitimate opportunities. I don’t regret it, honestly. We’re still here, and nothing external has ever changed us or our artistic vision.

Mix Tape

Emergency Rock Rations

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”Give me sex, give me drugs, give me bear skin rugs!”

If you’re looking for sophistication you won’t find it here. This meaty assortment is designed to unleash your inner hesher, your bubbling-under highway child, your let’s-do-shots free spirit. Throw your first in the air and play it LOUD!

Track listing below. If you experience playback problems pop over to the mix page and it should play fine.

Emergency Rock Rations from dirtyimpound on 8tracks Radio.

track listing

OMG this is really happening

Truth & Salvage Co.

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Truth & Salvage Co. plays the length of California this week – Sacramento (8/21), Mill Valley (8/22), San Francisco (8/23), Los Angeles (8/24) and San Diego (8/25) – before heading to Arizona and beyond. Check out choice cuts from the band’s new album at the bottom of this feature, and find the full tour itinerary and venue details HERE

“With a smile on your face and a pistol in your pocket, don’t let the bad times get you down. When all the world’s a stage and you’re stuck standing center, don’t let the bad times get you down.”

Truth & Salvage Co. by Sandlin Gaither

Truth & Salvage Co. by Sandlin Gaither

There’s music one enjoys as a distraction, amusement, etc. and there’s music that’s critical to our survival, the sounds we pack in our bindle when it’s time to hoof it out of town and start over again. We do not so much choose this latter sort of music as it chooses us, speaking truths that resonate with how we see the world, or perhaps more importantly, speaking truths we need to hear, honesty wrapped in melodies that send us shuffling even as they make us muse, our thoughts tumbling outwards as we sing the words as if they were our own. These bindle songs tend to be approachable with their treasures hidden in plain view, companionable and relatable in ways that make one want to buy the musicians a beer and talk about life for a spell. Truth & Salvage Co. is this sort of workingman’s friend, specialists in stories most folks can relate to delivered with as much heart-filled gusto, beautifully intertwined voices, natural talent, and anxious-to-please energy as one could want from a rock band.

Scott Kinnebrew (vocals, lead guitar), Tim Jones (vocals, guitar), Bill “Smitty” Smith (vocals, drums), Walker Young (vocals, piano), Dean Moore (bass) and Adam Grace (vocals, keyboards) share traits in common with The Jayhawks, early Eagles, and yes, the oft-cited The Band, predecessors whose strong handle on all the fundamentals and ability to deliver both in the studio and live Truth & Salvage Co. honor well, something increasingly rare in this age of production smoke and mirrors and label-stoked cult of personality celebrity. These guys are the real deal interested in tussling with reality in ways one can hum and hold close as it pours from the speakers. After years of heavy touring following their eponymous 2010 debut (produced by Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes, who also took the band out as openers for an extended period in 2010), Truth & Salvage Co. has distilled their sound – not the echoes of influences or some industry idea of what they should be – on the crazy enjoyable sophomore follow-up Pick Me Up (released July 23).

OMG_Truth_PickMeUp

“We had a conference call recently where we discussed whether we’re Triple A or Country or Indie, and I honestly think we can stretch out through all of those [categories],” says Smitty. “I think [Pick Me Up] really represents the growth of our performances and our songwriting, especially since it was mostly cut live.”

“I’ve always thought that the Truth [in our name] is the songs and the messages about moving forward and speaking honestly. Salvage is what we choose to grab from the past and keep attached to as we move forward with our future truths. And Company is just the six guys committed to this project and each other as best friends,” says Walker. “We really do enjoy each other’s company and thank God for that! I don’t know if I’d be able to do what we do if there were five guys in the band I didn’t like [laughs]. We have our differences but every time we come back together and say, ‘I love you, man, and let’s work this out.’ It’s incredible to me that we found each other. I don’t know if I could have done this without being surrounded by people I really like and who inspire me to be a better musician, songwriter and person.”

“We try to follow pure inspiration and just let the songs speak and let the judgment come later,” says Scott. “With all of us at the writing table for awhile we’ve been able to find the middle ground of what’s really out there musically and what harmonizes with the ears of many listeners. We don’t compromise a song to consciously court the ears of more listeners, but we’ve found a balance between saying what we want and making it appealing to a listener. Some folks are so obsessed with their own expression only they can understand it – every artist, including me, is guilty of that. So, it’s encouraging to hear from listeners that what you do relates to them and impacts them and touches them. People telling you they love what you do fuel the fire to continue the search for songs that harmonize with everybody.”

Truth & Salvage Co.

Truth & Salvage Co.

“It’s like all those books you get into when you’re a teenager and first experimenting with drugs or whatever. You start reading about other religions and the ego and letting go, and a lot of that bubbles under the songs in this band. When you bring in a tune you have some idea of how it will sound and that’s just not how it’s gonna end up,” chuckles Adam. “You have to throw it against the wall and see what sticks to it before it hits the floor. It’s gonna come in one way and come out another way, and that’s how it sounds in Truth and Salvage Co’s shared identity. We’re always really conscious of this collective entity. I’ll say, ‘I wonder what the band will think of this,’ not recognizing that I’m talking to the whole band!”

“We’re definitely not saying, ‘Let’s make a sound like country radio,’ or, ‘Let’s make a sound that’s gonna be like Americana.’ It’s the last thing in our minds. We bring songs to the table and the ones that everybody’s vibing on stick,” says Walker. “The success of Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and The Avett Brothers show that people are hungry for bands that just sing songs and deliver them well. Who’d have ever thought ‘Ho Hey’ would be on Top 40 pop radio and the biggest song of 2012. It says something about what listeners want and crave when a song like that becomes a super big hit.”

Truth & Salvage Co.

Truth & Salvage Co.

“We didn’t set out to be any sort of band; it just kind of happened. Every songwriter has different influences, and the fact that all those influences flow together so well is just amazing to me. I’ve always been a fan of Bob Dylan and The Band, but those aren’t my primary influences,” says Smitty. “We all write from our experiences, and that’s very important. There are a couple of us that sit down and try to write a song as a way of crafting your art, and there are a couple of us that just write a song as it comes to us. I think there’s a big difference to those approaches, and it creates a good balance in the band. The guys that write songs as they come to us might not have the skills to finish the song, and the guys working from the more craftsman perspective can pinpoint where it’s not a strong chorus or other elements that need work. As a drummer and a songwriter, I’m not as savvy about what’s needed on keyboards or guitar in a song, so Adam and Scott or any of the guys help me out by adding some musical movement to my songs. That’s a good balance to my songs, which might be three or four chords. They’ll add a cool guitar riff or segue going into a bridge I wouldn’t have thought of and I dig that. We all love music in the broadest sense and write music because of the tension and release it gives us.”

There’s a reaching out with Truth and Salvage Co., a welcoming vibe that emerges from music that’s not trying to be obscure or overly clever, strong, open arms extended from their melodies and come-hither singing that skirt any obviousness the mainstream industry might like them to proffer. But if people just hear these songs and the indelibly true way they’re delivered then it’s hard to imagine them not being taken with them – there’s SO much to like about this band.

Chris Robinson by John Margaretten

“I think Chris [Robinson] is partially responsible for that. We were put together at the exact time we needed it. It was so cosmic in a lot of ways. He was going through so much in his life at the time, and he wanted to be a part of something like what we were doing and be a mentor to some up-and-coming guys who had an idea of what we wanted to do but no idea of how to do it,” says Adam. “Just getting to go out on the road with him, to see how he views life and music, how he treats his fans, reveals just how much of a genius that guy is. He was a big teacher for us. I’ve never said that to his face and I don’t know if he’d smile or say, ‘Ah, come on!’ The world just has to make room for geniuses. We just have to embrace them and give them space to expand and do their thing while we watch. We needed to learn how to live in rock ‘n’ roll and he gave us a big six month lesson that taught us all how to do it. He hands torches to people all the time. Some people carry them, some drop ‘em, and some put ‘em out. I’m proud to say we’re doing our best to carry it on.”

“We’d all moved to Los Angeles around 2005 with the intention of doing our own projects, and through the love of each other’s songs and music it all came together in a very organic way,” says Walker. “It took somebody outside of ourselves, a friend of ours, that pointed out what a really cool relationship we had when we got together to sing. It was kind of beyond our scope of comprehension. We’d just get together, drink beers, smoke a little reefer, and sing songs. I think that happens in California just because it’s sunny and warm and people are hanging out. I can’t really put my finger on exactly what makes that happen but it definitely happens.”

“We all want to make it REALLY bad in music, which is why we all ended up in Los Angeles around the same time,” says Tim. “We all moved there to make music for a living. We didn’t want to do other things. We’d done other things and had been playing music for most of our lives and felt a drive to make it our main thing.”

The band has since relocated to Tennessee, where a number of them share a band house near Nashville.

Truth & Salvage Co. by Sandlin Gaither

“Our management pointed out that 20 of the 30 best markets where we were most popular were east of the Mississippi. We’d be out for four months at a time, where we’d play Davenport, Iowa on a Tuesday just so we could get to St. Louis by that Thursday and Indianapolis or Chicago on the weekend. It was really grueling and didn’t seem to make a lot of sense,” says Tim. “I hated leaving Los Angeles, in a way, but financially it was just ridiculous for each of us to be paying rent for houses we didn’t live in. So, we eventually took our management’s advice [laughs]. It’s been great living back here, seeing our families more, and doing things like taking a Megabus to Chicago. We gave up the view of the ocean but gained the trees, the hills, and the sound of frogs croaking in the night.”

The value of gigging all the time is apparent on the new album, which crackles with the sound of a band that plays together a lot and vibes with the gypsy life.

“I’ve had the same suitcase packed for almost a year. I can literally be ready to go in two minutes,” says Tim. “I’ve got a separate bag for the C.I.A. part of my life, too [laughs].

“I read in that Malcolm Gladwell book [The Tipping Point] that once you do something for 10,000 hours or so you start to get a new perspective on it. I think we’ve all hit that individually having done 10-15 years in bands before this one, and we’re getting close to it collectively as a band, too,” says Adam. “Our experience is one of the most important experiences in life. When I meet people who don’t experience live music on a regular basis, don’t make it a key part of their lives, I look into their eyes and wonder, ‘Where are they getting their love from? Where are they getting their soul juice from? What’s feeding them? How does that person live?’ I know they must be getting it from somewhere or they’re not living a fulfilled life. I think music has the answers and if you don’t embrace it you’ll freeze a lot of stuff out.”

Chris Robinson Brotherhood by John Margaretten

Chris Robinson Brotherhood by John Margaretten

“Watching Chris Robinson perform is always instructive,” continues Adam. “You go into a show expecting one thing and he offers you another. He’s such a badass that you leave inspired to make better music! The Brotherhood is not The Black Crowes, and that’s not all he has up his sleeve. He’s not only a monster musician but he knows how to leave room for the other people onstage. There are not a lot of leaders that know when to get out of the way and let other things merge.”

Truth & Salvage Co. always seems to be having a good time together, and that feeling emanates strongly from the stage, permeating and visibly uplifting audiences.

“Well, we’re only doing ourselves harm if we don’t get up there and do it like that,” says Scott. “I’m gonna spend 23 hours of my working to get to this stage and do what I love most on earth AND I’m gonna be bummed about it because of something someone in the band said to me at a truck stop? Nope! You gotta let that shit go before you get onstage and have a good time. I’m not gonna say we’ve always been able to shed all the worries and grudges before we’ve gotten onstage but we all make a conscious decision to say, ‘Here’s the moment to be in love what I do.’ Having fun for us is very important.”

Pick Me Up – a sentiment the album ably lives up to – was recorded at Echo Mountain Recording in Asheville, TN, a studio with a growing reputation for triggering great work from a broad swath of musicians.

Echo Mountain Recording

“I don’t want to say we made this album in a dark moment but we were seriously wondering how we were going to make it happen,” says Scott. “We called Echo Mountain and talked to the manager, and they opened up the doors and we were there for two weeks with the engineers doing 12 hour days every day. Step by step, it came together so effortlessly and it was good but we had a sense it could be more. So, we reached out to my buddy Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses) and asked him to try and put some extra life into one song. He sent it back a day later and it just floored everyone’s speakers. We sent it to the label and they agreed we really needed him to remix the whole record. To have his involvement is so personal to me as well as returning to Asheville just made my whole journey come full circle.”

“Echo Mountain was a very special place to record. Lots of great albums like the Avett Brothers’ Emotionalism were made there,” says Scott. “A recorder catches a lot more than just sound. I’m pretty sure about that. When you press record it’s not just the sound of the guitar but also the air in the room and the energy of that air. We just wanna get in there and make sure it sounds right. Our intention is to make good music. Period.”

One of the nice surprises on Pick Me Up is a just-so-fuckin-simpatico cover of Joe South’s “Games People Play.”

OMG_Truth_JoeSouth

“I love that song so much, and it fits us so well! You know who suggested it? It was Chris [Robinson] during the recording of the first record. He said, ‘You guys should do this Joe South cover,’ and it took us about two years to get around to learning it. Once we learned it, it just clicked and made so much sense. He was right! So, we owe him for that one,” says Smitty. “I didn’t know anything about Joe South before that. It’s just amazing how deep the music world can be. You’ve been playing all your life and every day I’m amazed at how much I learn. I try to stay in a striving mind at all times.”

One element that ties Truth & Salvage Co. to their rock ancestors is their reliance on piano and organ instead of synthesizers.

“Recording this new record, there were multiple times we pulled out the Moog just to try a little something because it’s cool but we never found a way to make it work,” chuckles Walker. “Three of us used to live in Asheville. I was a farmer there – organic vegetables and fresh eggs – and I used to sell eggs to Bob Moog and his wife Elena. I didn’t know who they were, and she asked me to do some landscaping at their house. So, I came and kept looking in the basement and there were all these keyboards just torn apart. I said, ‘Elena, whose keyboards are those?’ She said, ‘My husband’s.’ ‘Oh, what does he do?’ ‘He’s a tinkerer.’ But she never told me he was Bob Moog until a year into our relationship.”

The Band

The Band

Another aspect of this band that jumps out at one in the modern era is the harmonies and their unmistakable feel of flesh ‘n’ blood humans working together in real time. The fact that it isn’t machine-perfect only accentuates the positives of the interplay of singers in Truth & Salvage Co. Here’s where the comparisons to The Band really fit because like Hudson, Robertson, Danko, Helm and Manuel, Truth and Salvage Co. similarly offer an earthy mixture of trained and unschooled dedicated to delivering songs well and together – conversational, interesting voices that dovetail most effectively.

”What we do vocally is different from most folks. Whoever isn’t singing lead will start singing harmony and the others have to build their harmonies around that,” says Tim. “We’ve found a comfortable place with that approach, but it’s something you feel your way into more than explain in technical terms. There are people that are musically trained in this band, but I’m not one of those people [laughs]. I just know we don’t rely on that. If it sounds good that’s where we go to. That’s where we play.”

“Living in a world of Gagas, Spears and Auto-Tune, our voices aren’t perfect by any means,” chuckles Smitty. “We just look for where our voice fits the best. Sometimes it’s just a certain timbre that works.”

Even though he’s not one of lead singers, Adam Grace works closely with everybody in shaping the tunes.

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“People in this band often refer to me as ‘The Glue,’ and in ways that describes me really well,” says Adam. “I was one of the original members but not an original songwriter or singer. As my participation in the songwriting grew, people found that as issues arose with a song they could turn to me and ask my opinion on it. I never intended that to be the way it is. I just wanted to be the keyboard player and hang out with these guys who are great songwriters and singers, but as the level of trust grew my name eventually got in there on the songwriting. I guess whenever you put a bunch of guys together in a room the ceiling eventually gets a bit of everyone’s flavor [laughs]. I come from a very different musical background that anybody else in this band – though that’s true of everybody, which brings together so many different elements and styles in one place. It’s hard to trust people in music and when you do it means a lot.”

One thing the years together hasn’t dulled is a healthy sense of competition amongst the songwriters.

OMG_Truth_Flag

“When we make a record everybody wants their songs to be on it, but it only makes us better to try and build on our best work again and again. When somebody writes a great song you’re inspired to get down on the piano or guitar to try and piece together different parts into a great song of your own. It’s fun,” says Walker. “[Pick Me Up] is all songs we’ve written since our first record and there’s a lot more writing collaboration. I didn’t have any part in writing ‘Silver Lining,’ but it was decided that I sounded best singing it. We’re becoming less attached to singing the songs we wrote if someone is a better choice. Letting go of that ego part is good because we can all be very controlling. We all have a vision of how things should go but we’ve realized it’s never going to be just that way no matter how much you try and control it. Now, we’re in a place where we can let go a little bit and not stifle that collaborative urge.”

“What’s super cool about this is I write a song and bring it to the band to work it out and it goes through the filter of five or six different sets of ears,” says Scott. “By the end, it’s truly a group collaboration. I really dig that, including them telling me what doesn’t work. We work hard to help someone to express themselves as best they can while shaping the songs into the best they can be.”

For the Impound, the name Truth & Salvage Co. and the music they make conjures up a traveling show trundling into town to serve up a satisfying rag ‘n’ bone buffet, a rock ‘n’ roll stone soup where tiny bits and chunks of many things go into the pot and what comes out is nourishing, warming, and filled with the spirit of camaraderie.

Truth & Salvage Co.

“We show up with some water and start pulling things out of our pockets. I didn’t realize I had some carrots on me, Walker has some cilantro, and soon we’re rockin’,” enthuses Scott. “Really, it’s not about you. It’s not about the songwriter. I really wonder if it’s about any of the songs at all or if it’s just about that frequency of sound blasting out into the universe and keeping us from falling off our axis or something [chuckles cosmically].”

“The [band] name means so much to me personally now because I’ve been inside of it for so long. This band has been a source of inspiration and so much trouble at the same time that I have bittersweet feelings about it,” says Adam, who acknowledges they’ve really grown into their name. “Widespread Panic is another band that really became their name. So many times at their shows you’ll end up in a literal panic usually from what’s going on around you but something in the music is breaking it out on a psychic level too. The audience is right there with the band and the band is right there with the audience and it’s really weird. It’s a trippy thing to experience, but they surely embrace their name.”

OMG_Truth_Tattoo

Spend even a few minutes with any of these guys and one’s left with zero doubt that they are driven by a NEED to make music, something potent and gravitationally irresistible that whips them onward. Music is a cause for Truth & Salvage Co. and one they inspire others to join with fervor and sometimes great joy.

“The older I get the more I feel this need, especially as things pull me away from music,” says Adam. “Daily life – needing to get insurance, kids, or whatever – pulls you back into adult responsibilities that real adults with jobs have to take care of. No matter how much of that stuff happens, there’s always a part of me that brings me back to the realization that I have to do this. This is what makes me happy, and it always goes back to the people out there counting on us to keep going. I always have a deep concern for our fans. I often think of the guy who got a tattoo on his arm the first year we began, and anytime I’ve thought about bailing on this band or worried it wasn’t gonna work or wasn’t meant to be I think of not letting that guy down.”

Dirty Impound Questionnaire

Kylesa

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Kylesa

Kylesa

Ultraviolet light is invisible to normal human sight, but it’s there all the same, radiation we feel in our roasting flesh and a revealer of hidden things when we power up special lamps. It’s a fitting metaphor for the sixth album from Savannah, GA’s Kylesa, who’ve forged an album in Ultraviolet (released May 28 on Season of Mist) that grapples with layered complexities – musical, societal, personal and otherwise. This set explodes the dumb “sludge metal” tag that’s hung around Kylesa for too long with a commanding, totally diverse array of hard rock and metal strains poured into the band’s unique mold.

Ultraviolet confirms this band’s place in the progressive-mimded rock realm alongside kindred spirits Mastodon and Baroness, though Kylesa feels a good deal more old school in a way Sabbath and Motorhead fans might vibe with, a primal kinship with the genre’s foundational figures that also neatly plucks from vibrant psychedelia, heavy atmospherics akin to Pelican, and even Pink Floyd-ian melodic growl (Drifting) and Check Your Head-era Beastie Boys-esque pummel (Exhale, We’re Taking This). The combination is heady and engulfs one beautifully, a sustained but varied spell that’s full incantation takes time to emerge.

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With two skilled singer-guitarists in Phillip Cope and Laura Pleasants riding the steadfast, gut level drumming of Carl McGinley, the album sweeps one up in a flowing way, the whispers and cries gaining full body over time, the depths and darkness of this song cycle clear only if one lives with it attentively for a peace. But there’s also the option of just riding its undulating, crunching waves of sound because Ultraviolet, produced by Cope, is a speaker rattling pleasure all by itself without all the semiotic spelunking (check out haunting mood poem “Unspoken” and its way cool animated video below to see what we mean – embrace the swirling throb, children).

Phillip Cope was nice enough to tackle DI’s signature questionnaire.

read on for greater decibels

Baby, You're A Star!

new artists to notice

Willie Nile

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Baby_Willie_Ride

Willie Nile isn’t a new artist. In fact, he’s a nearly 40 year veteran with a rich catalog who’s worked the folk joints of Bleecher Street, the clubs and theatres of Europe, and every sort of U.S. venue that would have him over the years. But the clarity, captivating force, and saving-up-the-best-damn-songs-from-a-lifetime quality of his eighth studio effort, American Ride (released June 25), smacks of a particularly auspicious debut filled with roughhewn wisdom, rock ‘n’ roll grit, and no small amount of faith stimulus. American Ride is pure inspirational force, kindred spirit to Bruce Springsteen and Alejandro Escovedo, sharing some of these established greats’ mixture of boldness and intimacy but bettering their over-praised recent albums by being more street level, immediate, and filled with insightful humor as well as abundant heart. More than any of his American peers, the latest from this enduring New York City powerhouse carries on the spirit of Joe Strummer through tales simultaneously tough and tender, the view from the gutter articulated in ways that makes one want to reach out a hand, or at least open up a bit to the shared human condition.

Beginning with a count-off followed by a doo-wop derived chant, American Ride instantly plants one in front of a sweaty, leave it all on the stage band hell-bent on knocking our socks off, roaring, “This is our time! This is our place! This is our moment in the human race!” And by gum, one believes him as Nile pulls us into the present, peeling away the noise to get at what really makes us feel alive, what makes us hurt, what makes us ache and long for better, more, whatever.

Willie Nile by Cristina Arrigoni

Willie Nile by Cristina Arrigoni

God is here, too, but a bare-knuckled scrapper on the side of empty-pocketed outsiders just longing to be free of fear and basic want. “God Laughs” and “Holy War” are simply two of the finest glosses on the Spirit in the Sky to come along in a decade, just the laughter tinged tools we need in this hyper-partisan time of uber-religiosity. It’s fitting this album was helped into the world with a PledgeMusic.com campaign, the People’s Record in a metaphorical sense that jives well with the universalist vibe here, a bushel of hard won hope to provide sustenance for anyone who needs it.

The surging dreamer’s energy that infuses many tracks is balanced by short, sharp bursts of humor and dark understanding, a crucial strand on American Ride perhaps seen most clearly on a perfect, inspired cover of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” which also cements Nile’s bona fides as a dyed-in-the-wool New York musician, as much a part of that city’s storied soundtrack as The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Dion. From the Ellis Island touched “The Crossing” to jaunty, only in the City That Never Sleeps “Sunrise In New York City” to the deftly detailed “Life On Bleecker Street,” Nile nails down big chunks of NYC’s character in succinctly carved verses.

American Ride is most assuredly a career high point – and a lock for DI’s Favorite Albums of 2013 – but even more exciting is the sense that Willie Nile and his crack band are just getting rolling, a band of brothers dedicated to bringing us through the storms of the early 21st century led by a survivor who hasn’t succumb to cynicism despite a long career that’s seen half-talents and flavors of the month snatch the glory and gold that should go to an American rock treasure like Nile. His able pen here and battered-but-unbowed performances make it clear that he’s far from broken, and he’s not ready to let the rest of us falter either. Amen, brother, amen!

Pick up the album HERE!

Mix Tape

DI 3rd Anniversary Mix

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On May 31, 2010, Dirty Impound popped its head up on the internet with the simple goal of being a cool water cooler to gather around and celebrate rock in all its myriad, rowdy, wonderful permutations. We’ve strived to shine a light on under-sung veterans and shining lesser-knowns as well as sharing our affections for established greats. Mostly, we’re gung-ho about excitedly offering up music we love sprinkled with an insight or three. We love rock ‘n’ roll in a possessed, vaguely crazed, life affirming way, and we hope you pick up on some of the charge we feel about the music and musicians we share at the Impound. Thanks for gathering around from time to time. It means a lot to us that you venture outside the mainstream to spend time with us. Now, let’s party. Who brought bath salts?

Join DI on June 15th at San Francisco’s fab Boom Boom Room for our 3rd Anniversary Party [pick up tickets here and RSVP on Facebook here] featuring headliners Seattle’s The Staxx Brothers, a pummeling rock set from one-off trio The Evil Sides, which is comprised of Jeremy Korpas (The Loyal Scam, former Big Light) and Sean Leahy and drummer extraordinaire Daria Johnson of SF’s blazing pop-rockers the Sean Leahy Trio and a DJ set from Righteous Trash. If you’re in the Bay Area that Saturday you’re gonna kick yourself if you miss this shindig.

Track listing below. If you experience playback problems pop over to the mix page and it should play fine.

DI 3rd Anniversary Mix from dirtyimpound on 8tracks Radio.

You can listen to 8tracks mixes on your iPhone (pick up the app here) and Android (pick up the app here).

track listing

Baby, You're A Star!

new artists to notice

Gods Of Cock Rock

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GOCR performs tonight, November 16, at the Trip in Santa Monica, CA. And you can download their new album for free by visiting their website.

Rock ‘n’ roll needs lovers to endure. Fans are great and they keep folding money in one’s wallet and gas in the tour van, but rock in the archetypal, not-fade-away sense needs ardent acolytes who adore it so much it makes them ache and dream and feel alive like almost nothing else. A certain irrational gusto is required of such passionate folks, and Southern California-based Gods Of Cock Rock are undisguised in their all-in, whole hearted love, particularly on their third release, Dead Rock Stars (download here).

The 6-track EP is an open letter to rock’s past, present and future, taking to task the wasters who squander their fame, opportunities and talents with early, needless deaths while elsewhere giddily conjecturing about all the seminal moments in rock’s history they could visit with a time machine. For this warmly winning duo – whose name suggests metal splatter but whose sound is closer to Tom Petty – the genre retains its mysteries and magic even in the face of beloved venues becoming Jiffy Lubes and parking lots.

The living room jam roots of GOCR are still evident on Dead Rock Stars but their confidence and reach is palpably growing, the road beckoning on sweet closer “The Way Home” and the challenges of impinging adulthood addressed on “Hell Or The Altar.” The Gods have a knack for being funny but that’s leavened with some satisfyingly righteous anger here. In this way, they are growing up and their music reflects the longer view that only time brings. That it also sways in a really nice way gives one hope they’re on the way to something that will do their heroes proud.