I read you were living a transient life when you recorded “When We Were Animals.” How did that affect how you creatively approached this album? 

In some ways, this was a nightmare record to make. I was on the road or in Atlanta, the producer James Sparber was in NYC, the drummer was in Nashville, the vibes/ marimba player was in Vermont, the guitar player was in Valdosta, GA… and, of course, we wanted to make a record that sounded like it was the band all hanging out in one room together. I had to force myself to have faith in the songs as I had written them, I had to believe that the songs had enough structural integrity, that even if the organ parts weren’t a real Hammond B-3 distorting through a real Leslie recorded to a two inch tape machine that the songs would still sound good, that they would still sound authentic and true to themselves. I had to have faith in the musicians I’d chosen to play on the record that they would understand what I was shooting for and that they would deliver for me. I really had to trust James that he understood what I wanted, that he would do his best to give me what I wanted even when it wasn’t necessarily what he heard in the song, and I had to trust him to make quick decisions that were going to work. When you’re a kid, you’re insecure and that manifests as you being a control freak. The guitar has to sound this way and the bass has to sound this way and my voice needs to be louder and so on. When you get older, well, you both become more comfortable with who you are and you become lazier so it’s like “nah, fuck it, you can play that part if you want.” It’s also easy to become so enamored with the art of recording that it becomes an impediment to actually finishing a record. You learn about the guitars and the amps and the effects and then the mics and the pre-amps and the outboard gear and on and on. That shit’s really fun to read about and think about… but we live in an imperfect world and we had to make a record in imperfect circumstances with a small budget and a tight schedule and the gear we had available. So instead of trying to make a perfect record, we set out to make a good record. The end result is the best record I’ve ever made. A lot of credit is due to the musicians who played on it and the hard work James Sparber did pulling it all together.

It seems there is a lot of focus on past relationships on this record. Does performing these new tunes serve as a bandage over old wounds or feel like you are ripping a bandage off? 

It’s never the lady or the tiger, it’s always the lady AND the tiger. It’s a funny thing, writing songs as a means of processing grief or anger or sadness or regret. Because it works, it absolutely works, writing songs has been more therapeutic than anything else in my life, including therapy. And sometimes you really nail an emotional moment and get a great song out of some exquisitely painful moment… and then that song is successful enough that people want to hear it every night and you strum those chords and sing the first line and it throws you right back down the well you were in when you wrote the song. Allison Langerak sang on much of 2007’s “How To Make a Bad Situation Worse,” a record we made while our relationship was falling apart, and a couple of songs on that record are about losing her. “Coward’s Path” is about the grim aftermath of that relationship. More than ten years after we broke up, we’ve repaired our friendship to the point that she felt comfortable coming in to sing on a bunch of songs on “When We Were Animals.” That felt incredibly positive and redemptive… and yeah, still emotionally loaded. It’s weird listening back to the record and hearing that voice I know so well, it’s almost too intense. But that’s how I like it.

Who are you listening to these days? 

The predictable lonesome cowboy old man shit: Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Jeff Walker, old Neil Young, Fred Eaglesmith. I’m a huge Mark Lanegan fan, loved the last Nicole Atkins record, can’t stop listening to this band HEELS from Memphis. I’ve discovered some great bands out on the road like Stan Anna, Michael Dean Damron, Creston Line, Dead Volts.

You’ve got these lines in your songs that make the listener smirk and stay in their head.  Do you ever notice individuals in the crowd getting hit with sentiments?

Ha. Yeah, I live for that. I love seeing people wince or laugh even just watching their eyes widen. The UK crowds in particular are really rewarding. They’re polite and reserved but open, you know, really listening to what you’re saying. I remember seeing one guy blink, put two fingers to his closed mouth and just shake his head. It made my night. More than once after a show, I’ll have someone come up to me, put a hand on my shoulder, look in my eyes… and then just turn and walk away. That means a lot to me– means I moved something inside of them, something that hurt.

You spend a lot of time on the road. What’s your favorite way to kill time between the road and the stage? 

This question is phrased in a way that implies that I enjoy doing things while on the road. Sadly, it’s mostly just taking shelter. My back is a near constant source of pain so I spend a lot of time laying on a lacrosse ball nestled into a huge knot in my back, my eyes watering. Okay, okay, it’s not all pain and drudgery. People will drag me out running sometimes and that’s fun. I love house shows in the summer and swimming pools and homecooking and playing with dogs. And I’ve been known to scour Craig’s List in out of the way places for cool, hard-to-find old guitars.

You laid down tracks with quite a few special guests including: Cait O’Riordan, Adrian Grenier, Bill Whitten and Star Anna. How’d this all come about?

Eh, I’ve just been at it forever. And I’ve been lucky. Adrian Grenier is a bro from way back. When I first met him in ’98, he was a drummer who was fooling around with acting, you know? He recognizes that he’s been fortunate and does everything he can to help shine a light on the work of his friends, and for that we’re totally grateful. I was a fan of Grand Mal before I even moved to NYC. I met Bill Whitten in 2002 when I was booking a club in Brooklyn and he’s become one of my better friends. Star Anna and I met through a friend and quickly became fans of each other’s work. Then we did a couple of kamikaze tours together and now we have matching tattoos and we’ll be best frenemies till we die. Cait O’Riordan was the biggest, best story. I’ve been a fan of the Pogues since I was a drunken teenager. She read some of the writing I’d published about sobriety for Amazon and we got to be friends via Twitter. She’s amazing, as a musician and a person, and I hope this is just the first of many collaborations with her.


Preview “Animals” below before the LP drops May 1st
| be a supportive listener |
Mishka Shubaly


 

Your recent release Visionland was recorded at Plum Creek Sound Studios.  How was the experience working with Israel Nash and Ted Young?

It was amazing. We spent a little over two weeks out in Dripping Springs, TX fully submersed in the album. We meshed really well with Israel and Ted and I think it shows.

I read that the album title came from an old amusement park that some of you grew up near.  I have a serious love for all things theme park.  What are some of your best memories of that park before it shut down?

Yeah, Visionland was a theme park in Bessemer, AL. Despite its many, many faults there were some good times had there. The Rampage (their wooden coaster) was pretty cool when it worked.

Visionland seems likes its gone down more of a psychedelic vein than your last LP.  If you all had to pick one person in the band as your spirit guide, who would it be and why?

Haha. I think we’d probably outsource that job.

Word on the street is you’ve done around 600 shows in the last three years.  What effect does all that time on the road have on you personally and on the music you create?

I’d say more than that. It’s hard to say how effected I am by it. Too far in it to know, I guess. It gives you a lot of material to write about, though.

Finally, what are you all listening to in the tour van lately and who gets to control the dial?

We’ve been listening to a lot of Gerry Rafferty, Faces, Kendrick Lamar, Wu Tang, Mel Tillis, and Blaze Foley. Typically whoever is riding shotgun also DJ’s. Keeps it fresh.


“Fine, Fine, Day” off their new LP Visionland

1.) We see you’re recording with the good people at Dial Back Sound. What’s that experience been like?

Bronson of Dial Back Sound is the most professional sound engineer we have ever worked with. He knew just how to set us up when we started to record our second album “The Dial Back Boogie.” He took us in straight from the road when we got in late at night and said, “Alright you boys are used to playing late sets on the road so let’s get ya tracking now”… and that first night we tracked 4 songs and 3 were keepers. It was also super humbling to have Dial Back regulars like Jimbo Mathis sit in on our original song, “Major Minor Rip Off” and dig our style. Lastly Matt Patton is a really stand up guy and made sure we were set up for the experience and he even got us backstage at a Drive By Truckers show back in our home state of CA before we even set foot in Dial Back just so we can meet him and have a good time! We already recorded our next EP at Dial Back on this tour and pretty much plan to exclusively record there.

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2.) When can we expect the next EP to drop?
When it comes to our next EP it’s already in the mixing and mastering phase in the hands of Bronson at Dial Back. Our second album is only a few months old so we might take a little time to release this next EP but we feel like we’ve stepped up our game even more returning to Dial Back for the second time.

 


3.) How’s the tour going?
This Manifest Destiny Tour 2017 has been a blast! It has been pretty unreal to have returning and new fans come out to our shows and actually request our original songs! We don’t get that much in CA. This is our fourth official tour and also our longest at six weeks and we could not be happier with all the turn outs. Usually we just love touring the South but adding the East Coast has been way worth it!

4.) What’s everybody’s go to gas station food?

When it comes to gas we just hit whatever is cheapest and we love our late night Waffle House trips.

 

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The food that fuels Pope Paul & The Illegals

5.)  What’s been spinning in the van this summer?

Music in the Pope-Mobile is always on random from the phone of whoever is driving… but I’d say we play a lot of Road Kings, Legendary Shack Shakers, Hank III, and Reverend Horton Heat… and the occasional Unknown Hinson singalong!

 

Catch these guys tearing up Franks Power Plant on Thursday, July 20th

Interview: Extension Cord | Live photos: Frank Martinelli

1.) You just played a gig at Club Garibaldi in Milwaukee. How’d you like the city?
Honestly, it was our favorite city on the Midwest run we just finished. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a cool neighborhood bar, which is convenient because beer is the base layer of our food pyramid on the road. Everyone we encountered was incredibly friendly – especially the fans that brought us our first-ever taste of fried cheese curds. And it’s hard to imagine a better spot to unwind post-show than on the banks of one of the Great Lakes.

Word on the street is, you’re heading out with the Old 97’s on tour. How’d that come about?

We are, and we couldn’t be more excited. Coming from North Texas and making the type of music we do, the 97’s are pretty much our biggest heroes and influences. We sought them out for guidance early on, and have gotten to know a few of them a little bit since then. Earlier this spring, we were one of the openers for their second annual Old 97’s County Fair festival in downtown Dallas, which is where I think we really won them over.

What’s the band playing in the van on the road these days?  Is there a timeshare going on with the radio?

Fortunately we’re all pretty easygoing and have pretty diverse tastes. We call our trumpet player DJ Round-Up because he takes control of the radio most of the time. What’s on at any given time depends on our mood, from studying up on classics like Marty Stuart and Dwight Yoakam, reliving our youth with NOFX and Offspring, letting out some aggression with Metallica and Pantera, breaking the monotony of a long drive with some comic relief from Creed or Limp Bizkit. We have a big collection of cassettes, but there are a handful that never leave the van, among them Social Distortion’s “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell,” Blink-182’s “The Mark, Tom and Travis Show,” Green Day’s “Dookie” and a George Strait box set.

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DJ Round Up

4.) Describe your live show in 5 words or less.

You’ll get drunk and laid.

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Jim Ford is the type of musician that must have walked into the studio and secretly left part of his soul on every track. You might not be able to see it, but you can feel it in all of his work. His songs have been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, and The Temptations to name a few.  Listen to this tune with your eyes closed to visualize the sound of our time.  The arrangement along with the lyrics seem to guide me to a place I feel familiar with but have never been, a silent community of dissenters across our country.  Feel it, dig it and NEVER GET USED TO THE SOUND….