Did you think joining Gordon was a stroke of luck or destiny?
Destiny. It wouldn’t have gone the way it had gone if it went any other way. I think at that point in my life I was keeping my eyes open and said to myself, ‘The strangest situation might be the best situation.’ And that is what made me pursue it the way that I did.
Were you doing music at the time?
Yeah. I had a band that was called Dashboard Prophets, which the bass player in Gordon also played in, and the thing that I was doing after we split up was an acoustic record. It was released independently, locally here [in LA]. It was very low key acoustic shows and I hadn’t been playing in a band at all. Me and Greg Hunt were still toying with the idea of starting a band together and that is how I came into touch with the band, was picking that I came and picked him up at a rehearsal they were having. They had a bad situation with the singer and he had left and they were jamming and they asked me to sit down and hang out until they finished. By the end of the rehearsal we were jamming together. I think for them it was like, ‘Wow, this is what it’s all about.’ For me, it was the first time getting into a band again and it struck a chord in me that I knew I needed to be in a band again. That was my initial step into the whole thing.
Were they already signed when you joined?
Yeah. They had been signed and were in the midst of the record and had recorded a lot of stuff. They had a lot of ideas and were at a point where they hit a wall as far as the band thing. The studio thing was going okay, but most of the people who were involved were musicians, but their prior singer/songwriter was not a band kind of guy. So they just hit that wall and were like, ‘What the fuck is going on here?’ They were frustrated and the previous singer was frustrated in his own way and didn’t want to be a band guy. I know that everyone in the band wanted to be the next great rock ‘n’ roll band, and that is what they had in mind and the situation wasn’t working out to help them fulfill that goal.
Did they already lay vocals on the tracks and you followed in the same vein, or did you come in and just do your own thing and add your own flavor?
They had a lot of the songs done as far as the idea. When I came in too, they were like, ‘We were kind of moving in this direction but we aren’t getting there.’ They just weren’t getting there either vocally or stylistically. They did like how the lyrics were, so we just worked with a lot of the ideas that were there. A lot of the stuff needed to be more resuscitated rather than rebuilt. For some of the stuff, I rewrote the lyrics to bring them more into my own zone. We also added an additional song that we had written together and that gave us a good handle on where the band was going. That is sort of what locked it all down, that we created something together that worked and came together effortlessly and yet didn’t stray away from the basic concept that everyone was going for on the record. We are all fans of ’60’s psychedelic music but we didn’t want to be a retro band. We wanted to get those influences in without being a retro band.
Was the song you mentioned “Better Daze”?
How did the song come together?
It was a song that I had kicked around, like some chorus idea. I had the chorus done, but I really didn’t have the song finished. We were in the midst of pre-production for the record and we wanted to take a break and we were jamming on this. It was Greg, the bass player, Jeff [Phillips], the guitar player, and we were sitting there and it just came together really quickly, in like five or ten minutes. And we were like, ‘Wow, this is really good.’ It just came together. So I had most of the lyrics but I just didn’t have what it took to finish the song, and I think together we were able to accomplish that.
“Fortified Grapes” is the first single and a great song, but I really dig “Pain”.
“Pain” is great. “Pain” is really a song that I related to. I loved it in the version that they had and there was a lot I identified with in that song. I liked it because it related to some of my roots that I felt like it had a nice quality to it. Also it was a friendly way of getting across some heavy issues.
I read that you guys as a band never played out before the album was made.
That was the situation that they were in. They knew that they were getting a record done, and they started getting the live thing together and it hit the wall and they were like ‘Oh fuck.’ They got really paranoid and scared. They were like, ‘This is the payment for getting a deal and not doing the live thing.’ There are plenty of bands who do that and it doesn’t really matter, but the band that everyone wanted to be in, that was the most important thing. I think that it being a rock band that everyone wanted to get that aspect together and they felt that it was at a low state. So, when I came in the deal was done and they were ready to go, and we had conversations with Brendan and the management and we got it together. We rehearsed and the band was already ready to go before we went in and re-cut vocals and did what we had to do. That is sort of how the live aspect came together. It wasn’t a problem when I came through the door because the most important thing to me playing in a band is the live thing. It’s the only point you want to be at. The stage is the place. So once we got that aspect together, it was no problem at all.
How was it working with Brendan O’Brien?
It was awesome. He’s a great guy and I think he gets a lot of credit for making a rock ‘n’ roll record without making a retro rock ‘n’ roll record. He had a lot of great ideas and he works with a lot of cutting edge bands and he is very low key. He can get what you want out of the recording situation. For a band, that is the really hard thing because you don’t always get what you want out of the studio. I think he is one of those guys that can enable you to do that.
A piece ran in Billboard’s offspring magazine, “Weather Bureau”. How did they get a hold of it?
They found the record and they were like, ‘We fucking love the record.’ We thought they were jerking us. It was our first person who jumped on the record. They said that they wanted to support the record and that they don’t just do that for anybody. It was so overwhelming and we were like, ‘Fuck. Is this for real?’ And they are. I mean, that is their thing, being for real.
I was the same way when the album crossed my past. We are about promoting bands that we enjoy too.
Well, it’s important. It’s hard enough to do the job and sometimes that is the hardest part. I know that everyone involved with this record felt like it was going to grow and don’t force people to listen to it and just get it into their hands.
Were you ever part of a band before this that was signed or might have got signed to a record contract?
I was the bass player for Dashboard Prophets about four years ago and we were a big LA rock band and we sort of were an indie rock band. We released an independent record, and through a lot of turmoil that we had gone through and the band just dissipated. After that, I released an acoustic record that I recorded at home and I felt like I lost myself within the whole big record industry thing and needed to find my roots again. So, I didn’t try to start a band again because I was really bummed that the band I loved so much had gone astray. I didn’t know how to keep it and it isn’t always in your control. So I wanted to do something that I was in control of, so I did the acoustic record. I’ve always been a big fan of Dylan and I always wanted to do something that was lyrically driven. I felt that was the best thing I could do. I was just playing around really low key shows, doing the singer/guitar player thing. Playing in a band is always my first love. I think that was something I was doing to put myself back in touch with myself. When this thing came along it was something that I was like ‘Yeah!’ I was ready to be in a band again.
Was the solo thing fun too?
I loved it. I still am continuing to do work on things like that because I feel the intimacy that you gain from something like that doesn’t always come across in a band. It is also something that you can keep really low key. It keeps you underground and enables you to do your thing without it being a complicated issue.
Did you sing in Dashboard Prophets?
Yeah. I was a singer/guitar player. I have been a singer all of my life. Basically, I picked up the guitar so I could write songs. And I never have been a guitar player; I’ve sort of just been a rhythm guy. Actually, with the record it helped out a lot because there was a lot of acoustic guitar on the record and it was exactly what they needed, which was an acoustic guitar player and singer. It worked out perfect and that is why I’m leaning more towards the destiny angle than anything else.
You’ve been singing your whole life
Yeah. It was the first thing I wanted to do. Even before I knew how to play guitar, I was singing. I couldn’t sit and home and work on material because I needed music to put along with it and I learned three chords and I went from there.
Did you know you could sing from the beginning and does anyone in your family sing?
Well, I have some uncles that are musicians, but I felt that I needed to do it because I had a lot of issues that I needed to get across. And I felt that when I listened to music I felt that I found a home and had something I could relate to. It made me feel better about the situation that I was in. That gift that was given to me I felt that I wanted to give. That is probably why I pursued the writing/singing angle.
How would you sum up Gordon?
I would say that Gordon is a rock band trying to walk down different paths. I know that we are a rock band and that we aren’t a retro rock band and that is the key. We want to be a rock band but we don’t want to sound like anything else.
+ charlie craine