If you like the Blues…. you might want to read how Left Lane Cruiser AND Hillgrass Bluebilly stay true to the Blues!
Ten Shots with Brenn Beck of Left Lane Cruiser
By Georgetown Fats January 2011
The term “deep blues” tends to give purists agita as it is a sub-genre full of musicians who push all who believe blues have to reflect the I, IV, VI Chicago sound. The majority of these “deep blues” artists trace their roots back to the blues sounds of the North Mississippi hill country sound with punk, hard rock or roots influences.
Hailing from Fort Wayne Indiana, Left Lane Cruiser is a two piece deep blues act blending high energy hark rock and punk with obvious North Mississippi hill country roots. Rather than stick to standard 12-bar blues conventions, Left Lane Cruiser’s sound has obvious blues roots while taking a sledgehammer to standard 12-bar blues. LLC is loud, brash, trashy and entirely refreshing.
Having been provided the opportunity to learn more about the band this blues movement which is being met with open arms from a younger, non-target demographic for contemporary blues I gladly took the opportunity to line up Ten Shots with Brenn Beck, percussion and blues harpist with Fort Wayne Indiana’s Left Lane Cruiser.
Georgetown Fats: Brenn, thank you very much for the interview but let’s get right down to the questions. As you may know, nothing is sacred with my Ten Shots columns and the questions run the spectrum of what ever comes to mind or is solicited from colleagues to make someone squirm. So let me start this: on the new disk I see you’ve been given both percussion and blues harp credit. In a live situation will you be performing both at the same time like Hezekiah Early, or is the harp work only for the studio?
Brenn: Yeah I will be going Hezekiah style and playin’ it live. We have done several songs in the past with harp, and I always play ‘em live. It is important to us that what you hear on the record is what you see in person. Plus, people eat that shit up when your playin’ multiple instruments on stage.
Georgetown Fats: How has your new addition and Joe’s new addition to your respective families affected touring?
Brenn: It’s definitely gonna slow us down a little. We’ve been taking a hiatus since March, and probably wont hit the road again till this upcoming March when the new album drops. You gotta put family first. We love the road though, so while it will slow us down a bit for a while, we will be back at it soon. We’re just gonna try and keep the tours shorter, and try and make some money doing it.
Georgetown Fats: Given how Alive Records has both T-Model Ford and The Black Keys on their roster, how has this helped provide exposure to Left Lane Cruiser?
Brenn: The whole experience of being part of Alive Records has been fuckin’ amazing. Joe and I both owned the (Black) Keys album The Big Come Up, long before we could have even dreamed of having our album on a shelf with it. Having their name so close to our’s has definitely helped us. On all the download sites we are recommended listening on their page, so we’ve sold quite a few albums from that. T-Model, though, is a whole other story. We’ve gotten the chance to know T real well over the last couple years, and that has meant more to us than selling any amount of albums. T-Model is one of the last remaining true bluesman from the hill country, and one hell of a guy on top of it. Sitting on my front porch listening to T-Model tell stories has got to be one of the best moments in my music career–not to mention sharing the stage him.
Georgetown Fats: Are there any tales from the road you care to share? Names can be changed to protect the guilty, but I am either looking for something that makes the lay-fan understand playing music professionally is actual “work,” or a humorous road tale? In a pinch, ratting out a roadie or Joe would be perfectly acceptable.
Brenn: Shit-.if you name it we probably seen it. We have drank moonshine with hillbillies from Tennessee to Serbia, played shows on the back of moving vehicles, ridden on homemade roller-coasters, narrowly escaped riots, and hell, we’ve even been deported. It’s a hell of a lotta fun, but it sure as shit is work. When we toured the US with Bob LOg III and Scott Biram, we did something like 38 shows in 40 days, and flew to France for a 3-day festival in the middle of it. For anybody that don’t think it’s work I’d say: Get in your car, drive for 8 hours, drink about 15 shots of whiskey, do push ups till your drenched in sweat and your hands are raw, drink five more shots of whiskey, sleep for four hours in the backseat of your car in a Wal-Mart parking lot, wake up hungover and don’t take a shower, and then repeat this 40 days in a row. Call me when you get you get home and tell me how you feel.
Georgetown Fats: Though LLC is signed to Alive Records, there seems to be a strong working relationship with the guys at Hillgrass Bluebilly. Would you be able to extrapolate on this unique relationship between one band and two labels?
Brenn: We met Keith Mallette, owner of Hillgrass Bluebilly Entertainment, in Phoenix on our first tour we ever did. He treated us like every musician outta be treated when they are on the road. We had always looked up to the bands that HBE was working with, and really wanted to be a part of what they were doing. When Keith offered the chance to play a show we jumped on it, and he did not disappoint. The show he put together for us that night was one of the best shows we have ever played, and really gave us a lot of hope for the future of music. Keith is the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back, and has done more for us in the few years we’ve known him than most people will in a life time. Keith has single-handedly pushed underground blues music into the faces of thousands. And the guy does it all simply cause he loves music .I would take a bullet for that fucker. Anyway, we have always worked with HBE on shows across the country. We put two albums out with Alive Records when Keith called and said that HBE was becoming a record label. I had hoped he would want to do an album with us, and he did. He re-released our first independent album, Gettin’ Down On It. He since has put out quite a few amazing albums that you would do yourselves a favor to buy. (available digitally worldwide, and firstname.lastname@example.org)
Georgetown Fats: I am testing out a theory here; your input is appreciated. The type of person who puts Kid Rock songs, Godsmack songs, Nickelback songs, and a pop country song all in a row on a bar room juke box is the same type of person who believes there is a “homosexual agenda,” President Obama is not American, all Republicans are racists, and that Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck speak the truth. What do you think?
Brenn: Yeah, I know a few of those folks. I have to say though, if you’re at a bar that has those songs on the jukebox, you might wanna find a new bar, brother.
Georgetown Fats: Touche. Sometimes I miss the obvious and perhaps I should relocate or strongly consider a juke joint of my own. While I admit this is a recycled question, it has always elicited great responses: What term on Left Lane Cruiser’s rider will have to be met in order for your two to know you’ve “made it?”
Brenn: Shit, if we could get a hotel room, and more than $400, I’d be happy.
(added by Keith M. /not a part of this interview – That last comment by Brenn was about the best thing I ever read)
Georgetown Fats: Bourbon, Scotch or Irish whiskey?
Brenn: If your buyin’, we’ll take all three. Me and Joe are both Jim Beam fans, but we’ve been known to drink our fair share of Jameson’s too.
Georgetown Fats: So with the strategically early release of the teaser/single titled “Lost my Mind” from the forthcoming “Junkyard Speedball” full length, what message are you trying to pass along to your existing LLC fans, and what message do you want to extend to those who have yet to be hipped to your material?
Brenn: Well, “Lost My Mind” just tells some tales of touring Europe, drinking grappa in Italy, bribing the border patrol in Serbia, and getting deported in London. Most of our songs are just stories about shit that has happened to us. We do have a tendency to write a lot of songs about food though. I guess we really just want people to come out to the shows, get drunk, and stomp their feet. The blues is somethin’ that has evolved past a slow 12- bar. We try and bring a rowdier, more get-down kind of party to the table.
Georgetown Fats: If you were not right now part of LLC working to push the envelope of blues, where would you be?
Brenn: Probably working a nine-to-five and actually making some money. Fortunately for me, LLC is something that Joe and I have always had fun doing, so we aint going’ anywhere, and I will never have to seriously give this question any thought.
Georgetown Fats: So how about some current or updated info on the new LLC release? When can your fans get ahold of it?
Brenn: Junkyard Speed Ball is due out March 1. This album is a little different for us. We still have a lot of dirty rockin’ shit on it, but we added quite a few mellower tunes. Joe is playing a few standard tuning songs on this one, and we laid down a shit ton of overdubs on this one. I think the most exciting part for us though, is John Wesley Meyers from the Black Diamond Heavies came into the studio and laid down keys on four tracks. Joe and I are both really excited about this album. It has a little something for everybody.
The Boston Blues Society is in the process of securing an early release version of Junkyard Speedball for review. Please make sure to stay tuned for the forthcoming review or for additional information on Left Lane Cruiser.