Archive for November, 2010

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. It’s taken the boys a while to narrow it down, but we have 11 finalists in a Facebook photo album. Check it out here, and click “like” for your favorite design. We’ll tally up the “likes” at the end of December and announce the winner early next year.

A few ground rules:

~ Vote early, and vote often.
~ The band reserves the right to pick the final winner.
~ The winning design may be tweaked or polished to be made print-ready.
~ Um, I think that’s it.

See you at the rock show.

An interview with Murry and Rhett for Extra. Not sure it is going to be on the show. They also perform “Every Night is Friday Night (Without You)”. No Mario Lopez, sorry.

~ michael

Last week Murry started the ball rolling by answering 17 questions in 17 minutes (more or less). This week Rhett accepted the challenge by penning his responses to the same queries. Here goes. Enjoy!

1. The energy and intensity of TGTV1 has been compared to Too Far To Care. Thirteen years down the road, how does touring life now stack up to the touring life from the TFTC era–Still a rowdy, whiskey-soaked frat bus or more of a quiet, herbal-tea-drinking Christian Science Reading Room?
The novelty has worn off touring for the most part, but there is still a fair amount of fun, laughter and, yes, inebriation.  So sue me.

2. I overpack for weekends away let alone a two-month trek. How in the world do you pack enough clothes for that long an absence? Seriously, who owns that many pairs of gutchies*? How do you deal with the laundry issue?

What are Gutchies?  I pack meticulously and I have gotten pretty darn good at it if I say so myself.  I no longer roll each article up inside a rubber band.  I am content to fold and stack.  The trick is to pack seven days worth of shirts and pants and ten days worth of under-garments.  Then do laundry once a week.  And I do kind of love doing laundry – bring a book, escape the sardine can, take a walk…

3. Speaking of gutchies: Boxers, Briefs or Commando?

Boxer-briefs.  And re: Murry’s answer, yuck.

4. What are three things you absolutely must have with you on tour?

Umm…  Song notebook, good novel and Ken’s board games.

5. You can’t have four guys living on a bus together for weeks without some kind of hijinx. Are you the prankster or the punk’d? What are some of the best pranks ever pulled on you, by you, in general?

With the 97’s, I am usually the punk’d.  On solo tours, I’ve gotten away with being the prankster, but I’m pretty beaten-down by my older band-mates.

6. In Juliana Hatfield’s autobiography, she talks at length about the horrors of backstage dressing rooms: the ubiquitous mystery-stained furniture, horrifying toilets, membrane-melting odors. At this point in your career, you’ve played in just about every club in America. Surely you’ve experienced some hellish environs. Can you share with us the best of the absolute worst in dressing rooms or clubs?

I have a hard time even separating all the lousy dressing rooms in my mind.  The mental image that surpasses all others is a crude drawing of a stick figure with a boner.  Basically, these dressing rooms make me feel like a caveman.  That said, the worst dressing rooms can make for the best moments.  I remember the old Lounge Ax basement in Chicago, tiny and cramped, sitting on an empty keg writing “Dressing Room Walls”.The switch to the tour bus gave us a sweet option to all those awful digs.

7. Riders. What are some of your must-haves? Have you ever thrown in a completely ridiculous demand, ala Van Halen’s green M&M’s only clause just to see if the owner has read it? If not, please do and entertain us with how that goes.

Jameson and clean ice.  That’s about it for me.  It’d be nice if the towels they gave us had been washed before so they didn’t leave little pills of fabric all over my face and hair, but I don’t want to get greedy.

8. Regarding chicken and women, leg or breast man?

It takes both, right?  That said, it’s hard to beat a long, strong pair of legs.

9. Which cities are givens on your touring schedule and why? Any place you haven’t ventured that’s on your wish list? You’re so great about changing up the set list for every show. How much does your familiarity with each town play into tailoring the list? Are there songs you save solely for Southern shows?

So much figures into the set list, but there aren’t many regional songs.  I used to open with California every time we were in that state, but that got old.  We always go back to the towns that have given us the most love from the earliest days: Chicago, Austin, NYC, DC, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Madison.  Our home town of Dallas gets the most play, obviously.

10. What are some of the craziest things to have happened on tour, either on or off stage?

This question always stump me.  Everything on tour is crazy to the point that nothing seems crazy anymore.  I’ve seen parents offer up their daughters in ways that seemed like they’d be inappropriate in the old west.  I’ve seen tattoos I didn’t care to see.  I’ve been asked to sign body parts that should be kept private.  The weirdest on-stage moment was the Buffalo gig we did outdoors a few summers ago when the girl jumped up during the encore and did the booty dance (really well, I think) right next to me and then, as the song finished, pulled her cute friend up and made out with her.  Normally our audience is a little more, well, subtle.  But two girls kissing on stage is it’s own kind of magic.  You can probably still find the clip on youtube.

11. Okay, so who’s the one most likely to funk up the bus?

In a bus full of dudes, I’m sure we are all occasionally responsible, but there is one who is the worst.  I won’t name any names, but let’s just say it rhymes with “Oh my god, you did it again?!?”.

12. All of you are married with young children. It’s got to be very difficult to leave them for an extended period of time. Is there anything special you always do with the kids before you set sail?

Hours and hours of love and attention.

13. Come on. You’re a Texan. Fess up. How many cowboy hats and boots do you own?

One cowboy hat, I think.

14. Let’s say you accidentally knock over your on-stage drink when you’re kicking it up during a particularly energetic part of the set. A sad, sad sight indeed. What beverage might one purchase to replenish your toppled glass?

Jameson over clean ice.

15. Is there anything you miss about the lean years traveling in a broke-down van?

The indestructibility of youth.  The excitement of knowing you are the hell-bent underdog.

16. Your fans will agree nothing beats cranking Old 97’s songs on long road trips. What are your favorite touring tunes to make the miles motor along?

The song I’m writing at the moment is always the one that keeps me going.

17. And finally, Dude, are you stoked? The McRib is back!

Gross.  Double gross.  Why did they shape it as if the bones were still in there? Seriously… Gross.

*For the record, gutchies is a Pennsylvania Dutch term for underwear. Sorry for the confusion.

Thanks Rhett! I’m with you on the McRibb repulsion. ACK! That thing looks more like a rubber doggie toy than an edible food stuff. Would love to know what was floating around in those cubes to necessitate a “clean ice” clause in the rider. But then, again, maybe not. 

Ken and Philip, the ball’s in your court now.

Last but not least, I would be doing y’all a disservice if I didn’t include the aforementioned video from question #10. I was hoping one of the band mates would throw this out there, giving me a legitimate excuse to post it. It’s epic. Thank you Mr. Miller. DDog, I believe this young woman is the very definition of being “made of elastic”. You’re welcome.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnEe73Nc_ZA&playnext=1&list=PLCB9FE8685F2536C2&index=10[/youtube]

“Back On Your Heads”

November 26, 2010

With the band about to embark on an extended tour in support of The Grand Theatre, Volume 1, I thought it would be fun to check in with the guys and ask them some questions as they prepare for their 2+ months on the road together.

I sent the same 17 queries to Rhett, Murry, Ken and Philip. Murry was brave enough to shoot first. Enjoy!

1. The energy and intensity of TGTV1 has been compared to Too Far To Care. Thirteen years down the road, how does touring life now stack up to the touring life from the TFTC era–Still a rowdy, whiskey-soaked frat bus or more of a quiet, herbal-tea-drinking Christian Science Reading Room?

It still reeks of liquor and loud, excited talking, but we *have* added chamomile tea, so there’s been some evolution.

2. I overpack for weekends away let alone a two-month trek. How in the world do you pack enough clothes for that long an absence? Seriously, who owns that many pairs of gutchies? How do you deal with the laundry issue?

We all do it differently. Rhett and Philip are jonesing for a laundry just days into a trip, while Ken never packs enough and hits the Wal-Mart when there’s a Wal-Mart stop. I take it all with me — there’s boxers and socks jammed in every possbile cranny in my suitcase and bass case on the flight out.

3. Speaking of gutchies: Boxers, Briefs or Commando?

Boxers, but occasionally commando just to have a naughty little secret as I walk around town.

4. What are three things you absolutely must have with you on tour?

Computer for me and for the sake of my boy Tex, my camera phone and some of his pictures for my bunk.

5. You can’t have four guys living on a bus together for weeks without some kind of hijinx. Are you the prankster or the punk’d? What are some of the best pranks ever pulled on you, by you, in general?

Never the punk’d, but might prankster a tiny bit. Hmm, if there’s granny porn available for instance, it’s definitely going to show up on someone’s bunk. Perhaps under someone’s mattress after the tour’s over – let the bus driver leave the tour thinking that so’n’so was one sick little puppy.

6. In Juliana Hatfield’s autobiography, she talks at length about the horrors of backstage dressing rooms: the ubiquitous mystery-stained furniture, horrifying toilets, membrane-melting odors. At this point in your career, you’ve played in just about every club in America. Surely you’ve experienced some hellish environs. Can you share with us the best of the absolute worst in dressing rooms or clubs?

The stains are beer, coffee and bong water, period. It’s not pee pee, let’s just all calm down. House of Blues tend to have the best situations — the bathroom is like what you’d have in a motel room, showers, etc… but then so do clubs like 9:30 in D.C. — a great club with great clean amenities. The worst? That would always be that one club whose dressing room is also their janitor and sound storage closet, and your bathroom is the public one with the missing door on the one stall. You and the fans get to know each other pretty good in those.

7. Riders. What are some of your must-haves? Have you ever thrown in a completely ridiculous demand, ala Van Halen’s green M&M’s only clause just to see if the owner has read it? If not, please do and entertain us with how that goes.

Must haves beyond the waters and juices and beer that sort of thing, for me is Red Bull or God bless ’em – those 5-hour things. Sometimes you just want to simply wake up, and get “that look” off your face. I’ve no doubt some wise guy has thrown something on there that is beyond reasonableness and decency, but I can’t recall what it is…hmmm. Remember when I mentioned “granny porn”, I can see our tour manager Mike slipping that one in occasionally.

8. Regarding chicken and women, leg or breast man?

Love, love, love the legs…

9. Which cities are givens on your touring schedule and why? Any place you haven’t ventured that’s on your wish list?

College towns of all varieties… some we haven’t been to, some we have and need to visit again… we get to do Oxford again in December, and we haven’t been back to Ann Arbor in forever, and we hope to make that happen… and there’s a couple dozen Oxfords and Ann Arbors that we hope to permanently ink in on the map. Also, the UK… and Europe… one of these days… *sigh*

10. What are some of the craziest things to have happened on tour, either on or off stage?

I passed completely out from the heat during the middle of my own song “West Texas Teardrops.” I think I made it to the first chorus, and next thing I know, I’m laying on my back looking up at a terrified Ken Bethea. Also saw Rhett vomit sushi into a trashcan during an encore, literally seconds before he sauntered back out to do Question in French.

11. Okay, so who’s the one most likely to funk up the bus?

There is one, but I’m going to blame it on one of the crew, which is not even true. Sorry, crew-man, it’s politics, you understand. I have to be in a band with that other guy.

12. All of you are married with young children. It’s got to be very difficult to leave them for an extended period of time. Is there anything special you always do with the kids before you set sail?

Before the trip, I just make sure I have some hardcore Daddy/boy time. We’re close to Disneyland and we have season tickets, so that’s often a stop. After the trip I always bring him specific toys that I know he’s been chomping at the bit for. Last time it was a Superman action figure, and all during the trip, he’d get videos of just Superman talking to him. He ate it up, and it really gave him something to look forward to, and it took the sting out of my absence.

13. Come on. You’re a Texan. Fess up. How many cowboy hats and boots do you own?

A pair of cowboy boots. No cowboy hats, just a railroad cap, which is just a ball cap with a company logo for “Texas & Pacific” on it. That’s under the redneck column, so I figure it counts. :p

14. Let’s say you accidentally knock over your on-stage drink when you’re kicking it up during a particularly energetic part of the set. A sad, sad sight indeed. What beverage might one purchase to replenish your toppled glass?

Sam Adams if it was a beer, and Jack for whiskey is fine. I like the Texas beers, too, but always seem to end up ordering Sam.

15. Is there anything you miss about the lean years traveling in a broke-down van?

Lots! Mostly, the feeling of those days. Pure hope and potential and lots of male bonding. Good days…

16. Your fans will agree nothing beats cranking Old 97’s songs on long road trips. What are your favorite touring tunes to make the miles motor along?

If I have to drive long hours, I’ve found that I love “wordless” music… a lot of spacey ambient stuff like Eno or Stars of the Lid. There’s also truly out-of-this-world psychedelic things like throat singing by David Hykes or Jim Cole which are all drone-y chant kind of stuff. But you know, a good David Sedaris audio book will zap those miles like nobody’s business.

17. And finally, Dude, are you stoked? The McRib is back!

I actually had one the other day, I pulled in just for coffee and decided what the hell. The ol’ McRib hasn’t changed much. It hit the spot well enough, but I think I’ll just stay with the coffee from now on. Coffee’s good for you. 🙂

There you have it. A little insight into touring with Old 97’s. Thanks for taking the time to play along, Murry! Great answers. I’m not exactly sure what “granny porn” is, but then again I’m not sure I want to know either. HaHa!

Keep watching to see what Rhett, Ken and Philip have to say. Will one of them answer #11 truthfully? We shall see. 😉

Giving Thanks

November 25, 2010

Being it is Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect upon some of the things I am thankful for from the past ten months. This year has brought many a blessings my way–the continued good health of those I hold dear, work that for the most part doesn’t suck and of course, the gift of a new Old 97’s album.

That last element is a gift which will fortunately keep on giving long into 2011 with a huge list of tour dates culminating in the release of TGT, Volume 2 and its own barrage of appearances in support of what promises to be another tremendous musical effort pairing older, unreleased gems with new pearls. Then there’s Rhett’s latest solo work slated for production next year as well as renewed rumors of a Ranchero Brothers CD. Whew!! Luckily for us, it seems this train ain’t derailing any time soon.

One of the many joys of following this amazing band is getting to know fellow train wreckers. I’ve had such a blast standing shoulder-to-shoulder with several fan failthful at shows both home and away, dancing and singing along (poorly in my case–sorry Rhett) to the whip-smart tunes I will love until my dying breath! I have forged some wonderful friendships over the past year through a common love of all things Old 97’s. We’re creating quite a nice little family here. Hopefully I’ll get to meet more of you in the coming months as our favorite quartet crisscrosses the country.

Do I hear tweet up?

Yep, it has been an exciting year to be an Old 97’s fan, and this is just the beginning. I can’t end this missive without giving a special note of thanks to all involved here at old97s.com for allowing Stephanie and I the incredible opportunity to contribute to this site. We shall do our best to earn your respect and help keep this train a rolling on.

Now go put on your comfy elastic waist sweat pants, grab a glass of wine and go stuff you face. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Ken on amps.

November 24, 2010

Like I said in the video, there are a couple of cool amp stories about The Grand Theater.

I normally get a new foot pedal whenever we’re going back in the studio, but this time I wound up with a new amp instead. Going in to record Blame It On Gravity, our engineer/mixer Rip Rowan had asked me if I’d ever heard a Fender Pro Jr. amp. I hadn’t, but I looked around for one and they were no longer being made and I never ran across one. I didn’t try real hard. But over the past couple of years I’ve always looked around when I’m in a guitar store. I walked into Guitar Center in Dallas about a week before we began recording and they had one. I got it for about $250. It’s a cool little amp. It only has 2 knobs on it (volume, tone), is 15 watts and a little 10″ speaker. The tubes were squirrely but I had a set of spare ones that I had been given years ago by the Mesa company. I put those in and it sounds great. You can here it clearly on “Brown Haired Daughter” on Volume 2 on the main guitar parts (not the solo) and on various other guitar parts on other songs. It really sounds great with the Gretsch I’d gotten for BIOG.

I’ve never used Marshal amps, mainly because they’ve always reminded me of cheesy metal bands. But there was a really old one (not sure, but really old, woody looking. I would say 65 or 66 maybe.) in the studio. On a whim I used it on “Dance Class” and it just sounded amazing. The song is based around a real southern rock lick, something we’ve never really done and it works perfectly. That track is particularly cool since there are pretty much no overdubs. None on the guitars, bass, drums or Rhett’s vocals. We just nailed the thing to the wall.

But the best amp story has to do with this little amp called a Newcome that was at the studio. It’s probably from the 40’s or early 50’s and it’s tiny. Like, 5 watts and a 4″ speaker. It really sounded like crap but it looked really cool. I kept tinkering with it, trying to make it not suck. At some point I plugged in a little 7-channel Boss EQ and EQ’d it kind of weird (I put the ones on the end and the one in the middle all the way up, and the others all the way down.) As soon as I started playing it I knew it I had struck gold. I was making a little “auto-wah” sound that Philip came running in and said it sounded like a duck. So it became known as the “duck amp.” You can hear it on “You Call It Rain” on Volume 2. It’s hot.

Quick note from Rhett:

Google has asked me to translate one of my songs into French or Spanish and perform it. I want you to choose which one. Tomorrow, Sunday 11/21, from 3-4 PM EASTERN ONLY, tweet any and all requests for any of my songs; choose French or Spanish; AND tell me a funny/romantic/touching/scary story why you chose that song and how the language relates. You MUST hashtag all responses: #therhettproject. Post as many requests as you want, but remember that I’ll only read submissions posted on Twitter during that one hour (3-4pm EST Sunday). The funniest/most moving/best story, as judged by me, wins. I’ll make a video singing the winning song in the winning language, and the winner will be revealed when google posts the video in December. (I’ll tweet the exact date when I know it.) Look forward to reading your brilliant ideas.

The band did so well on Leno, I think we all can agree it deserves a place on our news page. For your viewing pleasure, here they are hitting the proverbial ball out of the park. Enjoy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg4RfBHe3kQ[/youtube]

Apparently the Leno contingent took down this video. However, thanks to kind folks at DC9 At Night, who clearly have a better handle on embedding videos than I, you can watch the performance over and over again. Here’s the link to their blog:

http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/dc9/2010/11/watch_old_97s_went_to_champaig.php

If you’d like the thrill of having your very own design become an official Old 97’s t-shirt, there’s still time to enter. Just upload your image to the contest Flickr group and post a link to it in the forum. Then let me know you entered via the site’s contact form and I’ll share an exclusive MP3 with you. The entry deadline is November 15, so don’t miss your chance at merch table glory.

Even if you don’t care to enter, take a minute to visit the forum and leave a comment on your favorite design.