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Beloved Austin Band The Gourds Dishes on BBQ Joints, Travel, and Its New Album

Austin’s
roots rock veterans the Gourds are no strangers to the road. For seventeen
years they’ve toured the U.S. and abroad with their sweet and spicy brand of
southern country-blues-rock. With a new record out, Old Mad Joy,
and a whopping nine other studio albums under their belt, the band shows no
signs of slowing down. The Old Mad Joy tour takes the Texans
from San Francisco to Philadelphia and dozens of towns in between. Frontman
Kevin “Shinyribs” Russell calls the live show “kind of a cross between a
revival, a house party, a pep rally and a pow wow.” We connected with the guys
to ask about their time on tour and tips for would-be road warriors.

Q: You hail from Austin, which has been an indie hotbed for
some time now (here’s looking at you, SXSW). Have you noticed a shift in the
city’s music scene over the course of your careers?

A: Yes,
the scene has been constantly changing for decades now. The biggest change has
come from the economic boom of the last 15 years; dot com bubble/high tech
expansion and real estate bubble. Also the focus of the city on encouraging
downtown residential occupancy and a ridiculous sound ordinance has transformed
live music into a migratory population in search of affordable leases and
appropriate neighborhoods. The musicians and service workers sort of gravitate
nearer to these places. So, lots of them are now in east Austin. The styles
have become much more diverse and the talent level much more exceptional.

Q: When you’re on the road, are there particular towns you
try to make sure you have a day off in?

A: Well
not specifically. It is mostly determined by logistics and scheduling. Occasionally
we will try to find some cabins in the woods or in the mountains and cook a big
meal, share some down time together like a family. A brief respite from the
grind like this can really recharge everybody and help us maintain some sanity
in the tumult.

Q: Apart from playing, what do you do for fun on the road?

A: We
really spend most of our time talking and laughing with each other. We all
genuinely like each other, for the most part. Our sound engineer Mark Creaney
is a really great guy. And we often bring a musical friend who travels with us
and opens the shows. Other than that some of us escape into
writing, computers, art, literature, beer etc.

Q: “Peppermint City,” one of the standout tracks from Old
Mad Joy
, is allegedly about one particularly divey venue you played
somewhere. Can we hear a little more about that?

A: The bone-crushing
indifference one meets with in some towns, at some venues resonates with every musician
I know. But, this is not just a song about musicians. It is a song about any
traveler anywhere. Sometimes one comes into a city that just feels ugly, brutal
and wicked. When one feels such, one should get the hell out as soon as
possible. There is sometimes an adolescent residual want to blame someone for a
given situation. That song is mostly about that.

Q: Austin’s known for its barbecue—care to divulge your
favorite joints?

A: The best BBQ in the
city limits is probably Ruby’s. Not Rudy’s, which is not bad for a chain. Then
I don’t know, there ain’t much else. I have heard about Franklins, but never
made it over there. If I am gonna get some Q, then I am gonna go to Elgin
(Southside or Meyers), Lockhart (Smitty’s or Kruez) or City Market in Luling.
Milt’s in Kyle is great too. Opie’s in Spicewood is good. And it is just
outside of a campground, Krause Springs. So you can bring great Q into the tent
with you and gnaw on it all night around the fire.

Guest blogger Kristin Anderson is based in New York City
and writes about music and travel.

The Gourds perform a track from their latest record, OLD MAD JOY, live on KUT Radio in Austin, Texas on August 31, 2011. The performance was shot for ALL THE LABOR, a documentary feature in-production about the band. For more info on the documentary, go here.

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