Austin’sroots rock veterans the Gourds are no strangers to the road. For seventeenyears they’ve toured the U.S. and abroad with their sweet and spicy brand ofsouthern country-blues-rock. With a new record out, Old Mad Joy,and a whopping nine other studio albums under their belt, the band shows nosigns of slowing down. The Old Mad Joy tour takes the Texansfrom San Francisco to Philadelphia and dozens of towns in between. FrontmanKevin “Shinyribs” Russell calls the live show “kind of a cross between arevival, a house party, a pep rally and a pow wow.” We connected with the guysto ask about their time on tour and tips for would-be road warriors.
Q: You hail from Austin, which has been an indie hotbed forsome time now (here’s looking at you, SXSW). Have you noticed a shift in thecity’s music scene over the course of your careers?
A: Yes,the scene has been constantly changing for decades now. The biggest change hascome from the economic boom of the last 15 years; dot com bubble/high techexpansion and real estate bubble. Also the focus of the city on encouragingdowntown residential occupancy and a ridiculous sound ordinance has transformedlive music into a migratory population in search of affordable leases andappropriate neighborhoods. The musicians and service workers sort of gravitatenearer to these places. So, lots of them are now in east Austin. The styleshave become much more diverse and the talent level much more exceptional.
Q: When you’re on the road, are there particular towns youtry to make sure you have a day off in?
A: Wellnot specifically. It is mostly determined by logistics and scheduling. Occasionallywe will try to find some cabins in the woods or in the mountains and cook a bigmeal, share some down time together like a family. A brief respite from thegrind like this can really recharge everybody and help us maintain some sanityin the tumult.
Q: Apart from playing, what do you do for fun on the road?
A: Wereally spend most of our time talking and laughing with each other. We allgenuinely like each other, for the most part. Our sound engineer Mark Creaneyis a really great guy. And we often bring a musical friend who travels with usand opens the shows. Other than that some of us escape intowriting, computers, art, literature, beer etc.
Q: “Peppermint City,” one of the standout tracks from OldMad Joy, is allegedly about one particularly divey venue you playedsomewhere. Can we hear a little more about that?
A: The bone-crushingindifference one meets with in some towns, at some venues resonates with every musicianI know. But, this is not just a song about musicians. It is a song about anytraveler anywhere. Sometimes one comes into a city that just feels ugly, brutaland wicked. When one feels such, one should get the hell out as soon aspossible. There is sometimes an adolescent residual want to blame someone for agiven situation. That song is mostly about that.
Q: Austin’s known for its barbecue—care to divulge yourfavorite joints?
A: The best BBQ in thecity limits is probably Ruby’s. Not Rudy’s, which is not bad for a chain. ThenI don’t know, there ain’t much else. I have heard about Franklins, but nevermade 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 justoutside of a campground, Krause Springs. So you can bring great Q into the tentwith you and gnaw on it all night around the fire.
Guest blogger Kristin Anderson is based in New York Cityand 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.