“Bitch, I love you”: Gettin’
off on the good foot with the Honeybears’ frontman.
By RANDY HARWARD
Maybe you were feelin’ Sharon Jones-ed to death, full to
edge of puking on the glut of new or previously unheralded soul artists? It wasn’t
just Jones and her Dap-Kings – there’s Bettye LaVette, the Dynamites, the Budos
Band, Wiley and the Checkmates, Nicole Willis, Keite Young, Ryan Shaw… the list is as
interminable as an opera. As good as they are, all crazes must come to an
end-bring on the new albums, but tone down the revival talk, please. Make room
for something else.
Then, of course, here comes Black Joe Lewis & the
Honeybears. Their arrival was sudden – like the irresistible groove that
explodes from out of a Chuck Berry lick in the intro to “Gunpowder” from the
band’s debut album Tell ‘Em What Your
Name Is! (Lost Highway) – and immediately welcome, despite how snugly they
fit the bitch-session paragraph above. It’s because there’s something different
about them, a rock n’ roll sensibility that gives their joyous, funky soul
music one hell of a kick. That, and a sense of humor that finds characters like
“Cousin Randy” wiggling into the tunes, and makes a line like, “Bitch, I love
you,” both hilarious and romantic.
BLURT: On MySpace
someone commented, “Good fucking God, I love this band.” A lot of other folks concur.
LEWIS: It’s great to hear that kind of thing. My favorite
part of the job is playing the live shows. We love trying to win over a crowd.
We’re definitely always working on the live show and trying to get better.
You have some
hilarious songs. What’s the secret to using humor to convey serious themes
without being pegged as a novelty act?
That’s a tough question. I don’t really think about that. We
have a couple of funny songs but I also try to write songs about real people so
the people who buy the album and come to the show can relate to it.
Tell me about your
relationship with “Cousin Randy.”
You gotta ask Randy about that one. Don’t trust him though,
the devil took him so he’s always telling lies.
Come on, what’s he really
like? Do you trot him out at shows like Iron Maiden does with Eddie?
I gotta keep him away from the shows. Him and Bobby Booshay
too. They like to start a bunch of trouble.
The Dread Question of
Influences: If your MySpace top friends mean anything, you dig James Brown,
Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Bunker Hill, Howlin’ Wolf, and… Michael McDonald? There’s also a
punchier rock aspect to your music. What else do you listen to?
We always listen to yacht rock in the van. It relaxes me. My
favorite stuff is old punk rock and dirty soul and blues. I grew up on hip hop.
Jim Eno from Spoon
produced the record, which is interesting – maybe even surprising.
We met Jim when we were on tour with Spoon. He has a really
nice studio and had a lot of ideas about how to make the songs interesting. He
also played some drums and percussion on the album.
Like a lot of other
recording/touring musicians lately, you have a day job. What do you do? Is your
boss cool, or is “Master Sold My Baby Away” a true story?
I used to work at a fish market, shucking oysters and
delivering fish wholesale. I wrote “Gunpowder” about my boss before I got
fired. I’ve been so busy with the band lately I haven’t been back.
[Photo Credit: Cambria
Black Joe Lewis’ “Tell
‘Em What Your Name Is” was previously reviewed at BLURT.