Monday, April 29, 2013

Do512 Interview with Peter !

brmc psych fest

Although Black Rebel Motorcycle Club may not be fans of the Texas heat, they are sure to bring a sweltering set to Austin Psych Fest tonight. The core duo of BRMC is bassist Robert Levon Been and guitarist Peter Hayes, who started playing music together as high school friends in their hometown of San Francisco in the late ’90s.

They have produced seven albums in the last 15 years, and have no desire to throw in their sweaty towels after acquiring a new drummer (Leah Shapiro of The Raveonettes / Dead Combo) and releasing a new album in 2013. In advance of their first visit to Austin Psych Fest, we talked with Peter Hayes about the new album, family, inspiration and more.

Do512: What is it about Psych Fest that you admired and made you want to be a part of it?
PH: Festivals are a different animal. There are usually a lot of questions about which one you like better. But, with Psych Fest, we had heard about it since it started and from my understanding it was a couple of the guys from The Black Angels that helped start it. So, a part of it is just supporting them and what they are trying to do. That kind of thing has been floating around our head and I don’t really know any of the festivals in the U.S. that will basically have us play [laughs] or have us slip into the other type of music going on. There have been a few like Lollapalooza, but there is really not too many that have – I guess you call it a genre- or something in the U.S.. Supporting them with that is kind of the point, really. You know? If they keep it going, we have a place for the type of music we play.

Do512: Have you guys had any memorable experiences in Austin?
PH: Yeah, well we have been through there a bunch. I can’t remember if we played SXSW one year—yeah, I think we did. But, we usually try to dodge that one. That’s in Austin right? I think we dodge that about every year because we didn’t want to support the idea of some kind of already-signed band that is doing fine and then coming into a situation where—well, my understanding was it started as a place for new bands to showcase and do what they do and hopefully get signed—but I may be wrong about that. But, I really don’t want to support that, you know? [laughs] It is what it is. But, memorable? Summertime. Summertime in Texas isn’t fun. Played some pretty fucking sweaty gigs. We’ve played Dallas a lot, like Deep Ellum. There’s a place called River Glove, I believe, that was a really cool club. There are a lot of cool places through Texas.

Do512: You and Robert have known each other since high school. Tell me what it’s like growing up together and forming a career with one another.
PH: It turns into family… and all that entails [laughs]. The fights and all of the good and bad. This was just lucky. We’re lucky to have met that early on and to stick with it. You kind of have to make a choice where you kind of trust that it happened for a reason, if you know what I mean? And deal with that and make sure you try not to get self-important. You have to know that other person is needed and that’s always a good thing to hold on to.

Do512: What was it like to bring Leah Shapiro into your family? How did that change the dynamic of your band?
PH: I don’t mean to talk bad about Nick [Jago, former drummer], but we had left already before “Howl” actually and we recorded that album and then he came back into the band at the very end when we were finishing up with that album. Even though he came back, he didn’t like being there. So, when Leah came it was refreshing having someone that wanted to be there and was coming out from another angle. So, that was a good thing. But, like I said, I don’t mean to talk shit about Nick, he just wanted to be doing other things, you know? That came out in the music and the playing.

Do512: Did you see her playing with The Raveonettes or Dead Combo?
PH: It was Dead Combo. None of us even knew she had played with The Raveonettes. We had just been on a tour with Dead Combo through Europe and they were using a drum machine. Then we did a tour with them through the U.S. and brought Leah and we felt like she added a lot to that and a lot of power. I think Rob got her number at the end of that tour because we knew Nick was looking for other things to do. It’s a great thing though, seeing a girl behind the drums and beating the shit out of them. It’s not something you see very often.

Do512: Tell us about the experience of creating your newest album “Specter At The Feast.”
PH: “Specter at the Feast” came from Macbeth. But, writing with Leah… let’s see, where do I start? [laughs] A similar thing to Nick not wanting to be there was he would do the same thing in the studio. And as far as writing went, we tried to bring him into the writing process and we tried to leave the door open for him to write songs and bring in songs. If he wanted to play guitar the idea was I’d play drums and he’d get up there and do a guitar song if he wanted to. But, he didn’t want to do that. So, that also came out, like I said, in the studio. He wasn’t too interested in the writing process, so with Leah coming in and being 100 percent involved is a great thing. It’s a really nice thing to have in the band and have to bounce ideas off of. The way I look at it is it’s just important if she starts off with a groove out of the blue because that sparks a song. That to me is just as important as Rob doing a bass riff or me doing a guitar line because a lot of songs are started that way. She will go off with an idea and it’s just great.


Do512: You paid homage to Robert’s dad with The Call’s “Let the Day Begin.” Why did you choose that song specifically?
PH: It’s kind of a 180 from our usual. It’s kind of a feel-good song and we don’t have too many of those [laughs]. So, it was a challenge in that way and it really kind of came out of the blue too. Rob and Leah had been working on The Call songs because the gigs Robert just did- he did one in San Francisco and one in L.A.- with The Call guys you know, so they had been rehearsing that stuff for a long time. But, it just came out of the blue—we started doing something and then Rob just started singing that song and it just kind of worked. It became our version of it, which I think is something Michael (Been, Rob’s late father) would have been interested in hearing. He respected me and Rob and Leah and respected our playing. It seemed to always be in the back of his head, you know what would it sound like if we were to ever do one of his songs.

Do512: After seven albums, what do you guys do to remain inspired?
PH: It’s just life happening, you know? It’s kind of a constant battle, feeling like you’re not getting your message across or not making the effect you kind of want to have in the world. So that’s why we are always kind of reaching for more. That kind of keeps it going, you know? It always feels like there is still more work to do and there is always still more work to do on writing good songs. I don’t know if we are ever 100 percent satisfied with a song, which I think is every musician, painter, poet, or whatever. You are just never really done or satisfied with it. But, the want of getting closer each time is there. So that keeps it going.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club headlines the Reverberation Stage at Austin Psych Fest tonight at 11:30pm. Single day tickets are available at the festival for $60. Austin Psych Fest will be held rain or shine.

via Courtney Goforth