"Indie Rock". The term alone is enough to send someone like me running for the hills. I love independent bands, I really do. What I don't like is the poseur notion of "rock" bands selling their souls for a little bit of attention or a starring spot in a J Crew commercial. Rock'n'Roll used to be something that only the "dangerous" or "scary" people listened to. To own a leather biker jacket meant something. Now you can find high-flying executives of multinational corporations in designer biker jackets anytime John Mayer comes to town. This is why when I come across real rock bands, like the NYC-based The Bamboo Kids, I take notice. Bands that exist to play music that they love because that's what they want to do, not because it's profitable - because we all know getting into rock music for the money is like setting up a lemonade stand to become a millionaire: possible, after many years of toil, but highly, HIGHLY unlikely.
I had the opportunity to interview Dwight Weeks from The Bamboo Kids, whose album Safe City Blues is a testament to the fact that rock music is not dead - you just have to know where to find it.
Playing With Chaos (PWC): How did your band form/come together?
Dwight Weeks (DW): Chris, Vince and I grew up in the same town in Jersey. They played music together in high school. I was a bit older, so Chris and I began playing a few years later in another band. Then Vince came on board when we formed yet another band called SickFM. When the fourth member of that one was a no-show at a CMJ gig ‘cause he was a junkie, we played the set without him. Our friends said they didn’t notice a difference, so we threw him out, took a break, wrote a new record and
became The Bamboo Kids. None of us were truly happy till then musically anyway, so hooray for smack! We’ve been playing together for a terrifyingly long time.
PWC: How did the song-writing process develop for your current album
“Safe City Blues”? Are there any songs that took longer to write or that
developed into a something unexpected?
DW: Some of the tunes on the record were recorded much longer ago
than others, but didn’t make the cut of other albums for space reasons, etc. All of our songs are written almost in full by me or Vince, then presented to the others and molded from there. There’s one track on
there that’s fifteen or so years old. I don’t even know if I could buy beer when I wrote the fucking thing. The album’s a real hodge podge of recent stuff, leftovers from other albums, things we found stuck to the bottoms of our shoes, etc. Most of the tracks are either about or pretty heavily seasoned with our getting older and losing our place in our world, in our city, in our brains.
PWC: What gear setup/rig do you play live/in the studio?
DW: In the studio I use a Fender Bassman head through a Marshall cab, I think. There’s some other ancient Crate amp that Dean puts me through at the same time maybe? I dunno for sure. I also play through a
little old Harvard, which I dig tons. Most tracks I play on a 1976 Les Paul Deluxe. Because of the number and range of tunes on this record, I also used a 1992 Guild F4-NT Jumbo acoustic, a Gretsch Electromatic, a Richie’s telecaster I had him make for me that’s kind of like Keith’s Exile era tele in terms of the pick-up configuration and it’s set up for 5-string open G. Also, my 1974 Les Paul Special (p-90s) which is kind of a girlfriend that my ‘76 knows about, but tolerates. Live, I play the ‘76 and the Tele through a Fender Hot Rod DeVille (clean channel). I go through an old Tube Screamer and boost with an MXR Micro Amp pedal. Anything more complicated, and I fuck it up.
PWC: What do each of the band members do to “practice” or hone their
craft on their instrument? (scales, no scales, regimented practice on a
daily basis, air guitar, torture from watching guitar-based instructional
DVD’s, etc. )
DW: Holy crap, I do nothing. I will occasionally look at a “play in the style of” video and manage to learn and use a lick I like. I have zero technique. The only compliments I ever get from other real guitarists is on
my actual guitar, not my playing. In terms of my voice, it’s just lots of whiskey and disgust.
PWC: Rock music doesn’t get played on as many radio stations as it used
to – we seem to be in a lull that way. What do you think about the state
of rock music in today’s pop culture?
DW: I have often stated that I thought the best thing that could happen to rock and roll would be if the government made it illegal and punishable with labor camps. Then you could really separate the wheat
from the chaffe, ‘cause the good stuff comes from needing to play this shit, not knowing how. I would at least keep an ear out for something new every once in a while until the days when “indie” bands actually started
actively trying to get their songs into commercials, then I really just shut the whole fucking thing down. I know zero new bands. I don’t expect to hear any really, really earth-moving rock, ‘cause the kids these days have nothing to rebel against really. And if they do, the odds that they’ll channel it through a 60 year old folk art form is pretty fucking slim.
PWC: What tips do you have for musicians/bands that are starting out?
DW: Asking me this is like asking Mickey Rourke how to win an Oscar. Probably much shorter, less lethal ways to do it. But, if I must... Decide whether or not you want to be big in the business. If you do, fire any
motherfucker that wastes even a second of your time immediately. That goes for players and biz folks. And work constantly. Write a million songs, good and bad. You have ZERO time in which to pull this off. Learn a
million cool covers. Play every gig you can. Now, if you want to be in a band because it’s the most fun you can have, then find good friends to do it with and never ever let them go.
PWC: What are your plans in the upcoming months with regards to touring?
DW: We’re not going on tour. You wanna see us, come visit. Our city is probably better than yours anyway, so it’s a win-win.
PWC: If you had to choose 3 artists/bands that inspired you or really made
you want to become a rock musician, who would they be?
DW: In chronological order: Springsteen, Bowie, Reed, Iggy, Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Stones, Floyd… It goes on for a while.
PWC: If someone has never heard your band’s music, how would you
describe it to them?
DW: I like to think we write songs to get in trouble to, as well as songs to listen to while you’re regretting whatever it is you did. If there’s a song on our record that encourages a guy to cheat on his girlfriend and
also a song for the girl to listen to while she sits around hating him for it, then we succeeded. We try to find the perfect balance of art and delinquency. But it has to feel like us when we play it. Even if the style is
a foreign one, it has to be played honestly. And it has to be pretty easy, or else, fuck that.
If you find Dwight's answers as frank and honest as I do, do yourself a favor and check out their new album "Safe City Blues." Click on the album title for a link to where you can buy it. I got the limited edition double LP version, and I love it. Drug Front Records also included some neat free stuff like stickers and samplers of their other bands. Also be sure to check out The Bamboo Kids if you're in the New York City area. They've got a gig coming up on September 7, 2013 at the Cake Shop in NYC.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Music to Get In Trouble To: An Interview with Dwight Weeks from The Bamboo Kids
Martina Fasano is a worshipper of rock'n'roll and is always on the lookout for great music, bands, gear, and the right concert to photograph. When she's not venerating the Gods and Goddesses of Rock, she can be seen teaching high school history, rocking out with her band, being a wife and mom, and cheering on the Patriots/Blue Jays/Maple Leafs.