Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears grow by leaps and bounds with latest Scandalous
:: Black Joe Lewis ::
By Timothy Dwenger
It’s a Thursday afternoon in Austin, Texas, just before the mayhem of SXSW descends on the city, when Joe Lewis, one of the rising stars of the town’s vibrant music scene, took The Marquee’s call. He was hanging with friends at a vintage amplifier rental and repair shop north of downtown called Austin Amplifier. While at first it sounded like Lewis, the frontman for Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, was just relaxing during some downtime before his band hit the road for a tour that stretches well into April, it turned out that he was hard at work.
He soon revealed that the guys at Austin Amplifier have been working with Lewis for months to help the band refine their already razor sharp “Garage Soul” sound into something even more raucous and danceable. “It’s a really crunchy retro-type of sound that we are looking for out of the amps and they modified a pedal for me to get that old ’60s fuzz sound. We definitely base ourselves on a 60’s sound but it’s our own thing,” Lewis said.
While they haven’t had much opportunity to use the gear the shop has been working on, Lewis is looking forward to trying it out on the road this spring. “We have only played one or two shows with the gear because they are really just finishing it up but it makes a difference, you can hear it. I’m excited to go out on this tour and play this gear every night,” he said. “Even if the crowd can’t hear it and it’s only for us, that’s cool too,” he said, as he stressed the point that the band has to be comfortable with the sound that’s coming off the stage in order to play the best shows they can.
He and his band have spent the last three years playing together, night in and night out, and working towards a common goal of becoming the best they can be, and by all accounts they are firing on all cylinders right now.
Their new record Scandalous showcases the results of their hard work. “You can hear that there is a big improvement in the band. I feel like I’m a better musician and everybody has improved just through playing for two more years together. We have figured out how to say what we want to say a little better. I feel like the last record was ‘fun’ but I’m really proud of this one. It’s a better quality record,” Lewis said.
From the roadhouse blues of “Mustang Ranch” to the deep funk of “Livin’ In The Jungle” to the hollered chorus of “Booty City,” the album demonstrates a range that the group’s debut Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is, lacked. “Everybody is excited about it,” Lewis said, referring to the folks at Lost Highway Records who signed the band to a contract a few years back. “People are saying that it shows growth and improvement from the last album and that’s what we want to do. We are going for longevity instead of just being a ‘flash in the pan.’ We want to be able to make a career out of this so that’s good stuff to hear from people you work with.”
As was true with their last album, Lewis and The Honeybears recorded Scandalous with Spoon drummer, and fellow Austin resident, Jim Eno. “We opened up for Spoon in Austin, it was one of our earlier gigs, and after that we got a call to go on tour with them. We did a week-and-a-half, maybe two weeks, with them out on the West Coast and after that Jim invited us to check out his studio,” Lewis said. “We went over there and recorded half of our first record and then we ended up getting signed to Lost Highway and we went back and finished it. We have a good rapport with him. Sometimes you can get guys in the studio with you and everyone wants to argue with them. We don’t have any problems with Jim, we were friends with him first and then we started working together, so that always helps.”
Scandalous proves that Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are much more than just another retro soul band and it is sure to make many music fans out there stand up and take notice. It is sure to popularize the band’s “garage soul” sound and will also help to broaden their crossover appeal, something that Lewis has been striving for since the group first got together.
Though they have played several big festivals in their brief career, this year they have been invited to play the Coachella Music Festival, an event focused largely on indie rock and electronica. Though Lewis admits he likes performing in clubs more than at festivals, he is honored to be chosen for the high profile festival in California. “You’ve got to give people a chance not to like you,” he said. “You can’t just assume that because you are playing blues to a bunch of hipsters, that they are not going to work, you’ve got to give them a chance not to like it.”
:: Black Joe Lewis ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: April 6 ::
Recommended if you Like:
• The Black Keys
• Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
• JJ Grey & Mofro