By Matt Wickstrom
Self-proclaimed circus rockers People’s Blues of Richmond have quickly become one of the best live shows amidst a crowded midwest rock’n’roll scene with a sound many who’ve seen them first hand say resembles a cross between Led Zeppelin and The Black Keys. The trio from Virginia is currently melting the faces of music fans across Appalachia in support of their upcoming album “Quit or Die”.
People’s Blues of Richmond formed when guitarist Tim Beavers II and bassist Matt Volkes began playing together to grieve the death of a mutual friend while in college. In 2013 the group added Nekoro “Neko” Williams on drums. “Quit or Die” is the first PBR record featuring Williams on drums.
This new chapter in PBR’s discography shows how far the band has come since its inception and how much they cut in-and-out of genres like a knife through butter. Songs like “All the Things (I Couldn’t Say to You) feature latin beats that mold into punk-infused bridge, and others like “The House on Oregon Hill” add reggae tones to the mix.
“Then there’s straightforward rock’n’roll songs like “I Understand” and “Richmond City Hangover Blues”, which is like our mission statement of rock’n’roll talking about getting drunk in Richmond and living the rockstar lifestyle”, said Beavers.
Check out the premiere of “I Understand” at AFROPUNK.
According to Beavers, the aforementioned “Richmond City Hangover Blues” is an old PBR tune reinvented by Beavers and Williams from a slow song to a grungy tune oozing with bluesy guitar riffs. The reincarnated song has taken on a life of it’s own, and has become one of the band’s more popular songs in their live rotation.
Check out the premiere of “Richmond City Hangover Blues” at Crave Music.
“When we’re at our house in Richmond working on a song we’ll try out every idea so we know what sounds the best”, said Beavers. “We vote if we have to. It’s nice because with three people every vote works out 2-1. We all have a lot of respect for one another, so things are very easy going — we don’t butt heads too much.”
That respect and musicianship manifests itself on stage every night. Beavers energy on stage is palpable — from jumping up and down to shredding on the guitar as he holds it behind his head as Volkes screeches his bass along the top of the speakers mounted on the front of the stage. At festival and other outdoor shows the boys often enjoy bringing fire swallowers and dancers up on stage to add a unique visual element to an already one of a kind show. While it’s not quite as realistic to bring the fire dancers into the studio, the PBR folks do their best to replicate every other aspect of a live show onto their studio work.
“We’ve learned over the years… to capture as much as we can of all of us playing together live”, said Beavers. “We’ll do the guitar, bass, and drums together, play the whole song then go back and add vocals and guitar solos and stuff.”
One of “Quit or Die”’s cuts, “Never Enough”, was even recorded live in studio, with no overdubs or extra modifications according to Beavers, who added the recording for the track was completed in a single take.
People’s Blues of Richmond plan on riding the tidal wave of momentum from “Quit or Die” through the summer and into the fall, with upcoming trips to Doah Fest, Peace of Mind Fest, and The Big What, along with their debut appearance at Red Rocks in September as a part of Gregg Allman’s Laid Back Festival. They’ll be joined in Colorado by ZZ Top and the Richie Furay Band, among others.
“We’re out here just trying to have a good time doing what we want, making the world a better place”, said Beavers. “We hope everybody strives for that. We hope everybody finds a way to have fun with what they’re doing with their lives. Come out and see live music or make music or make art — whatever strikes you and sends shivers down your spine like sex or religion. It’s better than drugs with no hangover, so just remember it’s out there and to be a part of it.”
Check out the premier of “Red-Eyed and Brain-Fried” at Baeble Blog.
“Quit or Die” is set to release on Friday, June 10. Pre-order the record off PBR’s official web site, and keep an eye out for People’s Blues coming to a town near you!
Read below for full interview materials from Big Blue Tunes sit-down with PBR’s Tim Beavers II.
Big Blue Tunes: I know you have copies of your new album with you here this weekend, but it doesn’t officially come out until June 10, correct?
Tim Beavers II: Yeah.
BBT: Can you tell me a little about the record and the band’s creative vision behind it?
Tim: Sure. We didn’t have a grand theme going into (the album), we just had enough new songs that we felt ready to record, and we’d been trying to figure out where to do it for a while, and when our friend Ricky Olson opened a new studio called The Ward in Richmond we went and checked it out. The first song we tried out was “Quit or Die” and we loved it. We made it the first single we released and named the album after it. We were immediately sold. We were like “We’ve got to record in Richmond!” It’s convenient and this guy is awesome. There’s a lot of interesting stuff on the record. There’s one song called “All The Things (I Couldn’ Say to You)” which has a latin beat with a distorted guitar that smooths out and goes into a punk bridge. “The House on Oregon Hill” is a reggae songs that turns into psychedelic rock and gets crazy. Then there’s straightforward rock’n’roll songs like “I Understand” and “Richmond City Hangover Blues”, which is like our mission statement of rock’n’roll talking about getting drunk in Richmond and living the rockstar lifestyle.
BBT: (Matthew Volkes, PBR bassist) was telling me the other day that “Richmond City Hangover” blues has been in PBR’s repertoire for quite a while, but this new version of the song on the record didn’t come about until after Neko joined the band and did some experimenting on the tune with you?
Tim: Yeah, it was interesting. I had written the lyrics and put some simple chords to it — it was a real slow song — Neko and me were in a side project together and then we decided to make him the full-time drummer in PBR. One day me and him got up, and Matty was busy with something, so I was gonna show him some songs from the PBR set, and we were both like “Fuck this! Let’s work on the future of PBR. Let’s write some new stuff”. We put some riffs together and added the lyrics from the old, slow song, and it turned out to be a perfect fit.
BBT: I know all three of you contribute to the band’s songwriting — it isn’t a one man operation. What’s that process like? Do you guys butt heads or anything on decision-making?
Tim: No. We have a system — and if you notice our stage setup there’s no front-man, no boss, and that’s what we love about this business, being our own bosses. Everybody has the same amount of say — everything is split evenly. When we’re at our house in Richmond working on a song we’ll try out every idea so we know what sounds the best. We vote if we have to. It’s nice because with three people every vote works out 2-1. We all have a lot of respect for one another, so things are very easy going — we don’t butt heads too much.
BBT: Last night was my first time seeing y’all live. I’ve got to say, the energy you guys throw out there is insane.
Tim: That’s our favorite part of this business. Being on stage with the crowd…
BBT: How do you feel that energy transferred over in the studio to “Quit or Die” and what can you do in studio to help replicate that feel?
Tim: We’ve learned through — and this is our third album we’ll have put out. We’ve learned over the years, and Ricky (Olson) had the same mindset when we went in, which was to capture as much as we can of all of us playing together live. We’ll do the guitar, bass, and drums together, play the whole song then go back and add vocals and guitar solos and stuff. There was one song on the record we wanted to record live in the studio with no overdubs. That song was “Never Enough”. If you listen to that you’ll notice everything is done live in one take — nothing was overdubbed or patched or anything.
BBT: I know you guys are making your debut at Red Rocks later this summer as part of Gregg Allman’s Laid Back Festival, and are getting set to announce a west coast tour around that soon. Is there anything else in the PBR universe you wanted to give a plug?
Tim: Absolutely! We’re getting ready to keep up our super fun tradition of tearing up the Appalachians over the summer. We’re gonna be at Doah Fest in Virginia, Peace of Mind Fest in Pennsylvania, and that’s a festival that has Randy and Lahey from Trailer Park Boys…
BBT: My dad and I were at a festival last summer called Willy Fest, and Randy and Lahey were there.
Tim: No way! Nice!
BBT: This year Willy Fest has Cactus Jack, Mick Foley and others doing a late-night deathmatch.
Tim: I remember grabbing a flyer for that and putting it in my pocket. I was like “there’s no way they’ve got Mankind! We’re also doing the Big What, which is Big Something’s festival — those guys are great. We always have them sit in, and usually sit in with them too. We’re playing The Southern in Charleston coming up with Disco Risque, this really kickass band that let me do vocals on a couple of their songs on their first album, which is a 20+ song album. It’s immense what these kids did for their first project.
BBT: Well Tim I’ve got no more questions, but is there anything you’d like to add before I turn my recorder off?
Tim: Yeah. We’re out here just trying to have a good time doing what we want, making the world a better place. We hope everybody strives for that. We hope everybody finds a way to have fun with what they’re doing with their lives. Come out and see live music or make music or make art — whatever strikes you and sends shivers down your spine like sex or religion. It’s better than drugs with no hangover, so just remember it’s out there and to be a part of it.
BBT: Awesome! Thanks so much for your time Tim!