By Rich Henrich
What happened to music? I’ve heard many raise this question in search of something risqué, eclectic, raw, honest and real. Country turned into rock, rock rolled away and EDM is the craze of the day and yes, so many bands sound the same. However, for the true connoisseur of sound, there is no need to look any further than JD McPherson. Fortunately, you have a couple opportunities to see them live. Catch them on Halloween Night opening for local greats Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum in L.A. or on Nov. 2nd at Pappy & Harriet’s. Just be sure to experience this one.
From the rural southeastern corner of Oklahoma comes a voice and sound that reflects The Smiths, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Ramones, The Pixies and the obtuse ideas of The Cramps. JD McPherson and his band unleash a sound that is as fresh as it is familiar with the soul of Little Walter and the sultry of Peggy Lee. Every member of this band brings style, musicianship, and an appreciation for the history of music with a sharp edge that cuts so smooth. From rhythm and blues to rockabilly and doo-wop, the talent gathered here, dearly beloved will cause a foot-stomping revival of holy proportions guided by the godly hand of stand up bass, Jimmy Sutton.
I sat down with front man JD McPherson three days in to their tour after a rough ride from Austin. “There weren’t any hotels. Every room was sold, so we kept driving,” his tired voice cracked. He wore an old miner’s hat that no doubt hid his road weary hair and revealed an old soul calling in the ghosts of music past. I wondered how this sound began.
CVW: Do you remember discovering music?
JD: I was always surrounded by music but I guess I started thinking about it as a thing you could be into because of my older brothers. My dad liked blues and good blues, at that, but I was just listening to whatever my parents were listening to. My older brothers were quite a bit older than me. One’s 16 years older. They were into guitar rock and that was interesting and when I was getting into guitar and Zeppelin and Cream and Hendrix. But before that, cool stuff like Small Faces all the Mod stuff. I love The Kinks.
CVW: I read that you are into one of my favorites, The Pixies.
JD: I love The Pixies but one thing no one ever talks about is they had this really strong surf slant. They had guitar instrumentals on their records, which is crazy! Think about that. The only other band in the vicinity is The Smiths and they had like one instrumental. And when Frank Black was recording with the Catholics and the honky tonk stuff…he’s a really smart person. I tend to gravitate towards these people with obtuse ideas, like The Cramps. On the surface they seem like this thing but when you dig in, you see that they were really thinking about a lot of things. It was lowbrow but also really highbrow.
CVW: I get the sense that your music is more than what’s on the surface.
JD: Thank you. I was just talking to somebody the other day about when you put two things together that don’t necessarily make sense. We were talking about a Bo Diddley record. At the end of the record, the harmonica comes in and they turn the reverb and put it through an echo chamber plate or something. It was completely nuts! What a crazy vision. What a daring move by all parties. That is stuff I’m completely enthralled by.
CVW: It’s refreshing artistry.
JD: There’s a weird wall. People don’t want to touch that stuff. They’ll touch the 60’s but won’t go past to the 50’s or 40’s. I don’t know why. They shouldn’t be afraid of it. Those are some of the killer grooves of all time. Those sounds can be lo-fi but have a lot of finesse to them. The grooves are just fantastic. Everybody likes it whether they know it or not. I get so many videos of people’s toddlers sent to me just freaking out to the music. It’s primal.
CVW: You’re about to open up for Queens of the Stone Age. How did this come about?
JD: Wow! I had been having a really bad day. I got separated from the group I was with at airport security and feeling really small. And I heard “JD, guess who’s going through security? Queens of the Stone Age.” Of course, I thought, they all get to meet them and I don’t. I’m all alone and putting on my shoes and the pack of people I was with came back looking confused and asked me how I knew Josh, I said “I don’t know Josh”. Well, he says he wants to talk to you about something. And all of a sudden it was like this light appeared and Josh Homme comes jogging towards me and grabs me and picks me up and he’s like a huge Viking of a man in pressed trousers. He started telling me about this show and telling me how much he likes my music and how the band and his family listen to it all the time. I can just say that meeting him and getting invited to do the show has been one of the most rewarding experiences. He’s genuinely made me feel, I don’t know what the words is, just granting me the time means so much and he’s so complimentary of our music. I can’t explain how low I was feeling that day. I have the highest respect for him.
CVW: And then Pappy & Harriet’s?
JD: Really looking forward to playing there. We tried to eat there once but it was packed. And I want to go to Giant Rock, too!