Late last year, bassist Jamey Almond was diagnosed with colon cancer, causing the hard-working trio to take a break from gigging and recording. Almond's prognosis looks good, and with the release of their latest CD Too Much, Too Fast, the Trip Daddys are poised to re-enter the arena. In advance of the band's CD-release show this week, guitarist and singer Craig Straubinger talked about the band's unexpected hiatus, the difference between rockabilly and rock & roll, and the role of the Trip Daddys in this city's rock scene.
B-Sides: A lot of people thought that the Trip Daddys had disappeared.
Craig Straubinger: I'd go out drinking and people would assume that the band had broken up. The thing is, over twelve-and-a-half years, we had never really taken a break. I hated it, I don't think Jamey liked it — especially under those circumstances — but we're back.
There seems to be a conscious decision to move away from a straight rockabilly sound on Too Much, Too Fast.
Maybe one of our older CDs really sounds pretty rockabilly, but if you listen to them all the way through, and you really know what rockabilly is, I think you'd get that this isn't really rockabilly. It's a big part of our formula, but we've always called what we do rock & roll. And the problem with that is that no one's ever happy when you call yourself rock & roll, 'cause they wanna know what your sub-genre is and they don't acknowledge that as a genre anymore. And rock & roll to us is a mixture of all those things — punk, hillbilly, blues — and we just thought that calling it "rockabilly" is misleading.
Has the new record been in the works for a long time?
We recorded basic tracks in the summer of 2005 and just added vocals and little things along the way. We were gonna try to get it out obviously a little earlier — we had some personnel changes in our continuous cycle of drummers, and then Jamey got sick. Just a lot of adult life was getting in the way of putting that thing out. We jokingly call it the lost Trip Daddys record. To anyone who hasn't heard it, it's brand-new.
What is the band's relationship like with the younger garage and rockabilly bands in town?
We're certainly peers. With some of the younger guys, I think they do know who we are. I don't know that we're everybody's idol or anything like that. But we certainly have a...should I say elder-statesmen feel? Most guys our age quit already, and we're still doing it, so I guess that makes us the elder statesmen. We haven't started a cover band or anything. We're just doing our own thing, still doing it our own way.
I knew the 7 Shot Screamers before they knew each other; I used to sneak those kids into shows before they knew each other. Now they're a very big deal, and that's very cool. I got them some of their first gigs, you know. And they're playing real rock & roll. I don't meet that many young people who know what real rock & roll is anymore, as far as it occurs to me, so when you see young guys doing it, it's like, "Hell yeah, this can go on for a while." We always said that if the scene's doing good, then we're doing good.
— Christian Schaeffer 9 p.m. Friday, June 29. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $7. 314-773-3363.
Rock of Ages
Forget irony, nostalgia or snark: B-Sides will proudly come out in pure, unabashed defense of the greatness of U.K. arena-glam-rockers Def Leppard any day of the week. Last year's covers record, Yeah!, was one of our faves (check out its smoking, power-poppin' version of "Hanging on the Telephone"), even if the disc wasn't so much of a stretch for guitarist Phil Collen, whose sometimes-band Cybernauts released a collection of Bowie covers several years ago. Collen's even busier these days, however: His band Man-Raze (www.myspace.com/manraze), with Sex Pistol Paul Cook, is about to release some music, and he's in rigorous tour rehearsals in Burbank, California, for Def Lep's summer jaunt with Styx.
B-Sides: What does a Def Leppard rehearsal entail?
Phil Collen: Right now we're doing song rehearsals — a couple of us have new guitar techs, technical stuff. This is to get the set down; we've got some different songs in different order, who's going to sing what harmonies.
Are these songs you haven't played in a while?
Pretty much. We've got a new album we've been working on for actually a year. We thought we'd get it done toward the end of this year. [Laughs] But it's going to be coming out next year. We're not going to play any of the new stuff [though]. We are going to be doing some stuff we haven't done for a long time, for years.
Can you give us a hint?
No! You'll have to wait and see! We're going to dig back and do some stuff that [guitarist] Vivian Campbell [who joined in 1992] has never played on before. Different things. You do demand, really. The worst thing in the world is if you start playing a song and no one's reacting whatsoever. People go, "Dude, why don't you play 'Wasted'?" And we keep going back to this...we play it, and you can hear a pin drop. [Laughs] Obviously when you have a new album out, you have license to play a bunch of the songs. But you really gotta satisfy the people that are there as well. They'd be pissed if you didn't do all the goodies.
Are there any songs that you never want to play — ever again?
"Pour Some Sugar On Me," "Photograph" or "Rock Of Ages," we always try to not play these at rehearsals. 'Cause it's like pulling teeth. But the minute you play them in front of people, it's a totally different vibe, there's a different reaction. All of a sudden, it's fine, it's great. But rehearsing them it's a different story. You go, "Oh my God, it's like watching paint dry."
What are the new songs sounding like?
We started when we were on the last tour. We've never written songs or recorded [that way before]. We were backstage at some of these gigs, in a trailer. We'd start getting these songs together. It was really good, 'cause you're still in tour mode. There's an energy — and verve, if you like. There's something happening while you're on tour that's very different [from] when you get off tour and sit around for three months and all of a sudden go, "Oh, what do we do again?" You haven't got direction. To put it in a nutshell, it sounds like Hysteria songs done in the style of High 'N' Dry, with no ballads. If that makes any sense.
That makes total sense.
We've got one slow song, but it's definitely not a ballad. It's really kind of weird. When I listen back to the stuff, that's what hit me. We've gone minimalist on the production — it's not all glossy big vocals and like, humongous [makes roaring sound] drums. It's more like a real band. But the songs are more in the vein of Hysteria.
— Annie Zaleski 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 4. Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 14141 Riverport Drive, Maryland Heights. $19 to $69. 314-298-9944. Andrew MacPherson dave white