Black Joe Lewis: If you like cheap, go listen to Miley Cyrus

Categories: Interview
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Keith Davis Young

You really couldn't pick a better mascot for this oasis of the freaky in the Lone Star State than Black Joe Lewis, whose guitar-driven rhythm and blues sound crackles with down-home warmth and a few traces of heady psychedelia. Formerly known as Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, the group has trimmed the fat from their name and roster since 2011's breakout Scandalous , resulting in a leaner, tougher sound on their new album Electric Slave.

Fans of the horn-driven block-rocking songs from Black Joe Lewis' first two records will still find a lot to love in the infectious "Come to my Party," but they had better try to prepare for the double-barreled guitar assault of jams like "Skulldiggin" and "Guilty." Gimmie Noise got Lewis himself on the phone during the start of their Electric Slave tour to talk about lineup changes, record stores, and those goddamn Austin hipsters.


Gimmie Noise: A lot of people might have the wrong impression that you're a newer artist since Scandalous seemed to gain you a much wider audience. To set the record straight, you've been at for something like 10 years now, right?

Joe Lewis: Yeah, I guess so! It's probably been a little less, more like six or seven years now with this lineup. I've been playing for the past 10 or 12 years or so, but this is only my third record to be released on a label.

Electric Slave is definitely the most guitar driven record you've done in a while, and the riffs are fantastic. Why the heavier sounds?

I just wanted to make a record that sounded like this version of the band. I feel like the other two that we put out were a little too clean, and the producer kind of had his own idea, and a couple of the other guys in the band had their own ideas about stuff, so it was tough to get it exactly how I wanted them to sound on there. Now that those guys are gone, I just want to go in and do what I wanted to do, you know? I wanted it to sound live, I felt like the first two, a lot of my guitar fills weren't on there and stuff like that. They just felt a little dry, and kind of boring.

Anything you've been listening to that influenced that? I hear a bit more MC5 and Death than in the past.

Yeah, I'm definitely a big fan of that stuff, any kind of Detroit rock 'n' roll is always good. I'm a big Stooges fan, and I always think you try to play the music that you listen to, you know?

Your records always sound like a party, but this time out the party sounds like there might be a mosh pit involved.

We've been playing a lot of these songs for a while now, and just haven't gotten the chance to record them and put 'em out. It just came out last week, so we're still kind of waiting to see what the reaction will be. We're out on tour right now, and people seem to be really into it, but they still reach for the last two records and want to hear the old stuff. I hope when this one takes off we'll get people goin'!

You also seem to have dialed back the horns a bit since the days of the 8-piece Honeybears. The charts on the new record still sound great though. Why did y'all decided to make that change?

Certain songs just call for certain things, some songs didn't really need to be a horn song and some songs did, so we use 'em when we need 'em. We still use 'em on a majority of the songs, but if I don't hear it we're not gonna use them.

You guys had worked with Jim Eno from Spoon for the past two records and switched it up to Stuart Sikes and John Congleton this time out. They're known for more polished sounds than the fuzz on Slave, what was working with them like?

We did most of the record with Stuart, and then John kind of came in and remixed them but he was really busy with other stuff he was doing, so we were kind of waiting around for him and decided we couldn't wait anymore. He kind of hipped us to Stuart, who was a better fit, I think. We jus went in and I think he just understood what we were going for. He merged our different styles and to get the sound that he did, and Stuart had a similar idea I guess. We're all into really old shit, and I think you can see that coming through on the album.


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