July 3rd, 2008 by Russ
The Waybacks are Hungry.
AUSTIN DAZE: What do you guys think about being at Old Settlers?
Warren Hood: We’ve been here many times before and we like it because we like having the Waybacks in Austin and letting all our friends and family here see what we’re off doing all the time. We’ve got a lot of friends that think the Waybacks don’t exist-that we made them up.
James Nash: We like to come to Austin because obviously it’s a beautiful festival and a lot of great people here but we mostly come to Austin for the food. 8 days of queso.
Joe : There is good Mexican food in California but it is totally different.
AD: Did you come out just for the festival?
Joe: We did a deal up in Plano and then we did several radio things. We are headed out tomorrow for LA. We would love to hang out tomorrow.
Nash: Unfortunately this is what we call a turn and burn. It’s too bad because this is the kind of festival you really want to come and just hang all four days-make a weekend of it.
AD: (To Warren) It’s interesting we did an interview several years ago with the Daze, one of the things we asked was where do you want to be in a few years? You said that you wanted to be singing in a band and playing equal parts, is that true?
Chuck: Its like Nostradamus over there.
Joe: We are co-creators of our own reality.
Nash: Yeah, why don’t you tell me where I will be in ten years.
Joe: What are you going to do with the rest of your life now, Warren?
Warren: I don’t know. I should vision quest it and figure it out.
Chuck: Take me with you.
AD: How is the new album doing?
Joe: The radio has picked up on it like no Waybacks album previously. We’ve stayed on the Americana top 40 chart for a month now. We reached number 13. It’s getting air play. What distinguishes this album from other Waybacks releases, most significantly, is that stations are picking up on a lot of different tracks. Other albums they may have picked up on one or two tracks but half the record is getting a good number of spins and some stations are playing all of it. It’s definitely more appealing than our other albums.
AD: This is a different album than you guys have done before, right?
Nash: Yeah. It is a lot of electric guitar and less bluegrass influence than ever before. More vocal material.
AD: What made you decide to go in that direction?
Nash: It really just happened naturally out of the songs that we had available. We didn’t really have a plan, we weren’t saying that we wanted to do a 100% vocal album or a we want to do a more rock album. We just did what we normally do which is to take the material we have available and try and pick the best songs and put an album together out of it. We worked with our producer, Byron House, and whittled down our 15 contenders to about 11 or 12. When we went into the studio and started cutting them. That’s really when decisions were made about how to orchestrate them-what instruments to use-that sort of thing. A couple of songs were supposed to be acoustic but we ended up liking the electric sound better and going with that.
Warren: Most of the songs we had never really played live until we went into the studio.
Joe: I think we did go into the studio with the forethought that we wanted there to be a little bit stronger thread of cohesion that sort of tied the collection of tunes together-continuity. What turned out to be that thread of cohesion was all the songs. We are still jumping all over the map as we always have but the organic material that has come from within has been the thing that has tied them all together.
AD: Seemed like you guys were having a lot of fun with it.
Nash:Yeah, it was fun. Partly what was fun was being able to play every song on the album at a live show. It seems like that would be something that would be taken for granted, but, for example, on our last album we had a lot of guests and we didn’t have a regular fiddle player in the band, Warren wasn’t with us. So now we just recorded these songs; we just came out of the studio. We know exactly what we are doing, so it’s fun to just to let the songs go boom and let loose on stage and not have to think too much about how we are going to do it.
AD: Well, you guys sure let it loose last night.
Chuck: We let the genie out of the bottle.
Nash: I don’t think you should be thinking too much when you are making the album and this album feels natural to us right now which makes it fun.
AD: How did you get a hold of Warren to play with?
Joe: We heard about Warren through the grapevine. It was Nancy Fly. We put the word out that we were looking for a fiddle player because we had a personnel change in 2004 and we were sort of dancing around with a number of different people. Some celebrity guest artists-none of whom were going to be band members, we knew that, but we had some very heavy hitters but all along we were looking for someone that would be interested in being a band member and bring an individual voice and talent to it. Warren’s name kept coming up. We brought him out and tested him on the road a few times and after a couple of months we realized he was the dude. Lucky for us he felt like he would make the commitment and it just happened from there.
AD: The only problem is that you took him away from us.
Joe: I know we stole him. But we are taking care of him on the road, making sure he gets his bed rest and is well fed.
Nash: As a wise man once said, “How could you miss Warren if he never went away?”
AD: For people that haven’t heard you before, what are some of your influences and what category would you put yourselves in?
Joe: Always a tough one. It’s always changing. We’re not necessarily rock, but more of a rock mentality. If you like the Sam Bush band you probably like us.
Nash: We are probably like the Sam Bush band without Sam Bush.
Joe: A friend of mine who I have known for years saw us for the first time and he said, “You all sound like Yes if Yes played bluegrass.” Someone else can hear us and think we are a southern rock band. Someone else can hear us and think we are a pop band or a blue eyed soul band. Someone else may hear the western swing and Celtic influence. All of those influences are present and we claim allegiance to none of them exclusively and to all collectively.
Nash: None of us are one track musicians. All of us individually have many different schools that we come from and many different influences. Probably way too many influences to come through on one song or even one album. I think that’s how this album fell out as some of the influences that were particularly resonating with us last year when we were writing this stuff. That’s what music is all about. It would be like trying to decide what queso you want to eat and having to have it every night for the rest of your life.
Warren: You want the cowboy queso, you want the mud, you want plain, white, yellow?
Nash: But on any given night it’s easy to choose which queso to have but next week it would be hard.
AD: Do you guys have a set list that you start out every show with?
Chuck: We always have a set list. Occasionally we will throw something else in there but the set list almost done on the fly.
Nash: It’s frequently done five minutes before we go on.
Warren: A lot of it depends on what region of the country we are playing, whether or not it’s a day time slot at a festival or whatever.
Nash: Sometimes we change our minds based on what other acts are up there. We followed Brave Combo last night and those guys were smoking-we had to come out with something strong or people were going to just go home.
Joe: We can’t be wimpy after that!
Chuck: I had to play strong, that guy was a kick ass drummer.
Nash: With a long day of music there is a mood that is set from band to band. The best is when a band doesn’t just come up there and say, “Well this is our set.” You want to figure it out based on what is going on that day. We’re getting better at that. I think it’s something we’ve thought about more than ever before, which is how to structure ourselves to take the audience on a journey that doesn’t necessarily begin and end with our set but goes through the whole day.
Warren: Sometimes you write what you think is the perfect set right before your show and then you get half way through and the next song on your list doesn’t really fit where you put it. So you go, “audible.”
AD: Do all of you guys do that?
Chuck: Last night Warren called it.
Warren: Yeah, I turned around to tell Chuck, and he told me. We both knew what the next song should be.
Joe: We try not to let our internal power struggles play out in front of the audience. We tend to make those decisions quickly and effectively in the spirit of camaraderie right there and then. We’re usually on the same wave length so it’s easy to make those calls.
AD: What are the plans for the band and album going forward?
Nash: We’d like to sell a million copies.
Joe: Total domination of the Earth and all its peoples.
Warren: Riding the wave.
Nash: It’s like people have been saying for years: Today Old Settler’s, tomorrow the world.
Joe: We’re trying to push the CD and get it out to as many people as we can.
Warren: We would love to sell a million records, but we’re in a pretty good spot right here. Maybe, sell enough records to keep doing what we love to do.
Nash: Thats exactlyit, people that are on the same circuit as we are probably fall into the same category which is, you know, if you sell enough albums to support yourself this year and you make it out next year you know you are doing ok.
Warren: You play to be able to keep playing.
Joe: I would be happy with some commercial success but honestly the subsistence level works for me just fine. We are having fun just enjoying playing music and showing people a good time. That’s most of it right there.
Chuck: Last night was a great crowd.
AD: A political question: What do you think is going to happen with this election?
Nash: We drove over here to the festival and on the interstate for a few minutes it was stop and go traffic coming down to Austin and we were behind this giant suburban where the bumper stickers on the back were “No Hilary”, “NRA”, “I support water boarding”, and “Keep Dripping Normal”. So I think I can safely speak for the whole band and say that we tend to fall on the other side of the political spectrum as that guy.
Joe: I bet that guy’s kids don’t give him any talk back.
Nash: Yeah, I talked back to my dad alot. Damn, liberal kids.
AD: Do you often make political commentary?
Nash: I don’t think we do that often. We don’t want to bash anyone over the head with it. At Mearle Fest I’ve seen Steve Earle get booed several times loudly and thats Steve Earl! We’re not Steve Earl. I think if you got up on a soap box and mouthed off I think your audience would be like, “Why don’t you play some music and shut up.”
Warren: I don’t go to musicians for political views, I wish they would shut up and play music.
Nash: But on the other hand politics are important and there are certainly political themes in a lot of our songs.
Warren: Yeah, thats different, singing about it as opposed to gettin’ up there and preachin’.
Nash: I have a “No Bush for 04” sticker on my guitar case and most of the time when it goes through airport security people either ignore it or say something positive. But I have gotten a few weird looks.
Joe: I’ve got a T-shirt that I wore last night that has a picture of George W. holding up a peace sign and in big white letters, “I bet you’ll vote next time, hippie.” I made a reference to it on my mic last night and I knew that I was preaching to the choir. I made a joke of it and most people just ask me where they can get one. But I’ll be honest with you as we left Waco the other morning I decided not to wear that shirt because I chickened out and I knew we were going to be stopping for lunch somewhere and it wasn’t going to be Austin.
Chuck: In our hotel there was a pencil drawing of George W. with writing under it that says, “You know where I stand.”
Nash: I guess I would be surprised to run into too many musicians with conservative political views and it seems like maybe our country is finally starting to sway a little bit in the direction of sanity but we will just have to see.
AD: You are playing Merle fest, right? What’s the difference between Merle fest and Old Settler’s?
Warren: Old Settlers is much smaller, maybe a quarter the size. I like Old Settlers just for that fact, its laid back and the foods better here, We’ve got Salt Lick BBQ.
Nash: Fresh smoked meat versus frozen lasagna. To be fair it would be hard to serve brisket to 80,000 people but man, would it be good. Once again, I’m just showing that I’m hungry.
Joe: Merle Fest is really presenting more of a gentile community-based experience where people want to come in and leave-they don’t want to stay there and camp. They want to have a seat to sit down in. Whereas people want to come here and hang for the whole weekend and make a go of it.
Nash: But of course Merle Fest has an electric feel by having so many world class people in one place, and here the quality of entertainment is every bit as high but there are not as many people. Where you’ll have 6 or 8 super pickers at Old Settler’s, there will be 20 at Merle Fest. Of Course Doc(Watson) being there really sets the tone of that festival too because he’s been doing it longer than anybody.
Joe: If you have attention deficit disorder and you are a music fan that is the best place to be. Because if you got that schedule in your hand and you are sitting down and watching your favorite act you are going to need to go somewhere in ten minutes to go see your other favorite act all the way across campus. I don’t sit down there for about four days in a row. Luckily, I have a short attention span so if I get 15 or 20 minutes of anything, no worries, because there is something else equally incredible that I have to go see somewhere else.
Nash: That’s a good bumper sticker: I just need 15 or 20 minutes of anything.
Chuck: Overall Merle Fest has more of that conservative vibe to it.
Nash: It’s rural North Carolina instead of Austin.
Nash: I get the impression that Old Settlers is more local, kind of a secret. People drive 1,000 miles for Merle Fest. It’s amazing that so many people come looking for music and will go so far to see it. Its a good thing, but the vibe here is awesome.
AD: Well, we’ll let you guys get something to eat. Thanks guys, thanks for making it happen.
Waybacks: Thank you guys.