words by Andy Turner
Low volume is not something Milwaukee fans of the Bottle Rockets have experienced much during the band’s many performances in town over the years. The long-running St. Louis group has certainly lived up to its name (and reputation) while dealing out blistering versions of favorites like “Radar Gun,” Slo Toms” and “Indianapolis,” to name a few. The band, however, will take a stripped down, acoustic approach when it hits Milwaukee tonight in support of Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening With …, its latest effort on Chicago’s Bloodshot Records. If the excellent album is any indication, however, fans are in store for a special night – and a lot of great, sharply written songs. In addition to performing their own set, the Bottle Rockets will back up headliner Marshall Crenshaw in full rock-n-roll mode. Frontman Brian Henneman recently talked to Sonic Diet before the big show.
Why did you decide to record an acoustic album now? Were there songs that you were able to sort of rediscover by performing them acoustically?
We didn’t record it now; we recorded it a few years ago. It took this long to see the light of day. We recorded it because of the venue, which was a new place in St. Louis (Lucas School House) at the time that wanted us to play there. We looked at the room, which was beautiful, but small, and not well suited for an electric rock show. We decided to do an acoustic show there, and thought we’d better record it, because acoustic shows from us are pretty rare. “Kit Kat Clock” is the one that is finally released in its original form, which seems more appropriate to its lyrical content this way.
No Depression magazine stopped printing a few years back (an online version lives on). You were on the cover twice (and your name is on the cover of the very first issue), and the magazine really brought together fans of alt-country and related music and led the movement during its run. Did the end of that run have any impact on the Bottle Rockets in terms of your relationship with fans or maybe in other ways?
No, it really didn’t, ‘cause the thing that made it go away, picked up the slack, which is the Internet. If anything we’re WAY more in tune with our fans now, at the expense of watching a cool thing, like No Depression magazine die. The Internet’s good for some things, bad for others. It’s really good at wiping out cool stuff, all in the name of convenience. Record stores, music business, magazines…it’ll get books eventually, the list goes on and on. Hasn’t wiped us out yet, proving the old saying, “Rock and roll can never die”…
You express your love for the music of Doug Sahm in the introduction to the cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” and the Bottle Rockets recorded the wonderful tribute album Songs of Sahm in 2002. What do you think makes him continue to be such an inspiration for you and others?
Because he is one guy, who you can feel the love in everything he does. All you need is love, love is all you need.
The Bottle Rockets are a little shy of their 20th anniversary. Did you start in ’92 or ’93 (as Not So Loud’s album cover indicates). You’ve had a few lineup changes over the years, but you’ve lasted much longer than most bands. What do you attribute to the band’s longevity?
We officially started in ‘92, but, our first album didn’t get recorded and released ‘til ‘93. To survive, you gotta love what you do. Like Doug Sahm did. Period. Works like a charm. We’re livin’ proof.
You will be backing up Marshall Crenshaw, who is on his 30th anniversary tour, as well as playing on your own. Is this the first time you’ve toured with him, and how did you guys hook up?
We have the same booking agent. It was our agent’s idea, but, Marshall was already a fan of ours, and we were already fans of his. It’s a great combination. We’ve been touring together, off and on, when our schedules allow, since last January. We’re good an’ broken in now. Well rehearsed, you might say. Expect rock, ‘cause that’s exactly what you’ll be witnessing.
The Bottle Rockets play Shank Hall (1434 N. Farwell Ave.) tonight, Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. Also playing: Marshall Crenshaw. 21+