EAST BAY EXPRESS (San Francisco weekly)
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
When: Wed., Dec. 28, 9 p.m.
Price: $25, $27
In what’s become an annual tradition, David Lowery has decided to lead yet another Cracker/CVB post-holiday California Tour. First with the stylistically quirky Camper Van Beethoven, and later with the more straightforward but no less intriguing Cracker, Lowery has always existed on the margins of the mainstream, with occasional bouts of commercial success allowing his bands to continue touring and recording. The evening’s set lists will reflect the amount of plate-spinning Lowery has engaged in since CVB played its first show back in 1983. Not only can attendees expect to hear Eighties alt-rock gems (“Take the Skinheads Bowling,” “Where the Hell is Bill”) and twangier latter-day radio hits (“Get Off This,” “Euro-Trash Girl”), but Lowery will also be trotting out CVB’s first batch of new material in seven years. With eclecticism as the guiding factor for this evening’s festivities, these musical anarchists will put their creative bomb-throwing into action on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at The Independent (628 Divisadero St., San Francisco). 9 p.m., $25, $27.
Dave Gil de Rubio
628 Divisadero St.
SF STATION (San Fran A&E site)
Cracker, the group that veritably introduced brash irreverence and irony into alt-rock, are back and in top form on their 429 Records debut, Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey. This rich new trove of sharp-witted songs showcases a bristling, late 70’s – early 80’s power pop punk aesthetic which hits as hard as it did at the band’s formation 17 years ago. Eight albums (one platinum and three gold) and a barrel full of anthemic hit songs later, Cracker endures, using their ability to weave decades of influences into an album that is seamlessly riveting.
“We didn’t want to jump right back in and make that ‘Bad Reunion Record’ that most bands make when they try to reform. We were more concerned with getting used to each other and figuring out that we could still make music together, before we made a big deal out of announcing that we were back.” So says David Lowery of the extended gestation period that preceded New Roman Times, Camper Van Beethoven’s first album of new material since reuniting after a decade-long hiatus. The qualities that originally made Camper Van Beethoven such a significant force are prominent on New Roman Times, from the modified arena-rock of “White Fluffy Clouds” to the country-psychedelia “That Gum You Like is Back in Style” to the smooth Balkan ska of “Might Makes Right” to the jittery hoedown of “Militia Song” to the airy country balladry of “New Roman Times” to the dirge-like psychedelia of “The Long Plastic Hallway” to the Tex-Mex lilt of “Los Tigres Traficantes” to the widescreen ’70s-cop-show-funk of “Civil Disobedience” to the apocalyptic danceability of “Discotheque CVB.”
SFist (San Fran online A&E site) – Brief show preview with CVB photo
SFist Tonight, 12/28: Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven
MUSIC: Ever-popular alternative folk/punk veterans Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven will rock the house for fans young and old at the Independent tonight. (8 p.m., The Independent, 628 Divisadero Street)
SF EXAMINER (San Fran online A&E site) – Brief show preview in City’s Best Bets column.
Fun alt-indie rock: Frontman David Lowery plays in a Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven double bill. [8 p.m., The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.]
YAHOO SF LOCAL (Yahoo locals San Fran A&E site) – Brief show preview with Cracker photo
Wednesday, December 28 2011 at 8pm
Led by Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery, Cracker’s post-punk, country-tinged songs earned some hits in the early ’90s with ‘Low’ ‘What the World Needs Now’ and ‘Get Off This.’
* The Independent
* 628 Divisadero
* San Francisco CA 94117
ASSIGNMENT X (online music site) – Positive Solana Beach show review with photos
Concert Review: CRACKER / CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN – December 27, 2011 – Belly Up, Solana Beach, CA
Two great underrated bands show what they’re worth during an amazing two and half hour set
By A.C. FERRANTE / Editor in Chief
Few artists can claim they are part of one successful band, but David Lowery can cite two – Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven (and both active) as the very eccentric home to his hybrid musical compositions that span country, rock, ska and alternative music (with a little folk thrown in for good measure).
And now, Lowery continues the tradition of touring with both bands simultaneously for a brief little end of the year tour.
Things kicked off on Tuesday night in Solana Beach, CA at the Belly Up as Lowery’s Camper Van Beethoven served as opening act (they also have a new disc due out in 2012). What started in the 1980s as a very strange alternative band with the signature hit “Take the Skinheads Bowling” evolved over time to incorporate a wide range of styles and strangely addictive jams that featured not only guitars, but also the amazing violin playing of Jonathan Segel.
As the band segued from indie status to major label, the songs got more polished, and a bit more abstract all at the same time.
The nearly one-hour plus performance pulled from all of the band’s numerous releases and was split into three different parts. The first consisted of many tracks from their two major label releases MY BELOVED REVOLUTIONARY SWEETHEART and KEY LIME PIE. It kicked off with a great performance of “All Her Favorite Fruit” and also featured “Eye of Fatima.”
After a handful of songs with this configuration, Segel sat down his violin and picked up the guitar showing off his virtuoso strength with that instrument as well. Lowery announced they were going to play a new song and carried on with a more guitar centric set.
The last half had Segel flipping back to violin as the band put on their ska hat and dug deep into their jamming roots.
The sound quality at Belly Up was impeccable and it’s great to see the band which also includes lead guitarist Greg Lisher, bassist Krummenacher and drummer Frank Funaro (who also played with Cracker) really work the crowd up with their intense playing. They sounded phenomenal. Their ability to segue from one song style after another was a testament to the years they’ve played together on and off – and also showed the power of the music that, like Cracker, still endures years later.
One of the strengths of the band is also Lowery’s low-key demeanor on stage – and his willingness to step into the background as he and the rest of group kicks into the many jams that took place on stage during the various Camper Van instrumentals they played.
And that’s the testament of a great band. They existed in between the lines of the 1980s alternative music scene, yet their music doesn’t feel dated or retro – and in fact sounds as original and unique as it did the day it was recorded. I’d even dare say the band has gotten better with age. They’re tighter, stronger and more polished. Yet, the music world still hasn’t caught up with them. They’re still ahead of the curve.
When Camper Van broke up after the second major label effort KEY LIME PIE, the members split into different factions and directions with Lowery forming Cracker which evolved into an alternative rock band with frequent country flourishes.
Cracker proclaimed with their first single “Teen Angst” – “what the world needs now/is another folk singer/like I need a whole in my head” as if Lowery was saying he was moving past Camper Van’s eclectic folk leanings and trying something different.
Major success found Cracker, but that didn’t stop the eclecticism and that was evidenced in the nearly 90 minute set the band performed charging through 17 songs spanning their entire catalog.
The night kicked off with the band in country mode (Lowery even wore a country and western shirt) cranking out their great bar band song “Friends” from their 2009 album SUNRISE IN THE LAND OF MILK AND HONEY. It also featured a great back and forth vocals with lead guitarist Johnny Hickman.
Lowery continued in this vein with underrated “The Golden Age” and a great countrified version of “Mr. Wrong.”
This tone shifted soon after that – much like Camper Van – by corralling the songs into similarly themed sections.
“Euro Trash Girl” wound the crowd up properly with their nearly 8 minute epic about searching for an “angel in black” across a surreal adventure throughout Europe. It’s a great song (with the occasional ironic lyric) and it sounded phenomenal especially when the crowd started singing along with the chorus. To think, this song was originally released as B-side on an E.P. before it was given a formal place on their second disc “Kerosene Hat.”
“Happy Birthday” off their debut album was given a nice tweak and a little bit more twang, while “Merry Christmas Emily” was appropriate considering the holidays have just ended.
The hits were rolled out toward the latter part of the night with “Teen Angst” (What the World Needs Now)” revving things up. Damn this song still sounds good. They also rammed into “Don’t F**k Me Up With Peace and Love” with ferocity before concluding with their biggest hit to date “Low” that was one of the many highlights of the night.
Other nice surprises included the great “Get off This” and the incredible jam of “Gimme One More Chance” off their GREENLAND disc.
The encore included “Waiting For You Girl” and wrapped things up with the band’s awesome cover of the Flamin’ Groovies 1980s power pop hit “Shake Some Action” featuring Hickman on vocals. If Lowery decides he wants to forsake folk, country, ska, rock – the band might have a gig as a pretty kick-ass power pop band as well.
Cracker sounds incredibly rich with Hickman’s outstanding guitar playing. Like Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Hickman is a terribly underrated guitarist. He shines on every song and brings the kind of spit and polish that allows Cracker to morph from rock, country and alterna-pop all within a fifteen-minute span.
This guy is the real deal and like Lowery (and his incredibly eclectic songs), deserving of more praise in rock circles.
Sal Maida also gives the band a nice chunky bass sound and really rocked things out throughout, though it was “Gimme One More Chance” where he really got to show off his stuff as the band got into a extended groove. Funaro also proves he can roll with unique styles of both bands and not miss a beat.
Lowery’s lyrics, both as part of Camper Van and Cracker have also had a cheeky tone to them at times, and that expert turn of the phrase has allowed these songs to continue to flourish, grow and become more appreciated over time.
With seven official studio albums under their belt, they have a rich catalog of songs to choose from, and they really only scratched the surface during this performance. They could have played another hour’s worth of songs, and it would not have been just as invigorating.
The unique configuration of band members certainly allows both Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven to exist in the same stratosphere on the same night without seeming like more of the same.
I’ve been a long time Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven fan, but have, surprisingly, never seen them live. Getting the opportunity to experience both in one night at the same venue was a rare treat – and reminded me why I loved their music so much. With four decades and two bands, Lowery has proven why creating music for yourself and not for the current trends can create a long-lasting embarrassment of riches of songs that can be mixed and matched and still provide a potent concert for fans and new converts.
SAN DIEGO CITY BEAT (San Diego weekly) – Brief show preview
Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven @ Belly Up. As per holiday tradition, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven songwriter David Lowery will stop by for a two-set extravaganza featuring classics like “Euro-Trash Girl” and “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”
SAN DIEGO UNION TIMES (San Diego daily) – Early brief show preview with Cracker file photo
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
Tuesday, Dec 27 8:00p
at Belly Up Tavern, Solana Beach, CA
Best known for the hit songs “Low,” “Eurotrash Girl,” “Get Off This” and “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”, Cracker mixes influences and sounds ranging from classic country music, psychedelia, punk and folk into their brand of “Americana” style rock.
KBZT – FM 94/9 RADIO (San Diego Radio) – Online show info with Cracker photo in their concert calendar.
CHICAGO SUN TIMES (daily) – Brief show preview
Here are some other great live music options for those wanting to turn New Year’s Eve up to ’11:
Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven — For hazy ’80s-’90s college rock, this is a helluva bill. Camper Van Beethoven opens, Cracker rings in the new year, and Big Head Todd plays into the wee hours, beginning at 8 p.m. at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $62.50. Call (312) 923-2000; houseofblues.com/chicago.
FLAVORPILL CHICAGO (Chicago online A&E site) – Positive show preview.
Party: New Year’s Eve
Big Head Todd & the Monsters w/ Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
Of all the conceptual pranks Camper Van Beethoven have pulled off over their 25 years, nothing tops the band’s inexplicable fling with Virgin Records. It’s hard to imagine any major label releasing 1988’s Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (1988) and Key Lime Pie (1989) today — the albums exposed the Santa Cruz group’s heady mix of punk power, country candor, and Frank Zappa-inspired comic virtuosity to a wide range of adventurous listeners. Camper Van Beethoven never became as big as side project Cracker (who co-headline tonight), but when they officially reunited after covering Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk in its entirety, fans were waiting with open arms.” – Max Goldberg, Flavorpill
NORTHWEST INDIANA TIMES (Chicgoland/Indiana daily) – Brief show preview
Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven, 7 p.m., House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. $62.50 (21 and older)
For years, Todd Park Mohr and his Monsters have made the trek from Colorado to the Windy City to celebrate the year’s end, but for many this time around, the draw will be Camper and Cracker. Both led by David Lowery, Camper’s 80s output remain college rock benchmarks, and Cracker, his 90s band, fared pretty good with the masses with hits such as “Low” and “Euro-Trash Girl.”
FYI: (312) 923-2000, HOB.COM
LUMINO MAGAZINE (Chicago online music site) – Feature interview with Jonathan Segel to preview Chicago show
Looking Back on Beethoven: Getting to Know Jonathan Segel
Written by JORDAN BRANDES
Christmas is over and New Years Eve will be upon us soon enough. If you plan on going out this year make sure you buy tickets for Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker and Big Head Todd and the Monsters playing at the House of Blues in Chicago.
Although they are not the headliner bands like Cracker and Big Head Todd, the Monsters owe a lot of their work to Camper Van Beethoven. Back in the mid-1980s, the Redlands Calif.-based band fused together folk, punk, ska and world music in a way no one had ever heard before or conceived. Once described as surrealist absurdist folk, the band was created in 1983 by singer/songwriter David Lowery and bass player Victor Krummenarcher. It was not long before the band expanded to include drums and two lead guitars along with a spellbinding violin, played by Jonathan Segel.
Going through a variety of band members, CVB split up in 1989. Since this time, CVB founder David Lowery joined up with Johnny Hickman to form what became known as the band Cracker. Camper Van Beethoven’s decade split allowed the band members to pursue their own passions. In 1999, the band reunited in-studio to compile a set of songs lovingly titled – “Camper Van Beethoven is Dead. Long Live Camper Van Beethoven.” Since then, CVB along with its sister band Cracker, have found a way to tour together through a majority of the last decade.
A Closer Look
Lumino Magazine was lucky enough to sit down with violinist and consistent member of Camper Van Beethoven, Jonathan Segel. A composer, violinist, guitar player and singer, Segel has seen the evolution of Camper Van Beethoven since its humble beginnings.
“Camper Van Beethoven really made me the musician I am today,” he says candidly. “During our hiatus we all did our own side projects and essentially had to become the band leaders of each of our new bands. When we finally got back together in 2004 for New Roman Times, that was when I realized that I learned to be a musician by playing with Camper Van Beethoven. Learning to trust other musicians, find my style and all that other stuff I had learned while playing with these guys. Even though there had been a 10-year hiatus, we’ve actually been together now for longer than we were when we first started in the 1980s. “
Segel finds it amazing that so much time has passed and notes that the new Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, although complement each other, are truly two unique bands. “We have been touring together for a long time now and although Cracker can be considered an offshoot of Beethoven they are two very different bands. Lowery and Funaro have a way of shifting the entire tone and mood of a show the moment Cracker comes on stage,” he reflects.
A New Year
2012 is looking to be a big year for Segel as two of his new albums drop the first week in January. “All Attractions really is the main album, Apricot Jam is more of a compilation of us fooling around,” he says.
Although he hadn’t planned on making another record after “Honey,” he found himself compelled to write some songs while with his wife in Sweden. “All Attractions” is the result.
“My wife is Swedish and I found myself writing most of those songs while we were in our place in Sweden. I do violin for CVB but play electric guitar at home and I found myself writing most of those songs just to entertain myself. It felt like that Onion article you read about, where the man goes off into the woods to write an album, I was kind of that guy,” he jokes.
All Attractions is a playful and light album full of the kind of masterful work you would expect from Segel. Though he never intended to make the album, I have no doubt that it will become an indie favorite in the coming year.
You can see Segel along with the rest of Camper Van Beethoven this New Years Eve in Chicago. Buy your tickets now before they sell out.
ISTHMUS (Madison, WI weekly) – Positive show preview with band photo
Camper Van Beethoven’s signature tune was a surprise success
A song about nothing
Ever since Camper Van Beethoven got back together in the late 1990s, the indie rock forebears have continued a remarkable second act. When they broke up at the beginning of that decade, the group appeared to be on the cusp of breaking big in the mainstream, à la R.E.M. Camper had released a pair of well-received major-label albums and notched a modern-rock radio hit with a cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”
After Camper’s demise, singer/guitarist David Lowery built on that success with the more straight-up rock band Cracker. More recently, Lowery has been writing a blog, 300 Songs, discussing the history of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. There’s a long, fascinating post about success in the music industry, under the entry for Camper’s breakout song, “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” That tune has remained a college/alternative radio staple ever since its release in 1985, and it is probably, to average listeners, the band’s most recognizable number.
Lowery begins the post with the idea that surprise events, like the song’s triumph, can only be rationalized in hindsight, then winds through his theory that there’s no way to predict the reason for a performer’s success, at least as judged by record sales — whether it’s talent, lack of talent, or promotional excess.
He reveals that “Bowling” is the last song he’d expect to catch people’s attention. He writes: “BTW this is the most important fact about this song. We wanted the words to lack any coherent meaning. There is no story or deeper insight that I can give you about this song.”
The post winds up with an interesting discussion of how bands come to be respected as “serious,” comparing the saga of often-humorous Camper with the journey of fellow travelers the Dead Milkmen.
Camper Van Beethoven is currently on tour and visits the High Noon Saloon on Jan. 4. The Madison show will be one of the first featuring some new material written for an upcoming studio album. But will they play “Take the Skinheads Bowling?” There’s only one way to find out.
ONMILWAUKEE (Milwaukee online A&E site) –Milwaukee post-show review with band photo
Camper Van Beethoven relives it, kicks it forward
When OnMilwaukee.com contributor JC Poppe mentioned the Camper Van Beethoven show earlier this week, he predicted it would be a trip down memory lane. Indeed, for those of us who were fans in the ’80s and ’90s, it was.
The show was a mix of back-in-the-day favorites along with new songs that will most likely appear in the band’s upcoming album predicted to come out later this year.
It was not the band’s first trip to Milwaukee; it had prior gigs many years ago at the now-defunct Toad Cafe, Cafe Voltaire and the still-very-much-alive Bastille Days.
Tonight, the five-piece sounded very in sync and had a cool-but-present vibe. Camper opened the show with “All Her Favorite Fruits,” and went on to hammer out old faves like “Sweethearts,” “Good Guys and Bad Guys,” “Eye of Fatima,” “When I Win The Lottery,” “Turquoise Jewelry,” “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” “Take The Skinheads Bowling” (of course) and a gaggle of new songs. (I yelled out “She Divines Water” three times but nobody seemed to notice except maybe the bass player who squinted in my direction after one shout out.)
“Take The Skinheads Bowling” remains an anthemic college radio hit today and was featured in the Michael Moore film, “Bowling For Columbine.”
As usual, Jonathan Segel, violin player (and guitar player) added so much to the show, proving, once again, that the violin is totally punk rock.
Most of the members of the band have worked on individual solo projects, and yet, since 1999, have frequently rejoined to perform as a group. Lead man David Lowery fronted the more traditional rock band, Cracker, and released his first solo record, “The Palace Guards,” in 2011.
The 51-year-old Lowery, wearing a wool sweater both ironically and not ironically (since he is, after all, from California and not used to Wisconsin winters), has aged gracefully and has a confident presence. His voice, however, has changed and it’s now lower than it was 20-plus years ago. For the first half of the show, Lowery took his reading glasses on and off to read the set list, and finally just left them on for the second half of the show.
Their signature humor that’s present in their lyrics was present throughout the show, from the beginning, when they announced themselves as the Blue Man Group.
Most of the crowd was in their 30s or older, quite possibly, like myself, former slackers or skateboarders who, back then, devoured anything anti-establishment like a bag of Skittles.
ONMILWAUKEE (Milwaukee online A&E site) –Milwaukee show preview with band photo
Camper Van Beethoven returns to Milwaukee tomorrow
Popular and influential 1980s indie rock band Camper Van Beethoven will be in Milwaukee to perform at Shank Hall this Tuesday.
The band’s music is an amalgamation of sounds and styles, while still showing off its California roots.
After a 15-year hiatus, CVB’s members got back together for a reunion tour and album, the thematically creative “New Roman Times,” released in 2004.
CVB frequently played shows in Milwaukee during its run in the ’80s, so this will be a fun trip down memory lane for those who loved their records back then, as well as a great introduction to new fans that love the sound of California indie rock music.
ON TAP (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s website) –Brief Milwaukee show preview
Also coming back to town: Camper Van Beethoven, the alt-indie rockers who helped define the term in the 1980s. David Lowery & Co. reunited a few years ago with a new album and a touring gig that brings them to Shank Hall tonight at 8.
VOICE PLACES / RIVERFRONT TIMES (St. Louis A&E blog for the Riverfront Timesd) – Show preview with Cracker photo
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
By ROY KASTEN
Whether taking the helm of iconic ironic rockers of Camper Van Beethoven, the sardonic janglers of Cracker or a smarty-pants solo project, David Lowery has consistently dug up the twisted roots of American music, always with dark humor and twangy intonations intact. If “alternative rock” ever had any meaning, it was defined by the energy of Lowery’s withering social and sexual parodies and celebratory self-loathings. Ubiquitous hits like “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “Euro-Trash Girl” were principally political even as they made a mockery of the possibility of post-modern principles at all. What To Expect: Touring as a double bill of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker should give Lowery plenty of room to stretch out across all the hits — and dip into this year’s fine solo release, The Palace Guards as well.
THE ONION / AV CLUB (Madison, WI weekly) – CVB show preview with band file photo.
Camper Van Beethoven pick
Also Playing: American Scarecrows
When beloved, quirky outfit Camper Van Beethoven formed 28 years ago, critics struggled to categorize the band’s blend of pop, folk, punk, country, acid rock, and ska. Camper’s eclectic musical style and irreverent attitude (evidenced by fan-favorite songs like “The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon” and “Take The Skinheads Bowling”) made it popular on college radio stations, but the complexity and depth of its lyrics, coupled with music built on a solid foundation of classic rock, lent the group a surprising staying power. After taking most of the ’90s off, CVB reunited in 1999 and released its first studio album in 15 years,New Roman Times, in 2004. Tonight, frontman David Lowery and company will roll out new material from a follow-up to New Roman, due sometime in 2012.
High Noon Saloon
701 E. Washington Ave.
Madison WI 53703
SHEPHERD EXPRESS (Milwaukee weekly) – Feature with David interview to preview Milwaukee show
Camper Van Beethoven Thrives Amid Decadent Decay
By Chris Parker
“Dangerous business, using irony in America.” That’s what David Lowery’s English aunt once told him, and it’s a fitting caution—not just for someone writing in America, but also for working in the medium of rock ‘n’ roll. Subtlety is not the strong point of a style whose name was originally a euphemism for “the nasty.”
That’s why it’s taken time for Lowery’s sly wit to find purchase. During the ’80s he co-founded the psychedelic, rootsy art-punk oddballs Camper Van Beethoven. When they broke up in 1990 due to internal tensions, Lowery started the more sonically straightforward Cracker, which enjoyed initial mainstream appeal during the early ’90s thanks to hits like “Low” and “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now).” Their popularity found a lower orbit as the ’90s closed, just as Camper returned from hiatus more popular than ever. The band’s return coincided with a critical reappraisal and renewed appreciation for Lowery’s entire catalog.
Without any hits and little more than word of mouth to spread their praises, Camper’s sustained appeal is a bit puzzling. “I wonder if it has to do with the trajectory,” Lowery offers from his Atlanta-area home. “If, as our society slowly decays into decadence, irony and cynicism become more common and accepted.”
Of course, cynicism has a way of proving prophetic sometimes. Such is the case with Camper Van Beethoven’s last album, 2004’s New Roman Times. Written in the aftermath of 9/11, it imagines the blue state/red state divide hardening such that Texas and California become warring republics. With ideological differences even more pitched and politicians like Texas Gov. Rick Perry talking of secession, the album is like Nostradamus. (All right, not that close.)
As always, the album’s convoluted story is rife with surreal details. It includes a wounded vet who joins a hippie/skater resistance based in Mexico, parallel universe communication that recalls (but predates) “Fringe” and competing blue/gray aliens who may be behind genetically modified pot that makes you smarter. (Lowery explains this futuristic America’s entire back story on his blog, 300songs.com.)
Writing such dense (if surprisingly nimble and catchy) music has always consigned the quintet to the margins. Formed in California in the early ’80s, they were self-styled iconoclasts and former hardcore punks with fiddle as one of their lead instruments. But what began as an expression of rebellion took on a life of its own.
“That was our only compass—’Let’s do this the way nobody would expect us to do this.’ But it morphed into this rediscovery of ’60s English and American psychedelica pretty quickly after initially being reactionary to punk rock,” Lowery says. “I remember playing with the Dead Kennedys in Chico, Calif., to 800 skinheads. We were doing a fake hippie thing and growing out our hair. This one guy down front was mouthing to me, ‘I’m gonna kick your ass.'”
They released five albums, including two major-label efforts for Virgin—their masterpiece, 1988’s Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and the disappointing follow-up (minus fiddler Jonathan Segel), 1989’s Key Lime Pie. They broke up and reunited in ’99 to put together an archival odds and sods collection, Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead. Long Live Camper Van Beethoven, into which they snuck newly recorded material. Two years later they released a track-for-track cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, which they claimed they’d recorded a decade before.
“There were all these subtle clues in there that this was a lie, but everybody just bought it,” Lowery says. “Then, when we started New Roman Times, we were finally, ‘Let’s just tell people we’re a band again. Nobody’s getting it.'”
Writing takes time because of the band’s über-democratic, everyone-must-sign-on approach, which Lowery describes by lifting a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
“It leads to some creativity, but it isn’t the fastest or best way to run a business or a band,” Lowery says. “It’s like an ‘anarcho-syndicalist commune’ until someone gets very frustrated and seizes power. There’s a junta for a couple weeks and something gets done, then it reverts to its normal state of anarchy.”
Despite this, the band has put together the beginnings of a new album, which they hope to release in the summer. Lowery expects them to preview three to four songs at upcoming shows.
“[The new album] is very much in the folky, indie-rock thing that Camper does, leaning toward that English early prog rock like Fairport Convention,” he says. “Maybe we’ll be a little braver about the prog-rock influences this time and step up the King Crimson, early Genesis, Yes, Fred Frith a little more.”
One thing is for sure: When it comes to Camper Van Beethoven, you can count on more than you expect.
Camper Van Beethoven plays 8 p.m. Jan. 3 at Shank Hall with American Scarecrows.
WMSE RADIO (Milwaukee college radio) – Brief Milwaukee show preview with CVB photo featured on their site
2012. It’s On!
Let’s jump right into it with, what else, music.
Tonight: Shank Hall – Camper Van Beethoven, 8pm
Before Cracker, David Lowery brought forth the eclectic, often humorous blend of hippie psychedelia, avant-garde improvisation, country-western shaded, pseudo-ethnic sounds with hardcore punch of mid-1980s postpunk band Camper Van Beethoven.
MILWAUKEE MAGAZINE (Milwaukee monthly) –Milwaukee show preview
Tuesday, Jan. 3: Camper Van Beethoven with American Scarecrows at Shank Hall, 8 p.m. ($20)
Before heading up the ’90s alternative roots rock band Cracker, David Lowery cut his teeth in the indie, eclectic post-punk outfit Camper Van Beethoven. After a solid run in the ’80s, CVB disbanded for a decade, allowing the members to go onto other projects (most successfully Cracker for Lowery and Counting Crows for David Immergluck). But they got the influential band back together in 1999 and have been recording and touring ever since. (1434 N. Farwell Ave., shankhall.com)
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL (Milwaukee daily) –Milwaukee show preview
CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN
8 p.m. Tuesday, Shank Hall. $20.
There’s much glory but little money in being ahead of the curve. Just ask a member of Camper Van Beethoven, a band that now stands among those musicians (including Hüsker Dü and the Pixies) who helped define the very notion of indie or alternative rock.
During the mid-1980s, Camper Van Beethoven was probably just a bit of a lark, a curious blending of punk-styled raucousness, unusual instrumentation (the violin was key here) and acerbic humor (with songs like “Take the Skinheads Bowling”). The band went through numerous stylistic and direction changes over the course of four studio albums before dissolving in 1989.
The members went through solo ventures – David Lowery actually lunged toward the alt-rock crowd with the successfully snotty band Cracker – but they reunited and released a fine new album, “New Roman Times,” in 2004. Since then, Camper Van Beethoven has been primarily a touring act, recalling old glories for older audiences.
American Scarecrows will open.
– Jon M. Gilbertson, Special to the Journal Sentinel
THE DAILY PAGE (Madison, WI daily) – News feature (from press announcement) with local show info and related links.
DANE 101 (Madison, WI music site) – Feature story to preview Madison show
Soundcheck: Jonathan Segel of Camper Van Beethoven
Post by Aaron Scholz
Camper Van Beethoven are one of the weirdest bands to emerge from Southern California. During their heyday in the mid-80s they blended a kitchen sink mix of rock, ska, folk and country in a sound that foreran the alternative music explosion of the early 90s. Founding member Jonathan Segel (violin) left the band in 1988 and started a record label with fellow CvB alum Victor Krummacher. He also taught music composition at Ohlone College and worked as a listener advocate for Pandora. Segel has roots in Madison as his parents met here as grad students in the late 50s. He raised money to fund his latest record All Attractions via Kickstarter where fans can donate money directly to an artist to help defray the cost of recording and production. Camper Van Beethoven got back together at the turn of the century and picked up right where they left off, releasing New Roman Times in 2003 to excellent reviews. Dane101 talked to Segel in late December.
Dane101: Are you guys on tour right now?
Jonathan Segel: No, we’re starting up in about a week. We do the New Year’s Eve show in Chicago and then head to the show in Madison and then in St Louis I think? Then we’re doing some shows in California a month after that.
Dane101: And CvB has a new record coming out? I haven’t seen anything about it anywhere besides some pictures of you guys at work.
Jonathan Segel: Yeah, we spend a lot of time hanging out in the studio (laughs). The record is mostly recorded and we’re probably doing overdubs and such during the down time on the first part of the tour. Everyone in the band is riding a wave of creativity right now. David (Lowery) put a solo record out and I’ve got two records coming out in January and Victor (Krummacher) is working on a record as well.
Dane101: Tell me a bit about your new records and your band.
Jonathan Segel: All Attractions is a rock record. I didn’t think I was going to make any more rock records after Honey but here we are. Victor is on the record as well as the fabulous drummer John Hanes, who I’ve worked with for a long time. We do some shows in the Bay area, we opened for Built to Spill a few years back which was a lot of fun. The Apricot Jam record is really just a bonus disc where we took some stuff we worked out in the days off from recording and I took those recordings home and messed with them a bit.
Dane101: Your Bandcamp page is really impressive with the massive volume of stuff you’ve done over the last twenty years.
Jonathan Segel: Recently I’ve tried to put everything up that I’ve had a hand in, which is indeed a large amount of stuff and includes the soundtrack work I’ve done.
Dane101: What was the scene like when CvB started gigging?
Jonathan Segel: Our first shows in 1983 were strange because the SoCal music scene was very punk rock. There was this specific notion about what punk was supposed to be–if you didn’t sound like Black Flag, you weren’t punk rock. If you listen to the early CvB records we sort of sounded like punk but we would do these shows where we would say “Okay, we’re going to play this song but do a ska version of it” and that would mostly piss off the audience.
Dane101: How did the CvB reunion happen? You guys weren’t a band I figured would ever get back together.
Jonathan Segel: CvB wasn’t really a band in the 90’s. David was doing Cracker and the rest of us were doing our own different projects. David, Victor and I got together to work on Camper Van Beethoven is Dead in 2001, which was a sort of comp of older recordings that we overdubbed and remixed. Then we did the Tusk record as a sort of test to see if we could work together as a unit.
Dane101: Tusk is one of my favorite records. I really enjoyed hearing what you guys did.
Jonathan Segel: Well, it took a lot of convincing to get me to do it. I love that record too and was really obsessed with the phenomenon of Tusk. But we put that out and then over the next couple of years worked on what became New Roman Times.
Dane101: I was pleased to hear New Roman Times because it sounded like a CvB record. I had some fears that it was going to be a Cracker record with you guys on board.
Jonathan Segel: Part of the way the reunion happened is that Victor and I did some shows with Cracker. But yeah, it does sound like us with more elements mixed in. We all bring something to this band, David has lots of experience being the front man for Cracker and the rest of us have continued to make music in the interim. I think the sound has changed because of us being older and having more to bring to the table musically.
Dane101: What’s in store in 2012 for CvB?
Jonathan Segel: We’ll do the annual Campout out in California. Last year we did one in Virginia and this year we’re doing a Camp In in Athens. I’m not sure who all is going to be at that one but obviously CvB will headline a night and Cracker too, I’ll probably do a set as well. We mostly want to get the record finished and out the door!
Camper Van Beethoven play Wednesday January 4 at The High Noon Saloon with openers Scarecrow.
CAPITAL TIMES / 77 SQUARE (Madison, WI daily) – Feature/interview Jonathan for a feature/preview for Madison show (per Andy Downing)
Camper Van Beethoven returns to town older and wiser
When eclectic alternative rockers Camper Van Beethoven parted ways in the early ’90s, it happened so gradually that New York Press wrote of the split, “Camper dissolved like a urinal cake.”
It’s a description that still draws a chuckle from violinist/keyboardist Jonathan Segel.
“I don’t know what the opposite physical function to dissolution is,” he said. “Coagulation, maybe?”
In that case, the band “coagulated” back in 2002, ending a 12-year absence with a series of shows at New York City’s Knitting Factory. They returned to Madison in 2005 to open for Modest Mouse at the Orpheum, and will be headlining a show at the High Noon Saloon on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
In the days before those Knitting Factory concerts, the musicians holed up in a practice space and ran through every song in Camper’s diverse catalog, surprised to find just how naturally the material came back to them.
“Even if we couldn’t remember how to play the song mentally, we could almost just let our hands do it,” said Segel. “It was a shocking realization after spending 10 years not playing with them. Now here it’s nine years later and we’re making a new record. It’s quite amazing.”
The band, which is currently in the midst of recording its still-untitled album — its first since 2004’s “New Roman Times” — is likely to perform at least a handful of new tunes on this tour. They include the tongue-in-cheek “I Was Too High for the Love-In” and “Summer Days,” a pretty number partially inspired by the Johann Sebastian Bach recordings Segel listened to on repeat following the birth of his daughter this past summer.
It’s still somewhat surprising the longtime mates, who first got together in Redlands, Calif. back in 1983, have overcome their acrimonious split to resume making music. In the past, singer David Lowery, who also fronts the comparatively straightforward Cracker, joked the musicians were motivated to reunite by the string of Republicans in the White House. Segel, however, chalks it up to “a series of circumstances and coincidences.”
“At the end of the ’90s I was playing with Sparklehorse and ended up running into David after not speaking to him for a long time,” he said. “Then he ended up singing ‘All Her Favorite Fruit’ (off Camper’s 1989 album ‘Key Lime Pie’) with Sparklehorse one time when we were in Los Angeles, and I was like, ‘That is an amazing song. We really need to play that sometime.’ And it just started from there.”
Of course, the reunion wasn’t without some drama. Segel spoke of long, therapeutic conversations and numerous arguments — many of which were spurred by a still-in-the-works documentary about Lowery currently being shot by filmmaker Michael Santorelli.
“He’ll interview somebody, play it for someone else and say, ‘What do you think of that?’” said Segel. “It’ll be like, ‘Oh (bleep), why the hell did you do that? Are you trying to make a reality show or something?’”
Of course, the band’s colorful past is ripe for the big screen. Segel fondly recalled early confrontations with punk-rock fans (the band withstood countless hecklers opening for Dead Kennedys and Vomit Launch in the early ’80s), being pelted with raw meat (“I think it was a chicken liver”) and one incident in Alabama where Lowery pinned a rowdy fan against an exit door as guitarist Greg Lisher broke into a cartoonish version of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“Coming up in San Francisco, we’d end up playing with these punk rock bands because that’s what was happening at the time…and they would just be like, ‘What the (bleep) are you?’” said Segel. “So we’d play things like ska with Eastern European melodies and make jokes at their expense.”
These days, however, the shows are noticeably less confrontational — a trend that doesn’t bother the violinist in the slightest (“I’m not sure I’d want to deal with hecklers (now),” he said). There’s even a sense of, gulp, maturity that’s started to surface in the band’s sound, which is a word Segel had never before associated with Camper.
“It’s quite amazing how the music is more mature now,” he said. “We’re all far better musicians than we were in the ’80s or even ’90s, and we have less to prove about our abilities. We’re allowing the music to speak more than ourselves, I think.”
CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN
Camper Van Beethoven w/ American Scarecrows
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 8 p.m.
Where: High Noon Saloon, 701 E. Washington Ave.
Tickets: $15 in advance/$17 at the door (21+); trueendeavors.com
CAPITAL TIMES / 77 SQUARE (Madison, WI daily) –Positive post-show review with photo.
Camper Van Beethoven delivers cohesive show at High Noon
ANDY DOWNING | 77 Square
Watching Camper Van Beethoven perform at a crowded High Noon Saloon on Wednesday, it became increasingly difficult to believe internal tensions kept the eclectic indie-rock quintet apart for a bulk of the 1990s.
The band members, who first got together in Redlands, Calif. nearly three decades ago, displayed both an innate musical chemistry and an enviable camaraderie throughout their 100-minute set, which drew on material both old (absurdist gem “Take the Skinheads Bowling”) and new (a pair of unreleased songs from a still-untitled record currently in production).
Of course, some things have changed with time, including the relative age of both the bandmates and their audience. “Don’t you all have kids now?” joked bassist Victor Krummenacher. “Is it past your bedtime?”
Led as always by singer/guitarist David Lowery, who also fronts the more straightforward Cracker, the band weaved together Eastern European-tinged waltzes, bluesy barn-burners and needly guitar jams that sounded faintly like lost outtakes from Television’s “Marquee Moon.” One new song, “Summer Days,” which Krummenacher jokingly christened “Swedish prog-rock,” moved through at least three unique musical mutations, shifting from orchestral passages to comparatively noisy guitar outbursts, like summer giving abrupt way to the harsh realities of fall.
Violinist/guitarist Jonathan Segel, who might be the lone classical instrument-playing musician to sport an outsized lizard tattoo running the length of his forearm, proved integral to the overall sound, lacing “Tania” with a cascade of Balkan notes, imbuing a cover of Black Flag’s “Wasted” with a Celtic punk flair and layering a gorgeous “All Her Favorite Fruit” with fluttering notes that played counterpoint to Lowery’s world-weary sighs.
While not a dynamic singer — much like comedian Steven Wright, the frontman delivers his words almost solely in a sobering deadpan — Lowery’s vocals served as something of an anchor point for the band’s sonic globe trotting. He particularly shined on hardscrabble character studies like “When I Win the Lottery” and “Jack Ruby,” a dense, dark number with violent lyrics (“He seems like the kind of man who beats his horses/Or the dancers who work at the bar”) that matched the menacing tone projected by the group’s three-guitar lineup.
Between songs, Lowery flashed a wicked sarcastic streak and a desert dry wit, offering that his favorite bluesman was “Blind Lemon Pledge,” breaking down the genesis of the new song “I Was Too High for the Love In” (a complex tale that involves psychedelic mushrooms, a large bird, a trip to Sweden and a viper bite) and admitting he only recently realized the prop suspended onstage at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall was a miniature Stonehenge inspired by “Spinal Tap.” “I always thought, ‘Why do they have a pi symbol (hanging there)?’” he said.
It’s a wit that surfaced in songs like “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” a goof directed at the close-minded punk scene that the band delivered here with tongue firmly in cheek. “If someone would have told me back then I’d still be playing this 30 years later I would have said, ‘Can I have some of what you’re smoking?’” Lowery cracked. “I probably said that anyway.”
THE PRESS-CITIZEN (Iowa City daily) – Brief critic’s pick show preview.
Play: Events not to miss this week
Camper Van Beethoven
Take a little bit of punk, add in some ska and folk, toss in a sprinkling of world music and you’ve got Camper Van Beethoven, who play The Mill at 8 p.m. today with Poison Control Center. This will be one of the Camper clan’s first gigs on their tour where they unveil new material from their forthcoming studio album out this summer, so this is one show you don’t want to miss. Tickets are $15.
LITTLE VILLAGE (Iowa City weekly) – Show preview with CVB photo and video.
Camper Van Beethoven, Poison Control Center // The Mill // 9:00 PM // $15
Here’s a band that is all over the place on a few different levels. Camper Van Beethoven was making quirky, pop-rock tunes long before say, Weezer did. The band does not limit itself to a genre though; many of their songs are rooted in folk music largely through Jonathan Segel’s role on violin. Oh yeah, they can be a punk band too. Camper Van Beethoven was formed in the early ’80s, disbanded in 1990, took a nearly decade long hiatus, was reborn and continues to tour today. The lineup has changed many times and the band has cycled through over a dozen different members, some of which have worked with Sparklehorse (RIP), Dieselhed, Counting Crows and Cracker. High energy Iowa favorites, Poison Control Center open the show. PCC is putting out a limited copy of their unreleased first effort, A Nice Old-Fashioned Romance With Love Lyrics And Everything, a 30-song rock opera on Maximum Ames records. This release is vinyl only and there are only 150 copies. Expect headstands, splits and melted faces. I’m finding I say this a lot, but I really mean it right now – this won’t be one to miss.
VILLAGE VOICE (NYC weekly) – NYC “Recommened Events” show preview
David Lowery has been pulling double-duty with his two bands, quirky indie-rock heroes Camper Van Beethoven (“Take the Skinheads Bowling”) and alternative-era MTV darlings Cracker (“Low”), at concerts and in the studio since 1999. Somehow he’s kept it all straight, even putting out a solo album last year, despite the differences between the groups but thanks to a few common threads: his sardonic wit, the groups’ unpredictable solos, and catchy choruses. Tonight he’ll be in be sputtering out his tongue-in-cheek lyrics about Euro-trash girls and other forms of ear candy with both groups.
BROOKLYN ROCKS (NYC music blog) – NYC show preview with CVB photo.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Camper Van Beethoven Will be Debuting New Material @ Highline Ballroom on Sat., Jan. 14th
DOWNLOAD: Camper Van Beethoven – Live at The Independent, San Francisco, CA 12-28-11
Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven’s annual year-end California trek is underway and the last night of this run of shows is Dec. 29th in Petaluma. After which, Cracker heads further north to Portland on December 30th for a special one-off with bluegrass jam band Leftover Salmon, where the two bands will perform their highly-lauded 2003 album O Cracker, Where Art Thou? together in its entirety.
The following night, Cracker & CVB will be in Chicago for a celebratory New Year’s Eve bash at Chicago’s House Of Blues. Camper Van Beethoven will open, followed by Cracker ringing in the new year, and then Big Head Todd & The Monsters playing into the wee hours.
Then Camper Van Beethoven will start off the year with their own headlining shows in Milwaukee, Madison and Iowa City, before hooking up with Cracker again for shows in St. Louis and Minneapolis. The two bands will then head east for their annual winter run through the Northeast. As David Lowery (frontman for both bands) told the Boston Herald earlier this year,”We always do it in January when it’s really cold and not many bands go up to the Northeast. It started from the fact that it was the only time that was slow for the Camper Van Beethoven guys who have real careers. Then we accidentally figured out nobody else is touring, so it’s seen as this mid-winter cabin-fever kind of party.”
Both Cracker and CVB will be running through their career-spanning canons of hits and fan favorites, while, perhaps even more exciting, Camper Van Beethoven will be performing a handful of new songs slated for their new studio album – their first in over seven years!
PIONEER PRESS (Minneapolis daily) –Best Bet show preview.
Entertainment best bets for Jan. 6-12
Rock Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
Saturday: Singer/guitarist David Lowery is in the relatively unique position of leading two bands that claim somewhat unique audiences. He’s best known, of course, for his role in the ’80s alt-rock group Camper Van Beethoven, but he also heads up Cracker, which scored a trio of big hits in the early ’90s with “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” “Low” and “Get Off This.” Both bands are on the bill for this club gig, with American Scarecrows opening. Expect to hear some fresh material from CVB, as they’re currently working on a new album due out later this year. 7:30 p.m.; Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 First Ave. N., Mpls.; $78.50-$18.50; 612-338-8100.
– Ross Raihala
KDHX RADIO (St. Louis Community Radio) – Feature interview with David to preview show.
‘I just can’t spend all day talking about music’ An interview with David Lowery of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
Written by Scott Allen
As the leader of two influential alternative-rock bands of the ’80s and ’90s, David Lowery has spent over 25 years in the music business.
Originally fronting Camper Van Beethoven, a staple on the ’80s college rock scene, the band fused elements of pop, ska, punk, folk, country and world music into an eclectic mix. As the ’90s began and his band fell apart, Lowery formed Cracker with his childhood friend Johnny Hickman for a more mainstream rock sound scoring hits with “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now),” “Low” and “Euro Trash Girl.”
Yesterday, I spoke to Lowery by phone to discuss the current status of both bands and his thoughts on his personal business model for the music industry. As noted in the interview, he personally tends to shy away from the spotlight and continues to stay busy with various musical and non-musical pursuits — including a stint as a lecturer in the University of Georgia’s music business program.
On Friday, Lowery brings both Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven back to St. Louis for a KDHX-sponsored double bill at the Pageant.
Scott Allen: It seems that you perform in St. Louis once a year, sometimes more. What’s been your impression of St. Louis over the years? Are there any memories that stand out?
David Lowery: Well, there’s the history with Camper Van Beethoven. St. Louis was always a fairly strong town for that band. Not everywhere got Camper Van Beethoven so it was a good place. In particular, with Cracker, it started on our first album. We literally had singles from that album and had this little EP [“Tucson”] that followed it. In St. Louis, “Euro Trash Girl” became a hit about two years before it became a hit in the rest of the country. I don’t know if you remember that?
Actually I do. I saw Cracker perform at Mississippi Nights back then.
So we sort of had this string of hits in St. Louis on the radio before we did in the rest of the country. I mean it was weird. We were going and playing little 100-seat venues all over the country. Then we’d come and sell out shows at Mississippi Nights. That’s one of the main parts of the history. For whatever reason Cracker caught on with radio in St. Louis in a big way before the rest of the country.
Speaking of touring, how many dates do you average in a year?
For the last two years we’ve really scaled back on the touring. I’m actually not sure that’s where the money is anymore. I think it was for a long time in that Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker were touring, grass roots, live phenomena. That was fantastic for us and we had that for about 25 years. But, about a year-and-a-half to two years ago, I noticed that everybody else tours now. Think about it. If you’re in St. Louis and you look at the paper on a weekend night there are a lot of shows to go to. It didn’t used to be like that. You used to have a few each month. Now, I can come to a city like Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas or any of the major markets and roll into town and look at the paper to see who is playing. There might be sometimes four or five other shows that I’d be interested in going to.
So, actually what is going on is that we’ve decided with all of our projects we’re just going to make a lot more recorded music right now. This sort of thing flies in the face of conventional wisdom right now. But the deal is record a lot of music. Again, I’m hoping it’s going to work out. Really what we’re doing in the last two years is instead of playing 150 shows we’re playing more like 45-50. We’re trying to make the shows special so we’re doing Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven together. We’ve had a long history with St. Louis, and people seem to love that show. So we’re coming to do that again.
Right. I saw you guys come through two years ago at the Pageant and really enjoyed the double bill.
Last year Jonathan Segel, your bandmate in Camper Van Beethoven, announced that work would begin on a new record, the first since “New Roman Times” in 2004. Are you still in the writing process or are there finished songs ready to record?
It’s more or less written and we have about half that are recorded, and the Monday after the St. Louis show we’re going to go back in the studio down in Athens and work on a little more of it. That’s kind of one of the things we’re doing. There are not many new songs we’re playing just because … Here’s the weird thing — there are no surprises anymore if you play your new songs live. (Laughs) The papers have them, they’re on YouTube and the songs are just sort of out there. People are critiquing them and it’s sort of bizarre. You want to say, “You know we’re not really kind of done with that.” There is a whole sort of process when you’re first playing the song you might play it a few times and rearrange it and play it again. We’ve got a handful of them that we’re doing that with. Maybe four or five that we’re playing to get a better feel of them and then we’ll go record them next week.
They’re very much in the vein of Camper Van Beethoven. This is exactly what I’m talking about. We’re trying to make a record from one of the projects — solo, Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven — we’re trying to make them every year now. We were trying to finish it by January, but it’ll probably be more like May or something when we actually get it finished.
Are you planning to start recording new Cracker material this year too?
No, I’ll probably start doing the writing for that this year.
As far as the recording you’re doing for the new Camper Van Beethoven, who are you working with in Athens?
We basically produce our own records, but when we’re working in Athens we’re working with an engineer named Drew Vandenberg [Drive-By Truckers, Deerhunter, the Whigs] who’s actually recorded a lot of interesting stuff — everything from Futurebirds to Toro Y Moi. He’s also working on some of the new Band of Horses album. He’s a young engineer and he was actually the second engineer on the last Cracker record, and we liked him so much. He’s not the only person we’re working with. We’re also working with Myles Boisen who’s in Oakland. We’ve worked with Jason Carmer who’s out of the Bay Area also. We don’t really use names that civilians have heard of. We generally use people who musicians know about.
When you said the name Drew Vandenberg it sounded familiar.
He’s actually been recording a lot of stuff. He was a second engineer on a lot of projects, but he’s recorded his own stuff out of Athens for many years now. His stuff is getting really popular now so it’s cool.
Do you still record analog during the recording process or do you record digital these days?
We track to analog and mix to analog a lot of times. We’ll probably mix to analog with the new Camper Van Beethoven record. There are some really good things about analog. I was really pro-analog for a long time. Frankly, the digital stuff has gotten so good. UAD, Universal Audio, which made a lot of the old analog recording equipment, their digital stuff is really incredible with the modeling that they do. The digital stuff has just gotten better. IAD out of Canada is another one. It just sounds so good now.
A lot of times we’ll track to the tape and then immediately transfer it into ProTools or Radar and then we will immediately erase that take and record another take over top of it. The thing that people like about analog is that it’s easier to record in analog and get it to sound good because it doesn’t do impossible things. That’s why for a long time I really liked analog. Truthfully, having engineers who’ve grown up only with digital they’re so good at it that it’s just better to do that.
I wanted to ask you a couple of personal questions. You mentioned on your website that the music thing isn’t always your thing.
I just can’t spend all day talking about music. Every musician started out as more or less a part-time musician and they had another life. This is where they got their inspiration and life experiences. That’s really my thing to always keep David Lowery the performer/writer/recording artist strictly part-time.
On the site you also mentioned enjoying military history. Tell me a bit about that.
I’ve read a lot of history. I like the Dark Ages to the Ancient stuff. When we went to Iraq, I got really fascinated with the region. I started reading histories of these different wars and conflicts. There are literally 30 different empires in that region. I got really fascinated with it, and so I was reading a lot of that material. My personal favorite right now is the Mongols. That’s the history of all Central Asian tribes loosely grouped under the Mongols. I find it fascinating.
Do you find that stuff colors your songwriting over time?
Not really. There is a song called “We All Shine a Light” on the last Cracker album. It’s about a kid growing up in Peshawar who’s a really big cricket fan. Peshawar, in Pakistan, it was sort of this beacon of multiculturalism, thinking, science, trade and art for a really long time. Now, it’s at the heart of this extremely conservative, militant Islam extremism. I ended up reading about that and how fanatical that area of the world is for cricket and mixed those two things together.
Amateur radio is another interest for you. Is that something you actively participate in?
Since I was twelve. I’m a little dormant lately, but I’ve been thinking about doing some stuff again. It goes in waves with me. Through the ’90s and mid-’00s there was a really great underground of all these amateur radio, computer geek and audio DSP geeks who were hooking soundcards to amateur radios. Basically they were creating these other non-corporate modes of communicating to each other with computers. It was really fascinating.
I kind of got to the point where I went all the way through that so I haven’t been doing much with that lately. I was just reading something that made me want to go back and hook my computers back up to my amateur radios again and get back on the air. It’s this strange sort of geek underground. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s pretty interesting. I kind of moved away from it in the last five or six years because a lot of the people involved in this are such extreme right-wing people. I like the real libertarian branch of that — I think there’s always interesting people in that branch. I don’t like it when it gets mixed up with what to me is anti-American and anti-United States bullshit.
There were always people in that movement like Barry Goldwater. I assume if he were alive today he would be experimenting hooking computers to amateur radio and basically creating these open source communication networks. A sort of non-corporate, free communication. But, it kind of got taken over by this hard right wing.
Funny you mention Goldwater. I read a very prophetic quote by him recently where he said that if evangelicals ever got control of the Republican Party things in this country would go to hell.
Barry Goldwater, in retrospect, I don’t know how it happened, but Victor Krummenacher [bass player in Camper Van Beethoven] and I ended up reading a lot about him. We were kind of fascinated by him. There were good and bad things about him, but he was pretty cool. That’s the part of conservative, libertarian movement that I like — the Barry Goldwater part. Which has nothing to do with social conservatism. It has nothing to do with the modern conservative movement. It’s all purely about liberty and a somewhat radical interpretation of that.
KDHX welcomes Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven to the Pageant on January 6.
KDHX RADIO (St. Louis Community Radio) –Brief positive show preview.
Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven
When: Fri 01/06 8:00pm
Where: Pageant – St. Louis
Cracker and predecessor Camper Van Beethoven mix alt rock, alt country with many other genres, including punk and glam rock.
RIVERFRONT TIMES (St. Louis weekly) – Second positive show preview with Cracker photo.
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
8 p.m. Friday, January 6. The Pageant, 6161 Delmar Boulevard.
By Roy Kasten
Whether taking the helm of iconic ironic rockers Camper Van Beethoven, the sardonic janglers of Cracker or a smarty-pants solo project, David Lowery has consistently dug up the twisted roots of American music, always with dark humor and twangy intonations intact. If “alternative rock” ever had any meaning, it was defined by the energy of Lowery’s withering social and sexual parodies and celebratory self-loathings. Ubiquitous hits such as “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “Euro-Trash Girl” were principally political even as they made a mockery of the possibility of postmodern principles at all.
What to Expect: Touring as a double bill of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker should give Lowery plenty of room to stretch out across all the hits – and dip into this year’s fine solo release, The Palace Guards, as well.
6161 Delmar Blvd.
University City, MO 63130
RIVERFRONT TIMES (St. Louis weekly) – Early show preview with CVB file photo and Eye of Fatima video
This Just In
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven are Coming to the Pageant!
David Lowery will be very busy on this tour: Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven will be playing a co-headlined bill at the Pageant on January 6th. Tickets are $20 and go on sale this Friday at 5 p.m.
Lowery was in town this spring as a solo act — he played at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room. That show, featuring Cracker’s Johnny Hickman as an opener, wound up being as much about Lowery telling the stories behind his songs as him actually playing them. Expect it to be much, much different this time around.
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH (St. Louis daily) – Early brief show preview with Cracker photo
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven team up for Pageant concert
A co-bill of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, along with Gaelic Storm, Memories of Elvis and Railroad Earth are new shows coming to the Pageant.
— Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven (co-bill), 8 p.m. Jan. 6, $20, buy three tickets get one free first week of sales only
Tickets go on sale at 5 p.m. Friday at Ticketmaster, ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000 and at the venue.
ALIVE MAGAZINE (St. Louis weekly) – Brief show preview
* Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven
Time: 8 pm
6161 Delmar Blvd
St. Louis MO, 63112
Come out to the Pageant to see the ecelectic band ‘Camper Van Beethoven’ who combines pop, ska, punk rock, folk and alternative country. Playing the same night is ‘Cracker’ formed by lead singer of Camper Van Beethoven made famous by their pan-rock style and satirical take on Americana.
CITY PAGES (Minneapolis weekly) – Positive “Critics Picks” show preview with Cracker photo
Cracker and Camper van Beethoven
Fine Line Music Cafe on Saturday 1.7
Shortly after the new year rolls over, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker blow into town midway through what has become their annual winter tandem tour. The closely affiliated bands, both led by singer/guitarist David Lowery, share eccentric, often deeply ironic lyrical tilts and eclectic musical threads that run from power pop to experimental via country, punk, and Southern rock. Both bands reportedly have been doing entire run-throughs of their various albums recently (CVB’s Key Lime Pie, Cracker’s Kerosene Hat, for example). There’s no word of any of that here, although nuggets from throughout each band’s extensive catalogues are promised. CVB also will be previewing an array of new tunes destined for their forthcoming studio album, their first since 2004’s New Roman Times. 18+. $20. 7:30 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Rick Mason
MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE (Minneapolis daily) – Feature with David
This feature also got picked up by the McClatchy/Tribune – MCT Information Services wire and has also been published in dailies nationwide, including the Syracuse Post Standard, Sacramento Bee, New Orleans Times Picayune, Macon Telegraph,
interview to preview Minneapolis show in their Vita.mn A&E section with David photo.
Music: David Lowery is on tour with both Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
By Chris Riemenschneider
He’s flattered to be remembered at all, but David Lowery did not need the new Diablo Cody-written movie “Young Adult” to remind him that his band Cracker is nowadays mostly seen as an early-1990s nostalgia act. That reminder comes on a daily basis thanks to his new job teaching a music-business course at the University of Georgia.
“A lot of the students there tell me the same thing we heard from the soldiers when we performed over in Iraq” in 2009, Lowery said with a droll laugh. “They said, ‘Dude, my parents are going to totally freak out when they find out I was hanging out with you.'”
Let’s give Gen-X rock fans a little break and hope those kids were referring to Lowery’s earlier, far quirkier band, Camper Van Beethoven, a mainstay of the college-rock circuit in the mid-’80s that landed one novelty underground hit, “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”
Lowery enjoyed steady mainstream radio play with Cracker in the early 1990s with the slacker-flavored songs “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” and “Low.” The latter landed on the “Young Adult” soundtrack alongside the Replacements, Lemonheads and other bands of the grunge era who weren’t all really grunge. Now both of Lowery’s groups have paired up for a short twofer tour coming to Minneapolis in the dead of winter.
“The advantage for me is I get to essentially cover my entire catalog in one night, which I really enjoy, and hopefully some of the fans do,” said Lowery. “The disadvantage is it’s a really long show, and actually a lot of work.”
The eclectic, gypsy-punk-gone-country ensemble Camper Van Beethoven — which originally disbanded in 1990 — has been working on its first new album in eight years. “With [Camper], we really don’t play a whole lot, and we kind of like it that way,” he said. “Which is funny, since everybody in the business is touring more now because it’s the only way to make money anymore.”
As for the more straight-ahead Cracker, 2009’s twangy effort “Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey” is actually something of a return to form.
“Cracker’s first record really was a lot more Southern-rock/country-rock than people remember,” he said. “I remember our longtime A&R person at Virgin said to us when we turned in that record, ‘It sounds great. But do you really want to put out a country-rock record when nobody else is?’ This was 1991, when Nirvana hit.”
Lowery’s trajectory with Cracker through the early ’90s echoes that of ex-Minneapolitan Bob Mould’s post-Hüsker Dü band Sugar, as the former indie-rockers went mainstream with new bands.
“We all kind of grew out of the tail end of punk-rock, when punk had sort of become this rigid art form and some of us just wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll — something poppier, but not like classic rock, our own kind of thing. The mainstream sort of moved toward us instead of the other way around. MTV and radio suddenly discovered our bands. It wasn’t like a specific stylistic thing. It was just like we were held up as the ‘new generation of rock.'”
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
Jan 7, Sat. at 8:30 pm
Fine Line Music Café
318 1st Av. N.
ALSO POSTED HERE ON VITA.MN
THE ONION / AV CLUB (Twin Cities, MN weekly) – Show preview with Cracker photo.
Also Playing: Camper Van Beethoven
Cracker’s David Lowery is getting to the age where it’s customary for modestly famous rockers to drag themselves out on tour looking bitter and bloated. Instead, Lowery and guitarist Johnny Hickman have done basically the opposite lately, touring as a stripped-down (but non-seated) rock duo and preserving the smart-assed songwriting voice Lowery established with Camper Van Beethoven. It helps that the band’s most recent work, including 2009’s Sunshine In The Land Of Milk And Honey, beefs up the setlist with songs that work well alongside the early-’90s stuff, and that they don’t seem to mind playing hits like the not-entirely-characteristic “Low.”
Fine Line Music Cafe 318 1st Ave. N., Twin Cities, MN
PHILDELPHIA INQUIRER (Philadelphia daily) – Brief show preview.
Led by Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery, Cracker’s post-punk, country-tinged songs earned some hits in the early ’90s with ‘Low’ ‘What the World Needs Now’ and ‘Get Off This.’
Also appearing: Camper Van Beethoven
World Cafe Live
3025 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
QRO MAGAZINE (NY music site) – Feature with Jonathan interview to preview NYC show (phoner Tue Dec 20th at noon pacific)
Jonathan Segel of Camper Van Beethoven
By Ted Chase
Just before the holidays – and their annual December/January tour – QRO caught up with Camper Van Beethoven’s guitarist/violinist Jonathan Segel. The multi-act multi-instrumentalist talked about Camper’s upcoming tour with sister act Cracker (QRO spotlight on), why they’re the rare band who tours in December/January, the new Camper material that’s gonna be on this tour, his new solo records All Attractions and Apricot Jam (out in the beginning of 2012), what having different roles has taught him, being a ‘grandfatherly Mr. Old & Bitter’ at a poorly-run, poorly-paid South-by-Southwest, and much more…
QRO: When/where did you make All Attractions & Apricot Jam?
JS: I live in Oakland, so most of it was recorded in San Francisco and Oakland, over the course of the past couple of years.
QRO: Did you work with a variety of musicians, since you were making it over the last couple of years, or was there a specific band that you had with you?
JS: I’ve been working with the same people a lot. I worked with Victor [Krummenacher, CVB bassist] – he and I have been playing music together inside and outside of Camper Van Beethoven for the last thirty years. We work pretty well together.
Camper’s initial drummer, Chris Pedersen, moved to Australia in the nineties, so we’ve been using some different drummers. Right now, there’s this guy John Haynes, who Victor’s been playing with a lot, and I’ve been playing with him off and on for the past five years. John Haynes is our main drummer – he’s been around the San Francisco Bay Area for a long time. He played with Pearl Harbor & The Explosions – he’s played with all sorts of people.
QRO: You’ve done everything from your own solo records to making records as part of a band to contributing on other people’s stuff – how do the different recording situations compare?
JS: Gosh, it really depends. Being a bandleader is definitely a different job than being a hired musician.
Playing in Camper Van Beethoven is more like playing in a collective band, where everybody has their own sorts of ideas and parts, versus, for instance, when I played in Sparklehorse back in the nineties, it was definitely Mark Linkous’ thing, I was just the melody aspect of each song, I played violin or guitar or keyboards or whatever. It’s a different job, those different things.
“I think that having been in all of these sorts of different situations in different bands ends up giving you a different outlook on how to react in each different job that comes along.”
I think that having been in all of these sorts of different situations in different bands ends up giving you a different outlook on how to react in each different job that comes along.
QRO: You feel that you can sort of put yourself in another person’s shoes?
For many people, it’s hard to listen to their own band objectively. I mean, I’m definitely guilty of that myself, of course.
One of the things that you do learn how to do, also, is to try to step back and listen to everybody’s part and say, “Is what I’m playing good for the band, good for the song that we’re playing as a whole? How can this be better, not just based on what I’m doing?”
QRO: Do you find that you do relatively more guitars when making your own material, than when you’re contributing to someone else’s thing?
JS: Absolutely. More people play guitar, obviously. So I’m definitely wanted as a violinist more, coming in as an outside musician.
On All Attractions, Chris Xefos played bass on some of the stuff, because Victor wanted to play guitar, because he’s been playing guitar a lot.
QRO: Why are you putting out two records at the same time?
JS: I’ve been working on the song part of All Attractions for the last couple of years. We went into the studio to record the last little bits of it, we ended up having an afternoon free, and we just improvised. That ended up being Apricot. That’s basically a bunch of instrumentals that were just improvised in the studio, and I took them home and sort of played with them for the next few months before they got mixed.
So it’s just sort of a bonus disc, really.
QRO: Are you releasing them at the start of the year – is it coincidence that it’s coinciding with the Camper tour?
JS: It’s coincidence that it’s coinciding with the Camper tour, but it’s also that, since, as an independent artist, it takes a long time for – I don’t have a real ‘release schedule’ that says, “Three months in advance I’m gonna place all of this sort of advertisement out” – I just can’t afford to do that sort of thing. So for me to put it out at the beginning of the year is little bit better in terms of when people find it out, in the year 2016, they’ll look at it and they’ll go, “Oh, it was released in 2012,” as opposed to, “Oh, it was released in 2011…” [laughs]
QRO: That’s really true, especially with the internet, release dates aren’t quite the same importance that they were…
JS: It’s definitely not the same thing as it used to be. Although, strangely it’s still on Tuesdays…
QRO: Yes! [laughs] Except in the U.K. they’re on Mondays…
JS: Yeah, what the hell? Who made that rule up?…
QRO: Now, even DVDs come out on Tuesdays as well.
JS: Really? I didn’t even know that.
QRO: Starting with the twenty-fifth anniversary tour, this will be the fourth year in a row that Camper Van Beethoven has toured in January. Why is that?
JS: Yeah, we’re making a habit of it. We’ve been doing this thing on the West Coast between Christmas and New Year’s for six or seven years now – San Francisco, San Diego, Petaluma, sometimes Portland. So we started adding on to do some Midwest, mostly East Coast dates in January. It’s sort of crazy, but you know, no one else is out there.
QRO: It’s to the point where you play the same venue on the same date or day of the week, year-on-year. Was it just to add to the California dates?
JS: Yeah, but it’s sort of becoming a traditional thing.
I like it. I like having sort of set area. You know, a lot of us work, also – to have set areas to tour around West Coast and into the Campout in Pioneertown in southern California in August/September, and then we tour around some dates on the East Coast in January, the Midwest, and then little bits and pieces here and there throughout the spring. It’s getting to be a pretty good schedule.
QRO: How does playing California in December compare with playing the Mid-West/Northeast in January?
JS: [laughs] Yeah, California’s December is usually not that – usually the worst you get is some rain.
Last year, we went to St. Louis, and it was minus twelve!
QRO: Do you notice some of the same fans each time you visit a city?
JS: Many of the same fans, and what it does is then, they bring other people. Which is really cool.
It’ll start off with a lot of people who are like, “Oh, I haven’t seen you guys forever!” And then next year, it’s like, “You guys were really great last year – I’m coming and bringing more people this year.”
QRO: Where did the idea of the Cracker/Camper tour come from?
JS: Camper didn’t really exist in the nineties, at all, because [CVB singer David Lowery’s] Cracker was really strong, and we were all doing our own thing, I was making my own little records and stuff. When we started playing together again, it sort of came out of me or Greg [Lisher, CVB guitarist] or Victor joining Cracker for a couple of Camper songs. Initially, it was just we did these… “traveling apothecary tours,” we called them. It was sort of this amalgam of both bands, do a Cracker set, do a Camper set, or it was mostly Cracker, and they’d do a Cracker set, then we would join them to do some Camper songs.
It wasn’t until 2002 that we actually separated out and did Camper only. I think the first shows as Camper only, again since 1990, I think were at the Knitting Factory (QRO venue review).
QRO: Was that around the same time you were working on New Roman Times [the first CVB record since 1989’s Key Lime Pie]?
JS: Yeah, we started working on that.
QRO: And where did the idea of 2011’s Key Lime Pie and Kerosene Hat tour come from?
JS: Full records like that? Well, I’m not exactly sure, but it was something that fans kept asking us to do it at our Campout festival.
Many of the songs from Key Lime Pie had never actually been played live. Probably like five of them were ever played live. We had a few of them in our normal repertoire, like “All Her Favorite Fruit”, “Sweethearts”, and “Flowers”, but many of them we’d actually never played.
So when people kept saying, “Can you play Key Lime Pie?” – so we were like, ‘We’re gonna learn the whole record?…’
QRO: Was it hard learning songs that you had written so long ago?
JS: Yeah! It was hard! We’re older & slower now… [laughs]
QRO: In the upcoming tour, are you going to be doing new material?
JS: Yeah. We’ve been working on a new record, started writing a bunch of stuff earlier this year, started recording in June, had a couple of sessions in June, October, and then [December]. We’ve got a bunch of new songs, so I think we’re gonna at least be playing four or five of them.
QRO: Have you played them live to audiences before?
JS: No, we never had. That will start after Christmas.
QRO: Are you nervous about that?
JS: …Yeah? I think that we have the songs pretty well – we actually had some rehearsals. We don’t usually rehearse very much; we usually just get together and play. But we actually had some rehearsals last time…
QRO: When did you start thinking that you were going to do a new album?
JS: It’s been a while. You know, we started thinking we were gonna do a new album several years ago, but then that sort of process became interrupted by Cracker doing another album (QRO review) they worked on for a long time, and then they toured an awful lot on that. And we all work on our own projects.
We actually started, in earnest, talking about it, about a year ago, saying, “We’re gonna do it in 2011 – we’re gonna work on a new record.” So that’s what we’ve been doing all year. I think we’ve come up with some amazing stuff; I think it’s gonna be a great record.
Of course I’m gonna say that, right?…
QRO: [laughs] Because you can’t be objective…
JS: [laughs] Exactly!
QRO: What is the writing process – does everybody come in with his own individual stuff, does it start as a group, or what?
JS: We do that; there’s many different writing processes involved in Camper Van Beethoven.
Since David is going to be playing and singing, we’re generally gonna leave it up to him to do the vocals.
A lot of what we’ve been doing is coming in with melodies, or some basic chord ideas, Greg, Victor, me, and David, all of us together at my house, every evening back in June for a week. We worked out a number of things, a number of really great melodic hits, and number of great chord progressions, and then over the summer, they developed into songs.
QRO: When you’re coming with your own individual ideas, do you think, “Okay, this is going to be for Camper,” or you do you think, “This is going to be for my own thing”?
JS: That’s a very odd idea.
Some things I think just lend themselves to just one or the other very easily. Other things, I just want to try out on people in the band, before I see if people are interested in the idea or not.
And then another thing, I think that a lot of the music, for instance that I did on All Attractions, doesn’t really fit in the Camper world so much.
QRO: Do you feel less pressure making this upcoming Camper record than when you made New Roman Times, since that was your ‘reunion record’?
JS: Yeah, definitely. There’s definitely less pressure to make a ‘comeback record’ or something like that, but on the other hand there’s more pressure to make a good record.
I hope that people have high expectations, because I think that we’re up for it. I think that, after we’ve been playing together and playing individually as musicians for a long time now, we’re all very good at what we do. I think we’re riding a very good creative wave this year – my record, Greg has been working on an instrumental record of his own, Victor has been working on many projects, he has his McCabe & Mrs. Miller (QRO photos, opening for CVB) stuff, David had a solo record that came out (QRO review). We’re all riding on a very, very large, creative wave, I’d say.
QRO: Are you working on Victor or Greg’s records?
JS: I occasionally do; I haven’t been so much lately, but I have ended up playing on a lot of Victor’s records, and just a little bit on some of Greg’s stuff.
QRO: I saw you at South-by-Southwest in 2010 (QRO recap). What was it like to play an ‘industry festival’ that’s mostly about new bands, when you’re anything but a newbie?…
JS: Well, it’s sort of funny, because, like I said about how we’ve been playing for such long time, it’s sort of funny because we’ve been in that situation many times, and we actually know how to play our instruments. In some ways, I feel like ‘grandfatherly’ – [old man voice] “Here, let me show you how to play that guitar…”
But in other cases, I always find it amazing to look around, when you’re at South-by-Southwest or one of those festivals, to look at all the different bands that are playing, because it’s funny how many different kinds of music are available to people. There’s so much you can see.
QRO: Do you think that’s changed even since you’ve started?
JS: It’s definitely easier to, quote, ‘be in a band.’ They always say that the internet, computers, computer recording has leveled the playing field for people. Yeah, of course the truth about that is that a level playing field means it’s sort of awash with mediocrity. It’s hard to find the things that are really going to stand out, you know?
‘Cause there’s a lot, a lot of music now. It’s very easy for people to make music, it’s easier for people to get started making music, when they have a computer, before they even have an instrument. What’s harder to find, of course, is people who actually know how to play their instruments really, really well…
I sort of lament that, in a way, and I don’t wanna sound like ‘Mr. Old & Bitter’, but you go back and listen to sixties music – those guys were like in their twenties, and those guys played the shit out of their instruments! Those guys were really, really good, and it’s really rare to find out guys in their twenties that have practiced, or have training, or music education to be able to really play the shit out of their instruments. It happens, it does happen.
And then, of course, there’s the other side of that coin is that there are people who are innately musical, who don’t have the technical ability, but are able to put stuff together with a computer or with other sounds, something like that, and make music with it now, who could never have done that before.
QRO: Lots of things have gotten easier, but it’s not any easier to learn how to play an instrument…
JS: Right, exactly… [laughs]
QRO: Back to SXSW, where did the idea of selling endorsements for each song come from?
JS: It was just trying to figure out ways of getting ourselves there. We couldn’t really afford to fly us all there, so we’re like, ‘Well, what if we actually sell endorsements?’
It was a little bit pointed at South-by-Southwest in general, because they don’t actually pay bands to get there – hey, we’re happy to play, but how do we do that?
QRO: Things don’t generally run on time at South-by-Southwest, but did you feel that you still had to play every song that you ‘sold’?
JS: Yes… [laughs] Yes, we probably did.
QRO: I was at the ‘official’ SXSW show, you & Cracker at Encore Patio – what the hell happened there with that ‘venue’? It seemed like they screwed everything up… (QRO recap)
JS: I don’t know – it’s typical South-by-Southwest stuff; some of those shows, you never know what you’re getting into.
The show the night before that we did, our manager got into a fight with somebody. She fuckin’ clocked this guy…
QRO: I also saw you at the outdoor show on the last day of South-by-Southwest, when it was freezing cold… (QRO recap)
JS: [laughs] That’s right, at the 40 Watt party…
QRO: I didn’t have a jacket…
JS: It’s fuckin’ Texas, and it’s freezin’ cold! Set up an outdoor thing, and all these bands are trying to play, and their hands are completely frozen…
QRO: Are there any Camper songs that you particularly like playing?
JS: There are many that I really like playing. One of my favorites, I was just reminded of this morning, is “One of These Days”, from Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart – such nice, interlocking violin and guitar lines, really good tempo.
The instrumentals are very interesting. And it’s funny because some of them, even from the first record, like, say “Mao Reminisces About His Days In Southern China”, it’s one of the things that’s like – I’ve been playing it more than half my life, but I just keep thinking one day I’m going to get it exactly right…
QRO: [laughs] Where did the idea, years ago, of doing the covers of Black Flag come from?
JS: Early eighties California, when punk rock sort of became really embedded in the culture of clubs and stuff, people got really dogmatic about what was punk rock, especially in southern California, I think – not so the San Francisco area. People were like, “This is punk rock – that is not!” And we so were like, “Screw you – we’ll play punk rock however we want…” Just do it right.
QRO: Are there any songs that you can’t play, because of the arrangement, or just don’t like to play?
JS: I think now, we’ve tried to play all of them. There’s some that we haven’t played, some that maybe have too many instruments in them on the recorded version, and we can’t make it into a great live version or something like that. I don’t think there’s any that we couldn’t specifically play live.
QRO: What about from All Attractions and/or Apricot Jams – how much have you even played those songs in front of a live audience?
JS: I maybe did about five shows – no, maybe about ten. I played opening for Built To Spill (QRO live review) at the Fillmore for a couple of days, and then we played opening for Camper here in Oakland, and then some of the shows at Campout, stuff like that. But I don’t really have a separate booking agent, so I don’t do very many shows.
I love all those songs, to play.
QRO: What’s it like, ‘opening for yourself’?
JS: I really like it, because I get really warmed up, and then I really play well. [laughs]
QRO: Will you be touring those albums, later on?
JS: Yeah, definitely, probably have some shows in the Bay Area – we don’t really tour that much – in San Francisco, definitely.
QRO: Will it just be you, or do you have a whole band?
JS: Usually I play with the people I recorded with – Victor, and John Haynes, and Chris Xefos.
BOSTON MUSIC SPOTLIGHT (Boston A&E site) – Show preview with Cracker photo.
Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven plot co-headlining tour
Boston Music Spotlight, Staff
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven have revealed plans for their annual co-headlining tour. David Lowery will lead both bands back to Massachusetts for a show at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge on Sunday, January 15. Tickets for the show are now on sale through TicketWeb for $20.
Fans can expect both bands to perform career-spanning sets of hits and fan favorites. Camper Van Beethoven will also preview a handful of new songs slated for their new studio album. The new release will be their first in over seven years. Cracker s last studio release was 2009 2s Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey. Lowery, who fronts both Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, released his first solo album The Palace Guards in February.
MAINLINE TODAY (PA monthly) – Hobart Rowland confirmed he’d be previewing Philly show. Also pitching a CVB Magnet magazine feature for summer release.
NY DAILY NEWS – Early brief show preview with Cracker file photo.
Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven
Saturday, Jan 14 (2012) 7:00p
at Highline Ballroom, New York, NY
In the mid-’80s in Santa Cruz, California, singer-songwriter David Lowry formed Camper Van Beethoven, and the band’s track “Take the Skinheads Bowling” became an instant college radio staple. When CVB disbanded on tour in Sweden following its second major label release, Lowery formed Cracker with his longtime friend, guitarist Johnny Hickman. Cracker’s emergent sound had less in common with Camper’s exotic excursions and was more in sync with the Kinks and Southern roots music.
Cracker released its self-titled debut on Virgin, and following the No. 1 modern rock hit “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now),” the band became a minor commercial sensation. The platinum-selling Kerosene Hat (1993) contained the enormous, era-defining hit single “Low,” as well as “Get Off This” and “Eurotrash Girl.” When the dust settled, Cracker found itself with an ever-growing, devoted following both in the Us (where fans refer to themselves as Crumbs) and throughout Europe. Today, the band stays well-connected to yet another generation of fans via internet, many of whom were kids when these alt-rock godfathers were first ruling rock radio. The group’s latest release, Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey (2009), weaves decades of influences into an eerie yet strangely soothing story of escapism, apocalypse, and renewal that is still relevant as ever today.
CAMPER Van BEETHOVEN
At the time of its 1985 debut, Camper Van Beethoven’s merging of punk, folk, ska, and world music was truly a revelation. Self-described as a “surrealist absurdist folk” outfit, the band formed in Santa Cruz, Ca, and the 1985 re-release of its debut, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, made the Top 10 in the 1986 Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll. The group’s next albums, II & III (1986) and Camper Van Beethoven (1986), followed suit. After two major releases on the Virgin label – Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (1988) and Key Lime Pie (1989), CVP had taken the music as far as it could go and disbanded.
In 2002, CVP reunited for a nationwide tour on what seemed like a whim. The tour must have gone really well, because unexpectedly, the full band trooped into the studio to record a new album, titled New Roman Times – a release that, surprisingly enough, stands with the group’s finest work. A loosely connected semi-rock opera telling the story of a Texas teenager who joins the military after a 9/11-like event, becomes disillusioned, and joins an anti-government militia, the disc is the most explicitly political record of Camper Van Beethoven’s career, resurrecting and amplifying the themes that colored the band’s previous two albums. The album is proof that CVP pulled off an exceptional trick. It not only reunited – it picked up exactly where it left off.
SOUNDSPIKE (online music site) – News feature (from press announcement) with tour dates, band photos and related links.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE (monthly music magazine) – News feature (from press announcement) with band photos and related links.
GLIDE MAGAZINE (online music magazine) – News feature (from press announcement).
HELLHOUND MUSIC (online music site) – News feature (from press announcement) with tour dates, band photos and related links.
ANTI-MUSIC (online music site) – News feature (from press announcement) with tour dates, and related links.
THE MUSIC BOX (online music site) – Tour dates listed.
INNOCENT WORDS (online music site) – Tour news piece with Cracker file photo.
The Annual Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven Holiday Tour!
By: Troy Michael
Annual Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven Holiday TourDec 27th Come celebrate constitution day (North Korea) with Cracker & CVB at The Belly Up – Solana Beach CA
Dec 28th Come celebrate The Feast of the Holy Innocents (Spain) with Cracker & CVB at The Independent – SF CA
Dec 29th Come celebrate Rick Danko’s birthday with Cracker & CVB at The Mystic Theater – Petaluma CA
Dec 30th Come celebrate Freedom Day (Church of Scientology) with Cracker & Leftover Salmon at Roseland Theatre – Portland OR
Buy tix here. I think. at least this is the link listed on the theatre website. I could never get the page to load.
Dec 31st Come celebrate the first day of Hogmanay or as the non- scottish say – NEW YEARS EVE SHOW – Cracker & CVB at The House Of Blues – Chicago IL
This show is with Big Head Todd. They graciously invited Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven to play this show with them. That doesn’t mean that we will not attempt to blow them off the stage. Both Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker get a full hour set each. 2 hours of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. And relatively early. CVB starts at 8:30 Cracker at 10:00pm. see you there!
Jan 6th Come celebrate Befana (Italy) with Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven at the Paegaent Theatre St Louis MO. Stay tuned for more info.
Jan 7th Come celebrate Distaff Day (Medieval Europe/Renaissance Faires) with Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven at The Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis MN.
Jan 13th Come celebrate St Knut’s Day (Sweden/Finland) with Cracker & CVB at World Cafe Live – Philadelphia PA
Jan 14th Come celebrate the Feast of the Ass (Medieval Christianity) with Cracker & CVB at Highline Ballroom – NYC. I’m not making that one up. click the link it’s real.
Jan 15th Come celebrate Lee-Jackson-King Day (Virginia) with Cracker & CVB at Middle East Downstairs – Cambridge MA.
YOUR MUSIC MAGAZINE (online music site) – Tour news story (from press release) with Cracker photo and related links.
EXPLODING IN SOUND (online music blog) – Tour news story (from press release) with Cracker photo and related links.
MUSIC INDUSTRY NEWS (online music industry site) – Tour news piece (from press release) with band photos and related links.