PHOTO CREDIT: Concepción Studios
FEW bands would be harder to locate on Google…
PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Garnell
than The Americans. Combine it with most search-terms and you'd come up with a mass of irrelevant results! I ask the guys about the name and where it derives from; how they all got together in the start; the music/sounds that mould who they are - and whether there are any Christmas plans formed.
The boys talk about their new album, I'll Be Yours, and the themes that inspire it; their favourite tracks from the record - and why they are compelled by the old Rock and Roll masters such as Chuck Berry.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Patrick: So kind of you to ask…
Zac: It's been a good week. The Dodgers are going to the World Series. We've got a record coming out in a couple weeks.
Jake: As Zac said - and it’s my birthday on Oct. 21st.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
Patrick: I sing and play the guitar.
Zac: I play guitar and banjo.
Jake: I play the upright and electric bass. I also repair the pump organs.
Your band-name must be the least-Google-friendly ever! What is the relevance of the name and do you worry it might put some off?!
Zac: We got the idea from a collection of photographs called The Americans by a photographer named Robert Frank. Our first drummer, Cody Edison, was a photographer who introduced us to his work. These days, he is a full-time photographer - and took the photo on the cover of our upcoming record, I'll Be Yours.
Right now, being American in general, might put some people off - regardless of our band-name. I think that having the opportunity to travel around the world representing a side of America that embraces all the culture we have in this country, and our great music, is a privilege.
Jake: America is grander than its current state. From my view, we have the name after the Robert Frank photography series - because he showed a complex America both beautiful and ugly; rich and poor.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sari Thayer
Is it true you all got together through a shared love of busking?
Patrick: That's true: I started busking in high-school.
Zac: I have often thought of busking as more of a necessity than something I love. We all used to busk - but I think our connection was more in the music we were playing than busking itself.
Jake: Patrick and I used to busk in San Francisco over on Broadway and Kearny. I remember strippers coming out and giving us some of their one-dollar bills. We made friends with the homeless community in North Beach and even did a recording project with several of the local homeless musicians. One of the guys, Deforrest Wiggins, claims he used the C.D. we made to get himself off the street.
But, truth be told, it was just his desire to get off of it.
I’ll Be Yours is your forthcoming album. Can you tell us about the themes and ideas you explore in it?
Patrick: Devotion and solitude.
Is there a song from the album you all hold dear?
Gone at Last
Zac: I really like Long Way from Home
Jake: I was really happy with the way I’ll Be Yours came out
Your sound is Roots with Rock and Roll thrown in. It seems to hark back to pre-War Country and legends like Chuck Berry. What is it about the time period that appeals to you?
Patrick: I don't know if you could put your finger on it exactly. It was a renaissance that began soon after the invention of recorded music - and lasted over half-a-century. The phonograph record gave voices to all different musical cultures, styles and textures that had spent an eternity sequestered. Then they all started combining...
PHOTO CREDIT: Broadway Photography
It's an event that could only happen once.
Zac: I don't think there is a lot about that time period that appeals to me. I think, for most people, things were as hard then as they are now, if not harder. I guess, in general, music was better. We've all argued a lot about different ideas for why that could be. I think musicians probably just use to devote more time and effort into making music. Most musicians drew on solid traditions from the past a lot more - instead of making originality a top priority.
That being said, I think we all love Hip-Hop - which is always trying to be really progressive.
Jake: As Zac was saying, living now is quantifiably better in so many regards - it seems strange to seem sentimental. With that said, I’d say the things that appeal to me about another era would be to really ask what I like about how another era handled the human condition. People have always wanted to dance and I like the way the 1950s embraced the rumba rhythm for much of its music.
People have always had a black market and I like the bravado that came out of the '20s bootlegging and gambling songs. When there was a high mortality amongst women and children, they wrote murder ballads and used the ballad as a form of information.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brendan Pattengale
It seems like you are trying to create something new. Do you think music lacks invention, in a way?!
Patrick: No. I think all creative work necessarily involves invention. It's less like creation and more like discovery: if you discover a lode of silver that someone is already mining, you didn't discover anything.
Jake: No. I wouldn’t say that. I would never say that. I would say that musical innovation is an American trait that we hold dearly.
Zac: I would like to see more people focus on making good music, instead of trying to invent things. Invention happens naturally when people pursue whatever moves them in music as diligently as possible.
The Right Stuff is the current single from the album. What is the song all about?
Patrick: It's about failure and coming to terms with it. Creative work also necessitates failure; even becoming comfortable with it.
Los Angeles is your base. How hospitable is the city when it comes to accommodating your love of older music?
Basically, everyone I know, besides my parents, who like music that I like I met down here.
Jake: There’s a thriving scene for old American music in Los Angeles.
Zac: There is a long history of really good music in this city. There is a train station in East L.A. called Mariachi Plaza - where Norteño musicians hang out all day and night, waiting to be picked up for parties.
A lot of the songs they play are over a-hundred-years-old.
IN THIS PHOTO: Christian Lee Hutson
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Patrick: Christian Lee Hutson.
If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Time Out of Mine - Bob Dylan
Zac: I'll Be Yours (comes out Nov. 3rd)
Jake: The Anthology of American Folk Music compiled by Harry Smith
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Patrick: If you can develop a couple of sets' worth of songs – covers, if you have to - some bars will pay you a decent wage; no matter how small or new you are. Book some of those along with a tour - and you'll actually make money.
Jake: Coming through what?! Puberty?!
Zac: I'm not sure if I feel qualified to give anyone advice on that matter.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
Patrick: I'll be up in San Francisco with my folks. My brother and sister and nieces and nephews always come over Christmas morning.
Jake: We’ll be writing new material.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Patrick: 'Cross the Green Mountain - Bob Dylan
Jake: The Creole Love Call - Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Zac: Ma Blonde Est Partie - Breaux Freres
Follow The Americans
PHOTO CREDIT: Concepción Studios