Eight months after the Highdive played host to one of the Bottle Rockets' 15 shows to celebrate the band's 15th anniversary, the rock-n-roll outfit is back, and everything's all right. Saturday night, they're recording their first-ever live DVD (they've never even had a live VHS or Betamax, either), and tickets are ten bucks. Leave your recording devices at home, and no one gets hurt. The band has a new album coming out in August or thereabouts, and they'd like to keep it on the down-low.
Doors open at 6 p.m., the band will play from 7:30 to 9:30, and all of this pesky live music will be packed up and out of the way by 10 p.m.
Bottle Rockets frontman Brian Henneman spoke to us by phone last Friday, which may have been the last day that it didn't rain. So, remember this interview as the floodwaters rise, and atone for your sins.
Smile Politely: You guys haven't been playing too many live shows lately. Have you been staying busy?
Brian Henneman: We stay plenty busy. We haven't been playing many live shows, we're waiting until the album comes out. That'll be late summer. We've spent so many years playing live shows, we need a break.
SP: When I did an email interview with you last August, you'd just finished recording the album. Why has it taken longer than expected to release?
BH: Man, it's just the mysteries of the record business. If you do one artwork change, it's like dog years. One change at a certain point puts things back weeks. The recording's all done, so that's fine. It's all little stuff, like artwork and timing. The record companies like to put them out when they're between competition for other kind of releases, playing kind of an air-traffic-control game. If you miss one window of availability for when they want to release it, you have to hold off till the second one comes, and that's what happened with us. It's all for the common good, really. At the end of the day, it's a good thing.
SP: Does the recording process get easier the more times you do it?
BH: Everything's its own special challenge. I wouldn't say it gets easier, but it doesn't get harder. Everything's unique, so I like recording; it's good. It's a lot of concentration in a short amount of time. Entirely different from a live show.
SP: The new album is called Lean Forward. Is there a story about where the title came from?
BH: No, not especially. It beats falling backwards (laughs). When times get tough, lean into it. Go forward. Go. Lean. Put a little slant on it.
SP: So you're recording a DVD at the show on Saturday?
BH: Yeah, it's going to be our first live DVD ever.
SP: So, will it be more like a regular show, or will there be a lot of stopping and starting?
BH: Nah, it ain't going to be no stopping and starting. We're going to do a show, they're going to record it, and hopefully they'll get everything they need. If not, if for some reason they want something different, then we might play a song again as an encore or some crap. But it's not going to be, "Whoa! Freeze frame!" or none of that stuff. It's going to be a show, from start to finish. We figured it was time to get it on film before we get too damn old and ugly.
SP: Do you know when the DVD will be released?
BH: No, not especially. We haven't got that far yet. We know we'll put it out after the album comes out, so we're going to let the album come out first, and it'll be sometime after August.
SP: Who's putting out the DVD? Will it be Bloodshot or Undertow, or who?
BH: That's a real good question. I think it's a joint venture, like a Bloodshot/Undertow kind of thing. Tell you the truth, I don't really know. I'm just a dumb musician there. That's a question I haven't even thought about asking yet. "Hey, who is putting this thing out?"
SP: Will you be playing a lot of the new songs for the DVD?
BH: We're going to do quite a few off the new album, because of the fact that the DVD will come out after the new album is released, so there will be a lot of stuff off of that. And, the fact that we're not going to allow any recording or taping at the show, so we don't have to worry about the record company, people getting bootlegs out there before the record comes out. Even though I'm sure there will be a lot of cell phone recordings, but that sounds so bad, nobody cares.
SP: Yeah, I poked around on Google a little before I called you to see if I could find any of the new songs. It doesn't seems like there have been any leaks yet.
BH: We're keeping it pretty tight-lipped as far as the new stuff goes, because that's the thing about the modern day, man. We had a plan at our show in St. Louis to play the new album in its entirety, but then we thought, "No, man. There's going to be tapers there," because there always is. I said, "That shit will be on the internet by the time we get home." It's the way it is. You've got to be kind of careful with it these days, especially before your album is officially released. It's hard enough to sell records these days, let alone if you friggin' cut yourself off at the pass with your own stuff.
SP: Will this be your first vinyl release, or have you done that before?
BH: There's been little vinyl releases along the way. There's been little special runs, like for Europe. Brand New Year was on vinyl and Songs of Sahm was on vinyl. That might've been it. Our live album was on vinyl, but that was only available from Germany, so it's sort of a Euro thing. This will be the first one that's officially available on vinyl in America.
SP: It seems like vinyl is the thing nowadays.
BH: That's the only thing taking an upswing in sales. The CD is going the way of the eight-track. It's made a comeback. It's cool, it's fun, it's great. You get big artwork, and it sounds better, and blah, blah, blah.
SP: Are you a baseball fan? Want to talk some Cardinals?
BH: I'm a fair weather fan. If the Cardinals make it to the World Series, I'm there. It is my favorite sport, I will say that. I'm not much of a sports guy, that's how I ended up playing guitar. If I was going to pick a sport, it would be baseball.
SP: That's cool. I'm more of a sports guy, so I'm just throwing that out there.
BH: It seems like that's how it goes, you're either one or the other. You can be both easily, but it seems like most musicians ended up being musicians because they didn't get into sports. You've got to do something with your friggin' energy.
SP: Well, that's about all I had. Anything that people need to know before the show?
BH: Not really. The only thing they need to know is that there's going to be no taping, but other than that, no. Come on down, get yourself on camera for posterity.