There's no shutting down The Congress (the band)
Congress out in Washington D.C. may be struggling to get the band back together and in working order, much to the frustration of every single American citizen, but The Congress from Denver, however, isn't having any of those issues.
Much the opposite of their titular government officials, the old school rock and roll band has been growing in popularity, due in most part to their soulful brand of classic rock music. In another break from the Congress based out of the nation's capital, they also have no problem working with others, as they're coming to town tomorrow night to perform with the Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Riverside Theater.
OnMilwaukee caught up with the band's guitarist Scott Lane to talk about the band's origins, the current state of rock and roll music and what advice, if any, they have for their polarizing political namesake.
OnMilwaukee.com: How'd you guys come together?
Scott Lane: To put a long story short, when we were in our early 20s, Jonathan (Meadows, vocals and guitar) used to play in a band that I used to go see all the time when I was in college. When that band broke up, him and I started running an open mic together and playing music together. So that was in Virginia. Richmond, Va. I moved out here, and then he followed me about a year later, and we started the band out here.
OMC: When was the first moment when you realized that you could make a real career out of this?
SL: Well, I did this in Colorado. I was playing freelance gigs on guitar, and I got taken on tour by this, like, jazz/reggae/hip-hop band. I had never been on tour before or anything like that, so I figured how to make that happen and how to make a living out of it. A year after I had moved out here, Jonathan came, and I had kind of already set up things, made contacts and pretty much prepared to launch it when he got here.
OMC: Who are your inspirations? Which bands do you look up to for your band?
SL: I couldn't even begin to name specific bands. All the great rock and roll shi*t that happened in the 1960s and '70s, like The Band, the Grateful Dead … you could pretty much name anything. Soul music from those two decades, guys like Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Sly and the Family Stone. And then a lot of outlaw country music, guys like Waylon & Willie, Merle Haggard and anybody pretty much in that camp. With modern stuff, we listen to a lot of My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Drive-By Truckers. You could pretty much name anything.
OMC: Now, I'd like to know how you guys record your albums, because they really have that old school crackle and warm old school sound to it. How do you bring that across during the recording process?
SL: We've actually done all three of our records differently. With this last album, "The Lost Tapes," a record of old covers, we did it all live straight into a reel-to-reel tape machine with basically no equipment or effects. Everything you hear is what was happening in that room, and we were all in the same room. So that's where we've gotten to.
The first record was recorded and multi-tracked out, so the further and further we've gotten along, the closer our records have gotten to capturing a live performance. We're not really trying to sound older. It's just, when you get a little bit of distortion and the warm sound of the tape machine, we just think it sounds better that way.
OMC: I would assume that performing and recording it all together live would make things a bit more stressful?
SL: Honestly no. We spent less time on it than we've ever spent on another album. We spent a total of two days playing the music, and mixing the record took about 20 minutes a song. Honestly, it took all the stress out of the situation because we took these seven songs that we'd been playing live anyway and that we know really well. So we just said, "Hey, let's just stick ourselves in a room and just play it, record it and not worry about getting things perfect."
OMC: Now, there's been a big resurgence in the past five or ten years of Americana folk music, with Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers and such. You're more on the Americana rock side of things, but where do you think that resurgence is coming from?
SL: I think that honestly you get bands like the Avett Brothers – and they've been around forever; I used to listen to them back when I was in college – and they used to be like a punk acoustic band. They screamed all the time, and they occasionally do that now too. They had a couple of hit songs on that one record, and Mumford and Sons has hit songs that sound a particular way. I think the popularity of it is people like a sound, and it gets pushed by the record companies and all that stuff, and perpetuated as much as they can.
OMC: What do you think is the state of rock music right now? It seems like people say that rock and roll is dead every 10 years, but what do you think?
SL: I mean, I think the fact that mainstream rock and roll is dead is okay. The truth is I think that the good stuff floats to the top no matter what genre it is when it comes to non-mainstream music. You have some great rock bands with huge crowds right now. My Morning Jacket is selling out two nights at Red Rock. Wilco is killing it. You have chart-toppers like the Black Keys, who are just about as all about rock and roll as it gets with just a guitar and drums (now they have a keyboard and bass).
That stuff is not dead; it's still around. It's not necessarily what's getting pushed hard on the radio, but I don't think it's dead at all. I think that as long as people continue to write good songs and excel at their instruments, that's rock and roll to me. You can't really pin a specific sound to rock; I mean, think about all the different sounds of rock and roll in the last couple decades. I think it will continue to evolve and change and be in a good place.
OMC: Now, I have to ask you this because of the band's name, but what are your thoughts on the current U.S. Congress?
SL: (chuckles) No comment. We definitely don't care for all of that. They're being pretty much *ssholes.
OMC: Any advice for the people out there in D.C.?
SL: Do what's good for the people, and stop d*cking around.
The Congress, along with Tedeschi Trucks Band, will perform at the Riverside Theater Wednesday night. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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