Chris Robinson: "I Think Anyone at Any Show ... Filming [on a Cell Phone], Looks Like a Douche Bag."
Alissa Anderson Chris Robinson Brotherhood
The Black Crowes are known to go on hiatus. In 2011, after a couple decades of much success with the Black Crowes, singer Chris Robinson decided to use that particular sabbatical to do something new. He formed the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and it since has become his primary musical focus. The group has just released its third album called Phosphorescent Harvest on the independent Silver Arrow label. The recording features a more eclectic range of styles than the blues-rock driven Crowes and definitely exudes the spirit of a hippy-gypsy caravan. We caught up with Robinson as he was sitting in traffic on the way into Manhattan during the band's current tour, which stops at The Pressroom on Tuesday, June 24.
Up on the Sun: So, tell us about this new record. Were you doing or listening to anything special as part of the process?
Chris Robinson: I think for musicians, just being involved with the music is such an inspiring relationship -- it creates mood alterations and an overall vibrational therapy. In general, as a band we wanted the writing and the poetry and imagery of the lyrics to come from our exploration and be something everyone could put into their conscious or subconscious. To them, it could become something different or even more important than it meant to me while writing it. We all just wanted to make expressive music with a lot of dimension, whether that's folk music, electronic, jazz or 1950s mid-century rock 'n' roll -- wherever we found something that's alive. This album, as compared to the first two, is a progression toward that. Every time we write, we have a group of songs that provide a new way to add to the ongoing pursuit. I like to call it "hippy baroque."
The band often gets tagged as a blues band but it really encompasses a lot of styles. It doesn't make me think blues. I heard a lot of psych, jazz, and both '60s and '70s influences.
That's funny people say that because there's very little blues in our music. We always hear stuff like "with the bluesy swagger of the Rolling Stones," and I'm like, "Um, you got your bands mixed up."
Do you think that it's more so that people are always going to slap the blues tag on you?
At 47 years old and with the amount of music and musical education I've immersed myself in, I find very few people writing blurbs and reviews for magazines that even know remotely about music, not just my music, but they don't know about music, overall. Though, I'm sure if I wanted a dissertation on the life and times of Bruno Mars I could get one though [laughs]. There's a lot of funny paradoxes that occur in the music industry. Plenty of people call themselves a certain style, they run their mouths and then what comes out on the other end doesn't seem to make sense in relation to how they're labeling themselves.
So after being in such a long running, successful band, how did you approach this new project?
We definitely didn't want to go the conventional route, you know -- get songs, get a band, get a record deal, make an album that someone else owns, go on the road and hope that someone plays it on a radio station, or I guess if you're under 30 you hope you can sell a song to a commercial, and that's your career. No matter what I have done in the past, when we decided to put this together, we just didn't want to take that route. We just wanted to make it real. We wanted to start as a local L.A. band. Granted, we got to jump ahead in line a little bit. It's like any lifestyle that you want to be the antithesis of the corporate shackles of class structures and status -- if you're going to remain outside of that, you have to prove it and just do it. Music is always something that will have an element of being connoisseur driven and for the person who just likes to see a band run through some familiar songs and say stuff like "We love you, Scottsdale" or whatever showbiz stuff they say, that is not our trip. We want deeper affiliations and authentic experiences. That's the psychedelic part of it, as well. Psychedelic is something that is deep and dimensional, not superficial. A lot of people will call their music psychedelic because they have a bangs haircut and a reverb pedal. Psychedelics help in terms of it being psychedelic music, too [laughs]. That's just me wearing my critical hat, but I mean, look -- guys like John Mayer and Beck are making psychedelic records. Really? Like, get the fuck out of here.