Blue Notes

Catching Up With Ian Varley Before Drop Trio's Last Show

Self-proclaimed "spaceship jazz" group Drop Trio hit the Houston music scene with a bang in 2002. After a trio of well-received albums and a slew of live shows, the band's members - keyboardist Ian Varley, bassist Patrick Flanagan, and drummer Mike "Nuje" Blattel - drifted to different cities while attempting to maintain the band and playing the occasional gig. However, Varley announced last week that Drop Trio will pack it in after tonight's show in Austin and Friday at AvantGarden.

We recently caught up with Varley and asked him some questions about the group's decision to disband, his future in music, and his thoughts on Drop Trio's legacy.

Rocks Off: First off, Chris Gray said, "Ask him who the hell 'Black Joe Lewis & the Relatives' are as opposed to the Honeybears."

[Ed. Note: We don't remember saying "hell," but Black Joe & the Relatives play the Continental Club Friday, August 27.]

Ian Varley: Sure thing. So, for Chris's question: The Relatives are a sort of obscure gospel-funk group. Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears did a show with them at the Continental Club during South By Southwest this year, and will probably do more stuff together in the future. Not a replacement band, just a collaboration.

RO: So these are the band's final two shows - is this a case of "real life" getting in the way of the music? What are you guys up to these days?

IV: Yeah, this is definitely a "real life gets in the way" thing. It's been coming for a while, with all three of us living in different cities, but now Patrick just took a job in New York City, so we can't hope for much beyond the occasional reunion. All three of us have moved forward in our careers in other ways, or started families, or whatever, and while we'll still get together when we can, it didn't seem right to continue referring to Drop Trio as an active thing.

RO: So you've all been separated pretty far away from each other?

IV: Yeah, Patrick has been up in Seattle for the last year, I'm in Austin, and Mike is in The Woodlands. And now I've started a new job, Patrick is about to, and Mike just started his own business, Pro Music Instruction, teaching music lessons in The Woodlands. And Patrick has a newborn son, Gavin. So all of us have a little less flexibility than we did back in the day.

RO: Drop Trio had a great run, and some good recognition in the press, and was able to tour a bit. Are you satisfied with the legacy of music the band leaves behind?

IV: Definitely. It's not really a "legacy", as that sounds sort of profound and important. But we made some fun music and melted some faces, and what more can you ask for? Our tours were an exercise in futility, commercially speaking, but they're some of my favorite memories in my life. And I know there have been people - in Houston and elsewhere - who were in some way touched by the music we made. I'm grateful for that, and I hope they continue to enjoy the albums we made.

RO: Any plans to release any new or unreleased material in the future?

IV: I wish we could have finished our fourth album, we got a really good start on it but it wasn't in the cards. We've got really extensive live recordings, though--hundreds of hours--and we may make those available at some point in the future, if anybody seems remotely interested.

RO: What's your favorite memory of local music from the days you spent playing in Houston?

IV: Well, the Houston Press Music Awards were always the coolest shows -playing for hundreds of people who were out as real listeners and were truly into what we were doing. Brasil was our original home base, and we've had a million awesome nights there.

But I think my favorite was the time we were playing an art opening at the MFAH and this little five-year-old girl came up in front of the band and sat down, with her hands over her ears. Then she started writhing on the ground like she was in pain and saying, "No! Make it stop!" I don't think it gets much better than that.