As an album title, Old Mad Joy sounds like redundancy when placed in the context of Austin roots rock gonzos the Gourds. As anyone who has ever been in earshot of the band or its records, if the Gourds could bottle the music and sell it at the drug store, the corporations who manufacture the endless supply of happy pills would all go out of business. It would probably put a serious dent in Viagra sales too.
With the album, produced by Bob Dylan/Levon Helm sideman Larry Campbell at Helm's legendary studio in Woodstock, New York, set to drop September 13 on the Vanguard label, the band is gearing up for heavy touring during the second half of the year after having what bassist Jimmy Smith describes as a relatively easy spring schedule that allowed for quite a bit of family time.
The Gourds play a free show tonight at Miller Outdoor Theatre with Austin blues rocker Doyle Bramhall. Smith, who recently became a father again - three boys - emailed us his answers to our toughest questions.
Rocks Off: Our first impression was how good/warm this album sounds. What are your thoughts on this one vs. others sonics-wise?
Jimmy Smith: The Helm facility is a 3-story barn with high ceilings and the spread-out wood surfaces which mellow the harsh frequencies. Also, the mics and a lot of the outboard gear are high-end vintage products which also help with the harsh digital tones. Along with two seasoned pros. Perfect storm.
RO: You guys all seem to have found some different voices this time. Is this producer-driven or is it something that just evolved naturally during the work?
JS: Larry really wanted a vocal-driven record. We all had a "go" at the backing vocals; the lead vocals were a mixed bag of over-dubs for accuracy and scratch vocals (original take vocals) for a live feel.
RO: Did you guys already have the song list finalized before you went up or was that still being worked out during the sessions?
JS: I had demo'd my material on my reel- to-reel tape deck and shot that out to Larry and the band. Then we worked the rest up in our funky rehearsal spot for three months. Once we got to the studio, Larry just unlocked the gates and let some of the uninvited hooks, riffs, and arrangements in.
RO: What did Campbell bring to the project that you guys feel like you hadn't had at any of your recording sessions before?
JS: We needed a dungeon master. It was almost like being a sideman on someone else's session at times. Stress and responsibilities were a little more evenly distributed.
RO: Pick two songs on the album that far exceeded your original expectations/vision going into the sessions? What is it that distinguishes them?
JS: "Melchert" and "Marginalized." Studio mojo, man, a good kicking in the pants, and a good pantry in the kitchen.
RO: What was your biggest thrill during the Woodstock trip?
JS: Seeing Levon's grinning face while we were cutting.
RO: You've all matured, got families and car payments and house payments now. How do you manage/juggle being in a band that travels hard and tending the home fires?
JS: Good spousing.
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RO: If the Gourds are a democracy, who are the Republicans, who are the Democrats, and who are the Libertarians, who are al-Qaeda?
JS: Are those pizza toppings?