woensdag 20 juni 2012

Interview with Pokey LaFarge

by Wout de Natris
© 2012 WoNo Magazine and WoNoBloG

While reading the interview you can listen to 'La la blues' here.

Late April I was exposed to the energy and music of Pokey LaFarge and his band the South City Three for the first time. (Read the review here.) Greatly enjoying what I heard, but also full of questions. What makes young guys want to play music that was made for the last time by their grandfathers, way before the time of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the two bands that totally upset the face of popular music in the U.S. from 1964 onwards? I had the change to discuss this after the gig and we sort of parted with the intention to do an interview after the EU tour. So here it is.

In my review of the gig I wrote that I could only think of one hit song in the last 40 years sounding like Pokey LaFarge and band. What made you decide this is the music for me?
------ I decided long ago that acoustic music, specifically but not relegated to early American music forms were the most pure and honest. First, it was bluegrass, than older more varied forms of old time music. Including all the different forms of early country and 'hillbilly' music and blues. Then came the many different forms of jazz. Including hokum and jug band music. However I've always listened to many different types of folk music. I just love early Calypso, Eastern European music, African music. Anything that's got a lot of soul.

You all must have started out with different music. What did you listen to when younger? (I had the
chance to discuss this with Adam outside of the Q-Bus.)
I guess when I was real young, say till about thirteen or fourteen  I was listening to classic rock and some hip hop. I still like that stuff but again it's more few and far between compared to the other types of music I listen to and play.

And who influences you most at present?
Lefty Frizzell, Emmett Miller, Lord Invader, Tom Waits, Jack White

Has St. Louis, your home town, inspired the band and/or the music in any way?
Sure, it's like living in a broken down-going out of business museum. Our history is everywhere. It's a very distinctly American city. It has a lot of the goods and a lot of the bads. 

Is South City a part of St. Louis or is it just a name?
Tis the southern part of the city of St. Louis

The sound on your album Riverboat soul is clearly authentic but in stereo. Do you try to record with authentic gear?
Well sure. I think that would be important, don't you?

Foto Wo.
Adam and Pokey play very authentic looking guitars. Are they?
Adam now plays a Gibson 1939 L-12 Archtop and Pokey plays a 1946 Epiphone Spartan Archtop

Lyrically, are you more inspired by stories of old or today?
Mostly today because I'm very inspired by the world today. I choose to tell my story because I am driven to make the most of MY self. The point is to better people lives. So if I have to tell an old story or recreate a story of a person from the past then I'll do it for the sake of the story.

A statement I often read in the last years is that pop music, from the lyrics point of view, does not
have relevancy towards society any more. In the lyrics of your band there is something to be found
on hard times. Is this 2012 or 1935 hard times?
I let you answer that.

If I take my train of thought one step further. If music is sometimes a release from reality, you
musically escape to music of the thirties, the Great Depression, when the present western world is in a depression. What is your view on this?
I don't really think of it like that. Some of my favorite music was made by Americans post depression. The depression part is not completely irrelevant but it's more important not to stigmatize this music with the depression. Let's not forget that a lot of the roots music of America was recorded in the 20's; pre depression, the high time, the roaring 20's. Yes, a lot of the recordings were made by people who were poor and struggling. That has been the case since the beginning of time. Look at Lefty Frizzell-the father of Honky Tonk music. He first recorded in '51. Dirt poor. Man, there's always a depression going on. 

You said on stage that you won a prize for Riverboat soul. How important is winning such a prize for the band?
Well, it is nice as a human being to be rewarded for the hard work you put into what it is you do. Positive reinforcement helps at times to keep you motivated and confident in what you do.

I read somewhere that Pokey played with the Hackensaw Boys. How was your time with one of my
favourite bands? Any recollections?
The fastest music I've ever played. Those boys taught me a lot. They showed me Virginia!

The band recorded for Jack White’s label. How did this come to pass?
He heard us on WSM 650AM in Nashville and called me up. 

Where does the name Pokey come from? I got a bit curious reading the website.
Mom. Not sure what it means in your country but it has a lot of different meanings here. It means slow or lagging behind the crowd.

What are your plans for the near future?
Writing and camping, canoeing and biking with my girlfriend. Basically enjoying home life off the road for a little while.

You can order Riverboat soul here

or here

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