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Uncle Lucius interview

The band talk about their new single Age of Reason and their latest album.

Uncle Lucius
Credit: Uncle Lucius

Touring the UK back in January helped to reignite Uncle Lucius’ passion for music at a pivotal time in the band’s 10-year history.

So warm was the reception they received, they are now determined to return, but in the meantime, plan to release something special just for their UK fans.

The country-infused Austin southern rock band will debut Age of Reason, taken off their fourth album The Light (2015), as their new UK radio single on 29th July 2016.

I spoke with lead singer Kevin Galloway about the new album, philosophical teachings, a decade of touring, and sharing the stage with the late Merle Haggard.

You’ve described Age of Reason as “a call to let go of limitations”. What’s the story behind it?

It was written by a really great friend of mine, (bassist) Hal Vorpahl. He and I founded the band 10 years ago. He’s no longer in the band, he just didn’t want to do the travelling lifestyle, but he’s like a brother to me and writes great songs. So I didn’t write it, but I believe every word of it. First of all I love singing the song, there’s something about getting in the place with that righteous indignation and Hal always said, ‘it’s about saying something but not from your soapbox, it’s about finding a balance’, and this one really nails that. Especially with what’s going on, it’s timeless, but organically coincides with a lot of interesting political things going on in the world.

When you perform the song live, does it connect with audiences in that way?

You know, it does, and I think Hal and I have talked about having the intention of saying something, but hit them with the music itself, because a lot of people don’t hear the words but they get into the music subconsciously (so) they are absorbing those words. It’s about asking people to get back and ask some questions and maybe not hold on to something that defines you so much. We toured in January and February in the UK and there’s something about the audience over there, you’re different than the American audience and I’m trying to figure that out. I’ve become a bit jaded with the American audience because our entertainment dollar, and what the masses call entertainment, is different to what it is over there. Because of the audience over there understanding a little bit more is the reason for that song.

What was it like performing to British audiences for the first time?

It was very eye-opening and I don’t think it could have happened at a better time. We’ve been doing it over here for a decade and the audiences are different. The plan is to come back soon. For me personally it’s lit a new fire. Our first show in London we played at The Garage upstairs. It was a pretty good crowd and people were singing along with the songs and we had three encores so that was the first night overseas. That’s how it started. Earlier that day we were invited to play live on the BBC and that was a surprise. The gentleman who hosted the show heard about us via a friend. It all happened organically, but that’s been the story of our band from the beginning. When you show up, opportunities tend to show themselves.

The single has been taken from The Light album, which was released in July last year. What direction did you intend to take that project in?

We’re all songwriters and we’re all musicians. We brought songs to the table, plus with producer George Reiff (Shinyribs, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Band of Heathens), things organically happened, so there were songs that became cream of the crop and they kind of tell a story. We tried to make it a cohesive thing. There’s something to be said for a full album, so that’s the intention and we think that happened. It was more about exploring and asking questions …looking at the zeitgeist of the world, not judging it, but telling the story of what it is at the moment.

Through that process did you come out with a clearer understanding or any answers?

There are more questions. Questions you didn’t know to ask, which leads to the second question. We can never ask enough questions, you can always ask more.

You mentioned earlier how important a full album is to you. Does The Light follow any particular arc or deliberate pattern?

There’s a full intention behind the whole thing, I believe, and I feel there’s an arc that’s created, but that’s my interpretation behind it. I do believe the full intention comes across, not so specific but just in that realm. I think there’s one there but if you listen to it you may hear it differently, but that’s okay, that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Was it partly about leaving it up to the audience to decide and make up their own minds? Is that important to you?

Of course. I go off on tangents, but a gentleman named (philosopher) Jiddu Krishnamurti, I read a bunch of books and watched to him on YouTube speaking to people, and he always says, ‘don’t listen to me, but question along with me’. I think that intention was there because a lot of what he was saying, and what I was reading of his, coincided with the time that I was writing some of these songs. I’m not going to tell you what the arc is, but question with me and find your own arc.

Has your writing style changed since you became interested in philosophy and the teachings of Krishnamurti?

Yeah, I think it has. There is an influence there, for sure. For instance, there’s a song on the album called, Taking in the View. I can see it’s totally influenced by all of the books I was reading and the things I was listening to at the time. It was written in a North Carolina parking lot and we were on tour, and it was raining, and the sun would come out, and the song just came. There are characters from the Bible, there’s (mythologist) Joseph Campbell influences, Krishnamurti, but I didn’t intentionally do it, it just kind of influenced it.

What were the challenges of putting together a fourth studio album?

Well the third album, as a matter of fact, we were with a large independent label in Nashville. It was a great experience but a little limiting so we went on our own. We had to crowdsource money to pay for the album but we made it. When people put in their hard-earned money you have to meet their expectation, although you don’t know what that is. You just do the best you can do and believe in yourself, because these people believe in you. At the end of the day we all believe in the music, we think it’s our best album yet. That’s the goal, we want every album to get better and this is where we are at this moment in time.

How does the fact you’ve known the band members for so many years affect the dynamic of writing and performing together?

That’s only something you can get by playing with the same people for so long, it becomes its own thing. There’s times we can open up and experiment with things during a live show. And with song writing everybody has the freedom to suggest something and everybody listens, you have to take your ego off the table and we do. I always tell people we’ve had a crash course in dynamics. I know these guys very well, and they know me, they know my ups and downs, and I know theirs. They’re like family.

It must be very humbling knowing people are willing to support you in this way…

It really is. It opens your eyes to how many people actually do care, or are listening, because it’s easy to get jaded if you let it get in your head.

You’ve shared the stage with some big names, (Merle Haggard, Zac Brown Band, Shooter Jennings) what have been some of the highlights?

Merle Haggard was amazing. He’s, of course, one of my heroes, an icon and at the time a living legend. We opened for him in a small town in Oklahoma. Randomly a bar owner knew a photographer who suggested us as the band and we instantly said yes. Up till the end he could sing it all and play the guitar like he did in the 70s. He was just an amazing talent. We did an East Coast tour a few years ago with Leon Russell, another hero, an amazing artist. We did a tour with him and we played Times Square downtown at B.B. King’s place – that was a highlight – and we toured with Shooter Jennings, Waylon Jennings’ son. We were the opening band, and we were his band, so we learned all his songs.

 

 

What’s planned next for Uncle Lucius?

Just touring and we just recorded a live album here in Austin, where we’re from. We may release that so look for a live album sometime in the future.

Uncle Lucius’ album The Light is available now and their new single Age of Reason is released on 29th July 2016.

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