10 Questions with ... Blues Traveler
March 2, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Formed in New Jersey in 1987, Blues Traveler became well-known with their hits, "Run-Around" and "Hook" in the '90s. Found on their Grammy-winning fourth studio album, "Four," which went to at #8 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. According to the RIAA, the album is certified as 6x Platinum (6 million copies sold in the U.S.). "Run-Around" won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a duo or group.
Blues Traveler have been hard at work in the studio with a number of well-seasoned musicians like themselves creating their forthcoming collaboration record full of original tunes.
The current members of Blues Traveler include singer and harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chad Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill, bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist, Ben Wilson.
Fresh off a hike in North Hollywood, Blues Traveler guitarist, Chandler Kinchla (Chad) took some time to answer a few questions for us about how Blues Traveler came to be such an iconic band and what the future holds in store them in the future.
The band will be releasing their new album "Blow Up The Moon: on April 7th. The first single is called "Castaway," and it features vocals from Jared Watson of the Dirty Heads and Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome.
1) Can you remember the moment that you decided to start this group?
Well, initially Brendan and John were in a band in high school. They were 14 and 15 and they pretty much just played in Brendan's basement and they were called The Blues Band. Then they started looking for guitar players. I think that's when I joined. Then it all became pretty serious.
We just had a great connection and then one of my good friends, Bobby came in too. [Bobby Sheehan was part of the band until he died in 1999]. This was all in high school so we were about 16 and 17. Once Bobby came in, there were four of us and we were hell bent to do something with this. We all loved music and we had a really great symbiosis. John had been living in New York because we were all seniors and he was a year ahead of us in schoolj, so we just started going to New York and played dive bars while we were still in high school. Yeah, once Bobby and I joined, it was pretty much a go.
So the exact moment? Well, you know what, I do remember. I was 17, me, John and Brendan were just jamming in his basement and we were really stoned. We played for like 3 hours. When we came outside, we walked to this park across the street. We sat down and listened to this cassette tape of our jam. It was just four hours of improvisation and right then, a black cat walked up and sat with us. That's where the whole black cat thing came from for our "Four" album. You can probably call that the Fall of 1986. That's the moment. Then Bobby joined shortly after.
2) Where did the name come from? Was it a decision you all made together?
Well, at that point in high school, we were a blues band. John was a huge Blues Brothers fans and he wanted to get into comedy. He loved Dan Akroyd playing the blues. So yeah, he and Brendan were in this band kind of based on The Blues Brothers. As soon as we started playing in New York, we realized blues bands really didn't cut much of a path there. So "Traveler" was this sort of entity that we felt when the four of us played.
We would brainstorm and go on these long windy paths. I mean, we could come up with a name for just about anything. We just liked the idea of "traveler" and we probably could have just gone with Traveler but we liked sticking Blues on it. It's kind of quirky. I think in the end, it has a nice ring to it and strangely enough, the Blues Traveler thing, putting traveler after something really became a thing. There's even a Blues Traveler show now. For some reason, the name has definitely gotten some play, which I find humorous.
3) Looking back, what are you most proud of in the career of Blues Traveler? What have been the band's biggest accomplishments?
Wow! Well, our biggest accomplish was selling out Madison Square Garden. I mean, that was huge! We got a Grammy and that was great. We got some hit records, some hit singles and that made us a lot of money and that's awesome! (Ha Ha) We played Saturday Night Live and that was a big kicker and we were able to quit all our stupid jobs in New York and just play music. That was huge! But I think in the end, right now, just the longevity of it and that we are still able to do it. The longer I do it, with all us, the more we appreciate being able to do this for a living and be creative and play with great musicians. I mean, I just am really thankful to do this as I've always wanted to do this.
4) How do you think the band has changed and transformed from album to album?
Well, I think we really do approach every album in a different way. We're always trying to tip over the cards. I think sometimes we miss the mark and sometimes, it comes out really cool. We are always trying new things to grow as musicians. We put out a new record about three years ago.
You know, it takes a lot of motivation and emotional fortitude to dive into making an all original record. We weren't quite there but we wanted to do a couple of songs to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of "Four", our big hit record.
So we started doing a couple collaborations. The next thing you know, a lot of really cool people wanted to get involved and we loved the process so much that all of a sudden, it was the greatest thing in the world being able to play with all these different types of musicians that are great at what they do. It really took us out of our comfort zone. I think that's really the kind of thing that we thrive on. And you know, it shows in this record. That's really the thing that has kept us going for as long as we have.
5) Is there anyone you would still love to work with?
Oh everyone! (Ha Ha!) All the people that couldn't do it. It was actually really funny trying to get this thing done because you had to find time with other musicians when they were free so they could take off three days. We ended up between gigs finding places around the country for all the different musicians. Some of them were interested but couldn't find the time, so there's really too many to mention. All of them!
All the collaborations came out so cool. It's fun to get to know how other people do it and kind of reinvent ourselves at each session. That's really neat!
6) Who do you think have been consistently been the band's favorite musicians? What are the bands that have inspired you throughout the years?
Well, I guess in the end, once they are your peers, they just become bands you really like and there's just so many. I guess it goes back to when we were kids. For me, it was Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix and Grateful Dead. Those were the bands that I started with and then I added a bunch to it later on. Those were our north stars back in the day.
7) Speaking of other bands, how was the Under The Sun tour last summer with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker?
Well that actually a blast. At first, it was just something that was kind of different and cool to do. And once again, we like to try different things. You know, it's all about timing. It was great. At first, we weren't quite sure how it was going to work and if we would fit in. But all these bands have a bunch of hits, at least a couple hits that everyone knows. And the sets were short, like 40 minutes each. And it was like bang, bang, bang with the hits!
The crowds were packed and they had a blast at this show. It was a really great combination show. It's all just party music so people just had a blast! There wasn't a lot of messing around. It was just play your couple of hits and cool songs and get onto the next one. It actually turned out to be an awesome deal. And once again, we usually are more of a jam band so this was different for us, going into the pop world. But we could fit in great because we have a couple of pop hits. We have always straddled the different worlds of music. I think we can sort of fit in anywhere.
8) With the video for the song "Run Around" Why did you decide to use a stand-in band?
Because we were so sick of doing videos! (Ha Ha!) It's funny, because doing videos was just not really our thing. So we were at looking at treatments from different music video directors and one of them had a "Wizard Of Oz" theme and we all thought, that's the one! That's the one! It was perfect since we didn't have to be in it either. So yeah, we were there on set for like two hours and we were out! The whole package was great. It was sweet with the whole grainy visual quality too. The whole thing was fun. I think it worked in a lot of different ways, especially since we didn't have to be in it!
9) Do you have any all-time favorite venues that you have performed at?
Red Rock! It's amazing! You gotta go! If you are music fan, then you've gotta go! Put that on your bucket list. When your favorite band is playing there, just go! You'll never regret it! Plus it's such a gorgeous weekend trip too. That park of the Rockies. Wow!
I have not been to Coachella. We aren't quite in the demographic to play there and when I'm home, the last thing on my mind is going to a big sweaty festival. I'm there enough ... (Ha ha) but yeah, someday, I'd like to go ...
10) You've had so many incredible memories along the way with this band. Is there one particular memory that really sticks out for you? Either in the studio, onstage or elsewhere?
Interesting experience? Wow ... I think it was when we were starting out in the studio in Brendan's basement and we really did feel like something else entered the room. That's kind of the magical point. And when we are playing well, it still feels like this to this day when we all play, like something else comes around us. That's kind of the magic of music, right?