628 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA, 94117
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
If The River Was Whiskey
Released April 30th, 2013 on Ruf Records
You think you know the Spin Doctors. Think again. When the legendary New York quartet release If The River Was Whiskey on May 14th through Ruf Records, casual fans will discover the secret past the hardcore have never forgotten. To the wider world, the Doctors might be the multi-million-selling icons behind hits like Two Princes and Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong, not to mention the classic Pocket Full Of Kryptonite. But in 2013, Chris Barron (vocals), Aaron Comess (drums), Eric Schenkman (guitar) and Mark White (bass) are reconnecting with the flat-broke twenty-somethings who scraped for dollars at the sharp end of the Big Apple blues circuit. The Spin Doctors have come full-circle.
“We were four guys in our twenties,” remembers Aaron of early days in the late-’80s, “and our goal was to write our own songs and make a living doing it. The blues is such a big part of our roots, but one of the reasons we came up with such a big catalogue of blues songs back then is that we’d play these downtown blues bars in New York. You were supposed to play blues covers… but we were actually playing our own songs!”
We all know what happened next: the hits, the hysteria, the fame and the money (“When were selling 50,000 records a week,” remembers Chris of the band’s explosion circa 1992, “I’d walk into a mall to buy underwear and 300 kids would surround me!”). If The River Was Whiskey hits rewind. It’s the deep-blues album the Spin Doctors almost made before megastardom came knocking. It finally bottles those near-mythical songs from that sweatbox circuit. It’s simultaneously a tipped hat to the band’s lost past and the freshest record you’ll hear all year. “Every note feels dangerous,” smiles Chris. “It’s just like this ramshackle, broken carriage running down a cobblestone hill, with pots and pans, and a screaming baby…”
The concept to revisit these songs struck as the Spin Doctors toured Europe to toast the 20th anniversary of Pocket Full Of Kryptonite, and polled über-fans David Landsburger and Daniel Heinze on what they’d like to hear as the encore that night. Their answer – So Bad – was a song so old that Chris had almost forgotten the verses, but when the venue exploded, a lightbulb lit over the band’s heads. “We had such a good time playing these tunes,” the singer explains, “that we thought, ‘We should go make a record of this stuff’. It’s really brought us back as a band, musically and interpersonally.”
The songs on If The River Was Whiskey are different vintages. “Some Other Man Instead and the title track, I wrote those lyrics in the last year or two,” explains Chris. “But Sweetest Portion, I wrote that song when I was 19. I’d run away from home, and when I got back, my friends were really upset and there was a rumour going around that I had died. So I wrote that song – and I’m not sure if I’ve ever written a better one since.”
The material might be a quarter-century in the making, but If The River Was Whiskey took just three days to record when the four members convened last summer in New York. The original plan was to get together at Aaron’s His House Studios in Manhattan and work up some demos – no pressure – before heading upstate to a boutique analogue facility and start tracking in earnest. “We didn’t expect to make a record,” smiles Eric. “We were just going to make a demo and play at the Rockwood. And then, lo and behold…”
Instead, without the pressure of the red light, the sessions began to unfold with an effortless magic. “We just kinda winged it, man,”says Mark. This album sounds exactly the same as it does onstage, because we recorded it live, which is the way it should be done. There’s no overdubs. Anybody that tried to do an overdub was gonna get whacked!”
“We really kinda fooled ourselves and tricked ourselves, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it sounds so fresh,” picks up Aaron. “Because there was absolutely no pressure on us of any kind. We just hit a moment. Everything came together and we got this great record. Usually, the best things happen when you’re not trying… and that’s what happened here.”
The band quickly realized the supposed rough-cuts captured by engineering ace Roman Klun couldn’t be topped. “By the third day,” reflects Chris, “we’d recorded all ten of the demos. We went out to dinner that night, we were all having a cocktail, and someone was like, ‘Gentlemen, I believe our demo is a record’. And we all just laughed.”
Take a spin of If The River Was Whiskey and you’d have to agree: they aced it. The Spin Doctors might have given you the soundtrack to the best nights of the ’90s, but with this new album, they’ve rediscovered a strand of their musical DNA that melds perfectly with the hits you know and love. “It’s been so refreshing to go back to this material,” says Aaron. “It’s just brought everything that’s good about the band out again. I can honestly say that we’re playing better than ever right now, and I think a lot of that is because of the material on this record: it’s just really opened things up. Some bands, you go and see them 25 years later and they’re up there going through the motions. But to me, we sound better than ever. We sound world-class now, I think.”
“We play about four or five tunes a night from this new album and they all work,” says Eric. “It just feels seamless, like any of the new tunes can sit with any one of the Kryptonite songs. And the band is just playing amazing now. It’s a pleasure to play with people that you’ve been playing with so long… and everybody’s still breathing!”
Likewise, when If The River Was Whiskey arrives on May 14th it’ll be a pleasure to toast the return of the Spin Doctors, and a new album set to score new fans while making the hardcore love them more than ever. “I don’t care about sales, man,” states Chris, honestly. “I mean, it’d be awesome if it sold millions of copies, but honest to God, I just want to keep making a living playing music. We get up onstage and we turn it on, and sing and play our hearts out. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do: just make real music, give people something from my heart.”
A simple internet search for the energetic San Francisco quartet Solwave will tell you the number one thing you need to know about the band, and it will tell you over and over…YOU MUST SEE THEM LIVE. Not because their recordings are not equally as impressive, as a glance through those reviews will tell you the same. When Solwave is on stage, it’s impossible not to get swept away by the combination of chemistry, sheer talent and songs filled with soul, blues, new wave, and undeniable rock n' roll dance beats. All of this mixed with the flow of energy from the audience is not only what sets the band apart but is what makes their fans continue to come back for more.
Starting out as a trio of childhood friends, the band was initially formed back in grade school with front man Joe Collins and brothers Danny and Tommy Ferdon. With Joe initially behind the drums, Danny on bass and Tommy on guitar, the three spent countless hours jamming together as they honed their individual crafts. As life went on, Joe would be the first to leave for college at UC Berkeley. It was during his freshman year that he realized music was his number one passion and headed back to the city where he stepped out from behind the drum kit and started to focus on vocals and the piano. Just as naturally as both came to him, he started writing songs and rapidly began to fill a catalog of songs that would later become Solwave staples. Joe attempted to play with other local musicians when Danny headed off to Indiana State and Tommy finished his senior year of high school. Similar to Joe’s college experience, Danny eventually transferred from Indiana to the University of San Francisco, where his younger brother accepted admission as well and the band was reunited. With Joe’s new role as front man, SOLWAVE posted a Craigslist ad for a new drummer, which was quickly answered by Moise Seri whose skills and obvious strong work ethic fit right in line with the squad.
A basement rehearsal space in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District became the stomping ground for the reunited and reinvigorated SOLWAVE and the next few years would bring hard work, dedication, struggles, victories, live performances and a rehearsal diet of four times per week. Once the band had fully trained Seri on their catalogue of songs, they began applying the same tenacity and creativity behind rehearsing to their business. It was the unique decision to giveaway self recorded cds at shows in the early days that has furthered fans connections with the songs and made the energy between the audience and the band that much more intense at a SOLWAVE show.
Upon hitting the local circuit, the group quickly checked off their wish list of venues as their hometown crowd grew larger with every gig played. At the start of 2012 SOLWAVE began expanding the circumference of their live shows from their hometown of San Francisco to land them on the regular west coast touring circuit from San Diego to Seattle, starting in local bars and working their way into music halls, including The Independent, Doug Fir Lounge, SLO Brew, Moe's Alley, SOHO Music Club, Hotel Cafe, The Mint, and more. By forging strong relationships with promoters, bookers, and bands, the group continues to raise the bar and are now requested to return to the cities and venues for repeat performances. Averaging more than 100 shows in the last year, a pinnacle moment came in May 2013 when they sold out legendary SF venue, The Independent. With a 500 person capacity, the room was no longer filled with just friends and family, proving the bands hard work was beginning to pay off.
Keeping up with their steady incline SOLWAVE have teamed up with Producer, Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Regina Spektor) and Mixer, Tim Palmer (Pearl Jam, U2) for their latest EP, The End of the Beginning. The team is already a winning one with the single release and video for the upbeat and soulful, “I Won’t Wait” to nothing but rave reviews. “Leo” and “Follow” showcase the bands rare ability to create danceable rock songs; while “Lost and Found” pays homage to the group’s classic rock and blues influences. In true SOLWAVE form, they somehow seamlessly switch gears to the psychobilly rock tune, “Devil In My Head” proving they leave no genre untouched without skipping a beat in between. All five songs effortlessly cross genres while managing to form the cohesive collection that makes up The End of the Beginning, delivering the signature yet always evolving, SOLWAVE sound.