Little over a week ago, I went to check out The 71’s and Bright Light Social Hour at Warehouse Live. The 71’s let me tag along with them for the night for a little behind-the-scenes look at what a typical show is like for them…and it kicks off a series of posts I’m calling “Backstage with The Good Groupie.” In the coming months, I hope to hang out with some of my favorite Texas bands and share some behind-the-scenes moments with you, dear reader. Got a suggestion or want to be featured? Email me.
5:46 p.m. I hop in my car at work and set out on my first mission of the night: FIND COFFEE. It’s been a long, sleepless week and I’m feeling it. As I head over to Starbucks for my cup-o-corporate-coffee, I cue up my iPod and start where I left off that morning: listening to The 71’s “Rock & Roll Reaction Vol. 2.” I know it’s lame to listen to the band you’re about to go see…but I’m kind of obsessed with their cover of “American Girl” recently. Plus it’s a really great little EP to rock out to.
6:13 p.m. Arrive at Warehouse Live and meet up with the band’s fantastic manager, Lee. She and I have become fast Facebook buddies in recent weeks, and it’s a pleasure to finally meet in person. She introduces me to Tank & Jacob’s parents – super nice, and I love that they’re the kind of parents that come to shows – and we chat until the band arrives.
6:25 p.m. We head around back at the venue to meet up with the guys. They’ve just arrived straight from Corpus Christi where they played the previous night with BLSH. First question out of everyone’s mouth? How did THIS happen. Hey – it’s not rock-n-roll if it’s not an adventure, right?
6:43 p.m. The 71’s load in, and I smile when I notice Jackson Potts up on stage with them (bottom left in collage), snapping away photos. I went to his Rock & Roll Portraits gallery opening last year – and absolutely loved his work. Did I mention he’s only 12?
7:01 p.m. Merch booth set-up time. While the 71’s put the finishing touches on their set-up, I help Lee and her lovely friend LeAnne lay out the merch table. T-shirts, CDs, rope lights…I realize for the first time how hard it is to be creative with a single table, some T-shirts and a stack of CDs. There’s a certain art to laying out a merch table, and though I’m not sure we’ve mastered it…I thought we did a pretty decent job. I have new-found appreciation for all the DIY bands out there who capture my attention with their creative displays.
7:15 p.m. After lead singer Keeton is done discussing tonight’s filming of the show (to be used for a future music video – very cool!) with the director, I get to steal a few minutes of his time. We sit down backstage in Warehouse Live’s prop room – surrounded by extra couches, tons of plywood and band equipment, and we chat a little bit about The 71’s amazing $13,500 Kickstarter campaign and the new album, which they’ve been hard at work on in Dallas for the last couple of weeks:
The Good Groupie: How did you decide to go the Kickstarter route to fund Rock & Roll Reaction Vol. 3?
Keeton: We have learned, to the best of our abilities, how to make records for super cheap. That was the experiment [when we started] Rock & Roll Reaction. The first record we got a lot of funding, shopped labels and realized that wasn’t going to work, so we decided to make the next one on our own. We were making the third one, had finished the songs and gone to the studio and during that process we were writing a lot more. It felt like we were on the eve of a whole new set of songs, so we decided to wait and write more. We decided to make a full-length record and take all the time we needed to do it the way we wanted to. Through that is how we came to Kickstarter.
GG: And you guys went over your initial goal of $12,000.
Keeton: By almost $2,000. The crazy part was we had prayed we would make $12,000. After taxes and everything, it came out to $12,800.
GG: You initially set out to do three Rock & Roll Reaction EPs, but this next one will be full-length?
Keeton: Yeah – this process has been so rewarding for us, so we’re planning to call the album “We Are the 71’s.” The songs that don’t make the album will end up being Rock & Roll Reaction Vol. 3. So you’re kind of getting R&RRV3 plus a full-length album if you contributed.
GG: Lots of music for your buck – love it! As a fan, I definitely noticed a big musical change from Vol. 1 to Vol. 2 – how will the sound of this album change?
Keeton: The biggest difference is we’re getting better at writing songs. There’s a lot of energy to it. Musically, the songs are very melody-centric, but if you blend it up there’s a little bit of Racouters, Black Keys, Toadies. It’s a lot of different elements of rock and roll as opposed to what we sounded like on vol. 2 or 1 which are more straight-forward rock and roll. It’s more riff-centric, and we took a lot more artistic liberties with writing the songs. We tried to write these stories and moments in songs.
GG: Anything in particular that you were listening to while writing the new album that influenced you?
Keeton: Song-wise, I knew what I wanted to do. For me, I listened to a lot of two bands because I like the way their guitar sounds: Band of Skulls and the Black Keys. When we were making the record, I was trying to figure out how they made the guitars sound so big. Our old approach was to turn the guitars all the way up. On the new album, the drums and bass are the forefront and the guitars follow along.
GG: Are you guys playing new stuff tonight?
Keeton: Oh yeah, like seven or eight songs.
GG: Awesome. Last question – how has Kickstarter changed things for you guys?
Keeton: It’s really discouraging to do what we did last year – go out, play clubs and hope people show up. Kickstarter was neat because it solved the notoriety problem. I no longer have any question about who our fans are. I like the idea of being able to write a song, put it on the web and have people buy it. It’s a very direct relationship. Kickstarter opened that world up to me. Now, it’s very personal. When I write songs now, I think “Oh, Miranda likes ‘Get Up and Dance’, I wonder if she’ll like this one” – and that’s why I write the songs, because of the people.
7:38 p.m. Interview completed, Keeton and I head back out into the venue. Three steps in and two people are already trying to get his attention – ah, the life of the lead singer…I head next door to meet up with the rest of the band for dinner at Lucky’s. I’m on the business end of the table and get the chance to talk with Jackson’s dad Jack and Lee about the social media side of blogging, managing a band and a photography company. Always interested in finding out how others do things and sharing tips and tricks that work for me.8:45 p.m. We head back to Warehouse Live, and I’m greeted by my friends who are just walking up. The 71’s head off to do a photo shoot with a local online mag and get ready for their set. I hang out in the venue with Amanda, Tammi and Greg.8:53 p.m. Drinks in hand, we listen to the end of Electric Attitude’s set. They were…loud. (But then, everything seems to be loud in that venue. Perhaps I’m getting old?)
9:27 p.m. The 71’s take the stage, and I’m completely enamored with the three boys – no more than 10 years old – who line the front of the stage and watch the band rock out. The 71’s play a set of nearly all new songs, which I’m excited to hear after talking with Keeton earlier in the night. Favorites are “Heaven” and “Prince.” Can’t wait to hear it all recorded later this summer.
10:04 p.m. The 71’s finish and break down while fans wander over to the merch booth. Can’t beat $15 super soft T-shirts…right Lee?
10:36 p.m. Bright Light Social Hour takes the stage, and 30 seconds into the first song Amanda texts me “I think we’re one VW van and tambourine away from the 70’s.” I grin and nod in agreement.
10:37 p.m. A tambourine appears on stage. We wait for the VW bus to come crashing through the wall.
11:42 p.m. After an extended set, I decide I’m in loke with BLSH – I love their sound, but I only like the jam-band aspect of their music. They remind me of early Steel Train when they used to be a stoner jam band of cute Jewish boys from Jersey. All in all, I wouldn’t turn down a chance to see BLSH again. I’m sure I’ll get used to the jam sessions.
11:51 p.m. We grab Keeton to say our goodbyes for the evening – and we end up standing around chatting for a good 20 minutes. About the new music. About life. About everything. I feel slightly bad when a few girls who have been hovering finally get up the courage to tap his arm and ask for his autograph on the set list…and in the time it takes to turn and give us all hugs the girls disappear…and Keeton after them to make sure they get their signature. Gotta love a dedicated band boy like that.
12:26 a.m. I get back to my car. It’s dead. Yay. Thankfully we have jumper cables and Greg’s ability to Google instructions for anything. We get my car started and call it a night.
Big THANK YOU to The 71’s for letting me hang out all night – more to come on them later this summer when “We Are the 71’s” is released!