Band: The Boxmasters
Date: Sunday, Aug. 16 with doors at 7 p.m.
Venue: Soul Kitchen, 219 Dauphin St., www.soulkitchemobile.com
Tickets: $20 advance /$23 day-of/
$40 reserved front row available through Soul Kitchen, its website,
Mellow Mushroom (both locations) and by calling 1-866-468-7630
The Boxmasters are returning to the Azalea City to give LoDa another dose of its unique modbilly sound, one longtime collaborators Billy Bob Thornton and J.D. Andrew conceptualized as hillbilly music with British Invasion influences and “sang like David Allan Coe.”
On their first appearance at Soul Kitchen, the audience may have been like many who had just heard of the band but not heard its music. Arriving partially to see Thornton, a highly acclaimed screen actor, early audiences may not have known what to think, and they weren’t alone.
While many respected critics, such as Rolling Stone’s David Wild, loved the band’s sound, many bloggers were quite harsh in their criticism. Ultimately, The Boxmasters proved its critics wrong and established a dedicated cult following through a strong debut album and an electrifying live show. These days, a successive release of material followed by successful tours allows Thornton and Andrew to take any negative critiques in stride.
“There are people [critics] who still do that, not only to us but everybody,” Thornton said. “They’ve made bad reviews of Bob Dylan albums. Everybody gets it from certain people. They’ll get a bee up their ass about somebody, and that’s just the way it is. Fortunately, we’ve built a real strong following over the years. The people were always on our side.”
The creative bond between Thornton and Andrew is another element contributing to the band’s longevity. Andrew cites the organic creation process as one of his favorite experiences in The Boxmasters. When he’s not working with the rest of the band, Andrew is an accomplished producer/engineer who helped Thornton during his solo years. Andrew has also worked on projects for acts such as Will Kimbrough, Kanye West, The Rolling Stones and many others. Because of the natural way Thornton and Andrew work together on Boxmasters material, Andrew finds himself wanting to focus on his own band rather than others.
“It’s a lot harder to want to do other gigs when you’re so able to really communicate how you want things to go,” Andrew said. “When you get used to that, you get spoiled, and you don’t want to go work with other people. I work with other people less and less. As the years go on, I do what we do, or I hang out with my kids.”
How easy is it? The Boxmasters’ latest release on 101 Ranch Records, “Somewhere Down the Road,” is the band’s fourth studio album and second double album. The amount of quality material from the band demonstrates an inexhaustible talent for songwriting. Both Thornton and Andrew are quick to explain that these albums comprise just a minute portion of their original work. They say they don’t plan to write songs. Their material flows effortlessly.
Thornton and Andrew may write several songs in a week or go months without putting pen to paper. Depending on their needs for the album at hand, the pair throw together ideas, which evolve into a final product. Thornton admits this method of creation and selection may lead to many of their original works never making it onto an album.
“We don’t sit down to write an album,” Thornton said. “We record whatever comes out of us at the time. We may write one on a day that sounds kind of moody and dark. At the time, we may be working on more of a pop-rock sounding record, so we just put it aside. We just write what comes to us at the moment and put them all together to see what fits together.”
“Since we started the band, we’ve never stopped recording,” Andrew added. “We’ve got three or four regular records done. We’ve got this rock opera thing called ‘Dinosaur’ that we’ve done. Then, we’ve got another couple hundred songs, but we’ve been too lazy to compile them on a record. We used to focus on recording one record at a time. Then, we got in this spell where we recorded anything that we wanted to, no matter how crazy it was. So, we just stopped making records and started recording tons of stuff.”
For “Somewhere Down the Road,” Thornton and Andrew chose two hired guns who fit the modbilly philosophy of mingling rock and country. Teddy Andreadis is a multi-instrumental artist best known for his work with Guns N’ Roses, Alice Cooper and the Boxing Ghandis. Brad Davis has worked with Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Earl Scruggs and others. Thornton has worked with both Andreadis and Davis since his solo career in the mid-’90s, and both are considered official members of The Boxmasters.
“They’ve always been around, and we loved how they played,” Andrew said. “It was only natural that they be a part of what you do. You know, you call your friends up. They’re both great and fit perfectly with what we do. It’s not a hard thing.”
The Boxmasters’ debut at Soul Kitchen was a twofold show. The band took the stage dressed in ‘60s mod attire and assumed an onstage persona that matched. They took a break, and then returned to the stage with full rock attitude and sound. For the show Sunday, locals can expect a mix of the two sets, and a set list that delves into pre-Boxmasters material and music on “Somewhere Down the Road.” Even though the show has changed, The Boxmasters are looking forward to returning to Mobile and having a repeat of what Thornton describes as “an amazing time.”
“Last time, we did The Boxmasters opening for Billy Bob Thornton,” Andrew explained. “This time, it’s just The Boxmasters show. It spans all the generations of The Boxmasters and Billy’s stuff. We do play a few songs from his solo record. We start off with the ‘60s pop stuff. By the end, it gets more into the jam side of things but not too much. We’re too anal to let things go too crazy.”