Band: J. Roddy Walston & The Business
Date: Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Stage: Salt Life Stage
If you’re looking for a heavy dose of rock ’n’ roll this weekend on the beach, you can’t miss the set from J. Roddy Walston & The Business Friday evening on the Salt Life Stage. This East Coast powerhouse has an unbridled roots rock sound, in the tradition of Faces and The Black Crowes. Rod and the boys from Richmond, Virginia, have been gaining fans both through their album “Essential Tremors” and through various spots in film and on TV.
Bassist Logan Davis told Lagniappe the group will enter the studio to record their next album over the summer. Davis was more than happy to provide a behind-the-scenes look into what drives this band.
Centanni: What’s a typical day in the life for J. Roddy Walston & The Business?
Davis: I would love to tell that we’re waking up on the tour bus and going to have brunch somewhere and taking our time getting to the venue. But we’re still very much in the van and trailer lifestyle. Usually, it’s waking up, grabbing a quick hotel breakfast, hopping in the van and heading on down the road to the next show. These days, since our AC broke a couple of weeks ago, it’s a lot of the windows being down and sweaty dudes in the van. The silver lining in all the traveling and Taco Bell and McDonald’s and all that kinda stuff … is that we get to go to a venue and get in front of people and get sweaty and drink beer and play shows and have a really god time with people. It kind of makes it all worth it, I guess.
Centanni: You guys play everywhere from small venues such as Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville to big festivals like Hangout Fest. Which environment does the band prefer?
Davis: You know, I still really love the 300-to-500-person venue, where it feels like a lot of people. It feels exciting, and there’s a bit of a buzz. I think of shows when I’ve seen other bands at that stage. It’s just exciting. You feel like, “Well, they’re not going to be there for long, but tonight, I’m close enough to see the sweat on a lead singer’s face. I’m not having to stare at a screen to see what’s going on. I’m right here.”
(There’s) something about those midsized-club shows that are really fun and exciting. We still play a lot of shows in that kind of environment, and it sort of feels like home. That’s not to say that I don’t really love the big festival sets, where you get to be in front of thousands of people. There’s a lot of excitement with that. Our stomping grounds and where I like going to shows are the places where you get to be up close.
Centanni: You mentioned still being at the “van and trailer stage” of the game, and I know what load-in and load-out is like. The joke is that’s where you actually make your money, and the show part is just extra fun. There’s always that one guy with an amp or instrument that weighs a ton. For y’all, it’s Walston and his piano. What’s it like touring with his piano? Is it a big pain in the ass, or do you have a system down?
Davis: (chuckles) Well, it does have four handles on it, but it’s a good 250 pounds. It can be a bear to move around. It gets nicer and nicer with more hands there to pass the load off to. You know, at first, we were like, “Why the hell can’t you use a Casio? Have you heard of keyboards?” The more we’ve toured with it, the more I totally understand. I’ve heard Rod say that it’s like asking a guitarist to play a keytar — it’s not really a guitar.
I totally get it, and I totally love the fact that we drag a real piano around. It’s a real piano, and it’s got strings. It folds up into itself to make it easier to move it around. It’s the real deal. It’s got that honky-tonk, funky sound that goes out of tune a little bit and doesn’t sound too pristine like a keyboard. It doesn’t bother me much anymore. It is a bear, especially when we get there and they say, “Well, we don’t have an elevator.” Recently in Detroit we had to walk up three flights of stairs, and it was not fun. I’ve gotten used to it at this point.
Centanni: One thing that’s really helped your band is licensing. Your music appears in everything from TV ads to movies. What kind of choice do you have in choosing where your music is heard?
Davis: Ultimately, we have the final call in picking where things go or at least a really strong say in it. For the most part, it’s all been stuff that we’ve been cool with. I kind of forgot that we had a song in “Eastbound & Down.” I was watching it with my roommate the other day, and I was like, “Whoa! That was our song.” I will say that a lot of the rights go to Roddy, because he does a lot of the writing. He’s the one with most decision making there. For the most part, it comes across our table.
It’s surprising how helpful those things can be, like a Coors Light commercial. I meet a stranger in a coffee shop, and they’re like, “Oh! You look like you play in a band.” I tell them, “Yeah, I’m in this band.” They have no idea what I’m talking about. Then, I say, “Do you watch football?” Then, I sing “Sweat Shock,” which is in the Coors Light commercial, and they’re like, “Oh yeah! I know exactly what you’re talking about.”’ It’s kind of crazy how that stuff can help people recognize a band or a tune.
Centanni: When can we expect the follow-up to “Essential Tremors?”
Davis: Well, that’s the whole goal of this year is to get it down and on tape. That’s the best I can tell you. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we just started it. Roddy and I both live in Richmond, and the other two live in Baltimore. We’ve got this nasty, old warehouse space and spent two months building it to be a studio. It’s pretty much up and running at this point. We’ve got some touch-up stuff to do, but all the gear is there. It’s good because we haven’t had a space like this in the past. It’s always been a nasty practice space, and we’re staring at our watches the whole time wondering when we can get out. This is somewhere where we actually want to hang. We have nice pro gear there so that we could do the whole record there. It’s still a little early to see. It’s going to be really fun to have that creative space, when we’re not touring. We can come in, cut the lights on and start making noise. That’s something we’ve never had before.
Centanni: What kind of set are you bring to Hangout Fest?
Davis: I think a lot of sweat, for sure. It’s easy when we get to play a festival set like this, because it’s a little shorter than a headlining set. You get to come out and play songs that people know. I’m such a big fan of Hangout Fest. This is the first time that we’re doing it, but it’s my third time coming. I just go down there with my friends. I’m kind of beside myself. I know how much of a good time that we’ll have down there. I’m sure that there will be plenty of beer and sunshine and pretty ladies and us doing our best to have a good time on stage.