Band: Blues Traveler, Los Colognes
Date: Tuesday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m.
Venue: The Steeple on St. Francis, 251 St. Francis St., www.thesteeplemobile.com
Tickets: $29.50-$49.50, available through Ticketfly
The Steeple on St. Francis will showcase its beautiful acoustics next Tuesday with two bands capable of filling every inch with music. Blues Traveler, one of the modern jam scene’s most prolific forebears, will take the stage for a freewheeling trip through its 30-year legacy.
For three decades, Blues Traveler has nurtured its jam-centric mix of blues, soul and psychedelic rock through ongoing releases and tours. Even before singles such as “Run-Around” and “Hook” brought them mainstream success, Blues Traveler maintained a dedicated cult following that still flocks to its stage.
Blues Traveler’s audiences are treated to performances that know no chronological or artistic limits. But before the band debuts at The Steeple, the audience will experience new sounds from a familiar Nashville band, Los Colognes.
When locals first sampled Los Colognes, this Music City outfit introduced the Azalea City to guitarist/vocalist Jay Rutherford and drummer Aaron “Mort” Mortenson’s vision. Their debut album, “Working Together,” revealed a group of young artists taking the rich country rock sounds of the ‘70s and translating them for a modern audience. The band continued this trademark sound through the release of their appropriately titled sophomore effort, “Dos.” Now Los Colognes is returning to Mobile with music from their new album, “The Wave.”
As with previous albums, Rutherford and Mortenson acted as the producers of “The Wave.” Rutherford says he and Mortenson have been making albums together since before Los Colognes took shape. Their continued decision to keep production in-house, Rutherford says, is based on a “survival instinct to keep doing what we were born to do and keep going.”
“The Wave” is definitely moving the band’s sound into the future with a new interpretation of its trademark sound. According to Rutherford, the continued development of Los Colognes’ sound is a priority for both him and Mortenson.
“It’s great to see the project moving forward and surviving, and we’re incredibly thankful,” Rutherford said. “Mort and I tend to not dwell too much on the past and keep it focused on how to get better in the future. I think that if we thought our work was done, then we would stop and drink margaritas and be happy. We’re always looking to keep the train moving and push it farther.”
The album’s title serves as a metaphorical foundation for the tracks on this release. However, the figurative concept on “The Wave” demonstrates an innovation for the modern music industry. In a music world driven by singles, the ideas that drive “The Wave” can be fully experienced through a single track or the album as a whole.
Overall, the album reflects people and situations fighting and flowing with the figurative waves life brings. Rutherford sees the resistance and acceptance of these various life waves as necessary movement, to learn about the polar nature of life’s vicissitudes and the consequences of one’s choices to fight or flow.
When Rutherford and Mortenson began penning the songs for this album, the concept of “the wave” did not exist. Rutherford says the philosophical aspects of the album slowly presented themselves through the creation process. When the band saw the concept beginning to take form, Los Colognes expanded upon it.
“It’s like a blank piece of stone, you’re chipping away at it,” Rutherford explained. “All of a sudden you’re like, ‘Oh! This is totally what it is! Now, we need to chip it more precisely and form it into what it’s supposed to be.’”
“The Wave” maintains Los Colognes’ passion for nostalgic sounds while pushing the band forward. While the synth-pop craze has focused on the lighter sounds of the ‘80s, Los Colognes have decided to focus on another aspect of that musical era.
This album is a flashback to the mature, deep tracks that flowed throughout the ‘80s rock scene. Instead of the screaming synth of indie pop, the tracks on “The Wave” are wrapped in warm, bright keyboard tones reminiscent of ‘80s-era Dire Straits and Moody Blues. However, the keyboard aspect of the album is just one impressive facet. Rutherford’s trademark vocals and guitar tones are an eminent sonic feature that connects this album with their previous releases.
“The songs were all created with the rest of the other songs in mind,” Rutherford explained. “It was definitely created as a total piece of work. Songs relate to each other and whatnot. At the core, even though there’s some ‘80s sounds and influences, there’s a great feel of rhythm and blues and electric guitar and drum beats that aren’t just raping and pillaging what we want from the ‘80s to fit some sort of ‘80s kind of trend.”
While many will have their own musical and philosophical interpretation of this enigmatic release, the true mystery is why the music industry continues to place the overused, all-encompassing “Americana” label on Los Colognes’ interpretation of rock ‘n’ roll.
Rutherford sees the Americana label as “arbitrary linguistics and semantics.” He also admits he does not really have any comprehension of Americana besides “an institution that’s trying to carve out a status in the world of music,” which he respects.
Rutherford says he has no active thought of writing an Americana song when he puts his fingers to the strings. His songs are inspired by his personal experience with music as a whole. Ultimately, the labels placed on Los Colognes’ sound have no effect on their creation process.
“It’s fine however people want to label things,” Rutherford said. “I remember when MySpace made you pick three labels when you were a band. iTunes and Spotify need to categorize with their algorithms. It is what it is, but we don’t pay too much attention to it. We just make music that we get inspired by. It’s fine however it gets labeled.”
Los Colognes’ Azalea City crowd should not expect an exact rendition of the songs found on “The Wave.” While touring in support of the album, Rutherford says, the band’s live performance of this new material has allowed the songs to expand through improvisational jam sessions that flow into their sets.
With each performance, this musical exploration provides a different experience for artists and audiences. Even though the music knows no boundaries, Rutherford says they maintain the primary sonic aspects of “The Wave.”
“We paint with the same brushstrokes of music feeling,” Rutherford said. “We make sure the core elements are there, and then we expand.”