Cody Beebe and The Crooks on new album, “Out Here”, their festival and cultivating their own Seattle sound

Cody Beebe and The Crooks on new album, “Out Here”, their festival and cultivating their own Seattle sound
July 1, 2013 | By | Reply More

Cody Beebe and the Crooks have been described by some as roots rock, 70s inspired rockers and even as “Southern Rock from Seattle”.  The truth is probably somewhere within all of those categorizations and while the band definitely spans genres (including bluesy hard rock)  they are attracting fans from many different areas of the spectrum.  They just released their second album “Out Here” and have become known as a killer live act due to their passionate, straight forward performances.  I recently had the chance to catch up with both Cody Beebe and his band, The Crooks and was able to get a little bit of a handle on what they’re up to and where they’re going, read on….

 

LRI: Thanks for talking with us guys. For those people who are unaware of Cody Beebe and the Crooks can you tell us how the band got its start and what led you guys to each other?

Cody Beebe // Vocals, Guitar
In the mid-2000s, the majority of the band was attending Washington State University…. with the exception of Joe Catron, who was at Western Washington University. Joe and I had gone to high school together, so we remained in touch through our college years, jamming from time to time. Although I think we all had dreams of playing music in a professional caliber at some point, we are also realistic guys and were determined to establish backup plans for ourselves before hopping in a van and hitting the open road. I often wonder what kind of trouble we would have got in if we would have done this at 18!

Following college, I decided to set out and pursue my music career, leaving my newly-obtained engineering degree on the backburner. Joe and I and our original guitar player, Greg Floyd, traveled the Northwest as an acoustic trio, joined from time to time by harmonica player, Ty Paxton. In February of 2009, we were offered a gig at a club in Seattle….. our first real Seattle show. We had made it! We thought that a bigger band sound would be ideal for the setting, so I called up Chris Green, a drummer I had played with off and on in college. Greg then called up Aaron Myers, hoping he could play piano parts with his right hand and handle the bass parts with his left. However, at the first rehearsal, we decided that we should bring in a bass player as well to free Aaron up on the keys. Aaron and Greg said the only guy they knew that could learn the parts in a short amount of time was Eric Miller, at that time a lead guitar player. We had two rehearsals in Seattle, and Joe ended up meeting a few of the guys on stage the night of the show. A few months later, we added “The Crooks” to my name and set out to record our first album and hit the road.

Since then, we’ve traveled over 100,000 miles in our beloved van, The Hozzington, visiting 30 states and playing around 400 shows in the process. Greg Floyd and Ty Paxton left the band in 2011, setting out to follow other passions. We still stay in close contact and they jam with us when they can… they even recorded a few songs on our new album. In December 2012, we started recording “Out Here,” our follow-up to the record we put out in 2010. Chris Green played drums on the record, but left the band soon after. We filled the drummer position with an old friend, Brian Paxton. So, Cody Beebe & The Crooks is now a 5-piece, composed of myself on guitar and lead vocals, Joe Catron on percussion, Aaron Myers on keys, Eric Miller on bass guitar, and Brian Paxton on drums.

LRI: The new album “Out Here” is the follow up to your debut album. It features a pretty solid rock production style that contrasts well with the band’s natural blues tendencies. How did the approach to the new album change from the last time out?

Cody Beebe // Vocals, Guitar
When we recorded our first album, “Friends of the Old Mill,” we had only been a band for just over a year and had only played around 30 shows together. We all had short hair, were clean cut…. and I think you can hear that in the music! In all seriousness, we’re just a better band now. We understand the process more clearly and were more prepared for the studio this time out. In a business that now seems so focused on providing new “content” all the time, people don’t seem to be making records like this anymore. But, we wanted to stick to our guns and make a timeless recording that we’d be truly proud of down the line, not just for a quick spike on the social media channels.

After working incredibly hard to save the money and finance the record on our own, we were able to take elements from our first recording session that seemed to work well and pair them with elements that we thought we could improve upon. Both albums were recorded at London Bridge Studio in Seattle. It’s an incredibly user-friendly space, and with the legendary rock albums that have come out of there (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone, Blind Melon), we felt confident that our records would capture those same iconic room tones. The first record was produced by studio owner, Jonathan Plum. We really liked working with him and felt that two of his strongest attributes were in song arrangement and backing vocal arrangement. So, we hired him for these aspects and brought in John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie, Brandi Carlile, Nada Surf) to produce, engineer, and mix the album. We all really liked John’s recording methods and feel that his work as a mixing engineer is hard to match. We tracked everything to 2-inch tape and kept the bass and drum tracks as a foundation, providing a warm, vintage tone to the album. We really wanted to keep the live feel that is found on our first album, but with a more polished end product. So, we took our time and made sure to get it right, while keeping the emotion and energy of our live performance intact. I would say that our work ethic and time behind our instruments, along with John’s production style are the key elements to thank for the lush tones and “solid rock production style” found on “Out Here.”

LRI: You have a great video for the song “Hold The Line” which combines a great storyline with a great song. What went into the making of that clip and what inspired the song?

Aaron Myers // Keys
We wrote the music to the song long before we went into the studio, and we all really dug the feel of it. We just couldn’t find the right lyrics. We tried writing it about a lot of different things… a party song about the attraction between a romantic couple, a sort of angst-ridden version against corrupt big wigs… it didn’t really work though. When we recorded it, we still didn’t have lyrics. The day before Cody went in to do the final vocals, the Sandy Hook tragedy happened. It had a huge effect on us just like it did everyone I know. We sat down to write the lyrics that night and still resisted the story even though it was on the tip of our tongue. I think we were scared of being too dark or too poignant. As I remember it, we finally just decided to try to write lyrics for that story and throw it away if we didn’t like it… We didn’t end up throwing it away. The video was a direct result of that. Cody and Eric own a production company, and I am always blown away by what they produce. I think they did a great job humanizing the story and making it accessible visually. As far as what went into it, you’d have to ask Eric… I am pretty useless on a video set. I got everyone sodas at one point, through a picture frame at the ground as hard as I could, and jumped the battery on a firetruck. Needless to say, I wasn’t MVP of the video shoot.

Cody Beebe // Vocals,Guitar
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, we wanted to put our feelings into words, but found it incredibly difficult to do so. As a band, although we all have slightly different feelings on the intricacies related to the issue of gun control, we all can agree that it is a person’s right and responsibility to protect the ones they love, no matter what. We wanted to pose the question of how far one can go to maintain this right….. thus furthering the gun control discussion and putting this issue into light in the form of a music video.

After the song was written and the music was recorded, the vocals for “Hold the Line” were actually the last thing I recorded on the album. I then left on vacation and listened to the song over and over again while on the plane. I had a vision of a man going back and forth to work, coming home to his family, doing everything he could to provide for his family, “holding the line.” I brought this idea up to Joe and he and I came up with the conclusion of the video. We knew that if we were going to make a statement, the video had to push some boundaries. In fact, I actually went back into the studio and re-recorded the last line of the lyrics based on the video content, which I think really posed the question that we were trying to ask all along. So, I put together the cast and interestingly enough, Joe was enlisted to play the bad guy in the video. This is interesting, because anyone that knows Joe will attest for the fact that he is as far from that character as one can get. However, he played the part incredibly well. We are really lucky to have an insanely talented videographer in our band, and I think that Eric did an amazing job filming and editing the video. We are all proud of the video, what it stands for, and hope that others have and will continue to walk away with a new perspective, one way or the other.

Eric Miller // Bass Guitar
I shot and edited the music video for “Hold the Line,” produced by Cody. We shot on a canon 60d using a canon zoom and Nikon primes. Grip, lighting and camera support gear came from Victory Studios with Brent Sharp handling the lighting and assistant camera work. We spent 3 days shooting in Yakima, WA, and I completed the edit and color grading from a hotel room in Yuma, AZ between performances at the Yuma County Fair.
LRI: The title of the album has at least a partial reference to the band’s home turf of the Northwest. There have been a great variety of acts to spring from the area, everyone from Hendrix to Heart to Soundgarden and Mother Love Bone. Do you think some of that diversity naturally works its way into the material that you write?

Aaron Myers // Keys
It is funny because the album title comes from our song of the same name “Out Here.” It is a song about my family’s heritage homesteading in the Missouri River breaks near a town of around 650 people called Big Sandy, Montana. I grew up there. The thing about Big Sandy and grunge is that Jeff Ament, the bassist for Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone, and Green River also grew up there. His father, George, was our mayor and was actually my school bus driver. It is a very tight knit community, and everyone is very proud of what Jeff has done. I am much younger than he is, and I was hugely inspired by his music. A lot of the people my age were. I know I wasn’t the only 12 year old farm kid rocking Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy while I was on the tractor plowing fields or driving truck. That really got me interested in that sound and was probably a subconscious reason as to why I moved to Seattle. The first time I sat down at the piano in London Bridge Studios, where we recorded both our albums, I played Andrew Wood’s piano part from Mother Love Bone’s “Chloe Dancer.” So, I guess for me, the answer is yes.

LRI: You get the feeling listening to the music that you guys spend a lot of time together beyond just band rehearsal. How do the individual personalities of the band members affect or change the course of what we hear in the headphones?

Joe Catron // Percussion
What you hear in our music is a distillation of five individuals’ hearts and minds. Our songwriting process is unique in that we all bring musical or lyrical ideas to the table and synthesize those ideas into songs as a group. After 4 years of touring, performing and simply co-existing, we have forged meaningful and authentic bonds with one another, and have learned that nothing is worth having unless you have others to share it with. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to do what we do, and I think that grace and a sense of hope comes through in our music.

LRI: You have gained a reputation by playing live and developed a loyal and growing fanbase by hammering home the live experience. What touring do you anticipate doing for “Out Here” and how do you like life out on the road, away from home?

Cody Beebe // Vocals, Guitar
Success in the music business is a hard thing to judge. For us, we all have a passion for travel and for impacting the lives of others; either through our music or through the relationships we build with people on the road. So, we consider ourselves lucky and at least partially successful to be where we are. We might not be selling millions of records or rolling around in a Prevost yet, but we feel incredibly fortunate to have seen what we’ve seen and to have met all the people we’ve met. Each show, we really try to go out and give it everything we have, and I think the fans appreciate that. We were playing in a small club in Bend, OR a few months back and after our first three songs, a guy in the crowd yelled, “You guys are playing like you’re performing in an arena…… just for us!” Well, that’s just how we roll.

With the release of “Out Here,” we plan to hit our home markets in the Northwest this summer, followed by larger tour plans in the Fall. In fact, Eric and I will be promoting the record acoustically in Australia in November, and then we plan to take the whole band out and tour the South in the winter.

As for being on the road, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we love it. This is not to say that it doesn’t pose hardships and require numerous sacrifices, but we feel that we are making good use of our time on this earth while traveling from place to place, enriching the lives of others while also doing so for ourselves. We all really miss our families, significant others, and friends back home, but we know there may be a limited window of time that we can all do this, so we do not take this time for granted. We now have friends in many parts of the nation, and we hope to get out to see all of them through the promotion of “Out Here.”

Cover of the new Cody Beebe and The Crooks album, "Out Here"

Cover of the new Cody Beebe and The Crooks album, “Out Here”

LRI: The band formed in 2009 and has already come a long ways with you guys doing the majority of the heavy lifting. If someone were to have told you you’d be doing this a decade ago would you have believed it?

Eric Miller // Bass
We were all entering college 10 years ago, and most of us were studying other things. But although we hadn’t formed CBC yet, we had already devoted huge portions of our lives to learning to play, write, and perform music. At the time, I wasn’t planning to pursue a music career, but if someone told me this is where I would be, I would have believed it.

Joe Catron // Percussion
This answer varies from member to member. Some of us have been studying and performing music since childhood and some of us found music later in life. I think the tie that binds is that each of us feel in our hearts that this is where we are supposed to be right now. The men in this band could be successful at a multitude of different careers, but we have chosen to make sacrifices for the sake of the whole, which makes it that much more special.
LRI: How much went into the planning of the “Chinook Fest” that you guys have been undertaking? It’s not every day you hear of a newer band planning events of this size….

Cody Beebe // Vocals/Guitar
Chinook Fest was and continues to be a huge undertaking. However, we feel confident that it will continue to grow and enable us to extend our fanbase and musical network, while bringing a unique experience to an area that just doesn’t get this kind of entertainment. It’s a boutique festival that really seems to have a lasting affect throughout the year with the bands and people that attend. The idea actually came in part from our fans in Central Washington. Many of them had talked about throwing a large party for us…. and we thought, why don’t we throw a party for them and try to build something out of this? Also, we have so many good friends in bands that we have met on the road, so we thought it’d be really neat to get them all in the same place….. in the Cascade Mountains between Seattle and my home town of Selah, WA. Some good friends of ours in a band called the True Spokes started a festival 13 years ago that has grown into a wonderful event, Summer Meltdown. We were really inspired by what they have been able to accomplish, so we wanted to follow in their footsteps, in our own way. In fact, we asked the True Spokes to headline Chinook Fest in 2012 as a way to honor and thank them.

Looking forward to 2013, we have already locked in the lineup and will be featuring 32 acts over the course of three days, quite the increase from our first year’s number of 19. We will be headlining Saturday night of the festival, joined by harmonica legend Lee Oskar of the band WAR. The festival is located along the Naches River, in a valley lined with pine trees…. it’s just beautiful. Most people camp all weekend and there are plenty of food and art vendors. We have also brought in local sponsors such as Liberty Bottleworks that are helping us keep the festival as “green” as possible. It’s so cool to see something like this come together after months of planning. I really feel that this year is going to be amazing and I can’t wait for all of the festival-goers to experience what we have planned for them. Folks can find out more at www.chinookfest.com.

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LRI:  The band operates all the necessary social media platforms and all that it takes to promote and get the word out in 2013. Do you think it’s fun connecting with fans and people over the internet and does it carry over to actually getting out there and meeting people at the merch stand at gigs and such?

Aaron Myers // Keys
It is such a huge advantage for today’s musicians to have the ability to publish our releases, news, schedules, and updates to a potentially huge audience. That is VERY exciting and probably the only reason independent music can thrive the way it is now. Look at what Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and their team have done. It is amazing. But, I think there is a trap in it too. People put too much value on it, on the numbers… it can make things seem more important than they really are. As a musician, the most important thing should always be connecting with people through your music either live or through your recordings. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side” or Tom Waits’ “Small Change” will be listened to forever and always be relevant. A Facebook post or a tweet comes and goes within ten minutes sometimes.

Joe Catron // Percussion
As is almost every industry today, social media is indispensable in the music business. The local, regional, national, and even international markets can now be reached from your desktop. It makes the world an even smaller place, and Aaron has done a great job of promoting our band and our shows through these outlets and we have seen some incredible results. Just recently, Santo Domingo, DR became the city with the most CBC fans in the whole world! Having fans in places you have never performed shows that social media can and will continue to be a vital resource for our band and business.

LRI: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us a bit guys, good luck with the rest of your year. Last question….What is the most interesting thing you’ve heard or reaction you’ve heard from the average person who had never heard of your band but wound up checking out the album or seeing a live show?

Aaron Myers // Keys
Quite a few times, someone has come up after a show or emailed us and said, “Don’t quit. Keep going. You have something, and you need to see this through.” That is fuel for my fire. Everyone that hears us may not feel that way, but this is worth doing for those people.

Cody Beebe // Vocals, Guitar
There have been a number of people who have come to our live show and have been surprised, saying, “You’re not a country band at all!” I suppose it might be the band name or the fact that we have elements of country music in our songs, but our live show tends to lean towards a rock and roll show. Most of the live pictures you see of us include a lot of hair…. I swear my hair doesn’t always stand straight up like that! We try to put on a high energy, passionate show that people will remember…. and heck, Garth Brooks was a country singer, but what set him apart was his rock and roll production with his live shows. It’s just more fun to let loose and rock out I guess.

Thank you so much for the thoughtful questions. We really appreciate your support.

Eric Miller // Bass
New listeners often compare us to other artists that they’ve heard. As a band, we all have different musical tastes, but we love when we get compared to an artist that all of us listen to and enjoy, like Incubus, Pink Floyd, or Lynyrd Skynyrd. We were all tickled when a fan said we reminded him of Incubus’ early album, S.C.I.E.N.C.E., which has long been a favorite for all of us!

Joe Catron // Percussion
With over 400 shows performed together, we have just about heard it all! I think our live performance is one of our strongest attributes, and people in the audience can tell that we are enjoying what we are doing and that we are pouring ourselves out. The symbiotic transfer of energy between a live band and their audience is something that is hard to describe in words, but it is what makes what we do so worth it. One of the best quotes from a concertgoer which really resonated with us was, “You guys are rocking out like you are playing an arena, but you are doing it for us!” That’s real.

 www.codybeebeandthecrooks.com

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Category: Interviews

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