Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Tues Sept 13
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside
Built on a foundation of the inventive songwriting of founders Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Howl charts unexpected terrain. In fact, the differences between their latest disc and its predecessors (2001's eponymous debut and '03's Take Them On, On Your Own) are so apparent that even the loyalist fans haven't quite known what to make of these tunes.
"A lot of people I speak to don't say how they feel about it," Been says of tracks like the country rocker "Ain't No Easy Way," the back-porch blues of "Shuffle Your Feet," and the harmonica-laced winner "Still Suspicion Holds You Tight." "But for us it's completely natural. Since Pete and I started playing guitars together back in high school, we've always dug folk and the blues. There have always been two versions of our band: one was the 'pretty out-there,' loud rock-and-roll band, and one was this kind of down-home kind of music."
Although they had an arsenal of material in the rootsier, stripped-back style, Been says they weren't quite sure where it fit in with the electric roar of BRMC. "Finally it became pretty clear that if we didn't make a record dedicated to this sound we'd never have the chance," Been explains. "And we didn't want these songs to slip away—they're too good. So while it may seem like we've changed our sound, it doesn't really feel like it to us."
Been says the shackles were off after the band left Virgin Records last year. "It was really freeing to make the record of our own devices without any label pressure," he says. "Once the songs started taking shape as an album, we were convinced more and more that it was the right move."
BRMC's United States tour behind Howl lands at the Doug Fir with former Ride frontman Mark Gardener in the opening slot. "We're reconstructing the entire set and we don't know how it's going to work out," Been says of the apportionment between old and new styles. Whatever the case, if Howl is any indication—the change will be good, indeed.