On the Road with Jeremy Porter and The Tucos in Their 'Old Kentucky (2nd) Home'

By: Amy Foxworthy (foxy at indyintune dot com)
Thursday, December 20, 2018 7:00:00 PM

  

Jeremy Porter and The Tucos-The Green Lantern—Lexington, Kentucky December 15, 2018

Last year I had the opportunity to interview Detroit, Michigan-based Rock & Roll band, Jeremy Porter and The Tucos while on their tour stop through Indianapolis at the Melody Inn.  Since first hearing the band’s 3rd full length album, “Don’t Worry It’s Not Contagious,” released in October 2017, I’ve been following the band closely and have had the fortune of experiencing 3 (soon-to-be 4) of their live shows.  Much to my delight, this month the band released a new 7’’ single titled, “At Least She’s Still in Love With You.”  This Yankee took the blog on the road, down below "The Sweet Tea Line," to catch up with the band at The Green Lantern in Lexington, Kentucky.

This was a particularly significant and meaningful show for the band, for reasons you will learn during the interview, which made it more than worth the travel necessary in order to witness it.  Recalling that the band had previously lauded Lexington as their best city for shows, I felt compelled to make the short 3-hour trek to check out what all the fuss was about.

Jeremy Porter and the Tucos played to an enthralled crowd in their favorite road city at The Green Lantern consisting of old friends, new friends, great Lexington bands, and an overall excitement and electricity radiating throughout the venue. They opened their set with one of my favorite tracks, "Don’t Have to Ask Twice;” a perfect song to kick off a legendary set.  They played a good balance of tracks from their various releases, new songs, and even some holiday cheer as the Tucos played a song about a Christmas Dance Jeremy once attended.  By the end of their set the crowd was fully engaged and begging for more.  One of the many highlights of the show (besides bassist Patrick O’Harris getting half naked on stage) was their final song, when Bryan Minks of Bryan Minks and The Kentucky Sons joined Jeremy and The Tucos on stage to sing one of my favorite songs of theirs, “Hey Kentucky,” and the entire crowd seemed to know every word and sang along with enthusiasm and pride.  I never wanted this set to end, but alas, all good things must, and Bryan Minks and crew went on to finish the show up with a stellar set.  Of note, was the final song of the night, when Jeremy Porter and NP Presley of Lexington-based band, NP Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garron, joined Bryan and crew on stage for an unforgettable, mind-blowingly phenomenal cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” by the one and only Replacements.  This show was one of the best live music experiences I’ve had to date, and it will not soon, if ever, be forgotten.

I was able to catch up with Jeremy about what’s been going on with the band over the past year, the new single, trash can fires, and the future of The Tucos.

AMY: It’s been a little over a year since the release of, “Don’t Worry It’s Not Contagious” and our first interview.  What has life been like since the release and what have you been up to?

JP: Hey Amy - so great to talk to you again!  Life has been about the same, which is to say insanely busy. The band did somewhere just north of 40 shows this year, all but one of them on the road. We did Canada twice, we did the UK, upstate New York, the Midwest, the Rustbelt and a run down south. We played a couple bucket-list venues, we saw some beautiful country, and we had a few laughs. When we weren’t playing we were mixing and mastering the new single, and I’ve been focused on writing the next record and doing the odd solo gig. It feels like a tornado sometimes but I’m no good at standing still so I like it this way.

AMY: You recently did some touring overseas.  For those who may not have caught your wonderfully entertaining road blogs, how was that experience?  

JP:  The experience was awesome, to get to see so much of the UK and meet so many wonderful, interesting, and sometimes crazy people, and even catch up with a couple friends I rarely see, and to do it in a sprinter van with my band mates and our guitars and our songs was just great.

Musically it was a mixed bag for sure, not much different than touring the states. We had a couple really great shows at great venues - London, Workington, Swansea, Ilfracombe, and a couple real stinkers too. The same challenges there - venues that at-best tolerate rather than embrace live music, struggles getting people out on weeknights.... But it was a great adventure that I’ll always remember.

AMY: What are the best and worst memories from the trip?  I remember reading about some van issues, in particular, and the whole driving on the other side of the road thing…. 

JP:  Yeah, the travel was stressful. Patrick drove every mile and I’m eternally grateful for that because I’m not sure I could have done it. I think Gabriel felt the same. It was frustrating to be treated with such indifference at a couple of the venues, but that’s not unique to the UK, we get that here sometimes too.

On the plus side, a few of the shows were really great. That second London show was special, and the last night of the tour in Workington, in the beautiful north country, was a blast. We played a festival in Swansea, Wales that was a lot of fun, and a cute Welsh bartender told me she liked my accent. I liked that. And I just can’t get enough curry - I wanted to eat it every night but the boys wouldn’t let me. Those are the things I’ll remember.

For me, meeting people and making that personal connection is a big part of touring. I’m terrible at that outside of the context of rock and roll, so it’s important to me. I’ll remember a lot of the people we met. Even when the shows aren’t great I can almost always find something positive to take from the night.

AMY: Were the Europeans generally appreciative and/or accepting of The Tucos’ brand of Rock & Roll?

JP:  Well, yeah for the most part they were. Again, like anywhere I suppose, there’s people who get it and people who don’t. They’re a bit more polite than American audiences. I don’t think we scared anyone away. We were a bit of a novelty because we’re Yanks, so we may have gotten a little extra mileage from that. Merch sales were about average, and some nights were better than others.

AMY: November 30th you released a new single, “At Least She’s Still in Love With You” on GTG Records.  Although “Contagious” has certainly held my interest and remained steadily on the playlist, it was really exciting to hear something new from you guys.  Can you talk a little bit about this new release and its origins? And what is with the song title, “How About a Beer for Smokey The Bear?”

JP:  Yeah! Our new single came out a couple weeks back. These are songs that were recorded during the “Don’t Worry….” sessions in 2017, then we went in and finished them last summer, but that was mostly mixing and mastering, very little recording.

Smokey is a very true story about a guy with a drug problem who went into a bar on a slow weeknight, started a fire in the men’s room trash can, told the bartender there was a fire, then grabbed all the money out of her tip jar while she was putting it out. When she came back, he used the line “How about a beer for Smokey the Bear?” in an attempt to get a free drink for reporting the fire - THAT HE STARTED! It’s a huge shitbag move on many levels, but not surprising to the people who know him. The story was told to me by the owner of the bar and we all had a big laugh at that line, but there’s certainly an underlying pathetic aspect to it too.

AMY: You recorded the new single at The Loft in Saline, MI with Tim Patalan and it was mastered by Chris Goosman at Baseline Audio Labs.  Had you worked with those guys previously, or was this the first time? How did that working relationship come about?

JP: Yeah we’ve known Tim and his brother Andy since 2013 when we recorded “Partner in Crime” with them. Tim owns The Loft, which is a converted hayloft on a harness-racing horse farm in rural Michigan. They’re both in Sponge and TIm is in The Fags and they have a real gift for getting our best out of us. We did Sweet Tea Line and Don’t Worry with them as well as Partner, and the other three 7” singles we’ve done since then too. We love those guys and always enjoy working with them.

I’ve known Chris Goosman for over 20 years. When I was in SlugBug in the 90s we did our album at 40 Oz. Studios in Ann Arbor, and when our engineer Jeff Streadwick tragically and unexpectedly passed away in the middle of recording, Chris stepped in and we finished the album with him. That was 97ish. He started getting into mastering, and he’s become our go-to guy for the most part since. He’s also a good friend, he worked with my wife for a few years, and we get along well. I can be a pain in the ass, and he’s more patient than most when it comes to that. Plus I like to keep my business in Michigan whenever possible.

tucos-7in

AMY: You’re playing in Lexington with Bryan Minks and The Kentucky Sons on December 15th – you are pretty good friends with those guys, and have played with them previously, right?  Is this your last show of the year?

JP:  Bryan and I go back a few years now and we’re close friends. We’ve done countless shows together all over the country. His last band, Those Crosstown Rivals, took us on tour out west and down south in 2014 and I’ll always owe him a debt of gratitude for that.  He’s a hell of a singer and songwriter too. He’s just on the other side of crazy that I need in my life to loosen my uptight, and he knows it and gets a kick out of pushing my buttons, but he’s not off the hinges enough to give me massive anxiety when we’re hanging out. We have a similar dedication to our art and common battle stories to share. So yeah, we go way back, and Lexington has always been one of our best cities thanks in big part to him.  It is our last show of the year and our last show with Patty so it’s gonna be a good one. I can’t wait to see all of my Kentucky friends.

AMY: I heard it through the musical grapevine that there might be a lineup change in The Tucos’ future.  Can we elaborate on that at all?

JP: Yeah, it’s true - Patrick is leaving the band. He’s at a point in his life where driving around with dudes in a van, playing dive bars, and being away from home as much as we are just doesn’t hold the appeal it once did. Getting the goals and objectives of three people aligned when there’s a lot of time and work invested for very little appreciation and payback is a huge challenge. It wears on you, and I’ve been watching people drop out over the many years I’ve been at it, so I’m not surprised, I don’t resent his decision, and I am grateful that we had over four years with him. I’m very proud of the records and touring we did together.

He’s my brother and my roommate on the road, he’s a great bass player, and a huge part of our sound, and he’s been a major help with booking and travel logistics. I’ll miss him terribly, but I support his decision and wish him the best. We are and will remain friends.

Now….onward!

AMY: How do you make a change like that? Do you have a replacement?

JP:  It’s not easy, it’s not something I wanted to happen. Patty, Gabe and I can walk into any venue, big or small, and play for four hours if we have to. So losing that is daunting. We’re more or less starting at ground zero again, with no songs and no time playing together.

But there is an upside too. Getting some fresh blood in the mix can be a kick in the ass.  We can take the songs to new places, and there will hopefully be a new energy, that frankly, we need right now. The discovery period of playing with someone new is fun in its own way - kinda like the early stages of a relationship where you’re learning about each other and just want to make out all the time. I don’t think there’ll be any of that, specifically, but it is all part of making music with other humans, and it’s exciting as much as it is daunting.

We are already working with a new guy, someone I’ve known for a long time, but not closely. We’ll introduce him soon!

AMY: I also heard it through the musical grapevine that you will be making another Indy appearance at The Historic Melody Inn at the beginning of the year, and that you will be joined by fellow talented Michiganders, The Stick Arounds.  Will this be your first time playing with those guys? Personally speaking, I can’t say I’ve been more excited about a lineup in a while, if ever. Are you looking forward to returning to play The Mel stage?

JP: The Stick Arounds are good dudes, and label mates on GTG Records. I met Pops in Saginaw many years back when we shared a bill and we’ve kept in touch. He was in a country rock band back then and The Sticks are a bit more on the power pop side. Super solid songs, nice guys who are vested into their scene and have a couple great records under their belts.  We played with them in Detroit once, but I think that’s it.

Yeah I can’t wait to play your birthday show in Indy! I love driving across Ohio and Indiana in the middle of winter - I live for it! Seriously, though, The Mel is one of those places I always look forward to - Dave is a great guy and it’s a super solid lineup. We’re humbled to be asked and so grateful for all of your support over the last year plus. How could we possibly say no?

AMY: What is in store for you and The Tucos in 2019?  What is next? What are the band’s goals/plans for the new year?

JP:  The plan is to break in the new bassist and record a new record.  We’re planning to take the spring off of the road for the first time in 5 years and work on the new stuff. With a little luck and a lot of hard work we’ll have a new record to hit the road with later in the year.

Amy: Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions and we can't wait to see you back in Indy again.  

JP:  Thank YOU Amy! Your passion for music inside of the Indy scene and outside as well is contagious.

Amy:  So then DO worry, because it IS contagious?   Thanks Jeremy!  See you next month at Indy’s best venue for live music, The Historic Melody Inn with The Stick Arounds, Sietch Ramshackle, and Tracksuit Lyfestyle.  We can’t wait to have you back!

Check out Jeremy Porter and The Tucos on all of the usual outlets, and for the love of all things holy get out and see this band whenever at all humanly possible.

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