The Jayhawks: "We Were Never of the Moment and We May Never Be"
JPG: I was thinking that it was an interesting creative arc where it’s you and Mark in Jayhawks, Mark leaves, you continue with Jayhawks. Then, you make solo releases and rejoin Mark for tour dates and a duo album and you’re together again with Jayhawks. Can you have ever envisioned it coming full circle like that?
GL: Noooo…I never thought Mark and I would really…maybe once we reunited in the early 2000s, it started becoming apparent that we still had our thing. But, that’s a long jump between doing that and actually doing a full band.
It’s a complicated band. We’re not like U2. It’s not like the same four people through the whole thing. The band is complicated but we’re complicated people. There’s no straight role player in this band. Everybody’s smart, other than me, and they all have ideas and nobody just wants to troll along here. We’re an interesting band that has no real simple solution like how are we going to play songs after Olson left or whatever. I don’t worry about that. Right now, I’m concentrating on the new record and these shows and these re-issues.
JPG: Speaking of the band itself, if it was just you and Mark going out and doing shows to support these re-issues, and it was billed as the Guys from the Jayhawks, most people wouldn’t have a major problem with that. Why was it important to get the band together with Marc and Karen and Tim?
GL: It’s important for people to see the full band. Plus, there’s the personality to each of them that contributes. We learned that a lot by me just from me and Olson going out and singing, ‘Hey! We’re the Jayhawks! We wrote the songs and sang ‘em.’ But people want to see the band. They want to see the band they remember, and there’s a reason and it’s because they all contributed musically. There are different periods but for the Olson/Louris lineup this is the best one with Karen and Tim, and we’ve got four real singers and Pearlman who’s a great bass player and songwriter in his own right.
I don’t know…it’s like would you want to go see the Beatles, and see some other guy on bass. Well, it’s different for them ‘cause their bass player was McCartney.
JPG: I don’t know. You could say the Band.
GL: Oh yeah, go see the Band but you don’t have Danko or some other guy. I’ve seen the Byrds play and they had Gene Clark and Nicky Hopkins playing piano, which was great, but they didn’t have Roger McGuinn and Mike Clarke, who wasn’t the world’s greatest drummer but he was part of the Byrds. It’s just that people love that and you realize that there’s something about that chemistry. You can’t just interchange people all the time. They all bring their thing to the table. Part of it is a little bit nostalgic, people want to see the band like they remember it but for us and a lot bands, there’s a reason. There was a chemistry.
JPG: Now, is it going to be the same group of musicians who will be playing on the new album?
GL: Yes, as yet untitled but the new work doesn’t come out til late spring/early summer on Rounder. And, I’m very excited about it, of course. It’s got a lot of elements of…the idea was, ‘Let’s take Tomorrow the Green Grass, and what would have happened afterwards if Olson would have stayed.’ But it doesn’t sound like Tomorrow the Green Grass because we’re all different people. It’s definitely got a lot of the same elements. It’s got me plugged in and big and fuzzy and loud. It’s got Olson/Louris vocals. It’s got a little Karen and Tim vocals. It’s got six-seven minute songs, it’s got some two-minute songs. It’s a very interesting record, I think.
*JPG: I was going to say 2003’s Rainy Day Music, I hate to use the word “sequel” but it did seem like a follow up to Tomorrow the Green Grass minus Mark Olson. It also had, as the Europeans would say, that soothing feeling.
GL: Yeah, it was much more acoustic. This record is much more of me plugged in. There’s no denying that I love playing acoustically with Mark and the way that he and I can lock in together, acoustically, and do our picking…English folk picking is one of my favorite that we have ever done. But I love to plug in and hit on my fuzz pedal. That’s a part of me. That’s something I haven’t really done much in a long time so that’s something that has resurfaced here with this record.
JPG: Now, when you and Mark went out on the road together and then released the duo album, Ready for the Flood back in 2008 did that grease the wheels to where we are now?
GL: Oh, in many ways. You can put as many stickers on your posters saying, ‘From the Jayhawks’ or ‘Lead singers from the Jayhawks.’ But people would come up after the shows and 70% of them would say, ‘God, I love your show. It was so great. What’s the band doing?’ It was always, ‘When’s the band getting back together?’ They all want to see the band. And after awhile you start going, ‘I’m just fighting upstream here.’ People want to see the band, and who are we to deny it ‘cause I kinda want to plug in, too. And you can do both. That’s the beauty of it. Who says you can’t do the band and then have Mark and I go off and do our solo thing. There’s nothing that says you can’t. There’s hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month, months in the year to do all that. Once again, I think our MO is that we can do the Jayhawks, that Mark and I can split off and do our Mark and Gary thing, and Mark can go off and do a solo record and I can produce and we can do it all. We’re hard workers. But the band is really fulfilling for me and for all of else.
The goal for me to get the love of a new audience, the people who didn’t see us back in the day. But for the real diehards it’s nostalgic and it’s not only trying to relive stuff but it’s important music to them and to us. We weren’t a party band. We’re not a dance band. We’re a music band. Hopefully, this time around we catch a few more people that missed us back then or were too young.
JPG: Well, it’s not like you were A Flock of Seagulls who had a couple big MTV hits and then vanished. There’s a timeless quality to what you do. You had a sound that bears interest then as much as it does now. So, the old fans are there as much due to a desire that’s not of the pop scene of the moment.
GL: We were never of the moment and we may never be. It’s bad for immediate success but it’s good for longevity. The bands that I knew that had huge hits now would warm up for us. It’s funny. So, if you stick around long enough and the music is good I think it’s better to have a slow build then a quick rise and fall.
Well, who knows, long and slow and steady wins the race, I guess. It’s much more fun to get rich quick but I think we’re like old money. It took us awhile to get there and we’re still here. We have a new record, and I’m excited about it.