If you’re talking music towns, then Austin, Texas is sure to come up in the conversation. The history, the influences, SXSWyou can walk down Sixth Street nearly any night of the week and catch a dozen good bands playing in the bars. You can’t even swing a dead cat in Austin without hitting someone that could have killed that cat with a few searing Stratocaster licks. But while Austin may be famous for country, blues, and rock, there’s a hometown jamband that’s expanding the repertoire-taking those influences and others and spinning them around-and spreading a lot of fun along the way.
About seven and a half years ago, some guys from Austin got together to jam. They didn’t have any songs of their own, but they all liked Widespread Panic and knew the songs. So they started jamming Panic tunes on certain nights: jams code named LARRY. Soon, the band began forming its own sound and the funny name stuckand it’s gone nuts from there.
Jamband world, it’s time you met LARRY. “He” is one of your freaky new friends that is going to be around awhile. You’re going to enjoy “his” crazy vibeand he’s going stick to you like their funky homeless friend Sticky G, on their latest live Lauan records release Among Friends. There’s plenty of LARRY to go around, no need to push kidsLARRY loves you.
With the addition of bassist Bob Perkins to the already stable lineup of brothers Andy (drums) and Tom (guitar) Vickers, Jeff Bradbury (vocals, washboard), Rick Cannon (harmonica) and Tom “Fee” Watts (guitar), about three years ago, LARRY began to find its sound in a hurry. Like most good bands, you can’t exactly label it-the group’s music is an expression of the influences and personalities of the band as a collective. They like to call it southadelic hick-hop’, but I think LARRY’s the back porch guy that got abducted by hard jamming aliens. The harp immediately draws comparisons to Blues Traveler, but these guys ain’t droppin’ no NYC. Dueling/shadowing guitars that echo the Allman’sWillie, Waylonsouth of the borderfunk. You can’t pin LARRY down.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting LARRY twice in the past yearat the Big Wu Family Reunion, where they surprised everyone with a Tenacious D cover (when the D were only rock gods in the making), and most recently at a little bar outside of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Didn’t matter that the LARRY boys didn’t know who I was, they were glad to see me and everyone else they ran into. The guys from LARRY are really nice cats, and they are surrounded by an aura of fun. You can tell when these guys hit the stage, or talking to people between sets, they are truly enjoying what they are doing. When that happens then it’s only a matter of time before EVERYONE is enjoying what the band is doingand it’s beginning to happen that way for LARRY. They’ve found a collective energy that is beginning to grab people from all over the country in for a closer look.
Here’s a closer look into LARRY through the words of vocalist/washboardist Jeff Bradberry
PP-Paul Pearson, Jambands.com
JB-Jeff Bradberry, LARRY
PP-Everything I’ve read about you guys says it, and experiencing two of your shows now I know it’s true-LARRY has a very fun vibe surrounding it. From just meeting you guys briefly, I can tell that you’re all pretty laid back, down to earth guys who like to have fun playing music and that projects to the crowd. I know you guys like to screw around and have fun-like the Tenacious D cover at the Big Wu Family Reunion or the Dukes of Hazzard theme on your disc
JB-We’re all pretty much goofy guys when we’re on the road for awhile. Bob joined about 3 years ago and fit right in-he’s just as goofy as the rest of us. We definitely have our arguments but it all works out. We get road madness’. But generally we’re all down to earth regular folks. When we first started playing live it was a little nerve-wracking. One of our ways to deal with our playing-when we would miss a note, etc., we’d laugh it off. Even if we are playing to three people, we try to take the music seriously, but everything else not so much. One of the reasons we like Tenacious D is that the “D” makes fun of the whole rock star thing’. It’s funny, and you can’t take yourselves too seriously. That’s the only way to be. Music should be fun.
PP-Give us some more of the “Philosophy of LARRY”? What are some of the ideas you guys believe and live as a band?
JB-Kill em with kindness. If we get a disgruntled sound man, or if anything goes wrong, we keep smiling and push on through-that’s our attitude. Whatever happens, instead of being rude, we will be nice as pie. The bar business can be rough, several of us have worked in it, so we understand. Everyone we come in contact with always invites us back. We don’t take ourselves t seriously, but we are good people and we wouldn’t be in the band together without it.
PP-Austin is obviously one of the top live music hubs in the country. But, Austin’s also a very competitive live music scene-great players and bands seem to be a dime a dozen-was it tough being FROM Austin? How did the band survive and evolve out of the Austin scene and has it helped you elsewhere in the country?
JB- On the road, “Oh, they’re from Austin?!”-that has helped. The funny thing about the Austin scene is although it’s competitive-not like trash-talking competitive-it’s also supportive. Most of the musicians get along and want to see each other do well. If one of us is doing good we’re always willing to help other bands starting out, just like other bands gave us opening slots on their shows in the past. We’re trying to help others out too. There’s a lot of different music coming on and people want to go to Austin to get startedwe’re trying to get it going everywhere. People in Austin have been very supportive, and it’s always the best playing for the home crowd. But really to do anything you have to get out.
PP-There’s a lot of influences from outlaw’ country to blues and rock and everything else in the Austin area. How does your style of jam music, which incorporates harmonica and washboard and rock and country, funk and jam’ reflect the place you guys come from?
JB-Definitely we have country influences like Willie Nelson. But the Austin music scene is about having a good time-it doesn’t matter what style of music you play. If we like it the first time we try it-waltzes, Irish songs, pretty much whatever we want to do-we’ll do it. We’re definitely influenced by the music we hear in Austin and also everywhere else, including hanging out with the Leftover Salmon guys recently. Basically we’re just 6 guys with a variety of individual and collective influences and those come together.
PP-Let’s talk about the LARRY sound and how it evolved. Two guitars, bass, drums-no big difference there-but then you add the harp and the washboard and things get a bit different than your average jambandis it a big part of your uniqueness.’ What else is unique about the LARRY sound?
JB-When we first started playing, we had no originals. We were all into Panic, we all knew the songs and it was one way to jam together. You can’t get away from your influences. Then people started coming up with songs. You have a song, I have a song-hey, let’s try them out. I don’t know if we tried to sound like anything or anybody in particular, if we like it we play it. You take what you hear and put your own spice on it. We do whatever we want to do and that’s what we like.
Be real, I guess. Doing something that seems natural, you will be better at it. When I see a show, I can tell when the band is being real or when they are doing what they think a crowd wants to hear. I like what Fee and Tom write-I agree with their songs. “That makes perfect sense, I like how you put that.” They mean something to me when I’m singing. I don’t feel like I’m just going through the lines, and it means something to them too.
As far as being unique, the harmonica adds a bunch! Ricky has his own style of playing that sounds like keyboards up there. The crowd really likes the washboard. I saw someone playing and I said, “I bet I could do that!” It’s not that easy, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing. I don’t know if it affects the overall sound or if it just gets people up pumped upThey’re like “Woo hoo!” And they get going.
The bass and drums are really tight. In the past three years we have come together musically. The guitars are working together, not like a separate rhythm and lead. I like to get after em on stage-when one is taking the lead, I’ll tell the other one to get on him and push him with the rhythm. Rhythm guitar doesn’t have to be boring-you can do some interesting things and they will do something more interesting with the lead. The best nights, things just kind of happen and grow and explode when you’re not really thinking about it. The sound expands-everything is locked together, everyone knows where that point is. It’s like saying, “I’m with you, I understand you,” the whole thing gets biggerthat’s the beauty.
I have the best seat in the house, as I can turn around and see my friends playing REALLY well. Most of the practice we do is on stage, travelling aroundmagical things happen. That’s what makes it for us. We are playing the same songs over and over, but occasionally an old song becomes new on a personal level.
PP-The band’s been around over 7 years and started out kind of as a Widespread cover band. What did it mean to have Domingo Ortiz jam with you guys in 1997 at the Mercury?
JB-It meant a lot-it was a big deal. He got back there and jammed with us and I had to turn around and catch myself, because he was basically playing what our percussionist at the time would have played. It was cool.
PP-Obviously the last year has been a big one for you. What were some of the major highlights of the past year or goals the band has achieved?
JB-High Sierra was a big one for us. It’s like the Super Bowl of music-there’s so many great musicians walking around playing, talking and jamming. Colorado was first state out of Texas that we ventured to in the past, and lately all the shows have been good. All of our hard work playing in front of 10 people a few years ago has paid off. When there were lulls, we’d ask ourselves “Are we doing the right thing?” It looks like we have. The Leftover festival was great. The chance to get to know them and hang out with them has been fun. We’ve been taking little steps and not setting our goals super high. The past three years, the music has come where we want it. We don’t want to sound the same as the last year or the year before. More recognition has made it easier.
PP-How about the Big Wu Family Reunion?
JB-Can’t forget that, for sure. They treated us so well. Once we feel we can pull something like that off in Texas we’d love to do that. Everybody got paid the same, treated the same, and with the musicians themselves setting it up it will be better. It truly embodies that family spirit. They got it going on.
PP-How has your relationship with Lauan Records made a difference in the progression of LARRY and the success of your touring over the past couple of years?
JB-It has definitely helped. Seth Goldberger (Lauan Records) has come in and likes what we’re doing. He wants to do this and help us out. We hooked up with Randy Alexander (RANDEX Communications) who’s been busting his butt. We needed it. Press, articles-he said “You guys concentrate on music-we’ll handle this end.” Mountain High Music is our booking agent, they are three blocks from Lauan in Boulder, so they work well together. We can’t say enough about those guys, they’re really helpful.
PP-If LARRY could go wherever LARRY wanted, where would LARRY go and who would LARRY bring with?
JB-Guys, where would we go and who would we bring with? (from the background) “Australia!” “Amsterdam!” If we had unlimited access to funds, we’d take a big European tour with all of our friends and everybody who has put us up over the years.
PP-Anything else you feel like adding about the LARRY vibe?
JB-The Wu Family is a good example of what we’re about-that family’ vibe is really important to us. Two of our releases are A Family Album and Among Friends. That’s how we look at the people that come to our shows. Jamband fans have to get the live show, cause there’s not much on the radio. We hang out with them, spreadin’ the love. That’s mainly what we try to do when we’re out. Otherwise we could be at home playing.
LARRY’s got too many people yet to please to be “just” at home playing in Austin. Chances are, LARRY’s coming to see you pretty soon. Don’t be afraid to go for a washboard ride in LARRYLAND. Just smile and remember, LARRY Loves You!