INTERVIEW: Genuine Leather

Hi Chris, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve been good! Its getting very very hot in Austin right now so i’m pretty much sweating constantly and trying to find some a/c. As I’m writing this, the news weatherman just said it’s going to be “dangerously hot.”

Can you talk to us more about the latest single “Ol’ 55”? What made you think of glamming up this Tom Wait’s track?

The glam aspect came about almost as a default since Genuine Leather wouldn’t really be able to pull off a subtle heartfelt ballad version like the Waits or Eagles versions. Right now, I’m a big proponent of harmonized guitar solos so I wanted to give it a glammy 80s vibe – almost over the top.

Did any event in particular inspire you to cover this song?

The idea came about one night that me and some guys in the band were hanging out, drinking beer and playing each other music, trading songs. I was geeking out about the song “Ol 55” from the Eagles’ On the Border. I was just absolutely loving the line in the chorus, “Freeways, cars and trucks.” It’s simple and Americana, it’s almost a cop out because it’s so straight down the middle of the road, heart of America. We were just trading songs back and forth and got real into that version of the song, not knowing it was a Tom Waits track. At the time, we didn’t have any plans for recording any new music at that time so I we decided to cover it.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

We’re wrapping up an EP of all new tunes and keeping a pretty consistent live schedule and workshopping all the new songs this summer so a video is falling pretty far down the priority list right now. I’ve got a bunch of great ideas for videos though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you see one later this year.

How was the recording?

The Genuine Leather recording process changes from song to song. I’m used to recording everything myself in my bedroom. At this point, I’ve got a reasonable studio setup in my house and we can get fairly good quality recordings out of it. If we have the time and money, we’ll go into my buddies studio and get some real good sounding stuff, but for these covers, I wanted to give it the old Genleath vibe. I recorded everything except for the drums, which I had Cullen, my drummer, come in and knock out for me after i did a demo track.

During the process, the software I was using to record the track got screwed up and actually pushed up the pitch of everything a whole step. When I originally sang it, it was already at the very top of my range, and now that it’s up nearly a whole step, I really have to reach to get up there. I planned on adding some lap steel maybe some keys to the song, but after everything got pitched up, it was impossible to play to it in tune, so we put it out how it is.

What role does Texas play in your music?

That’s an interesting question – i wouldn’t say me or Genuine Leather is trying to actively represent Texas in any way. You can probably find dudes like us in any state or city. If I had to attribute something to Texas, it would be the laid back, beer-drinking, heart-broken state of mind that tends to creep its way into songs I write. But this cover in particular has country roots so that’s something.

How has the likes of Spoon and Mac DeMarco influenced your writing?

I’m a fan of Spoon, but I’m not really trying to emulate what they do with their music at all. Maybe the way Brit Daniels sings – i like the way he gets his words out. As for Mac, when he came out with “2,” I was really excited because I’m a home recorder at heart. I like to noodle in my room and really get into songs. I feel like Mac’s approach to making music has helped me trust in my process a little bit more. It’s okay to write and record a bad song. It’s going to happen. He’s not a perfectionist about his music and I’m not either so it’s nice to see a musician take it as far as he is.

What is it about the 70s Cali rock that you enjoy so much?

I was raised on it. My folks listened to a lot of the Eagles in the old suburban. Some Grateful Dead, some Little Feat. So it’s sort of stuck around. In my 20s, I drifted away from it a bit but later on I came back to it with the realization that Eagles were meticulous song writers with super high standards and they could actually pull it off without coming across as pretentious on record. They were like my gateway into the California sound. From there, i started to seek out other sub-genres like folk rock, soft rock, 80s metal and yacht rock and they started to really appeal to me. I just admire the arrangements, instrumentation, and the fact that they were always trying to write a great hook.

Can we expect a new original material – how’s that coming along?

We’re in the midst of putting the finishing touches on a new EP. I think it’s going to end up being 5 songs total. It’s got a couple guitar bangers on there, but I think it’ll be pretty airy and groovy. I’m using drum samples for a lot of the songs so that it has that hybrid sound. Part analog rock, part dream-synth balladry.

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

No title yet, but I’ve always wanted to name an album “Truck” with a big rig on the cover. So that might end up being it. We’re shooting to wrap recording mixing and mastering in August/September.

Any plans to hit the road?

It’s tough to get 5 or 6 guys out on the road, coordinate time off work and then book all of your own shows, AND make money. We’ll tour when the time is right, not looking to go bankrupt to play empty rooms outside of Austin. That being said, we’re putting out new music and definitely getting more listeners in and outside of Austin, so we’re keeping an eye out for show opportunities outside of Austin.

What else is happening next in Genuine Leather’s world?

I’ve been recording since 2004 under a ton of different silly band names and I’m currently going through all of my old songs and albums that I’ve made with all my different friends throughout the years, remixing and mastering those songs and albums, and reissuing them on my personal bandcamp, We’re talking 35+ albums, eps and hundreds of songs. It’s been really fun going through all of my old songs – a lot of it is embarrassing stuff. My hope is to have it all online and up to date by the end of the year.

Listen here

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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