Within the realm of the local music scene and mixed in with the hip-hop, electronic, electronic, punk and everything else, there is the bar band. The no apology, get a little ripped on stage and play some rock and roll music.
Undeniably Minnesota influenced, J Eastman and the Drunk Uncles throw a mix of alt-country and rock right into your ears. The song they featured on Rift’s 100 days of local music, “Josephine” is a catchy and cool song. It almost reminds me of The Lemonheads slower tracks.
J Eastman answered some questions for us, and it didn’t disappoint. A band who wrote a song called “John Tesh” has to have to have a good sense of humor, right?
Rift: How did J. Eastman and the Drunk Uncles get started?
J Eastman: A lost bet? A dare gone wrong? Court ordered community service? A bad decision made while inebriated? All of the above? The truth is, I started playing music years ago as a pretty bad solo acoustic guy – and after answering a craigslist ad, Chad and I have been playing music together in one form or another for about ten years. The Uncles as constituted has been around for about two years now.
Rift: How does the songwriting process work?
J Eastman: I’m not sure if “work” is the right way to describe the process. I’m pretty slow with writing new material, but I’m usually working on 2 or 3 songs at any given time. I will come up with the music and start hurling words until something sticks. And while my name is right there in front, we work pretty democratically – anyone can bring in a song or lyric idea, chord progression, whatever and the rest of us will try to shape it into something that essentially sounds like the Drunk Uncles. Or not.
Rift: What are the band’s influences, and what new music inspires?
J Eastman: Thankfully, we all have very similar influences in terms of music – we’re all really in tune with the local music scene, going back to the 80’s. The Replacements and Soul Asylum are reflected in our music. You’ll hear a bit of Uncle Tupelo in what we do. When we play our ode to John Tesh, you definitely hear a bit of the classic 90’s grunge sound. In one of our newer songs, we channel Pavement. Speaking of new music, I’ve been listening to the new Charly Bliss album quite a bit. Jason Isbell. Car Seat Headrest.
Rift: What does the band think of the internet music business model?
J Eastman: Creating and independently getting music out to a potential audience has never been easier than it is right now. Marketing is the biggest problem. Generating interest and building a base is the biggest hurdle, and that falls on the band. And as it turns out, I’m the worst when it comes to waving my own flag. So, a lot of what we do relies on networking and word of mouth and the occasional spin on a radio station(Thanks, Sean McPherson!).
The idea that you have to get signed to a record label is an antiquated way of doing things – it works great for the big established acts, but the beauty of the internet model is getting music to the audience directly.
Rift: Does the band have local places they like to play and bands they like to play with?
J Eastman: I think we’re pretty lucky to have had the opportunities that we’ve had – for a bunch of guys writing and recording original music; we’re a bit older than the rest of the demographic. There’s so many great places to play here in town, it’s hard to narrow that down – some of the most memorable include Lee’s Liquor Lounge, and Larry at the Driftwood has always been great to us. When it comes to bands we’ve really enjoyed playing with…we’ve played a couple of great shows with Tim Casey. Every time we play with Pasadena ‘68/Dakota Shakedown I can’t believe how good they are, every show with them is like some cool secret. Ghost Wagon is alt-country done right. Check them out too. Truthfully, there is a great little music scene here, and everyone supports each other.
Rift: What’s next up for J. Eastman and The Drunk Uncles?
J Eastman: What’s next? I think we just take things as they come. We’ll keep writing, recording and playing as long as we can. I don’t know if we’ll put out another CD in the traditional sense like we did last year, but we’ll still put music online and keep booking shows. I’m pretty happy with what we’ve accomplished. There’s still a couple more bucket list venues we’d like to play, and I’ve been pushing to get at least one of our songs on vinyl – anyone wanna do a split with us??
Rift: There is drunk in the name, and the band lists alcohol as the band and personal interests. How often is the band drunk, and is there a drunk story you need to tell?
J Eastman: There’s probably a bunch of stories that probably shouldn’t be told! I don’t know…I mean, it’s hard to escape the stigma that comes with such a name, and there’s probably an abnormal number of songs that we play that reference consumption in some form, but the fact is that we’re all uncles, and yes, we might enjoy a beverage or two…but I don’t think we live up to that part of the name as much as we could. I suppose we could work a little harder at that.
Rift: The band bio mentions existential anxiety, Why do J. Eastman and The Drunk Uncles exist, and what do they have to bring to the meaning of life?
J Eastman: Oh boy – nothing deep here…the fact is, we live in some pretty tense times. We’re not trying to say anything specific or represent some specific cause – to paraphrase one of our own songs, we have no political agenda. I’m hoping when people see us on stage, we’re putting a smile on faces and maybe helping them forget about reality for just a little bit – because we’re just four guys on stage doing the same exact thing…taking a break from reality. Ultimately, we’d like everyone just to get along.
Rift: If the band had a piece of advice about anything at all, what would it be?
Chad: As it turns out, I’m full of bad advice.
Hennepin County Millionaires Club had a debut album all finished up that morphed into an album dedicated to the loss of their friend and bandmate, Johnny Becker.
All in all, HCMC sound like a fun band. The seventeen tracks on the album “In Loving Memory of Johnny Becker, ” rock, jazz and mix it up. Horns, great basslines, and some cool guitar and keyboards mixed in.
Their sound, live show, and determination to keep rolling on, has endeared them to their fans. Those fans flocked to Riftmagazine.com to make HCMC finalists in the Rift 100 Days of Music.
Rift: How did you come up with the name Hennepin County Millionaires Club?
HCMC: “A number of the guys in the band grew up in Edina.” That right there, the instant mental reaction (often verbal) that an incredible amount of people have to that statement is what inspired the name.
It doesn’t matter where you go or who you talk to, but you really can’t say you’re from Edina without receiving some comment back. Whether it’s “ohhhhh, Edina,” the timeless classic “cake eaters!”, or something as verbally creative as “rich bitches,” it’s always there, like clockwork, and rarely a positive (or even neutral) response.
Yes, we are aware that stereotypes are nothing new and this is not a unique situation. So this is by no means a complaint. It’s just a humorous observation that some of us relate. The fascinating and comical part is just how predictable it is, no matter the interaction. The times I cherish are when the reaction involves some remark about how close-minded everyone is – because nothing says close-minded like labeling an entire population as being close-minded.
Anyways, we wanted to find a way to poke fun at the apparent need to verbally express 100% dedication to a stereotype. During this discussion/brainstorming session, our buddy Mustache Tony threw out “Hennepin County Millionaires Club, ” and we thought it was perfect.
Rift: What is the driving force for making music for the band?
HCMC: When you find something that gives you pleasure and makes you happy, you want to keep doing that thing. For us, that happens to be making music with each other. We’re extremely lucky to all be friends, which makes the making music part a lot easier. It’s the perfect excuse to spend time together and be productive at the same time.
On the other end, the feeling that you get when you see other people who are positively affected by anything that you do, in our case music, is a major driving force as well. If you are knowingly making other people happy, especially with something you’ve created, why stop?
On top of those heart-touching and tear-inducing sentiments, making music is just fun as hell!
Rift: You did a pretty good job attracting people to your 100 days of Local Music post, do you have a social media system or is it just thrown all out there?
HCMC: We just use the tried-and-true methods laid out for us by demigod M. Zuckerberg and the rest of those greased-up Silicon Valley, baby-faced genius tycoons.
But for real, I think we are just very lucky to have an extremely supportive group of people that happen to enjoy coming to our shows and listening to our music. (It also helps to tease an album release for two years before releasing anything from it.)
I was surprised to see the response that we did get from the 100 Days of Local Music, so thank you for the platform!!
Rift: The loss of Johnny Becker, had an immediate impact on the local scene and we had written about it, in another post about the band The Gated Community. Was rolling on and dedicating the new album to him important to all of you?
HCMC: This was a complete and utter tragedy, and I feel this loss every single day. There’s no other way to describe it.
Johnny and I became instant friends the first time we met. I was 15 then, and I’m 31 now. Throughout that time, the music that we wrote and created together never had an end in sight. We always had plans to do, make, and achieve more. The mutual inspiration, respect, and creative expression that I was able to share with Johnny are irreplaceable.
“Rolling on” and progressing as a band after this tragedy was an extremely hard thing to do but an easy decision to make. We had to face the fact that we’re a different band now – we sound different, we act differently, we think differently, the things we appreciate and value are different, and it’s all completely out of our control.
The progress we made and the hard work we put in as a band before Johnny’s passing needed to continue, two-fold. We aren’t anywhere near done creating and truly feel as though this is the beginning stage. We all know that Johnny shared this mindset, and giving up and quitting would have been the absolute last thing he would have wanted. Carrying on is not only allowing us to make new music and play more shows, but it’s the best way possible, in my mind, to honor our dear friend.
Our album was originally going to be self-titled and have ten songs on it. We were finishing up the artwork and layout the day before Johnny passed. In the following days of complete confusion, sadness, anger, every single emotion that one can experience, adding the other seven songs and dedicating the album to Johnny was the only thing that made sense.
It’s an amazing thing that we’re able to have that documented collection of music with our friend. It’s amazing that we can hear his voice anytime we want.
Rift: With the horns and everything, does somebody write out the arrangement or is it just a jam and everyone write their own parts? How does that writing process work?
HCMC: Honestly, we hardly jam at all. Typically the songs are already written, horn parts and all. The song is brought to practice where we may work out some additional harmonies, slightly adjust parts and song structure, other things like that. Then it’s just trying to solidify our performance of it.
Rift: Is there a manager type in the band, that handles booking etc. Or is it a group effort?
HCMC: There aren’t any official roles or titles like that in the band. I suppose I end up taking on a lot of the duties when it comes to coordinating schedules, booking, and all that sort of thing, but everyone tends to keep their ear to the ground for potential shows and other opportunities.
RIFT: What are some the band’s favorite venues, other bands and things you like about the local scene?
HCMC: I guess we like anywhere that lets us play! I think some of our fondest show memories thus far have been Icehouse, Nomad, Eagles Club, and of course the Minnesota RollerGirls half-time show. One of my personal favorite places to play in town is the Turf Club so it’d be great to get HCMC over there.
The Minnesota music scene has proven to be very incestual. I love being able to go to shows and seeing people, that I know and play with, perform in a wide range of projects. It gives you a different perspective on not just all the music that’s so easily accessible around here but also affects the way you value the abilities, preferences, and achievements of the people you play with. Also, there’s so much crossover in people who come out to the shows just because they enjoy live music. You have the unique opportunity to meet and get to know people that you otherwise would never cross paths with.
Rift: What does the future hold for HCMC, over the next year?
HCMC: All I can tell you is what we will strive to achieve – We will continue writing and recording lots of new music because, ya know, we gotta express ourselves, man. We also plan to be more vigilant in the frequency in which we are booking and playing shows (hit us up!). We feel we’ve dropped the ball in that department over the last couple of years, whatever the excuse, and we plan to remedy that. We just want to get out there more and make more people happy; it’s a bit of self-indulgence too because we want more excuses to play music together.
Rift: If you had one piece of advice about anything at all, what would it be?
HCMC: Over the past few months, time has taken on a new meaning for us all. Tragedy has certainly shed new light on the things we value and unknowingly (and knowingly) take for granted. Life’s completely unpredictable so give every moment to the people and things that you love. This isn’t permanent. Hug your loved ones and don’t wait until tomorrow to tell them what they mean to you. Tell them now.
Photo By Decent Exposure.
Somewhere between The Pixies and early thrashing punk, Rapedoor goes there. Unapologetic live shows with no filter and catchy and sometimes crude in your face songs have garnered them a strong following.
Their name has caused a little bit of controversy, some clubs have had them change the name on flyers for shows. Their name like their live show seems to match the shock factor involved.
They also have a rabid fanbase that drove up the views for Rift 100 days of music, and this is the third interview from that promotion.
Rift: Your songs don’t follow any formula, and there is a mix of punk, heavy rock and roll, blues and sometimes you slow it down a little. Are there some main influences, or other musicians you like?
RD: We all have different tastes, and we feed off of each other’s influences, there is a lot of cd swapping, pretty much any and all music with heart, uniqueness, and is authentic, shoot, pretty much any and all music!!!!
Rift: With a live show that sometimes is on the edge of bad taste and a little shocking, is there anything, in particular, you want your audience to leave with?
RD: We hope they saw our love, energy, and craziness and were able to share in it, and felt the freedom to be themselves and to express themselves
Rift: When you are in the studio recording, do you try to capture that same energy as when you play live.
RD: We don’t try to capture anything, whenever we play, whether it be live or recording, we play from our gut.
Rift: Are there local bands and venues that are your favorites?
RD: Our local scene is AMAZING, it would be impossible to list a few. If you are reading this check out the Minnesota scene and hit the venues and you will see what we mean!!
Rift: Have there been obstacles the way the music scene has changed with digital music etc…?
RD: The obstacle of our name takes up most of the room we have for obstacles
Rift: Since you have two singers, how does the songwriting process work?
RD: We have three singers Ron, Odi, and Nicole and Jake made his singing debut on “The Stonedest.” For song writing we all contribute, one of us will bring a song idea or full song, and we will all jam it to completion, or we will just be jamming, and songs form.
Rift: What’s coming up for the band?
RD: We just released our 6th album titled “The Stonedest, ” and we have two more albums in the works, we will be setting up a tour, and we have a super secret surprise coming soon called “Dork Points.”
Rift: If you were to give a piece of advice to someone about anything at all, what would it be?
RD: BANANA XOXOXO
Photos By Tony Nelson