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.