KC: Switching gears, we dug up this old Los Angeles Times article from 1991 where they interviewed a 24-year-old John Popper. He described the band like this: “It’s our garage band attempt at our appreciation of jazz improvisation through the reality of rock ‘n’ roll.”
CK: I remember when that was his go-to phrase. We were a basement band, but we loved all different kinds of music. We started out with blues, but a couple of the guys went to New School in New York, which has a big jazz program, so we also played jazz. And we were huge fans of classic rock – The Allman Brothers, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead and Eric Clapton, who all improvised a lot. That’s what was kind of interesting. We took all those influences, along with punk and new wave, mashed them together and kind of jammed on them while also being influenced by the improvisational style of rock and roll.
KC: Do you think that description from 1991 still holds true today?
CK: One hundred percent.
KC: In that same article, Popper said he originally wanted to be a comedian, but he wasn’t funny enough. We know you’re all funny guys, but…
CK: What’s so funny about me? There’s nothing funny about me! Sorry, go ahead.
KC: No. Definitely not. But who is the funniest bandmate?
CK: Everyone’s got their style. I’m kind of the aggressive, inappropriate one-liners guy. Tad is more of the snarky aside guy. Ben is a big goofy guy. John is kind of the wacky, ‘where did that come from’ guy. And Brandon is kind of the slow burn Irishman whose got that wonky English sense of humor.
KC: You sound like our type of people. So, John doesn’t steal the show when it comes to the humor? It’s the whole band?
CK: Yeah, you can’t survive out here if you take yourself too seriously. I guess that’s what has kept us together for 35 years.
KC: We have the same approach to work and life, especially in our neck of the woods – we need a little humor sometimes.
CK: I’m from Princeton. I know of which you speak.
KC: Your last album, Traveler’s Blues, was all covers, why? Did you run out of things to say?
CK: We’d considered doing a blues record for years. We were a blues band in high school, but we quickly devolved, or evolved, into what we are today because of all those different influences. But everyone always asked us, ‘why Blues Traveler?’ And it’s because we actually started out as a blues band. So, we always wanted to show people we could actually play blues, and that’s kind of how it came about.
KC: We read it was actually quite difficult for you to make the album because you had to practice restraint. What was that like?
CK: Yeah, all the covers are classic blues songs from way, way back. I have to give credit to our fearless producer Matt Rollings for getting us to simplify and actually stick to the form because our instinct is to always play more and add cool parts to this and that. But it was a good learning process for us to strip it down. And perhaps, when we next go into the studio to do an original record, whenever that may be, we’ll take some of our music and strip it down.
KC: Please keep the blues going. We think it’s great that you’re focusing on that, and we hope you can help bring some of that music back.
CK: Hey, we got nominated for a Grammy for that album! We all went to the Grammys and hung out with all the little pop superstars. It was pretty hilarious.
KC: They could use a little Muddy Waters in their life.
CK: Yeah, they definitely could. But they can sing, though. All those little kids can sing their tails off.
KC: Who was your favorite collaborator on Traveler’s Blues?
CK: You know who really surprised me? The two voices behind The War and Treaty. They were super cool. And I just love them as an outfit. They have some smooth voices, and they’re talented musicians all around.
KC: What we really like about your music is that most blues artists get better with age, but your old stuff is just as good as your newer stuff.
CK: You’re right, the blues playing does get better with age. But I think we’ve also gotten better. During our first decade, when we miraculously got some pop hits – which was the last thing we expected, we were just going on energy. It was great, but you can’t really go on like that forever, especially when you’re punk rock hippies. But we’ve definitely improved, and I do really enjoy that. I’m always working on stuff with the guitar. And as a musician, I’m looking forward to getting better in the future, and so are the guys in the band. One of the great things our music is that it’s something you can build on.
KC: What can we expect next? Did Traveler’s Blues inspire you to work on more classic blues music? Or something totally different?
CK: We’re actually going to do an R&B covers album next. It’ll be with that same crew that we did the blues one with. We’re continuing to work through our roots because we had such a fun time doing it and it worked out great. Playing all these great songs and reinterpreting them in our in our voice has been really fun. We’ll start on that in February.
Head to our website for some behind the scenes footage of our interview with Kinchla. And check out the entire band at Harvest Fest on October 1.