The Canadian alternative country-rock blues folk band that brought you their sultry radio hit, “Sweet Jane” and “Me and the Devil Blues” from the 90s flick, Pump Up the Volume is back for another run at Tarrytown Music Hall on March 16. This time, they are touring to promote their new box set, The Nomad Series.
Band members are siblings Margo Timmins (vocals), Michael Timmins (guitar), Peter Timmins (drums), and Alan Anton (bass).
Bassist Alan Anton, spoke to me by phone from Vancouver Island, Canada about their latest project and gig at The Music Hall.
“It all started when we were trying to produce another record and we had a bunch of stuff ‘worked up’ and Michael our guitar player had gone to China for three months with his family and came back with a bunch of ideas so we started working on those—that turned out to be the first installment called Renmin Park; (translation: ‘People’s Park’) so it’s bunch of Chinese influences and songs written by Chinese artists as well,” Anton explained.
He continued, “We went on from that to Vic Chesnutt (singer-songwriter from Athens, Georgia) a good friend of ours (We toured a lot with him in the 90s and he played on our Trinity Sessions record) had passed away (2009) just after that album so we wanted to do a tribute to him so we got to the next album quickly and Chesnutt’s songs were reinterpreted by us and it evolved into the idea of doing four records within 18 months. We were stunned by his passing and the record was kind of a challenge to ourselves.”
An artist-friend of the band’s illustrated the artwork on the new album and coffee table art book.
“He wanted to work on the coffee table art book featuring artwork for all the four albums and the box set with some impressions from his trip and lyrics thrown in.”
Their song "Me and the Devil Blues" that was used for the Pump Up the Volume movie soundtrack was originally featured on the band’s freshman album.
“It’s an obscure track. Our friend, Alan Moyle who directed Pump Up the Volume always liked it and asked if he can use it. The 'Sweet Jane' song was our ‘media moment’ and it came at the right time for us on our second album to give us a head start and expose us to a lot of people and it stayed with us for all these years and formed our ‘hard core’ following,” declared Alan.
The band has played both small and large venues with high quality sound. They chose the Music Hall because of its sound system.
“I think every band who is just focused on playing music in a ‘organic’ way like we do, always prefers a nice sounding theater because that’s where everyone is going to get their best night with the sound, comfort and everything else. We’ve played larger venues and just finished a tour last summer opening for John Mellencamp. We also do arenas and a number of large festivals which we enjoy too. I think for the sake of the music for our band it works better in a smaller venue,” he said.
The band performs 50-100 shows a year. The Tarrytown gig they are trying to market their Nomad Series album to their fans. This tour, they are doing 60 dates.
“There are a lot of new songs that people haven’t heard live—normally what we do is divide the show into two sets. The first set is all new material, the second set is all old stuff,” Anton stated.
There’s an interesting story behind the band’s name, Cowboy Junkies.
“We were looking to do our first gig way back when and didn’t have a name and we were just throwing words out and those two words just popped out and they sounded good together. At that point, when you don’t have any kind of an audience then the band name is all you got to grab some attention and we thought it was a good attention grabber.”
When it comes to songwriting, the band collaborates as a team.
“Michael writes the lyrics and the chord structures to the songs or sometimes it’s just the lyrics and Pete and I will come in and find a groove for the song then take it to Margo once we finally got it down to sing to it,” he said.
The band looks forward to playing their new material at The Music Hall.
“There’s so much material we never repeat anything from night-to-night; it’s always fun to do that and we want people to be aware of the new box set, The Nomad Series.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Tarrytown Music Hall website.