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The Bourbon Saints (LA Special)

The Bourbon Saints (LA Special)
March 18, 2008 | Author: Greg Phillips. Photos

bourbonbandThe Bourbon Saints play the kind of raw, full throttle rock and roll that would slot perfectly into almost any Australian beer barn. They’re a curious mix of oz style pub rock and Sunset Strip trash. After finding their feet in various LA bands with names like Death Valley Driver, Jolt 45, Dead Celebrities, III Repute, and Miss Derringer, these five guys seem to have finally found a vehicle worthy of taking them to the place they want to be. For the time being they are going through the obligatory apprenticeship, booking their own gigs, playing as many LA clubs as they can, building a fan base, and at the same time defining their sound and having a ball doing it. They have a four track EP available, music on their Myspace site, a clip on You Tube and  in the last few months are beginning to make some inroads. Their goals however, are quite humble.

“It would be nice to be able to play a club and not have to tell people or call people up on MySpace,” said lead singer Arturo Trujillo. “You just show up and the club is packed. They are there to see you.” Bass player Ronnie ‘Elvis’ Jones adds his thoughts. “I would love it if this band would take off and be a relatively big band. It would be great. I think the goal for me personally would be where I could be in a band, play music and pay my bills. I don’t need a mansion on a hill. I live in a one bedroom apartment in North Hollywood. If I can pay my rent and just play music, that’s my goal. I am very content playing music with people who are good musicians, and that’s the band I am in right now.”

It seems a young LA band like the Bourbon Saints face similar obstacles to any Australian band trying to make a name for themselves … finding gigs, getting airplay and magazine coverage. Arturo expands. “There are a lot of bands. You have to know somebody most of the time to get to play clubs. There are some good bands like Warner Drive. They help us out, put us on their shows. That’s how we got in here (Viper Room) the first year. Those guys got us a Troubadour show. You just have to try to get to know people and try to get onto one of their shows. You know it doesn’t matter how many times you play a club, if you were in this band and then another, they don’t know you. There are just too many bands coming in and out of here. Except for this scene, this type of rock and roll that we play, there are only a hand full of bands. We are trying to play with each other to help each other out.”

bourbonarturoRadio in Los Angeles is like any other major city in the world, where the big commercial stations dominate. However the commercial stations, such as K Rock also own smaller, independent stations like ‘Indie103’. Bands will be given airplay on the indie station, and if listener response is extraordinary, they’ll be promoted to the commercial station’s play list. But apparently it’s not a regular occurrence. While Australia has good indie radio support from Triple J and great community stations like 3RRR and PBS, America instead has college radio. “There’s a place called Irvine down South” says lead guitarist Chuck ‘The Wizard’ Poquette. “Their college station plays us. They have a show called ‘Punk Becomes Eclectic’ on Sundays and they play us at least every other Sunday. We’re actually going to play live on that station in a couple of weeks.” The Bourbon Saints have also had radio interest from stations as far away as Italy and Australia.

You only need to spend a short time with this band to know that there is a tangible dynamic of camaraderie happening. They have contrasting personalities and come from different backgrounds, but they feed off each other so well, both socially and musically. While many bands rely on one or two members for song writing inspiration, the best results for The Bourbon Saints come out of a group effort.
“Chuck and I have been writing together for years and we’ll go ‘Here’s the whole song’,” says drummer Noel ‘Rock n’ Roll’ Eldrige. “But really the best songs have been when we have gone into practice, came up with one idea and all of us contribute. So I gotta say the best songs we’ve written are when it’s like a community thing, it’s not a solo writing thing anymore.”

Another quirk of this band, and something else that caught my eye when trying to locate a band for this feature was the fact that lead singer Arturo Trujillo is an ordained priest. Yet this this tattoo-laden rock band is far from being a bible bashing outfit delivering sermons. Arturo explains.  “It must be like ten years now. A friend of mine was getting married, and they asked me if I’d marry them. I thought, well how do you do that? They said we’ll figure out how to get you ordained, pay for it whatever. A couple of weeks before the wedding they decided to spring it on me. They said we want you to wear an Elvis jumpsuit. I’m like … I’m not doin it. You know, I’ll do it and I love Elvis, but I don’t want to look like a jerk in front of my friends and your family. So I ended up marrying them and people started calling me. I just did a wedding for my friend Byron who plays drums in Pennywise.”

bourbonguitarsThere is something about this band’s chemistry and their commitment to achieve a great sound, that gives the impression there are much headier days in front of them. After all their motto, as Chuck explains “Is always to put the boot to it full throttle.” Later that night on the Viper room stage, that’s exactly what they do. Newest member to the band and youngest in years, Albert “Junior’ Walker has all the quintessential rock moves as he lays down Angus Young inspired power riffs. Chuck ‘The Wizard’ flays up and down the fretboard like there’s no tomorrow as Elvis and Noel hold it all together with a vice-like grip. Meanwhile out front Arturo is the consummate frontman, goading, prodding and urging the audience to respond. There are four bands on the bill tonight and the headliners ‘Who Rides The Tiger’ are up next, but a large percentage of the crowd are obviously here for the Bourbon boys. As the band thank the crowd and prepare for their final encore, they pull a much appreciated surprise, dedicating the final song, Rose Tattoo’s ‘Nice Boys Don’t Play Rock n’ Roll’ (which they’d only just learnt that day) to Australian Musician magazine. You gotta love em’.

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