I was always a fan of People’s Blues of Richmond, lovingly known as PBR, when I went to college at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. One of the things I always admired most about them was their ability to unify any crowd and get people moving. Punks, metal heads, jam band fans and indie rock fans alike could get down to the straightforward and extremely heartfelt blues played by the group.
But once I left Richmond for Denver, I didn’t give PBR too much thought. Richmond is even included in their name, and they seemed such a part of that world that I didn’t anticipate crossing paths with them in the future. That’s why it is so amazing that they are playing Greg Allman’s Laid Back Fest this this Sunday, September 25 at Red Rocks, opening up for none other than Allman himself and ZZ Top.
As you might have guessed, I caught up with the guys over the phone right before they took the stage during an earlier night of their tour. They were all in a talkative mood, and provided some great insights on art coming from loss, making it in music and having the blues.
303: You all have experienced a lot of growth and success since being a local band in Richmond. To what do you attribute this success?
Matthew Volkes (bass, backing vocals): Sweat. Just hard work and determination. Being willing to play every single show there is.
303: How did you all get started playing music together? What’s your backstory?
MV: Tim and I knew each other since kindergarten and we played music together, ended up getting a house together our sophomore year of college and after a friend of ours passed away we just started jamming and grieving, playing “Wish You Were Here.” We ended up just playing and working through everything and learning new songs, and then we did an open mike night and started learning two more songs every Monday and a couples months in we were like, “This is a band; lets make this thing happen,” and we ended up having a couple member changes and met Nico [Williams, drums] who was playing in a funk band. Tim started a side project with him, so when we ended up losing our old drummer Nico was just the obvious choice, and it works because we were all on the same page at the same time and he was willing to give up all this time so we could hit the road.
303: You have a lot of heavy and psychedelic influences in your music, as your website states. Where do you draw influence from and how did your sound come about?
MV: We are definitely asked that question a lot, and mostly it is just life experiences and based on those experiences you relate to certain kinds of music and start gravitating towards certain sounds and sonic tones. We all like a lot of different types of music and have a really diverse array of music that we listen to. If we do like it we’re like obsessed with it. I don’t think there are many CDs where we say, “This is kind of a good one.” If we like it, we love it.
303: Richmond has a lot of great metal and punk and indie music, but isn’t so much known for its blues scene, even though it’s in the South. How do you feel about the local scene in Richmond, and how do you see yourselves fitting in?
Tim Beavers (guitar, vocals): The best part about blues music is the feeling and the suffering and the catharsis, and not all my favorite blues songs are twelve-bar blues, so we kind of appreciate music that way. We are going to try and represent the blues in Richmond and it’s never the twelve bar blues in Richmond these days. It is a punk scene that’s pretty famous and a metal scene that’s been in and out of the national focus, plus indie, jam; that’s why our music is kind of all over the place.
303: What do you have in the works right now as far as writing new music and touring?
TB: We are on this fall tour, we are only on the second day of it, but it’s a hell of a tour. We are going to be gone for about two months, playing close to 40 gigs from the East Coast to the West Coast, North to South; its gonna be awesome. We are gonna get to go to LA and San Francisco, we are gonna get to play in New York City and upstate New York. We have a show in Virginia, and we get to go to Colorado twice, which is always a blast. Soon we are gonna start working on our next album and start recording, so we are always working on material.
303: How has your latest record, Quit or Die, been received in relation to your other released work, and how do you feel about it? What was the writing process like for that one?
TB: It’s been awesome. Everything with this band since day-one has felt a little better. This album has gotten by far the most press. We’ve got a couple of music videos in the works. One is done and just waiting for release. The album was a ton of fun to make. We did it in Richmond and we thought of a ton of places we should go. A longtime friend of ours, Ricky Olson, was working at a studio called The Ward and they were doing a great job so we just knocked out the album, and it’s the best-sounding album we’ve had yet. It’s the third album we’ve put out on our own personal record company.
303: Have you all ever played the legendary Red Rocks venue before? What are you most excited about for the show?
TB: That’s gonna be crazy; sept 25 will be our first time at Red Rocks. We get to play with ZZ Top and Greg Allman and we are really looking forward to it. We came by and visited one day when there was no show and saw how beautiful it is. But one is kidding when people say it’s a workout to go up or down those stairs!
303: What are your plans for the future? Where do you want to see the band in five years?
Nico Williams (drums): Hopefully still on stage, bigger stages, bigger festivals, just going around the globe, hopefully Europe, and just still releasing new music for the fans and for ourselves.
303: What has been your greatest achievement so far?
NW: When I joined the band that was the first time I was able to tour, and then just going it together, we lived together for a while, just being in the studio together, that was one of the highlight moments, and some of the bigger festivals we’ve been able to play, like Electric Forest and Lock-In. every day is a great achievement ’cause you’re still doing it.
303: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
NW: I want to tell people to follow their heart and their dreams and hopefully we can see ’em out there on the road somewhere.
Too broke to swing a Red Rocks show or unwilling to brave the chilly evenings so late in the year? You can still catch PBR in October. They can’t announce the details yet, but they should be coming back through Denver on their way back home to Richmond.
Featured Image Courtesy of Facebook