Interview with The Quick and Easy Boys
- Colin Hudson
One thing I took from the first two albums was that there was a good amount of variety but the music still kept to certain themes. In your own words what would you say these themes are on the new album Make It Easy?
Mike Koentz: We were trying to go for a more cohesive rock and roll sound on this album, because the other ones have some honky-tonk here and there. We were trying to limit that and go for a straight ahead rock and roll based album and although we did very well there’s still some lighter songs and heavier songs.
Sean Badders: Yeah. Like Mike was saying, it all fits I think more under the umbrella of rock and roll and more pop oriented too; less honky tonk and less you know, blatantly blues kind of stuff.
Jimmy Russell: We focused on the songwriting a lot more than the different genres.
A little bit of the country-cowboy twang in the songs is what defines you in some sense. Is it still apparent?
MK: We’ve been trying to go away from that a little bit more to be honest. I mean Jimmy still rips a telecaster so there’s always gonna be a little twang. And it’s always gonna be a little inherent with some of the music we listen to and came from, but it’s certainly not out front on our sleeves.
SB: Yeah, it’s always gonna be a little bit there. We actually cut a couple of songs that were really honky tonk based. They sounded great but they didn’t fit with everything else; we tried to just streamline it as much as possible even though it’s still kind wide.
After listening to the album, I noticed that a few songs I’d heard live like “Let Me Get Down” and “Learn to Love the Sunrise.” Were these written and recorded before you played or did you play them in front of a live audience and let that decide what you wanted the recording to sound like?
JR: Well “Let Me Get Down” is a song we’ve had for quite a while that we tried recording it and it never came out. It fits the vibe of this album so we included it. Because we started this process two to two-and-half years ago we had written “Cannonball” around then so we’ve actually had about two years of practicing it and playing it live to really get the vibe of it. It certainly evolved but that’s how we came to some of those songs.
SB: Some of the songs were right there in the studio, we figured them out. But even then, like Jimmy said, even the last one we did we had been able to practice for nine months. And you know, some of them were created as live songs and we took them into the studio. It’s probably about half and half.
JR: We tried not to play them live as much because we wanted this to be more of a special event. We’ve planned it this whole time and we don’t want people to say “we’ve heard that before.”
MK: There’s a couple that we’ve tweaked and worked into our repertoire for sure, but there’s quite a few that we’ve never played live before.
SB: Yeah, especially here. There’s always good road testing material and then you figure out what works.
Are you anxious or nervous to play any of these?
MK: I’m actually really excited to play them. I’m not nervous or anxious.
JR: Trust me, we’ve played them out of town quite a few times. We’ve had enough time to sit on them, work on them and listen to them. I might be shooting myself in the foot and we go out and butcher every song tonight, but it’s exciting to be able to play them. It’s exciting to put new material out there. We’ll see if people like it.
SB: That’s always the interesting thing. People know what they know and what they like about us. They like this. They like to dance. Or this and that. Putting in some song they’ve never heard, it’s kind of like, hopefully we sell it good enough that people dig it right away as opposed, “im not sure what this is.. it’s kinda slower than what I’m used to..”
From what I’ve seen you guys really know your audience and how to work with them. The last show I saw was at the Bob White Theater for the Portland Pranksters Ball and the show that I saw before that was at the Doug Fir. It seemed like you were catering to two different crowds, would I be out of line by making such a claim?
SB: No. We’ve definitely learned from years of playing how to basically, like you said, cater to the audience. We’ll play some place we’ve never played and it’s like “Oh shit, we have three hours to fill.” So we ask maybe “Is the blues working? No? Let’s try something funkier. Maybe some honky-tonk.”
JR: Especially if it’s a honky-tonk gig.
SB: Yeah, so it’s feeling the gigs and playing so many bars and shit over the years. But yeah, Bob White was definitely more, “let’s get spacey” and the Doug Fir, we’ve played a few of those and we try and be more concise about things because it’s not like the Goodfoot type of fun basement show. It feels more professional. It’s a different vibe and a different room.
MK: Each of our shows tend to be different in general.
SB: We don’t really write setlists.
JR: We will tonight!
SB: Haha. We will tonight to make sure we get everything we need. Normally it’s just like, we know what songs work. We know what leads into the others and we just feel out the crowd.
Does that type of mindset go into what kind of songs you wanted to record and how you wanted to record them on the new album? After a couple of years of touring you probably have a different grasp than when you started.
JR: A description of what we do live is: it’s a power trio. How I describe it is it’s like Jimmy Hendrix meets the Police. And although we add more instrument tracks on the album, we try and keep it within that pop frame that we’re going for which is a little bit dancey, a little bit psychedelic, a little bit rocky.
SB: I feel like our live shows are a bit bolder, a little bit more in-your-face. In the studio you have the luxury of throwing in an extra guitar track or a keyboard track or this and that. It’ll definitely sound a little different live but I think the integrity of the songs are still there. We don’t do anything so blatant we couldn’t pull it off live. So it might sound a little different. We just go for it and put the energy into it.
MK: We keep it polished, not too much jamming. You know. Jamming is such a big part of what we do.
Random guy that works at Wonder Ballroom: The live painter is here. Do you guys know about the live painter?
JR: How tall is he?
Random dude: Taller than I.
JR: I mean if there’s a live painter then we can have a live painter.
Random dude: OK
Back to the new album Make It Easy, can you give us some specifics with regards to when the process started, where it was recorded, who helped mix, ect.?
JR: Well it all got recorded at Gung Ho Studios in Eugene with Billy Barnett. He was the producer, sound engineer, did it all up until the mastering really. But we’ve been working for this album for a long time.
SB: Yeah, we started the initial recording of it in 2011. We went in to record just a four song EP then things started going really well so we were just like “well shit, let’s make a whole album.” And then we ran out of time because we had only booked assuming we were only going to do four songs.
MK: And some of the songs weren’t coherent. A few were country songs so then we got rid of those.
SB: Even some that weren’t country songs, they didn’t make it or we just wanted to come back and revisit, but we’re constantly touring so the next time we could get back in was four to five months later. So then we had another two weeks in the studio.
MK: With a new four songs.
SB: Essentially the same thing so we start mixing those, start realizing and shedding those down. I think it was about a three part process.
JR: I think even more than that.
SB: There was at least three full on recording and mixing sessions. So it was overtime but we took our time.
MK: And we ended up with a more coherent album because we did. We rushed all the other ones so we really learned a lot from that.
So switching gears a little bit, you guys are one of my favorite bands in Portland, which is a sea of Indie rock. How do you manage to not only stay away from that but stay on top, keep a solid fan base and do everything that you’ve been able to do?
MK: Jimmy gives blow jobs in back alleys.
You said I was the only one!
JR: Yours was the only one that was free.
MK: No Jimmy did not do that. I think it’s true about the indie scene and they’re very different. There aren’t a lot of bands that sound like us. So we’ve just forged ahead. We would totally embrace that indie scene or have our toe in the water to some degree but we’re so different it’s hard to categorize I think.
SB: We’re not quite hip enough to be in the super hip indie scene and I don’t think we’re “jam bandy” enough to be totally a jam band. We could totally say we’re going to be a funk band and be a funk band.
JR: We even have a punk side to us that’s raw.
Definitely. I would say within the vocals that element is clear in some songs.
JR: We get compared to the Minutemen a lot.
SB: They’re great because they did really whatever they wanted to do. And it was kinda punk rock what they were doing but they were just as influenced by John Coltrane as they were Funkadelic. They just did what they want, it happens that now people call them a punk band. We like that looseness. We do what we want, hope people get on board with it. And yeah, it’s slowed us down in some ways because we’re not part of a scene but at the same time it’s pretty cool that we’ve done everything all on our own. It’s super grassroots and DIY style I guess.
And that’s definitely what makes you the Quick & Easy Boys so I hope you don’t find someone that barely knows how to play the keyboard and hits one note throughout the whole song.
JR: Haha. We’ve talked about it.
MK: Do you need a job?
After this interview I will.