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Interview:
The Jayhawks at Saint Andrews, 5 Things To Know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

It's been 30 years since the Jayhawks released their first album.

And the Minneapolis group is celebrating -- with something new.

The Americana quartet released its ninth album, "Paging Mr. Proust," in April, getting help from former R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck as co-producer and former Jayhawks guitarist Kraig Johnson returning to help out -- albeit only for the album and not on tour. Funded via PledgeMusic, it's characteristically melodic if a bit edgier and harder hitting, but still wtih plenty of the group's trademark smoothness and rich vocal harmonics.

So frontman and co-founder Gary Louris is, not surprisingly, very focused on the present rather than the past as he drives through North Carolina, "shopping studios" for a production job he's doing during early 2017. But he certainly appreciates the Jayhawks' durability through lineup changes and record company machinations during the past two decades...

Louris, 61, says that 1986's "The Jayhawks" album "seems like another lifetime. I can't even relate that we were, like, an 80s band at some point. I went through a period where I felt like it was not cool to have longevity; I wanted to have this big burst and leave people wanting more and not overstay your welcome. I've kind of changed my tune now. I think it's actually cool to have longevity and have a thread that's your story. The bottom line for me is as long as you're making great records and have new songs that rate with your old songs, I'll want to keep doing it. You don't want to just be an oldies band that trots out the old songs. So, so far so good."

"Paging Mr. Proust" is the next step in a kind of reboot process for the Jayhawks that began in 2010, after the group returned from a self-imposed five-year hiatus. "WE had a lot to dig out of because we hadn't really played much," Louris explains. "I really shut it down in 2005. Then we did some reissues and other things later in the decade and made a record (2011's 'Mockingbird Time') that I don't think was great. We toured a bit and then went back into a hole for a few years. So we're kind of flexing our muscles a bit and re-establishing who we are and that we're still around, still a viable band. We've had a little bit of foundation work to re-lay, but I feel like we're back now."

Louris acknowledges that he was also battling some personal issues earlier in the decade. "After the whole 'Mockingbird Time' tour I went into rehab," he says. "I didn't even want to do music anymore. I was kind of at my wit's end. When I came out I got clarity and started getting my life back together/ That's why this record is maybe a little more exploratory; I wrote a lot of songs without the idea it would even be a Jayhawks record. There's a lot of songs I wrote that didn't make it (onto the album) that were even more out there. But I found a home back wtih the Jayhawks, and I'm glad I did. It's just a really great band, and if I want to do something that doesn't fit the band I can always do that, but I should appreciate how good this band is."

Louris says he and his bandmates are pleased with the way the "Paging Mr. Proust" material has integrated into the Jayhawks' shows. "I think the songs feel great in the set," he says. "I've never felt such an immediate feedback from the audience as far as news songs, and it's all been very positive. And the band has gotten better and better. I really love the chemistry of this band now."

Louris hopes that means more Jayhawks music in the future, and perhaps a quicker turnaround between albums. But at this juncture he's not making any firm predictions. "At this point I've learned to never say never, never say it's the end," he notes. "You don't know how you're going to feel in two, three years. You never know with each record. We're a cult band. We have a loyal following, never enough to get you into that comfort zone of, 'OK, now we're making a living' -- there's always a little bit of creative bookkeeping so we can get paid -- but the music and everything is good, which is nice to be able to say after this much time."

The Jayhawks and Folk Uke

Thursday, Nov. 3. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit.

Tickets are $20.

Call 313-961-6358 or visit saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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