I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Joel Gion, the most famous tambourine player in the Indie Rock world, about his new album Apple Bonkers on The Reverberation Appreciation Society label in Austin (also the home of Night Beats, Elephant Stone, Holy Wave, Austin Psychfest DVDs and Christian Bland & The Revelators, guitarist for The Black Angels)…
Your new album Apple Bonkers on the Reverberation Appreciation Society label seems like a great fit. How did you hook up with one of Austin’s finest labels?
Well after I got most of the album tracks recorded I saw the Austin Psych Fest was coming up so I wanted to premiere my new songs at the coolest Festival in the world. I emailed them the tunes and they’re like “hey let us put this out on our label” so I got the perfect fit before I even had to go shopping.
I saw a prior Joel Gion album, Extended Play, at Other Music a while back… How would you compare the experience of making and playing that record to your latest?
Oh that’s neat they had that. It was a home recordings EP. It was my first attempt at writing my own songs and I turned it into an experiment. I wrote, recorded and mixed the whole thing on my computer and had a limited edition vinyl pressed before ever playing the music to anyone. I was just bored and was up for some learning in public. Some of the results I love, but it’s got some wonky moments as well. But then Burger Records wanted to do a cassette so I was able to add a couple more songs and make some afterthought adjustments. That’s the best version.
Doing everything by yourself I get, but I also think it’s kinda masturbatory. I much prefer collaboration with like-minded weirdos. I guess I found I’m just more of a circle jerk kinda guy. I wrote all the songs and had a great time fleshing it out in a proper studio with many friends. It was really nice to have people I respected want to be apart of it. Rob Campanella, Collin Hegna, Dan Allaire & Matt Hollywood from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Pete Holmstrom from The Dandy Warhols, Ryan Van Kriedt from Asteroid #4, ex-BJMr’s Miranda Lee Richards and Jeff Davies and others. The Psychedelic Super Friends!
“Hairy Flowers” is a Psych-Pop smash hit in our opinion. What’s the back-story on that particular song?
Thanks. Well that song more than any other is a true expression of myself and also explains why it took so long for me to start making my own work. I’m lazy as f#ck! I can sing that song with pure honesty and self awareness. I love music that romanticizes just being free to bum around. Lee Hazlewood, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings — all that “Sunday Morning Coming Down” type fare.
OK now lets jump back into history… you and I met while the documentary Dig was being shot here about your old group The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols in what was then the TVT offices. Can you synopsize your time with BJM and leader Anton Newcombe for us?
Well he’s incredibly motivated and intelligent and funny and a real f#cking trip of a dude. He’s also very self-obsessed which is common in people that prolific. My Chinese Astrology animal is the Dog which makes perfect sense in that I’m fiercely loyal and so the perfect right hand man. So we went through all this crazy stuff and people came and went but I was always the constant guy hanging tough with him. When I finally did have just too much of what had become total heroin negativity and left, I came back a couple of years later to a different situation. The “band” mentality was gone (if it was ever truly there) and the idea is it’s just him and whomever. Which is fine, I absolutely accept his vision. But for me, what makes it better than before is the line up that has been the constant since my return has turned into the best bunch of friends I’ve ever had (except for one guy but that’s still pretty good for an 8-piece).
So now we’re in this current year of the Horse, and dogs run as fast as the horses, you see, so I’ve stepped out on my own as my own leader. This year I put out a new single, an album and now have 4 songs recorded for the next one plus I’ve got 2 different live bands. I also toured Europe for a month and an additional 3 months with BJM. I’ll always play with Anton as long as it makes sense for both of us, but now things are different for me too. It’s a lot funner to write and record your songs than it is just to play tambourine. There, I said it and it freaks me out!
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