Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Aug 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Take the Camper/Cracker Soloing

ae_DavidLowery1LOVING LONGEVITY Camper Van Beethoven alum David Lowery delivers a thoughtful collection of songs on The Palace Guards. Catching up with former Cruzan and beloved, revolutionary sweetheart David Lowery
Cause what the world needs now/ is another folksinger/ like I need a hole in my head,” sang Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven frontman, David Lowery on Cracker’s 1991 hit “Teen Angst (what the world needs now).” For 20 years Lowery lived up to his word. Now, with the recent release of The Palace Guards, Lowery hasn’t necessarily gone folksinger on his fans nor gained another hole in his head, but there is a noticeable dent.

Among the last in the Camper Van Beethoven clan to spawn a solo recording, David Lowery’s The Palace Guards is a vitalizing, thoughtful collection of songs that are not merely B-sides or out-takes of material intended for his two working bands. Instead they fall somewhere in-between the generous confines of both, showcasing a songwriter that has matured without losing his buoyant, crackling wit.

Except Lowery isn’t technically calling it a solo effort.

“I actually have a couple of versatile eclectic ensembles, each in their own way,” Lowery says from his part-time home in Athens, Georgia. “If a song, riff or idea didn’t fit with one band it usually fit with the other one. And if it didn’t quite fit, we still did it anyway.”

Lowery began setting aside songs around 2006, thinking that if they didn’t work with either band he’d just hold them back and work on them himself. “I’ve hung out with these guys in my studio for the last 15 years and I’ve developed a rapport with them. And that’s how this record came about.”

Well sort of … with the recording industry lost in thickets of pain and searching out new paradigms, Lowery wasn’t even planning on releasing The Palace Guards in the conventional album form. So he started uploading some of the songs complemented by videos out on YouTube.

ae_DavidLoweryAlbumArt“Let me explain,” he wrote on his 300 Songs Blog (davidlowerymusic.com), a sundry, well-written collection of musing that is as eclectic as any early Camper Van Beethoven record. “Robots have recently colonized our planet and made us slaves. As a result we humans have been reduced to sitting in little cubicles emailing YouTube videos back and forth to each other. Most people call this “their job.”

People didn’t get it, he says. “They’d look at me funny. ‘You know the place with all the cute cat videos and rednecks waterskiing on trashcan lids.’”

Ultimately, though, Lowery found a label to release the record and rescued it from lurid associations with the cats and rednecks, although the slim chances of that happening were remote. Take the video for “Deep Oblivion” where images of the sea and snow are montaged over a bearded Lowery reading a thickish book, playing an acoustic guitar, or, heavens, sweetly kissing his wife. YouTubed be damned.

Lyrically, The Palace Guards is wrought with the same droll irreverence, unreliable narrators and off-kilter word play found in Lowery’s work with Camper and Cracker, but this time out there’s some more genuine emotional seriousness in the sardonic smile.

He sings in the chorus: “We were crossing English Channels/ in Victorian times/ in midget submarines/ with parasols entwined/ and I was going under/ in some deep oblivion/ you bravely took my hand/ and sweetly came along.”

When I tell Lowery that The Palace Guards has a distinctly literary bent, there’s a noticeable wince. He tells me he doesn’t understand why it is necessarily groundbreaking to have a wide range of narrative styles in rock music. By way of explanation, he tells a story of when Camper was doing one of their first tours in Europe. Lowery’s British aunt came to one of their shows in London and afterward said to him, “That’s a dangerous business you’re in.” Lowery, who was 24 at the time, thought she must have been talking about the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll and began to explain to her that they were, in fact, nothing but sensible young lads. “No. I’m not talking about that,” she said, “I’m talking about using irony in America.”

The title track, “The Palace Guards” is about a superhero dictator of sorts that oddly sounds a lot like a combination of Hosni Mubarek and Muammar Gaddafi. The narrator in the song begins his rant in first person, but by the chorus is screaming in third-person. And though written before the Middle East blow up as of late, Lowery says that when dictators talk in the third person “it is a really good sign of madness.”

“I hope that you emphasize with the guy at the end (of the song) and my point is once you empathize with the crazy character, then we’re all crazy.”

Lowery now splits his time between Richmond, Virginia, where he has his studio, and Athens, Georgia where his wife, Velena Vego, is the manager of the Camper and Cracker, and head booker at the famed 40 Watt Club.

Another reason to be in Athens is—besides it being an alternative universe where everyone seems to have died and gone back to college—Lowery is currently teaching a class in music business at the University of Georgia—long last putting his mathematics major at UC Santa Cruz to work.

“It’s been useful to me to have been accidentally sort of successful,” he says, “going my own or blazing our own path because it was sort of the only thing we could do with Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. So we kinda keep doing that, we keep doing ill-advised things in both my bands and also in my solo career. I do ill-advised things. I have to be careful there with those pronouns.”


Photo caption: Camper Van Beethoven alum David Lowery delivers a thoughtful collection of songs on The Palace Guards.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.