An IndiePulse Music Exclusive Interview
Hailing from the ever-fertile Santa Barbara original live music scene, Santa Barbara-based blues ‘n’ swing group Paradise Kings (Henry Garrett, lead vocals; Jan Ingram, vocals; Jeff Gring, guitars; Bob Gross, bass; George Lambert, drums) have found considerable success with their most recent release, Controlled Burn (Here at Indie Pulse Music we wrote that the CD “is a collection of tracks that show a wide range of musical talent with its blues, rock and swing inspirations…(the band) have really knocked this one out of the park.”
IndiePulse Music recently interview PK guitarist Jeff Gring about Controlled Burn, gigging in SoCal, and their big Battle of the Blues Bands win that jettisoned the group to compete at the International Blues Challenge this coming January in Memphis.
IPM: Give us some background on the formation of the Paradise Kings?
JG: A singer I know called me to fill-in on a gig and George and Gordon were on the gig also. It went well, and I got asked to join the band the next day; unfortunately, after a brief period, it became clear that the singer wanted to go a different direction then the rest of us, so Gordon, George, and I decided to advertise for a singer/front man and Henry (Garrett) answered the ad. We then arranged a meeting/rehearsal with Henry and it went well, and we’ve been working together for about two-and-a-half years now.
IPM: On the whole, the songs on your new album Controlled Burn are much more upbeat than many blues songs tend to be. Was that purposely planned, or just how it happened to work out?
JG: (Drummer) George (Lambert) had been wanting to do some originals for a while; so, when he wrote a handful of them he brought them over to my place and we just started hashing them out. You’d have to ask George, but I don’t think he planned out the subject matter, I think it was just stuff that he was feeling and writing about at the time. What was kind of planned out is, we wanted to have a bunch of different feels and grooves and George had basic ideas about the rhythms and vocal phrasing, so we just went from there and started building them.
IPM: How long do you project it’ll be before the band will become a full-time, money-earning entity?
JG: I would think in the next one to two years, we’re doing all we can to get this ball rolling and we just keep trudging along doing what’s in front of us.
IPM: This one is for the longtime musicians in your band who have played gigs in SoCal for many years – how does today’s live music scene compare with the way things used to be?
JG: My perception is there’s more bands, less gigs, and less money at the club level than ever before, and there’s quite a few reasons for this, but it really doesn’t matter. The situation is what it is, and you can’t let it deter you. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “I don’t make the rules I just play the game”
IPM: Who are some of the band’s favorite musicians, and why?
JG: some of my faves would include all the heavy hitters from the late 60s early ‘70s such as Eric Clapton, Santana, Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Peter Green, Paul Butterfield, Alvin Lee to name just a few. A lot of their material lead me back to the blues guys of the ‘50s such as BB King, Albert King, Freddie King, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf. And the more modern folks such as the Vaughn Brothers, Robin Ford, Tommy Castro, Hollywood Fats, Kid Ramos, Kid Anderson, Anson Funderberg, Kim Wilson, James Harman, again, just to name a few. And why? Because each one of those people are complete bad asses at what they do.
IPM: If the Paradise Kings were the band playing on The Titanic as it was sinking, what are the last three songs you would play?
JG: I would go with upbeat instrumentals – Freddie King’s ‘Sidetracked,’ Jimmy Smith’s ‘Back at the Chicken Shack,’ T-Bone Walker’s ‘T-Bone Shuffle’ and if we had time for an encore… ‘Caledonia’!
IPM: Seems that blues musicians rarely seem to write songs about politics. What’s your take on the reason behind this?
JG: It’s funny, I’ve seen some bands ruin their careers by getting political and I’ve seen other bands pole-vaulted to great success doing the same thing. Personally speaking. I would like the music I’m involved in to be inclusive and not divisive. But yeah, sometimes you got to “Get up, stand up”
IPM: Who in the band gets the ‘Final Say’ when it comes to important decisions?
JG: Nobody and everybody! Whatever the issue is musical or otherwise, we all talk about it and come to a consensus that everybody is at least “OK” with.
IPM: What do the Paradise Kings hope that winning the Santa Barbara Blues Society’s Battle of the Blues Bands will do for the band going forward?
JG: We will now compete in Memphis this coming January at the International Blues Challenge. Winning the local competition is a great honor and it really gets our name out there and that should equate into more gigs which is what we want! If we were to win the International Blues Challenge, it would be much the same thing only at a much higher level. At that point we could probably interest a booking agent in the putting us on tour as an opening act with a more established band or organizing our own tour. Along with the new CD we just put out it would be a huge selling point, and a real feather in our cap so to speak.
IPM: Parting thoughts to share with our readers?
JG: Thanks for giving our record a listen and supporting live music – Cheers!