Grooves that at once hearken back to bands like The Animals and The Doors- while dowsing the whole thing with an extra dose of psychedelia- this demon-fueled Detroit area (Hamtramck) band, The Potions, won’t romance you into their music as much they thump you in the chest with it. Odd to think that such a thing would be welcomed. But damn it if you don’t end up wanting more and more.
The band’s most recent release is a single on Nomad Eel Records (see link below), with plans on releasing more in the near future.
The following is an interview (primarily) with Richie. Clearly a humble human, he undersells the importance of what it is they do. As the reader, I hope you interpret the humanity in what he conveys. I certainly have and anticipate the day I get to experience this band in a live setting.
How did the band come to be? Was there a plotted course/intention? When did you guys start in the current (and only?) incarnation of the band?
The band is a sort-of-abortion (as opposed to accepted or intended child) of Dave Morrison. He’s where it all starts. Kinda funny cuz it began with him and whoever was willing to play with him back in the early 2000’s as a sort of f-ed up performance art band, but the kinda funny part is that Dave’s not some artist-academic type to call it that, I don’t even think he knew what performance art was back then! [He] used to play with a friend of ours named Wooley; he’d to chew up pinkies (dead mice you feed to snakes) and blow them through a trumpet . . . last time we seen him at a gig, he showed up out of nowhere wearing a giant teddy bear costume, I can see him now, dancing, making giant paw prints in the snow while we played some wild February ten years ago. . . and that was years after the “early years.”
Like ten years ago we were a fairly normal band. But in the early days it was completely shattered. I mean even the gear was shattered—the snare drum was suspended in a metal trash can, zip-tied to the handles. So as far as incarnations go, there was early period, Dave and whoever. Herbgarten days, which was Dave’s writing period in the attic of his dad’s garage—the Herbgarten (did I spell that right?). Then a few years later there was the Lifton era, which self destructed a number of times. And at that time Dave was still playing guitar and singing all the stuff. Then it went dormant after a self destruct. Then Dave reached out to me after a while and said he wanted to regroup with me in it. I had sat in and jammed with him here and there, usually on drums, but Dave asked me to play guitar. That’s when he stopped playing guitar in the band (he continued to write and play on his own developing his traditional repertoire (see Folk Blues Night No. 6 for some of that) but he said to me “I want you to play guitar and I want to just sing” so that’s where we started writing together; me on the music and him on the words, sometimes rehashing old songs, but mostly making up new ones. And that had a different lineup than the previous, then that self destructed after a year or two. But Dave and I kept in conversation about it, and then when we decided we were gonna do it again, I asked if I could pick the rhythm section, and that’s where we’ve been ever since, with Charlie and Adam. Each mega interesting and accomplished in all they do. And any guidance or “plotted course/intention” is rooted in the band’s motto: crash and burn. This is the answer to your later question about a “credo” and is lived as seen by the repeated self destruction.
Band influences, individual or as a whole: your choice.
Influence is interesting, like Dave’s an old bluesman, as musical influence but more so in the way that he lives his life—even beyond that, if Dave tries to explain a drum beat or a bass line that he’s hearing, it’s communicated like, “you know whenever you’re walking down the street and there’s somebody with a really big ass in front of you and you can’t stop looking at it, you know, and it’s moving like this way and that way—I want the bass like that.” And my role in all this is that of the interpreter of what he means. I can site a style or be like “you know that turn around in such a song by so and so”. But usually the way it happens is me and the boys get together, Dave’s late, we’re jamming something I just threw at the guys, Dave shows up and starts singing—new song. Done. Not a lot of thought or pretense. And even though I’ve heard a million things, and know a bunch of crap, none of it influences me as much as my friends do. Like seriously, I’d rather hear Adam’s instrumental guitar music (which we hopefully record soon cuz it’s so beautiful) or Charlie’s old band WCTM GOLD! which was killer bedroom pop before anyone ever thought it was cool… (https://wctmgold.bandcamp.com/album/east-garfield). I love a lot of things, but I only really care about what my friends are doing.
Lo & Behold! Has it been a bane or boon where The Potions are concerned? Has it influenced the progress or process of the band in any way?
The Potions are a LO & BEHOLD house band—the band’s too weird to be taken seriously anywhere else—like we play other places, but at the shop there’s no expectations or conditions. Even though we still will bring the axe or light fires in venues we shouldn’t, the bar scene, and Detroit music scene for that matter, has never really ever accepted us and who cares anyway? You know “it’s not to stand naked under unknowin’ eyes / It’s for myself and my friends my stories are sung,” the bar scene’s never been it nor will it ever be. real music thrives outside of that paradigm, within it, it’s just background music to a bunch of ass-holes with no visions trying to impress each other while giving in to a culture (liquor industry) designed to suck them dry of life and creative energy. People only play bars cuz the bars tell them “that’s where people play.” Get out of an industry that doesn’t support the arts. Go play in a park or on your friend’s front lawn, that’s where the real people are. Play for people you love. We do, and we love it.
You guys strike me as a band who, as a credo, might follow the path of “We’ll do this as long as we enjoy doing it.” Is that a fair assessment or are there underlying goals that might pull the band forward?
Charlie: (in response to your “we’ll do this as long as we enjoy doing it” assertion / underlying goals) That’s kind of at the basis of any creative endeavor—basically if you don’t enjoy a creative endeavor then why bother pursuing it? I’d like to put more stuff out—it’s not just like going off into the ether—I don’t think we’re tapped, so let’s get some more shit together.
Adam: I basically consider us “active” — it’s partially social, and it’s also musically rewarding, so I would do it as long as I enjoy it, but I’d probably do it longer than I enjoy it because it has a momentum and I have a commitment to it. I certainly don’t foresee making tons of money at it, so … I guess my whole musical thing has always been slightly hinged on “I would want to keep doing it until I was involved in something that might last,” you know make an artistic statement that could hold up to the test of time and fifty years from now someone might listen to it and care about it. so that’s kinda where all my musical goals lie. It’s scary cuz what happens when I accomplish it? Does it have an end? Like, if I could make something that was really what I felt was “that’s it! ok, I’m proud of it! we did it, it’s killer! it’s gonna stand up,” then I could almost be. . . . I’ve always been chasing something, like I’m looking for something, I’m hungry for it, but I haven’t gotten it yet. And I don’t know what would happen if I ever got it. The Potions are the thing that’s closest, so it’s the thing that I’d most like to pursue.
Dave: Yea, I think that’s a pretty honest way of saying that. But that’s a weird question to ask somebody, who asks anybody that, man? I just want to facilitate people feeling like they’re not alone. That we all have certain things that we all feel, like emotional problems that we all share together, and the music and songs I feel that we’re singing are sort of like to make everybody feel like we’re not all alone. Does that make sense? We’re making anthems for the human experience that maybe don’t have anthems, that we can share together so that we don’t have to feel like we’re lonely in our problems. We can all be together . . . does that make sense? I think that’s pretty much what what I want to say. I was always kinda digging for the spots in the human experience that needed an anthem, that we all feel, or know that we’re not alone in those problems.
How often are you guys playing live?
We go through periods of activity and inactivity, not doing a whole lot currently.
I was first introduced to the band with the Grimtale Records release (I even have a couple The Potions prototype pieces from that release). Having said that, I’d be remiss to not ask about the decision to do another release of Fun Babies on 7″. I obviously hear the evolution of the song, but was there a particular motivating factor in choosing it as part of the newest single?
No motivation for the new Fun Babies in relation to Grimtale release; that was a completely different line-up—we hadn’t even considered playing that song until our buddy Ernie started requesting it at shows. It wasn’t even on our radar. Ha! We don’t even have access to that Lifton-era Potions bandcamp page! It’s that far away from us!
Do you guys have a target release date for the new LP? Is it going to be a Lo & Behold!
That’s a great question, we joked about Valentine’s Day, but I decided I wanted to re-transfer all the songs, over dub a couple things and re-mix ’em—I actually wanted to re-record the whole album, but I was talked out of it. When do you want the record to come out? So that way I can have a deadline to put in the calendar—I mean that seriously, throw me a date.
Any other projects from the members of the band that you guys want to plug or share?
Charlie brought lunch over for us the other day and helped me demo a Woody Guthrie song I’ve been wanting to re-arrange—he’s on drums and one of the lead guitars, Billy the Kid. Dave started a new jug-band, that’s pretty great. Adam got married.
Any plans on regional touring?
No plans, but it would be fun to get outta town for a few gigs.
Has Lucifer ever expressed jealousy over the band’s love of Gozer?
Ha! No . . .
Get over to Nomad Eel Records via the link below and grab The Potions’ latest single!
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