Bluebird have spent the majority of their ten years as a real band’s band.
With the release of “Hot Blood” last year and up-and-coming support to Hell Is For Heroes things could soon change. “Hot Blood” is a beautifully pure rock record. It’s an honest record full of soul. It flits between dreamy almost ambient passages to somewhat vicious battles between discord and melody; melody always narrowly winning out. Whether it’s on the sussed pop “She’s Breaking Up” or the Wayne Kramer assisted “Beautiful Believer”, Sam James Velde is the engaging singer with a laid back Californian wisdom. His story begins with a dream.
“Bluebird got together in a interesting way. Our rhythm section are brothers. Jim Brown, being the bass player, moved to Los Angeles before his brother. They are from Arizona. Bryan, the drummer, had a premonition or vision that he should pack up all of his belongings and move to Los Angeles and start a band. So the next day he packed up everything he owned, drove across the desert and ended up staying with a friend in Los Angeles. I met them through some friends’ bands. Visions is how it all worked out though.”
Eventually things came together for this first incarnation of Bluebird with Barry Thomas joining the cause. They released various mini albums and singles on various labels before things changed again.
“Paul (Fig) is our latest addition, he used to be in Amen. He was unhappy there and came and joined us. We had tried out loads of people before him and it was a fucking nightmare. We did jam with Aaron Ward, Bill Ward’s son. He was fucking awesome but moved to San Francisco.”
With “Hot Blood” though Bluebird made a conscious decision concerning the way they approached the song writing process. As Sam Velde says “we used to create songs out of ‘jamming’, I hate that word. More recently we’ve been making a concentrated effort to write in a more traditional style. Verse, chorus, verse, bridge. It’s funny because some of those pop songs took us forever to arrange.”
When I remark that the album seems almost conceptual in design Sam cautiously agrees. “‘Hot Blood’ is about coming from a place of darkness to a place of light. A lot of those songs whether they are about personal relationships or are reflections of our society in America are linked by that theme. There is a balancing of dark and light. Before we started making this record there were a few of us in the band who were in some pretty dark places. Lyrically I have tried to reflect that without wallowing. I was looking for a path to climb out of this hole and move on.”
Another special moment on the record is Wayne Kramer’s cameo. “That was an honour” enthuses Sam, “It was incredible. A friend of a friend knew him so we asked him to give our CD to Wayne. Then the next step was to invite him to see us play. He really liked what he saw. Then we asked him if he wanted to be involved. He just asked us to name a day. When he got to the studio to record I was really nervous. We hadn’t even told him what song he was going to play on till he got to the studio. Through the door I could hear him playing, it was so amazing. Since then we have played a couple of shows with him.”
Last year Bluebird also released the “Black Presence” album on Dopamine records. It could be considered a mellow companion piece to the more full throttle “Hot Blood”. It sways gently down a path that more often than not leads to nowhere in particular, but a rather lovely nowhere. It picks up on their penchant for improvisation and runs with it. It is barely there at times which could be a surprise for those used to the brawn and muscularity of “Hot Blood”.
Even more surprising perhaps is that it features former White Zombie guitarist J Yuenger and former Queens Of The Stone Age man Dave Catching also of art-rockers Earthlings? .
“It’s our dual personality,” Sam says letting out a little chuckle, “We were already trying to write “Hot Blood” and conceptualise that when a friend asked us to be the first release on his new record label. So we decided to take those ambient things we had done and hinted at here and there and put them on record. That’s one of the only Bluebird records I can listen to.”
Have Bluebird fallen into the trap of mainly being a band’s band I wonder. With all these musician friends and acquaintances is it possible that Bluebird might remain a strictly cult affair. To have the respect of your opinions must be great, but it would also be wise, in the long term, to have the respect of people not in bands.
“‘Hot Blood’ is a way for us to step out of that. There are pop songs on there like “She’s Breaking Up”. Well it’s Bluebird doing a pop song. It doesn’t sound like Oasis. But when you’re improvising you’re going to get music nerds. Another thing is that people are really concerned with trends. Timing can be very important.’
In that case do has the current rock ‘boom’ in the mainstream aided Bluebird?
“I don’t think Bluebird really fit in with what is happening around us. Things are pretty linear at this point and so image driven. It’s really become industry driven even in the upper echelons of independent music. In the US this return to ‘rock’ is ridiculous. If you were ever into rock music it never went away. That’s just a marketing tool. Rock music will never ever really go away. Although I wouldn’t really consider Bluebird a rock band. I think we have a little more going on than just rock ‘n’ roll.”