Clip: Speaking with David Lowery
Speaking with David Lowery
October 29, 2004
Camper Van Beethoven is admired primarily for novelty nuggets such as "Take
the Skinheads Bowling" and "Joe Stalin's Cadillac," but far more crucial
than those left-of-the-dial standards is the time in the late '80s they
spent cramming as many styles as possible -- ska, shuffle-punk, country,
rockabilly -- into their acclaimed bag of tricks. Camper's music was a
group effort, but the words belonged to David Lowery, the Marlboro
Red-voiced singer whose sardonic wit presaged the ironic-slacker vibe that
would come to exhaustingly define the 1990s by a good four or five years.
Camper fractured in the early '90s, leaving Lowery to redirect his country
senses into the successful alternative outfit Cracker, but CVB reunion
rumors began circulating in 2000, and the group gradually began easing
back, often on the same bill as Cracker, in a process that Lowery says
reached a peak in Chicago. CVB's new album, "New Roman Times," is its first
since 1989's "Key Lime Pie"; it's no cash-in comeback but a quasi-rock
opera with plenty to say about the state of politics and war.
HERE'S WHAT LOWERY HAD TO SAY:
On calling it a comeback: It's pretty hard to do a reunion record and have
people treat it on par as the stuff that you originally did, and people
have commented that (this) is one of our better records.
On priming the reunion process: In much the way that Camper came apart over
a period of 2-1/2 years, we came back slowly. We started playing old Camper
songs in Cracker shows, and we'd bring in (Camper musicians) and have this
expanded lineup. And by about 2002, we finally were like, "Let's try some
reunion shows." But we didn't want an exercise in nostalgia.
At the Abbey: We did three shows at the Abbey Pub in Chicago, which was
legendary in our minds for feeling like we were back.
Striking back at the empire: "Roman" is about the political climate, but I
don't necessarily mean Bush in particular. I mean this division between
what are perceived as the God-fearing, Bible-thumping, fundamentalist
Christian red parts of the country, and the secular, homosexual-agenda blue
parts of the country.
Red or blue?: I've always felt like I was between those two worlds. I was
born in Texas. My father was military, and my father's family is all from
Arkansas, and everybody in that family is for Bush. But my dad being
military, there's no way in hell he's gonna vote for Bush. That's pretty
common among military guys, especially the retired ones.
On moderation: I'm a rabid moderate. I don't want people to think that this
record is an anti-Bush thing, but it is about war and American imperialism
-- hence the name. But it's fictional and it's set in an alternate reality
-- an alt-country.
Both bands: Even though this is a Camper tour, there's a smattering of
shows with Cracker. We like to think of ourselves as the
Parliament-Funkadelic of indie rock.
Is the title a gag for all those font enthusiasts out there? I was so
surprised to see with Bush's Air National Guard documents, that suddenly
Times New Roman was a household word, at least for a week. Viktor
Krummenacher, the bass player, was working on some art ideas for us, and it
just happened to be a font he was working with. I wrote it down in the
sketchpad and went, "Well, that's the name of the record." It's an art
CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN, THE DAMNWELLS
# 7 tonight
# Metro, 3730 N. Clark
# Tickets, $20
# (312) 559-1212