Aug. 12, 2004
by BOB DORAN
THE NEVILLE BROTHERS [photo above] ARE COMING BACK, and what else can I say but -- I'll be there. The Neville's sound first caught my ear 30 plus years ago when I heard big brother Art Neville playing organ with the Meters at a club in Berkeley, then at the Jambalaya in Arcata. I was at the OTBG 26 years back, when the Brothers assembled to tour with their Uncle Jolly as part of the funky, feather-bedecked Wild Tchoupitoulas review. I've seen the boys from New Orleans every time they've hit Humboldt since then, and I'll be at the Eureka Theater Sunday, Aug.15.
When I caught up with Art backstage at Blues by the Bay, where he was jamming some serious funk with the latest iteration of the Meters, we agreed to talk more when he wasn't about to hit the stage. Here's a fragment of that subsequent conversation:
NC JOURNAL: I typed Neville Brothers into Google to find your website and I came up with this review of your new album (Walking in the Shadow of Life); it's kind of interesting, this is from Reuters News Service -- the article is titled, "Neville Brothers Create Confusion." And the webpage has the top news of the hour: "Car bomb in Baghdad"; "Saudi forces find the head of hostage in fridge."
ART NEVILLE: Oh man, that's on our website?
NCJ: No, no, it's just a review of the new album, on another site -- but I see it as indicative of the relevance of the old Temptations tune you've been doing, "Ball of Confusion." Why that song now?
ART: It sounded good, and still relevant with what's going on today. I mean we didn't change anything; we totally respected what the Temptations did with it; but we figured we wanted to do it our way.
NCJ: When you go out and play a concert, do you put any thought into what you're saying to the people, aside from getting them to dance and have a good time?
ART: Oh yeah. There's some people that dance and there's some people that sit and listen, and some people that don't listen [to the lyrics] at all, but they listen to the music, you know. We're not trying to make no political statement about the stuff that's going on; I mean I think that everybody's able to see if for theyself, too, you know. This is just a way of just saying `this is how the world is: a ball of confusion' -- it's all messed up.
NCJ: I understand the album was recorded at your own studio: Neville Neville Land.
ART: That's right, Neville Neville Land, LLC on Canal Street in New Orleans. It's our own place -- finally.
NCJ: And I'm guessing Neville Nation Records is your own label.
ART: That's right. [That's ours too.] I don't think that the music companies can do [the same thing for a band] they did a while back. If you got computers, if you got all this stuff going on now, I think that this is the way it's going to go. I just believe that. You can sit there and wait for someone to help you with it, and the next thing you know your record's thrown in the shit-can, you know. Excuse the expression, but that's the way it goes.
NCJ: Maybe it's because the music you guys make doesn't fit into the easy categories, or because record company executives just don't understand New Orleans music.
ART: Well, I wouldn't say it's just New Orleans. This is American music, man; I wouldn't try to put no other kind of label on it other than that's what it is. I'm one of the old men in the business, you know; started off when I was a little kid, and now I'm an old man. I lasted this long with it.
NCJ: You've been doing it since high school, right, starting with doo-wop?
ART: Well that was around the projects. We grew up around the Calio Projects, moved from Valence Street to the Projects, which [at the time] was luxury living; it was brand new. We used to sing in the gymnasium, you know, down in the swimming pool when it was emptied. Some guys would get together and do doo wop stuff in there.
NCJ: Just because you liked the reverberation?
ART: Yeah, in the boy's bathroom it sounded good; we had the automatic echo chamber in there, you know. We just kept trying to do stuff and we did; finally here we are, at the top of the heap. (He laughs.) Like I said, man, the main thing is that we are trying to do this together -- everybody, the brothers, we got the nephews, everybody. It's a family thing and there's some other things that we intend to incorporate into this. We gotta keep trying. All I know is the music, man, I just figure I'll keep trying, I'm gonna keep trying. I got nothing else to do.
Earthshine Productions presents the Neville Brothers in concert at the Eureka Theater, Sunday Aug. 15, with Kulica opening. Doors open at 6 p.m., showtime at 8 p.m. See www.nevilles.com for more on the band.
© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.