“This is what happens when two little bands come together to make one great big one,” roars Jaren Johnston, the boisterous guitarist and frontman with The Cadillac Three, from the stage of the Lexington in London. Not that there’s anyone to hear him. It’s 10am on a Saturday morning and Classic Rock has brought his band, together with their old friends The Graveltones, here for a behind-closed-doors photo session and a quick jam in a showdown that we’re billing as The Garage Rockers versus The Shitkickers.
Geographical disparities notwithstanding – The Cadillac Three come from Nashville, The Graveltones are two Aussies now living in London – the two bands are already very well acquainted, having toured together in the past.
Everyone is enjoying the reunion. As our photographer barks out his instructions, telling the guitarist to sit on the floor in front of the stage, Johnston cracks up the room by announcing: “I hope you’ve got a good view of my balls.”
The feeble attempt at humour is forgivable. It’s been quite a while since TC3 last enjoyed anything approaching a decent night’s sleep.
“Two days ago, at noon, we played the CMA Fest in Nashville and went straight to the airport before flying here to the UK,” Johnston explains. “Yesterday we played at the Download Festival, hung out for a while, did some media and then drove to London for this. This afternoon we fly home, and we’ve another show in Grand Rapids tomorrow afternoon.”
“So that’s the biggest country rock festival in the States and Britain’s biggest rock festival within twenty-four hours of one another,” marvels Dobro specialist Kelby Ray, as though the thought is hitting him for the first time.
Meanwhile, The Graveltones are returning to the limelight with Love Lies Dying, a long-awaited second album that adds a new sense of colour to the rhythmic, riff-charged belligerence of Don’t Wait Down, their debut from 2013. Keen to strike while momentum is theirs, the duo already have a studio booked in December to record their third album. They hope to release it as early as next summer.
“Mikey [Sorbello, drums] and I want to do an album a year for the next five or six years,” says singer/guitarist Jimmy O. “The reviews of Love Lies Dying have been very positive so far, and I’m proud of the progression we’ve made. We’re definitely growing as a band.”
Although he won’t divulge who/what the song Kiss And Fuck Off is about, the guitarist nods when it’s pointed out to him that the track This Love’s Gonna Break has a Rolling Stones-esque vibe to it. “I can see why you’d say that. And I’m going to take that as a compliment. It probably came from the fact that we recorded a lot of the record live.”
However, for the most part the album is built on dirty, blues-based bombast. With a mutual affinity for musical simplicity, a love of blistering volume, a proclivity for bad language and a thirst for booze, in a parallel universe The Graveltones and The Cadillac Three could have been siblings.
“What I like the most about The Cadillac Three is that they’re a real band,” says Jimmy O. “They have the same ethos as us. They do things like the older bands used to – they play loads of shows, never stop and get things done the old-fashioned, organic way.”
There’s definitely something of a mutual appreciation society going on here.
“It’s called rock’n’roll,” Johnston says. “The Graveltones were kind enough to allow us to open for them on only our second time in the UK.”
“It’s cool that, like us, The Graveltones keep it simple – the less members the better,” says Ray.
And he has a point. Today’s gathering includes five musicians and two bands – and still no actual bass player. “Those fuckers always show up late, and it’s one more guy to pay,” Ray shrugs dismissively by way of explanation.
Johnston is keen to elaborate upon his admiration for The Graveltones: “The first time I saw them, they blew me away. They’re the rawest, most powerful two-piece out there. Everyone talks about The Black Keys and The White Stripes. And those guys are fine, but neither of them has a drummer like Mikey, who really sets the pace. They tend to follow the lead guy. But these guys lead each other. They hit it hard as hell. It’s monstrous, and the tones are insane.
“They really do sound like gravel, that’s why it’s a kick-ass name,” he adds. “They go all the way to eleven, but they’re also really good at going all the way down to one.”
Although it’s been three years since their own self-titled debut album (retitled Tennessee Mojo in the UK), back in March the Cadillac Three kept in the news with the six-song EP Peace Love & Dixie, and are in no real hurry to deliver a successor.
“We’ve got four new songs ready to go, so we might put out another EP before doing a full length record at the beginning of next year,” offers Johnston. “There’s plenty of music out there from us right now.”
“A full headlining tour is being lined up for January 2016, so that would make sense,” Kelby Ray adds.
Given the amount of love in the room, at some point in the future a co-headline tour would make good sense?
“Oh, man, we’d do it any time,” Johnston exclaims. “The Graveltones drink like we do, so that would be awesome.”
Jimmy O is equally enthusiastic. “Absolutely. Apart from the hangovers,” he laughs. “Just tell us when and where, and Mikey and I will be there.”