High Hopes: Left Lane Cruiser

By rights, Left Lane Cruiser really shouldn’t be in this part of the mag. Formed over a decade ago, and seven albums old, they’re hardly cherubic newcomers. It’s just that, for various reasons, Britain has been slow to catch on to the Mideasterners’ dusty, punky take on blues rock – a rousing clatter that conjures up images of Billy Gibbons fronting the Stooges.

Part of that is down to work permit issues with the UK authorities. “We tried to play there about eight years ago,” explains splendidly named frontman Freddie ‘Joe’ Evans IV, “but your guys wouldn’t let us in. Took our fingerprints, put us in airport jail for six hours and put us on the first plane home.”

Back then, Left Lane Cruiser were a duo of Evans and drummer Brenn Beck. The two of them were originally brought together by an ex of Joe’s. “She knew I was moving back to Indianapolis and said: ‘Why don’t you get together with my buddy from high school? He plays drums,’” he remembers. “It was like a musical blind date. I sent him a mix tape of some riffs and we hit it off. We hadn’t even met before our first practice.”

From those romantic beginnings, the band gradually added members, though they’re now back down to a trio after Beck’s recent exit. “Brenn’s wife just kinda put her foot down and said: ‘It’s me or the band.’ It was an ‘honourable discharge’, man.”

Still, the new line-up includes a bassist who ‘plays’ the skateboard. “Yeah, it’s just got two strings but it sounds great,” Evans says proudly. “Joe [Bent, bassist] took his board, drilled a humbucker and used a Red Stripe bottle for a bridge. We save it for the middle of the set. Once he gets it out, everybody just goes apeshit.”

Raw as a gaping wound and cheerfully low-tech, Left Lane Cruiser aren’t shy about the relish with which they enjoy traditional rock’n’roll pleasures. Their current album Dirty Spliff Blues flaunts their weed habit (“It’s a nod to the fact we smoke it straight, unlike you guys in Europe”), and they’ve got a reputation as keen drinkers. “But we’re real task‑orientated,” Evans adds. “We might drink from sun up to sun down but we handle ourselves professionally.”

Not always though. One time at a festival in Germany their record company flew in an engineer to record their set for a live release. “I hadn’t eaten, and backstage this guy kept filling my whisky glass real fast and I kept knocking it back,” Evans recalls. “I don’t think we got through two songs. Apparently I’d been telling jokes the whole set. The guy who was there to record us wasn’t too pleased.”

Since then they’ve cut down – a little. “These days I try to not drink every day,” the singer pleads, “but, you know, in the entertainment business, it does make it a lot easier to entertain people.”

FOR FANS OF… RL Burnside

“I love the approach to the blues that there was on that record,” Freddie Evans says of RL Burnside’s A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey. “It had a huge influence on us. What they did on that record was incredible – Mr Spencer taking that old style of the blues and mixing it with that crazy fury of rock’n’roll. That’s as good as it gets for me.”

Classic Rock 212: News & Regulars

Will Simpson was Music Editor of the Big Issue South West in Bristol before relocating to Thailand to become Deputy Editor of English language books magazine New Arrivals. Since returning to the UK he's freelanced, writing about music for Classic Rock, IDJ, Metro and Guitarist, and environmental issues for Resource and The Spark. He also writes for contract publishing titles such as Teach, Thomson Air, Musician and Korg.