The Greenhornes are back. Or were they ever really gone? It seems like they were just on a break. Drummer Patrick Keeler and bass player Jack Lawrence might better be known as members of The Raconteurs. But how do they want to be known? Patrick tells us he’d rather be known as Patrick. Their new album took five years to make. Perhaps this will be their last run?
Actually, when you meet the band, it seems the media has more questions and theories about this band than the actual band does (which includes singer/guitarist Craig Fox). The Greenhornes will just flat out tell you: They just play music. Tomorrow is a new day.
They are out promoting their new album **** (Four Stars). On a drenching-wet December day in Seattle, the band would play an in-studio performance at KEXP, an in-store show at Easy Street Records and then cap off the night with openers Hacienda at The Crocodile. Yes, they are certainly in full bloom again and busy.
When I met up with Patrick for an interview before their headlining show, I had my girlfriend with me but she wasn’t allowed to come back stage with us. A southern gentleman, Patrick insisted we hold off until the rest of my friends would arrive to the show so that my girlfriend wouldn’t have to wait alone. He patiently waited on us while consuming some cheese bread and a Guiness at the bar.
Randomville: You’re out touring. How are you health-wise?
Patrick Keeler: Ah, health-wise. Health-wise not so good. We’ve been out about four weeks. The first week, Craig had it (a cold), then Jack got it, and then I got it. It’s kind of lingering. I don’t feel terrible any more but I did feel kind of fevery a couple weeks ago. It happens to me every time I travel.
Rv: How hard is it to perform on stage when sick?
PK: Well, it’s not ideal, obviously.
Rv: At least you’re not the lead singer.
PK: I couldn’t imagine. I can cough off of mic and keep going.
Rv: How has this tour been?
PK: It’s cool. This is the first string of shows we’ve done in a very long time; probably four or five years.
Rv: Did it take long to get back in sync together?
PK: No, that was really easy. The hardest part is that we had a new keyboard player and then he got busy, so we had to put on another guy (Mark Watrous), and just kind of re-learning all the songs all the time.
Rv: During your Raconteurs time, what was the longest time The Greenhornes were separated?
PK: It’s hard to say. About a year at least. After touring the first Raconteurs album is when we started working on this album. It took a long time to record, but we did play together a lot.
Rv: So touring with The Raconteurs, I’d assume you tour on a big bus, correct?
PK: Um, it depends on where we’re going. We traveled well in that band. I mean, it’s not like we each had our own jet or anything like that.
Rv: So what are you traveling in now?
PK: The Greenhornes, we have a little Mystery Machine thing going on.
Rv: How do you like it?
PK: I dig it. I like traveling like this a lot. It’s nice because you can stop and park when you want to, instead of with a tour bus.
Rv: Do you guys drive it yourself?
PK: Yeah, the first run we did old school from New York with just me driving, and only Craig and Jack in the back. We have some people out with us on this tour though.
Rv: There is Greenhornes music in the film Broken Flowers. Where else?
PK: Well, I don’t know. Craig and I wrote some stuff for a really cool skate video called Habitat Skateboards. We’ve done some odd tv commercial stuff overseas, but not much here. I remember the first thing we got was some Jack Daniels ad for The Superbowl and we were like “Yeah!” That was from our first record. (The song was “Nobody Loves You”).
Listen to “Nobody Loves You”: [audio:http://randomville.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/08-Nobody-Loves-You.mp3|titles=Nobody Loves You]
Rv: So you don’t have issues with that being considered selling out or anything?
PK: I would argue that point…very….deeply. I mean, what’s selling out? How do you make money? I mean, you have to sell out because everybody is stealing everything.
Rv: You guys have been in this band for 14 years. How much of a difference have you seen regarding the downloading age?
PK: A huge difference! But the times are changing, and maybe for the better. A lot of record store owners are saying that kids are coming in wanting to buy vinyl more than download. Or even if they did download something, they want to get the purest quality, which would be by vinyl. So that’s cool.
I would never be that pissed off at people for downloading our music because in one way, then maybe more people will come to our shows if we get spread around more. And that’s another way to make money. Traveling and gas are more expensive than they ever were. Airports are a pain in the ass. Airlines want to charge you per bag and in our case, that’s a lot of bags and a lot of weight, so it gets expensive. So if the Michelin Tire man comes around and wants to give me money for a commercial…
Rv: Does your label take care of those things?
PK: There’s a big mis-conception there. I mean, even if the label does cover it, you’re still paying for it. It’s more or less a loan. In this case, we didn’t borrow anything and we did the album ourselves. Third Man are pressing, marketing and distributing the album.
Rv: How has Third Man been so far?
PK: I’ve basically known all those guys for all my life. We all kind of started this shit at the same time, so it’s a good home. We all kind of work together on other projects. We’re happy to be there.
Rv: What were you doing while The Dead Weather was going on?
PK: I worked on some albums; did a few recordings. I did a record with Corey Chisel and Carl Broemmel. I found this little girl from Malaysia named Zee Avi; got her hooked up with some people. Doing artwork for the album.
Rv: You’re an artist?
PK: Yeah, I designed your shirt (laughs).
Rv: How sick of hearing about The Raconteurs are you on this tour?
PK: Not at all. You know, it’s a band I got to play in, and it’s not like we’re done.
Rv: Does it bother you that most people know you as “that guy from The Raconteurs who is in a band called The Greenhornes,” or would you rather be known as “that guy from The Greenhornes who plays in The Raconteurs?”
PK: Well, I’d rather be known as…you know, my name is Patrick and I play in a lot of things. The Raconteurs have helped get The Greenhornes to a lot of people. We’re coming out of not playing for five years and there are more people buying our albums and coming to our shows than ever before, even though they know about us from this other vehicle. It might bug Craig, but it doesn’t bother me.
Rv: You had a chance to be in Wolfmother a while back.
PK: I’m friends with Andrew (Stockdale) and when Chris (Ross) and Myles (Heskett) split it kind of saddened my day because I loved that band. When they did split, I did go out to Los Angeles to hang out and try to get stuff together, but it just didn’t end up working out. We were still busy in The Raconteurs and I think Andrew was just ready to go home and try to figure out what he wanted to do. (Stockdale eventually re-formed Wolfmother with other band members). It was fun; I got to jam with him for a couple weeks.
Rv: To reach back a little bit, how was working with Loretta Lynn? (Keeler and Lawrence both backed up Loretta Lynn and Jack White on an album in 2004).
PK: Amazing. That’s one of those opportunities I don’t think you pass up.
Rv: What was she like as a person? Like a grandma or something?
PK: No, not like a grandma. More like a hotter, older aunt or something. On maybe your cousin’s side or something. She was cool; very nice and professional. She sang really well. I was just kind of observing.
Rv: Were you intimidated working with her?
PK: Sure. Absolutely.
Rv: Do you still get intimidated around celebrities or musicians at all? You’ve jammed with Pete Townshend.
PK: Sometimes. I mean with Pete, who wouldn’t? The weird one for me is when I meet people I’d think I would be nervous around and they end up acting odd or nervous around me, telling me they’re a big fan of me. That’s the weirder one.
Rv: Is there anyone you want to work with?
PK: (Long Pause) I don’t know. Maybe something weird with Dwight Yoakam. That would be pretty cool.
Rv: Are you pretty settled in Nashville or do you see yourself moving back to Cincinnati?
PK: I’d say I’m pretty settled. I love it. If I did move back that way, I’d probably move to Indiana, which is where I’m originally from.
Rv: Do you see yourself being a musician forever, or maybe doing graphic design at some point?
PK: Well I’ve always been a musician and I don’t know how good I am at design. I would always play music.
Rv: Do you see yourself out touring when you’re 65 or something like that?
PK: I don’t like to think of it that way! (We both laugh) Maybe there will just always be a track to play on or something. We’ll see.