by Robert Bell
9:30 p.m. Friday. Revolution. $10.
10 p.m. Saturday. White Water Tavern. $10.
Without question, The American Princes are one of the best-loved and successful Arkansas rock bands of the last decade plus. The band stopped playing in 2009 when their bassist, Luke Hunsicker, became ill. Hunsicker passed away in August 2010. This weekend marks the band's first shows since his passing. The Times caught up with singer/guitarists David Slade, Collins Kilgore and Will Boyd via e-mail about this weekend's shows. The band plays with The See on Friday and Saturday with Magician Michael Casey, of North Carolina.
When did you guys decide to get the American Princes back together for these shows?
David Slade: The four of us have been talking about this since autumn of 2010. Any time we'd get together, the question always seemed to be hanging out there, and then after a few beers one of us would pipe up.
And it became apparent over the summer that we were pretty much going to have to do this now or, like, seven years from now, since Collins is about to head to California for a job that will keep him from coming back for extended periods over the holidays.
These songs are burned into our brains, mind you, as we played them for years and years, but it's a lot easier to remember how to play your material when you're three years out of practice than when you're 10 years out of practice.
Collins Kilgore: We had been toying with the idea since last spring, but we didn't commit to it until some time in the fall. I think we all realized that if we didn't do it now it might never happen. I was a little blown away when I realized it had been three years since we last played. That's too long.
Are these a one-time thing, or is there any possibility of more shows and/or new music?
DS: I'm certain we'll play again after these shows, although when it'll happen is significantly less certain. We'll probably have at least one new president, in the interim. But it's impossible to imagine never doing shows with these guys anymore.
Writing new songs is an exciting prospect, but at the moment I'm intimidated by the idea. There's an almost immutable rule in rock 'n' roll that once you settle down and start a family, you become incapable of writing any more good material. So if we were to do something new, it'd probably have to be entirely on Collins and Will. My stuff would just be about changing the bag in the Diaper Genie or trying to get my kid to eat something other than chicken nuggets, which I'm guessing aren't really resonant topics for pop songs.
And, of course, the idea of writing material without Luke contributing to the process puts up this brick wall in my mind. Whichever song we'd do would be The First Song We Wrote Without Luke. I wonder what circumstances would let us cross that line. I mean, I think we all feel a solidarity and devotion to each other and to what we've done, so I think it could be something very cool and meaningful for us (and I'd like to believe they'd be really good songs), but it would also require a certain reckoning that I imagine we're all hesitant to have. I know I'm a little afraid.
CK: I'd say there's always the possibility of more. We've been having a lot of fun getting prepared for these shows. And even though David and I are about to become lawyers, we'll always be musicians, too. I hope we're able to play more holiday shows in the future. As far as new music, I've always loved writing with David. I don't think it's unlikely that we'll work together on stuff. But honestly, I'm not sure where he's finding the time even to practice right now. David is about the busiest person I know.
Another Little Rock band that lost a member is The Big Cats. I wondered whether you all felt any sort of bond with those guys, with both of your bands having experienced such a loss.
Will Boyd: Of course there's a bond with the Big Cats but to be perfectly honest I'm not sure how much it has to do with Luke. It mainly feels like there is a bond because they are such rad dudes!
DS: Agreed. I don't hide the fact that I've looked up to Burt Taggart pretty much from the minute that I moved here in 1993, and over the years we've all established a great friendship with each of those guys, individually. Certainly, they have a special understanding of what we've gone through and vice versa, so sure, I think it adds another layer of empathy and mutual regard to our interactions. But we've been close with them for many, many years.
CK: I've never thought of it that way, exactly. Rather, I see those guys as having been around a long time and having experienced everything the music business has to offer, including tragedy and disappointment. In that sense, I think we look up to them a lot. We probably wouldn't be doing this without their example.