David Lowery says that “Greenland,” Cracker’s first studio album of new material in four years, sums up an interesting past year, a period in which his bands saw their equipment ripped off in Montreal and again three months later in Dallas.
Lowery, whose roots on his father’s side run thoughout Arkansas, said, “There is a preponderance of ballads on the record, or songs that might be a little darker than we’re known for. There’s a sense of humor in it at times, but a little darker, too. You could call it a year in the life of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven.”
Cracker, Lowery’s main project of the past 14 years, will appear Monday, June 12, at Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom, along with the Elms, an alt-rock/country band out of Indiana. Showtime is 9 p.m. and tickets are $12.
Lowery for the past year has been on the road as a duo with his longtime Cracker buddy and co-founder Johnny Hickman as a duo, as well as on the road with Camper Van Beethoven. Plus, the entire Cracker band reassembled earlier this year to re-record their biggest hits and put them out as a “Greatest Hits Redux” in March, coinciding with Cracker’s former label also milking the last of its contract with the band by putting out a greatest hits record the same day.
Then, the band went to work on “Greenland.”
“I think like all of our records, we sort of record and write a lot of songs and it somehow gets narrowed down to an album, the same eclectic stuff,” Lowery said. “Our music runs together from the alt-country type thing we do to almost punk rock stuff to traditional straight up rock’n’ roll, Southern rock, roots rock, to some psychelic-style. This record does a good job of doing that.”
Yes, there are the irreverent, satirical, fun lyrics Lowery is known for on past Cracker and CVB albums. But, then there are the ballads, the sitting-at-a-bar, drink-in-hand kind of introspective stuff, such as the song “Something You Ain’t Got.” You’d get that way if someone had swiped your equipment twice in three months.
“They should have arrested the hotel clerk in Dallas,” Lowery said. “The van and trailer were only alone for 12 hours when we were ripped off there. But the police in Dallas took it more serious than the French Canadian authorities. They actually found some of our stuff later.
“In Montreal, they came in with cutting torches, first going for the parking kiosk and trying to get all the keys. They had cut the doors around the hinges with a cutting tool. Everything was all piled up in the kiosk. They were trying to take everything. In Dallas, we just made a stupid mistake and left the van alone.”
The thievery didn’t stop Lowery from still considering Montreal among his favorite cities. “We may go back there for Halloween.”
Lucero, the Memphis quartet that includes Little Rock’s Ben Nichols, will be working with Lowery in his Richmond, Va., studio in coming weeks. Lowery, Hickman and John Morand bought a functioning studio in Richmond as a project 12 years ago, and now it’s a busy complex for East Coast labels.
“It’s a little indie rock music factory now, a little punk rock Motown,” he said. “We’ve got two traditional studios and a floating workstation where all these engineers and people work, but I don’t get there a lot.”
He added, “I’m a big Lucero fan. I’d never met them before, but we got together and discussed a lot of connections between us that we both had, our Arkansas backgrounds. It’s pretty cool. We were talking about my friends, or my friend’s brother, and we all knew the same people. It ended up being all these strange connections that I’m surprised we haven’t met before.”
American Princes, the Little Rock band, recorded their “Less and Less” album at Lowery’s studio as well.
Lowery likes his opener, the Elms, too. “I guess you’d consider them a country band by default,” he said. “They’re young and more rock than we are, but we’re more country than they are. Somebody turned me on to them at some point off their myspace tape. I thought they were pretty cool, we called them and that’s how they ended up on this leg of the tour.” The Elms recently released “The Chess Hotel” on the Universal South label.
Cracker will trot out veteran band member Kenny Margolis on keyboards and accordion, Frank Funaro on drums and Victor Krummenacher on bass. “Our Spinal Tap position is our bass player,” Lowery joked about the ever-changing bass guitar position of the group. “He’s been playing with us with Camper. He came in one time to fill in with Cracker and hasn’t really left since. He’s a steady player.”