Given the gritty rock and roll nature of the music that Hoge and band pump out you would expect them to hail from New Jersey or Detroit but these are, for the most part, nice southern boys who have learned to shake, rattle and roll. The band plays old style blue collar rock and roll and they play it well. I caught up with them on their whirlwind tour of LA that included shows at both the Viper Room and the Troubadour. They seem in good spirits: They are entertaining crowds wherever they go playing with the likes of Blues Traveler and Rod Stewart (though their dream is to play with the Stones) and someone is putting them up at the Bel Age.
Brian Layson, Kirk Yoquelet, Tres Sasser & Will Hoge
Carlye Archibeque: So I heard you really gave out your room number the other night at the Troubadour. Did you get much action from that?
WH: (laughing) No, nothing.
CA: The fourteen year-olds didn’t show up at the door?
TS: No one showed up
KY: It’s bad when you tell people where you’re staying and they don’t show up.
TS: They didn’t even come to see if it might be true.
CA: No note in the morning? …just checking?
WH: No one even came by to tell us it was stupid to give out our room number.
CA: Well, from the looks of the crowd they all had a curfew of midnight.
KY: That’s how we justified it, “well their parents wouldn’t let them come.”
CA: They probably didn’t believe you were staying at the Bel Age
KY: Actually the Bel Age doesn’t know we’re staying here either.
TS: We’re only doing this interview here to impress you.
WH: It was really easy to get in. We told them that counting crows wanted to stay here.
CA: I’m sure stranger things have happened here. So are you and Kirk the founders?
WH: Tres and Kirk were actually playing together in another band in Nashville. I’d been going through a thing where I didn’t really want to be in a band anymore, I just wanted to be Will Hoge. I didn’t want to worry about who the other musicians were. I didn’t care if they had to be different every night. I just wanted to do my own thing. And as Will Hoge, I played with a couple of different people in Nashville, but it wasn’t really happening. Then I saw Tres and Kirk playing together in another band and they were just a great rhythm section, which is really hard to come by. I mean there’s a lot of great drummers and there’s a lot of great bass players, but putting them together and really making it click is, ah, difficult. The two of them, when I saw them, I just thought “that’s what I’m looking for.” So I just started talking to Tres and we got together and learned the first four or five songs. It felt pretty good and then we looked for a guitar player and that ended it up being Dan and after him Brian just fell into place.
CA: So Brian you’re the new guitar player?
BL: I am
CA: How do you like being the new guitar player?
BL: I love it!
CA: How did you come to be the new guitar player?
BL: I begged and pleaded on my hands and knees…no, I actually did a show together (on the bill with Hoge) with the old band I was playing with in Georgia. We hit it off and originally I was just going to go hang out with the guys in Nashville and two weeks later was when their old guitar player decided to get off the road and Will gave me a call.
CA: (to Will Hoge) So that’s two guitar players that have just fallen into your lap?
WH: Yeah, and the transition from Dan to Brian was…
KY: Smoother than we ever expected.
WH: Yeah, and not only on a musical level, but also on a personal level. It was one of those situations where…sometimes you hear that the band split up for “musical differences” and it really means that somebody was an asshole and pissed everybody off. It was actually just that Dan didn’t want to be on the road anymore. One of the first things Dan said when we talked about it was, “you need to call that guy from Georgia.” …I just felt that Brian was such a great guitar player that he needed to be somewhere else than…Macon.
CA: Do guys like LA, what’s your favorite thing?
TS: It’s sort of strange seeing the random star sightings.
WH: There’s some real similarities to Nashville. I mean you see Alan Jackson all the time and Reba McIntire, but it’s totally different. We’re not particularly awed by Alan Jackson or Reba McIntire, but by God when we hung out with Mr. Miagee (Pat Morita) the other night…
CA: You had a Mr. Miagee sighting?
WH: It was us, our core group, and Mr. Miagee and his wife at the bar.
KY: And what did he do Will.
WH: He covered his penis with his toupee and sang the national anthem for us.
CA: Are you kidding?
WH: Would I make that up?
CA: What was he drinking?
CA: So besides having the beautiful national anthem sang to you in the bar, what have been your favorite hot spots in LA?
KY: The Troubadour was really cool too; all that history.
CA: You guys were really lucky too. I was late because the Troub isn’t usually crowded on a weeknight, but you had a good big crowd and I actually had to wait in line.
WH: A friend of ours from New York took us over the night after and there were like thirteen people there, which was much more along the lines of what we were expecting…It’s nice that the Troubadour is like an actual functioning rock club. It’s not a tourist trap where it’s like “the Byrds used to play here.”
CA: The Whiskey and the Roxy are like that too. I don’t think tourist in Los Angeles have the patience to wait in line, pay to get in and get jostled by the crowd so they’ve been kind of protected.
WH: The first time I ever went to New York and played. We were playing at the Bitter End and it was like the same thing, this is where Bob Dylan used to play in the 60s. There’s this Donnie Hathaway record that I loved that was made there and I was just so excited I’d never played in New York and I had all these expectations of the East Village and it was not cool. It’s just kind of living on its reputation from the past…it just meant nothing.
CA: So do you guys all have family, wives, girlfriends, mothers, fathers?
WH: I have a mother and a father.
KY: I have a brother and a mother, they’re in Florida.
CA: Boy, you are from the south
KY: (over laughter) While I was in college they up and moved to Florida.
CA: Florida’s ok, except for the humidity. I was in boot camp in Florida and never want to go back.
WH: As in “the military.”
CA: Yes, I was a weapons and tactics instructor in the Seabees. I signed up to be a nurse and something went terribly wrong and I ended up as an electrician in the Seabees teaching tactics and weapons.
WH: (teasing) Well, Kirk is having trouble cleaning his M-16…
CA: A-1 or A-2? (…they all laugh approvingly)
CA: So your next set of shows is with Rod Stewart?
WH: …on the 5th we start the Rod Stewart part of the tour.
CA: So are you guys big Rod Stewart fans?
ALL: The old stuff
WH: I think all rock bands are Rod Stewert fans or should be, the stuff that he did with The Faces, the EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY album…he’s just such a great rock and roll singer. The stuff that he did early…
CA: It’s kind of in the same vein that you guys do, it’s very blue collar…
WH: Thank you, yeah, I think that The Faces and The Beatles and the Stones are bands that we’re all greatly influenced by…
CA: I have to ask, are you a big Elvis Costello fan, cause to me you sound more like Elvis Costello than anyone else you’ve been compared to like Bruce Springsteen.
WH: That’s…thank you, he’s like one of those core classic singer-songwriter, but singer-songwriter always sounds to me very low key…I think he also fronted an amazing rock and roll band. The Attractions are, I think, as fine a rock and roll band as has ever been assembled. Yeah, he’s a big influence. He just wrote amazing songs, and that’s kinda what it’s all about.
CA: Is that your goal, to write amazing songs and stay at five star hotels?
WH: (over everyone laughing) That sounds good to me.