Naked Gypsy Queens open for The Black Moods at Rumba Cafe on Wednesday night. Doors at 7pm, show starts at 8. Admission is $15.
With technology at our finger tips, it’s easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole and discovering new music that you otherwise would never have happened across. I don’t exactly remember how I discovered Naked Gypsy Queens from Nashville, Tennessee. It may have been when I listened to Goodbye June and then learned about Them Dirty Roses which led me to the Georgia Thunderbolts and eventually NGQ. Or maybe it was scrolling through Twitter and seeing a post by The Hook Rocks podcast who focus on this new generation of classic rock-influenced bands. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, I’m just glad I discovered the band.
Earlier this summer, Cade Pickering (guitar), Bo Howard (bass) and Landon Herring (drums) moved on from the singer who, to that point, had sang on all the recorded material and appeared in videos and replaced him with Southern California transplant singer/guitarist Will Sawyer. Though the band has yet to record with Sawyer, they’ve recently hit the road with The Black Moods, and will be playing material from their back catalog before going into the studio later this year or earlier next year to work on new material.
With a gig later in the evening in Nashville, Pickering and Sawyer hopped on a Zoom call to chat about how the band started, where they are hoping to take their sound in the future, and life on the road.
You guys have been doing some touring. This isn’t like brand new to you, right?
CADE: This is Will’s first tour. But we’ve been touring since like 2019. And then we took a break obviously for Covid.
Given your ages and how long you’ve been a band, you must have started in high school, right?
CADE: Yeah, we all started in high school. It was a little high school with 170 kids, very small. It was all just music and arts related. We had a studio down in the basement so we would rehearse there all the time. From there, we just started playing blues stuff and we played around Franklin and Nashville.
Was it blues music and blues-based rock that inspired you to pick up a guitar and start playing?
CADE: I started playing when I was 15. I got a guitar for Christmas. At the time, I was really influenced by the actor River Phoenix and he played guitar a lot. I thought if I could just learn a few chords, that would be cool. And then my girlfriend at the time sent me a link to the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video by Nirvana. I remember watching it and my mind was blown. That, and the Velvet Underground Nico album, both made me want to be in a band. Over time, about a year or two of just playing straight grunge chords, I wanted to get into actual soloing and that’s when I found out about the blues.
How do you think most people are discovering your music?
CADE: Right now, the streaming platforms are what everyone that we know are listening to. At the shows, people still want to buy physical copies, like vinyl and CDs, which is always a good thing. Personally, I like listening on vinyl, I think it’s the clearest sound and there’s just something about it.
You’ve been working with producers and a label. What can you tell me about that?
CADE: For the first EP, Georgiana, that came out, we worked with Marlon Young, Al Sutton and Herschel Boone, who produced Greta Van Fleet’s first EP and their first album. We got hooked up with them in September or October of 2019. We went to the studio and that’s where we recorded the EP. We were trying to shop labels and we found our label, Mascot, and we signed with them like a week before Covid hit.
Did they give you any advice on how to spend your time during the pandemic since you couldn’t play shows? Did they suggest writing as many songs as you could or maybe just focus on the ones that you had already written and make them really good?
CADE: It was just such a weird time, nobody knew what to do. We had this EP we were just about to release. We were scheduled to release the first single in March 2020. So, they really just said to keep writing. We had to scrap a lot of those songs but now we’re writing new stuff.
You recently experienced a lineup change. Chris Attigliato, who sang on everything you’ve put out, is no longer in the band and Will has replaced him. What are the recording plans going forward? Will you start from scratch or will you continue to work on older songs?
WILL: We’ve been writing a bunch of new stuff. Ever since I joined, we haven’t been able to stop putting out new ideas. Even during rehearsal, it’s a very collaborative process so we’re looking to get back in the studio after this tour and work with some producers and possibly some songwriters. I’m pretty confident in the new direction that we’re taking.
CADE: After this tour, we’re just going to write every day and just grind.
Going forward, will you carry on the sound that we’ve heard so far or are you looking at this as an opportunity to change in direction?
CADE: It’s definitely not going to be the same but I think it’s gotten better. I don’t want to toot Will’s horn but he’s a great guitarist, great singer, great songwriter. And we’re getting into new influences so it’s not just the straight-up blues rock that a lot of bands are doing now. We’re really trying to get into actual songwriting and studio production, We’re really heavily influenced by Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys and Number One Record by Big Star and want to focus on creating art rather than just another blues rock album.
WILL: There is a lot of oversaturation in the rock community with the blues rock revival where it’s like the A blues progression and different variations of that. As tempting as it is for us to do that, it kind of feels like we need to turn to songwriting and more unexpected influences to set us apart a little bit more, especially moving in this new direction. I do truly believe that it is the same band but I think we’re spreading our wings a little bit more.
CADE: We’re happier and more inspired.
(Live footage with Will Sawyer as the lead singer)
Does Mascot have you on any sort of time table to release music?
CADE: With Will joining a couple of months, I think the smartest thing they wanted us to do was to tour for the next 2 or 3 months and work on getting tight and then when we get back, we’ll write a shit ton because we’re be tight as a band and we’ll be locked in. I think it’s a pretty good idea.
WILL: There’s definitely a chemistry that was built on this last tour we got off a couple of weeks ago. Even now, on this tour, where every show we just got tighter and tighter, it just felt like the perfect live show dynamic. I think the more we play together, the tighter we’re going to get and the tighter we get, the more songs we’re going to pump out.
With the music you’ve already put out, who do you consider your peers?
WILL: This last tour we just did, we played with Cinema Stereo, which is a great band out of Orlando. They have a really cool rock sound but they bring some new stuff to the table which is really interesting. And, Naked Gypsy Queens opened for Dirty Honey before I joined.
CADE: There’s this local Nashville band that I love, they aren’t blues rock, it’s more like funk, and they’re called Down Boy. The guitar player and singer plays in Daniel Donato’s band. His band also blows my mind.
Did you guys grow up in Nashville?
CADE: No, I grew up in Chicago.
WILL: I grew up in Orange County, California. I moved here a month ago.
What’s that like? Is it a pretty big change?
WILL: It’s a pretty big change. I was definitely ready for it, I had lived in California my whole life. I’ve really enjoyed Nashville so far, the people are great, the music is great, the food is great.
Has Naked Gypsy Queen played in Ohio before?
CADE: We played at the House of Blues in Cleveland opening for Buckcherry.
In the touring you’ve done, does Cleveland feel like Chicago feel like Indianapolis feel like Louisville when you’re playing similar venues in front of similar crowds or can you tell the difference between cities?
CADE: I can tell the difference.
WILL: Sometimes you have to try to be able to tell the difference because sometimes it’s easy to sit in the back of the van, throw your headphones on and just chill out and then get to the venue and load in. We try to entertain ourselves and have a good time so we’ll look at the sights and try to pay attention to what’s around us. You can see the different energies of the different cities and see how people are. It’s cool to pick out the differences and the similarities, especially when you travel as frequently as we do.
When you’re traveling, is there communal music that you all listen to or does everyone throw their headphones on and get caught up in the music they like?
WILL: Oh yeah, we definitely have our fair share of band jams. Early in the morning, late at night, any time during the day we’ll throw on some music, sing, hang out, it’s a great time.
Is it whoever is driving gets to pick the music or do you all agree on something?
WILL: It’s a community thing. We pass the phone around, throw whatever song you want in the queue. It’s fun getting to hear what people put on those playlists and jamming out.
Is there somebody that listens to stuff that the rest of you don’t?
CADE: Probably our roadie, Chance. He’s a ’90s kid so he has all that weird ’90s and underground stuff that is so far out. We’re definitely weirded out by it but some of it’s pretty cool.
WILL: When he throws the hair metal on, he and I get along. He does play that “Red Dress” song. It’s a horrific song, I wouldn’t recommend listening to it.
CADE: Sarah Brand is the singer. She did it as an experiment, from what I read. She goes to Oxford and is a Sociology major and she uploaded this song and she’s just so out of key, out of tune.
WILL: It hurts you inside when you listen to it.
CADE: Everybody thought, for a while, that it was real. It’s a good song if you’re forced to listen to it over a hundred times.