Sometimes romantic and sometimes demented, Texas-based duo the Greyhounds put a gritty spin on classic soul and blues-rock. Singer/guitarist Andrew Trube and singer/organist Anthony Farrell prefer raw rhythms, rich grooves, and noisy amp tones over the sugared-up arrangements of many contemporary soul/rock acts. But musical classification isn't a big worry for the band.
"I don't care what people call us or how they classify us," says Trube, speaking last week from his home in Austin. "They can say we're a Bavarian polka band, as long as they dig what we're doing. I usually just say, 'It's Hall and Oates meets ZZ Top.' We just hang in our own area where we do our own thing."
The Greyhounds formed as a quartet in 1999 in New York. After touring the country for several years, Trube and Farrell relocated to Trube's hometown of Tyler, Texas, to write songs for their second album, Liberty, which they recorded in New Orleans with Robert Mecurio and Stanton Moore (both of Galactic) lending production.
Over the years, they've written songs for such artists as Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, and Ruthie Foster and collaborated with various musicians and bands around the Southeast. In 2009, Taylor Hicks of American Idol fame asked the Greyhounds to open up his U.S. tour. The band released a "live studio album" titled No Mas that year. Shortly after, Trube and Farrell hit the jam band circuit as part of Florida-based songwriter JJ Grey's rhythm section in Mofro, a soul-funk group with a large following.
"Anthony and I started playing with JJ Grey about three years ago, which has been great, but it actually allows us to get more focused on what we want to do in Austin with the Greyhounds," Trube says.
When they noticed they had December almost entirely off, the band decided to do their first major Greyhound tour in years.
"We toured so hard in the 2000s that our bodies finally gave us the middle finger and we had to stop for a while," Trube says. "We were getting into a fucked up situation, but we made adjustments. We know what we're doing, and we're really excited to do it."
While Trube and Farrell handle most of the parts on guitar, organ, and bass, the drum duties go to whoever might be available. Anthony Cole (also of Mofro) signed on to keep time for the Greyhounds on this current trip.
"Cole is one kick-ass drummer — one of the top drummers we've ever played with," Trube says. "He knows the songs really well. We're really excited to have him."
The Greyhounds recently released an EP titled Spring Training, featuring Sam Patlove on drums. Compared to some of their funky material from the 2000s (think Galactic and Medeski, Martin, and Wood), the new stuff is more spare and sparse, but the element of soul remains intact.
Trube's reverb-laden guitar lilts over a dry-tone drum beat in 4/4 time on Spring Training's lead track "What's on Your Mind," a chilled-out lonesome soul number with Farrell on raspy lead vocals. Trube mentions the windy beaches of South Carolina on the Zeppelin-esque "Yours to Steal," a scratchy stomper featuring Trube's hearty soul-man singing. "Soul Navigator" is a bit more upbeat and straightforward, with some tasty slide work and nasally, Leon Redbone-style mumbling. On a completely different trip, the organ and synth-driven closer "The Greyhounds: H-E-L-L-O" sounds like Kraftwerk and Ween doing a song for Sesame Street.
"All of the sounds are organic on this little EP," says Trube. "We used old analog machines as much as possible. We didn't bring the computers in until the very last minute. I think it's what we've always done. Maybe it's kind of popular to do it this way now. We're not trying to be a throwback band or recreate anything. We're just trying to create what we do."