Recently, LoveToKnow Guitar had the pleasure to conduct a Flatbed Honeymoon interview. For those of you who live outside of the musical hotbed of South East Louisiana, the music of Flatbed Honeymoon will most likely be unknown to you. Luckily, technology has shrunk the modern world down so small you can literally put it in your cell phone and carry it around in your pocket. So instead of buying a plane ticket to the delta, you can virtually visit bayou country and its many musical treats any time of the day or night via the Internet. So, sit back and enjoy this Flatbed Honeymoon interview, and pretend you're sitting in a bar in Cajun country drinking a Sazerac and feasting on jambalaya.
A Brief Introduction
The music of Flatbed Honeymoon is like a good pot of Louisiana gumbo: varied in its components, but unified and satisfying in its end result. Their debut self-titled album mixes equal parts Townes Van Zandt storytelling, traditional Guy Clark country, and eclectic, acoustic rock-n-roll in the vein of mid-90s R.E.M. with subtle pinches of soul and jazz thrown in for depth of flavor. The result is an overall sound that is familiar enough to be approachable at first, yet individual enough to continually engage the listener after many plays. Guitarists Eric Schmitt, Randolph Thomas and bassist Denise Brumfield are all contributing songwriters to the album, giving the fifteen-song CD multiple perspectives. The track Patsy Cline, Thomas' dark meditation on the great country singer, features Brumfield's haunting harmonies and Schmitt's moody Dobro playing. On One Last Screw, Schmitt tells a playfully poignant tale of a working class house in disrepair that ultimately resolves to become the last place on earth you'd ever want to leave. And on the barroom ballad Sittin', Brumfield ponders all possible options of escaping a relationship on its last legs from her perch on a lonely bar stool. LoveToKnow Guitar sat down with Randolph and Eric recently to get their take on guitars, songwriting and playing music in the deep-south.
The Flatbed Honeymoon Interview
What can you tell the readers about the guitars you play in this band?
Eric - Well, in this band, my main guitar is a Gibson ES-125. It's a 1961, and I like it because it's a hollow body so it has the properties of an acoustic. So, I can play rhythm and then play lead, and I don't feel like I'm doing one or the other. I can cross over. If I had my preference, I'd play my acoustic, my Martin J-15 when I was playing rhythm or if I was doing a folky songwriter kind of thing, but for live gigs, I like the Gibson. I also play a Dobro that is a Scheerhorn Wechter, and I have an eight string Hawaiian lap steel which is tuned to C6 and is made by a guy in California at West Coast Steel Guitar Products.
Randolph - I have a Taylor 314-CE. It's a very versatile guitar, and I've had it for three or four years. My main guitar before that was a Takamine that I still have and I really like. It's an old one that looks exactly like a Martin, and it's always done really good by me. But I wanted something different, and the sound system in the Taylor really attracted me. It's a great plug in guitar and it sounds and plays great, but I still really like the Takamine for certain things. I also have a Fender Stratocaster and an ancient 1973 Fender Bronco that has a little whammy bar that falls off.
When did you put Flatbed Honeymoon together?
Eric - It has to be after Denise joined because that's when we actually named the band.
Randolph - We've been playing songs together, Eric and I, for seven or eight years. Quickly after Eric got to LSU and started teaching in the English department, we met and started playing songs, but never anything regular until this band.
Eric - We just got together in our houses and played, and drank Jack Daniels, which Randolph would mix with caffeine free Coke!
Randolph - That's right, I did … But we played a few parties in those days, nothing serious.
Are there any songs from that period that you still play?
Randolph - Yeah, we still do Patsy Cline and My Green Fields. Eric - I think most of my songs came after that. But then we sort of quit playing for a while until we met Denise.
How did that meeting come about?
Eric - We both met Denise at different times for different reasons.Randolph - Yeah, several years ago I was going around doing open mic nights at different clubs, and I met her at this place called Roxanne's out on O'Neal Lane. Well, it's not there anymore, but they were having an open mic night, and it was sponsored by Chicago Al who she used to play with, and she'd be out there a lot. I got to talking to her, and we became friends.
Eric - Without knowing that, I was playing in this country band, Breaker 1-9 at the time. There was a guy named Les who used to have parties at his house behind this club called Chelsea's. One night my band ended up playing a show there, and a band Denise was in was also playing there. After it was over, we got to talking, and I asked her if she'd be interested in playing bass with this other project I was in. I think she liked the idea because she was kind of interested in getting in a more original band since she was playing in a lot of cover bands at the time.
Randolph - The first time we actually played together it was at Eric's house, and it was almost like we were auditioning for her!
Eric - At one point that night, she paused and said, "O.K., why don't y'all just tell me what you want to get out of this?" You know, like, "What the hell are you guys, and what is this all about?" So it was kind of touch and go for a while, but she stuck around.
Tell me about when you wrote these songs?
Eric - Well, most of mine are newer, written in the last few years. Actually, last year I wrote a whole bunch of them. I really don't know why, except that for the first time I was playing in bands, something I really had never done before. I thought, well, now I have an opportunity to perform some songs, so …
Randolph - Some of the songs that we do are songs that I played when I was in Jackson's Buick, a band I was in up in Arkansas around 1990, so it was a long time ago. Some of them are songs that I've written since then. I work on songs for a long time sometimes. Years and years …
Eric - As you can tell, I spit mine out in about fifteen minutes!
Where to go to check out Flatbed Honeymoon's Music
If you're interested in checking out Flatbed Honeymoon's debut CD, you have plenty of options. You can visit their My space page to listen to some songs and then head over to CD Baby to buy the CD. You can also download individual songs or the entire album at Amazon or at iTunes.