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HomeDanceWidespread Panic’s John Bell discusses band's new album and Fox Theatre reveals

Widespread Panic’s John Bell discusses band’s new album and Fox Theatre reveals

Widespread Panic returns to the Fox Theatre subsequent week, for 4 make-up concert events that take the place of the band’s New 12 months’s Eve reveals, which have been postponed final 12 months because of Covid precautions.

Since then, the enduring jam band has launched Miss Kitty’s Lounge, an album that consists of demo recordings made in 1990 with the unique Widespread Panic lineup. Miss Kitty’s Lounge is rather more than a hodgepodge of discarded songs or a historic doc; it’s a full-throated Widespread Panic album that was recorded, however not launched, simply because the band’s star was starting to rise.

Widespread Panic’s John “J.B.” Bell not too long ago chatted with ArtsATL concerning the new album and the way it got here collectively. “It blows me away,” he mentioned. “We have been simply children, simply goin’ at it.” He additionally mentioned his songwriting course of, his three favourite non-Panic albums and the private impression of Covid when the band needed to shut down its heavy touring schedule.

The Athens-based jam band (with two members, Jimmy Herring and Duane Vehicles, who’ve deep Atlanta roots) will carry out reveals Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, August 10-13, on the Fox Theatre.

ArtsATL: When Covid broke out, how did Panic pivot from its years of heavy touring to staying house below lockdown?

John Bell: At first, it was surreal. And the novelty that got here with it was participating and, in a means, liberating — to only be house and do the isolation factor. However as time went on, we began considering, “That is our new scenario. Possibly it’s non permanent or, perhaps, it is going to be ongoing.” So, then, we needed to begin eager about our actuality and making some changes. 

ArtsATL: What have been these early changes?

Bell: We had to take a look at altering some reveals and we had to take a look at caring for everyone who’s on the payroll. And we additionally needed to think about all the parents who’re subcontractors — folks we now have labored with for over 20 years, and are a part of the household. So we wrote a couple of songs and began specializing in something we might that had a optimistic vibe to it.

ArtsATL: The brand new Widespread Panic album is Miss Kitty’s Lounge, and its songs are demos the group recorded in 1990 with the unique lineup. Did the pandemic play a job within the choice to launch these songs?

Bell: We at all times knew these tapes existed. However Covid definitely gave {that a} nudge. We mentioned, “Okay, we’re not enjoying. We don’t have a brand new album out. Let’s do some single recordings to place one thing out; to do one thing recent.” Then we mentioned, “What if we put these recordings out?”

ArtsATL: What was happening for Panic on the time you recorded these songs? 

Bell: A few these songs have been ones we have been able to launch. On the identical time, we have been being courted by a few the document labels so it ended up being a really costly demo session. These have been the unique variations of the songs, and half of them ultimately made it out for launch. And the opposite half, we by no means actually performed after that. 

ArtsATL: Do you credit score the Miss Kitty’s Lounge demo with getting you signed with Capricorn Information?

John Bell, Widespread Panic
Widespread Panic in 1990 (left to proper): Todd Nance, Michael Houser, John Bell, Dave Faculties and Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz (Photograph by William Claxton)

Bell: Effectively, not solely. We have been getting some airplay on our unbiased document, Area Wrangler. So we have been barely profitable and doing effectively on an unbiased stage. We have been already buddies with Phil Jr. (Phil Walden Jr.) and when he persuaded his father, Phil Walden Sr. — the president of Capricorn Information — to signal us to his label, it was a landmark second for us. We understood the distinction between road-trippin’ ourselves and instantly having a seven-record cope with greenback indicators behind it, and an organization devoted to selling us and the steadiness that got here with all of it. We knew it was an enormous deal.

ArtsATL: How was the expertise of bringing Miss Kitty’s Lounge again to life?

Bell: It was enjoyable. Nevertheless it was just a little nip and tuck there for some time. The tapes had form of degraded a bit and also you hear the tales that you’ve one likelihood with outdated tapes. You’ll be able to wash them and go them by means of the machine as soon as earlier than they actually lose their high quality. Fortunately, we ran them onto digital instantly — and labored with it from there.

However again to Covid’s position. As a result of our world was turned the other way up, every part was attention-grabbing to cope with. Even after we received by means of that preliminary course of, we came upon that among the document vegetation had closed down as a result of there was a scarcity of plastic or vinyl — so all that turned a part of the equation. We had first considered doing the document in June or July of 2020. So it was that lengthy earlier than we might truly make one thing occur.

ArtsATL: Do you assume there’s something serendipitous concerning the timing of Miss Kitty’s Lounge being launched with the 20-year anniversary of the dying of unique guitarist Michael (“Mikey”) Houser and the two-year anniversary of the dying of unique drummer Todd Nance?

Bell: Possibly cosmically. We are inclined to rejoice our time collectively and our birthdays extra so than our last days. However yeah, the universe has a hand in additional than we notice. I imply, simply attempt to do any of this alone — with out different folks’s assist — or cosmic forces. Plus, it’s simply extra enjoyable to consider within the magic, isn’t it?

John Bell and Jimmy Herring
Bell (left) on stage with Widespread Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring. (Photograph by Joshua Timmermans)

ArtsATL: While you take heed to Miss Kitty’s Lounge as we speak, what types of issues do you hear in your voice?

Bell: I used to be operating away from any cliché melody line. I used to be type of singing extra the way in which Mikey performed guitar — the place it was a stream of consciousness on the place your voice would go subsequent. I nonetheless do this, however I additionally am just a little extra acutely aware of the melody line and management of notes. So there’s just a little little bit of a cringe issue for me listening to it. However after I take heed to the band and the way we have been enjoying collectively, it blows me away. We have been simply children, simply goin’ at it.

ArtsATL: What phrases of recommendation may 60-year-old J.B. have for 30-year-old J.B.?

Bell: I suppose one of many fundamental issues I’d have instructed my youthful self is to be good to and be good to your bandmates. Though you’re going to have some clashes creatively and personality-wise, simply journey that out and pay attention to one another. And be sure you not let any good music concepts slip by. Even when it’s just a bit whiff. All of us have telephones now and you will get it down as a result of should you don’t, that stuff goes away.

John Bell
Bell says “Miss Kitty’s Lounge” reminds him of how a lot he enjoys recording in a studio. (Photograph by Joshua Timmermans)

I’ve at all times had just a little pocket pocket book I jot issues down in as a result of, should you don’t, it’s like a dream. You say, “I’ll keep in mind that” after which it’s gone. And, , I’ve enjoyable trying again into that pocket pocket book in any respect these items of concepts, lengthy forgotten, and a few are silly and a few I can’t even learn.

ArtsATL: Do you at all times carry that little pocket pocket book?

Bell: In some kind. I used just a little cassette recorder when “Coconuts” popped into my thoughts. I rapidly hit document and received the melody line and among the phrases and there it was. However I consider within the significance of getting one thing down you can return to later. And I believe these little notes are extra like what’s popping out of the unconscious, versus attempting to take a seat down and inform your self to put in writing a love music or one thing.

ArtsATL: Has the rebirth of Miss Kitty’s reminded you of something you could have forgotten?

Bell:  Yeah, that we additionally take pleasure in recording within the studio. In fact, we like to play stay, however we have been reminded that we’re musicians and buddies and we now have two equally enjoyable playgrounds to enter. And with Miss Kitty’s, it was cool as a result of we had such familiarity with the songs — having are available from enjoying them on the street closely. So with one take, we received it prefer it was a stay efficiency.

ArtsATL: Apart from Panic albums, title three you like.

Bell: I may give you three actual good ones, two of which I grooved on and have become impressed by as a child. One that might assist me perceive the way to put a music collectively and change into a songwriter can be Todd Rundgren’s One thing/Something? That was principally the soundtrack to my Friday nights all by means of highschool. And Van Morrison’s No Guru, No Technique, No Instructor. He has so many nice ones however I like that one for positive. And bringing it into the current, I’ve gotta embody Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters. She wrote it throughout Covid. It’s heavy on a girl’s perspective, nice motion on the songs and he or she shocks you into being attentive to the songs. I actually went on just a little journey with each a kind of songs and actually dug it. Love the lyrics “Kick me below the desk all that you really want, I gained’t shut up. I gained’t shut up.” I actually felt like I ought to apologize to my spouse, Laura, not for something particularly, however only for not getting it.

ArtsATL: How so?

Bell: Effectively, we’re type of the identical species, however whenever you have a look at it, women and men are virtually two completely different species. I used to be born in ’62 so I keep in mind issues like “Why can’t a girl be extra like a person?” from My Truthful Girl. So the Fiona document made me keep in mind to not see issues two-dimensionally — sure songs simply attain out and have that one thing further to them. And, it could possibly be the efficiency had a sincerity to it that made you’re feeling it went means deeper than simply “someone right here desires to be a rock star.”

ArtsATL: Full the sentence,“What makes me most proud about being Widespread Panic’s frontman is . . . ”

John Bell, Widespread Panic
Bell (proper) with bassist Dave Faculties acting at Pink Rocks (Photograph by Joshua Timmermans)

Bell: That I’m not a frontman. I’m standing within the center. If you happen to’re in a band, you got here collectively together with your skills and respect for each other. That can go a great distance in the direction of staying collectively and enjoying good music collectively and having enjoyable doing it. And the payoff is you get way more satisfaction enjoying a music collectively and have it tackle a brand new form. one thing greater is at play than simply checking a field that your solo was so many measures.

ArtsATL: Panic’s annual New 12 months’s Eve reveals are an enormous cope with your followers. How troublesome was it to make the choice to reschedule these 4 nights on the Fox Theatre?

Bell: It turned a choice for everybody to resolve what was the best factor to do. There have been so many pressures and folks and entities concerned within the choice. This got here again to soul-searching of preserving the followers as protected as doable and in addition worrying about all of the livelihoods which can be being affected by your choice. Nevertheless it’s like an enormous recreation of rooster — with the venues, the promoters and all of the completely different states and the way they have been dealing with protocols. Our selections had at all times lined up with the promoters and what the protocol was, however that was gone. Now it was completely different. And we thought we have been within the clear; then there was the large outbreak of the Delta variant, so we needed to make the very robust choice to reschedule.

ArtsATL: Have you ever discovered something particularly about your self coming by means of Covid?

Bell: As a result of Covid was heavy and there was no lightheartedness round it, I needed to personally depend on my instincts extra as a instrument and never simply my rational thoughts. And that wasn’t comfy. As a result of it’s your instincts which is able to tug behind your mind and infrequently inform you to essentially select one other path.

ArtsATL: Can Atlanta count on a correct celebration of 2022 developing on the Fox?

Bell: Yeah, little delay there. I don’t know precisely how we’re going to strategy it. It’s not going to be a full-on manufacturing of what New 12 months’s would appear like. Nevertheless it’ll be what 4 days of us on the Fox appears like. And there is perhaps some balloons. I believe they have been nonetheless budgeted (chuckles).


Brenda Stepp is an Atlanta freelance author who has written extensively concerning the jam-band scene.




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