Music and Band Jeff Tucker Interview
by publisher Paul Heingarten
July 2009, in advance of September 2009 Florida and Louisiana tour dates
Q: How did you come up with the name of your band?
A: On the Beach is the name of a book and a movie about the apocalypse. It’s also the name of a song and an album by Neil Young, a term for being caught in a sand trap in golf, and a way of saying someone is out of work in the radio and TV business.
Q: What genre (if any) would you classify your music in?
A: That’s a tough one. We play a little of everything – but the term “variety band” is a term that just doesn’t sound very hip. “Adult rock” and “Americana” fit fairly well. A concert promoter in Gaylord, Michigan did a good job describing us in some pre-show publicity. She wrote, “This pop-rock genre band from Toledo will surprise with their knack for crafting pop hooks, funky rhythms, hard-edged modern rock opuses, country gems and a little blues-jazz for good measure!”
Q: Do you play only originals, or do you do covers? In your average gig, what’s the ratio of original songs to covers?
A: We feature original music, but we do some covers in our sets. In a two-hour concert, we’ll typically play 16 to 18 original tunes, with 3 or 4 covers mixed in.
Q: Who are your musical influences?
A: I grew up in the “golden age” of classic rock. I listened to a lot of “California country-rock”. Neil Young, the late Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh. But my influences have been pretty eclectic, too. Anybody who lived in New Orleans in the seventies and wasn’t influenced by The Meters and Nevilles – simply wasn’t paying attention. As a guitarist, I find myself copping licks from people like Young and Walsh, and also Mark Knopfler – three guitarists with three completely different approaches to the instrument.
Q: What are your songs about?
A: Most of my songs tend to be about socially-relevant topics. “Ritalin Children”, “Deeper than Pontchartrain”, “Oh, Condoleezza”, and “Global People Now” tend to let you know what they’re about by the title of the song. I also write “character-study” type songs…songs that were written about a certain person, at a certain time and place. I don’t do much along the lines of “love songs”…not necessarily on purpose…but because it seems like a subject that’s already been covered from every conceivable angle. I wouldn’t mind being inspired to write my version of “the perfect love song” before I die, though.
Q: What are your band’s goals?
A: First and foremost – pay the bills. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been able to make a living playing music for the last fifteen years. I’d much rather be obscure and play music for a living – than have fifteen minutes of “rock star” glory, and spend the rest of my life talking about “the good old days”. I’m living my dream, and I try to not ever take that for granted, but there are times when I suppose that I do.
Q: What are your favorite venues to play, and why?
A: My favorite places to play are dedicated concert venues. We play a lot of small amphitheaters and that type of thing. There’s really nothing better than a situation where the audience is there for one reason and one reason only.
Q: Which songs do you perform most frequently?
A: During any given show, about three-quarters of the songs from our three CD’s make the set list. A favorite cover of mine, and the only cover that we actually recorded for a CD, is “Romeo & Juliet”, a Mark Knopfler tune. Can’t play a show without at least one hardcore love song.
Q: On a gig, do you play from a set list or do you just pick songs on the spot?
A: Depends on the gig. In a concert situation, I make up a set list to ensure a tight program with logical segues and a beginning, a middle, and an end. In a club or event situation, “play the room” is rule number one, and a lot of times, you don’t know what “the room” is going to be like until you get started, so a set list is often not very practical.
Q: Who in the band writes your songs?
A: I’m our only songwriter.
Q: How has your music evolved since you started playing together?
A: Well, we sure didn’t start out playing concert venues…we started out playing every dive bar on the planet, like anybody else. Back then, the music was a lot heavier, and a lot louder. Being an unsigned, relatively obscure act, we had to find a niche that would provide us access to better-paying and more rewarding venues to play. We could either go the “five bands on a bill, playing for the door” route, or figure out a better way. We play original music, but we present it in a family-friendly show that, for lack of a better term, is middle-of-the-road, sonically-speaking. That’s not to say we don’t challenge ourselves, musically. It just means that, if you’re able to appeal to a wide audience and a variety of musical tastes, you’re going to play better venues for better money.
Q: Last thoughts?
A: I’m looking forward to playing New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana, and the Gulf Coast in September. Who says you can’t go home again?