Great American Taxi has been traveling the country in support of their latest record, Reckless Habits.
Last month, as they drove through Kansas, Vince Herman shared some thoughts on the album, his vinyl collection and his secret desire to host a talk radio program.
Q: There’s a definite Gram Parsons/cosmic country feel to the record both in the title track and throughout, but how would you describe the music?
A: We were just talking about that, we think that “Mountain Soul” might be something, or “Americana without Borders.” It’s kind of within that Americana frame work or that Texas singer-songwriter, red dirt music but were from Colorado so we’ve got that mountain thing.
Q: Where does the inspiration for your songs come from?
A: There’s a ton from The Band, Levon Helm and that kind of stuff, old Stones records, guys like Robert Earl Keen, there’s such a great big well of American music to draw from and that’s whats really cool about the genre is that there’s such a line of history that goes back. To say that there’s one or two influences would be ignoring the rest of the landscape.
Q: Are you a disciplined songwriter or do you write when the spirit moves you?
A: A little bit of both, sometimes you hear conversations and think that’s a song or I like to improvise a lot and if I can hear a progression or something I stick myself out on a limb and start spewing. Sometimes it works and it really helps if there’s a tape recorder nearby to capture the music because sometimes I do it and I don’t remember. It gets tricky.
Q: Which of the songs particularly stand out to you?
A: It’s an interesting record in that there are a couple cover tunes, a bluegrass instrumental, a Wilco tune but there’s also a soul, rhythm and blues feel to it on “Cold Lonely Town.” That was our big production number with gospel singers and blues horns and all that kind of stuff. It was pretty fun and playing on the record with Barry Sless on pedal steel was a real treat – he brings such great texture. We had a great time with the recording process, Tim Carbone produced it and played fiddle, he was really good and turning it in the right direction. he was really instrumental in getting it all done.
Q: The packaging on the new record will be pretty phenomenal – what can you tell us about it?
The packaging is really unique, we worked with a guy named Jim Carr out in Denver and he actually just won a Grammy for Steve Martin’s record cover. He took the reckless habits idea and turned it on its head. There’s the wheel of habits on the inside and it’s interactive. We’re hoping that people might actually buy the CD instead of downloading it. That’s one of the things that we thought was important, that you’d actually have something cool with the product itself that you couldn’t get on the computer screen. We might print a limited run of LPs, we really love that format.
Which albums have some of your favorite artwork?
New Riders of the Purple Stage’s Brujo has a great desert landscape on it that I’d spend hours looking at. Sweetheart of the Rodeo has a great cover. I’ve got probably 2,000 LPs, I’m a big vinyl collector.
Q: How has the style of the band evolved since you’ve been playing?
A: The band started almost 5 years ago as a one-off band for a benefit for the Rainforest Action Group. We had seven members when we first started, everybody wrote, everybody sang. Eventually we whittled it down to a more road-worthy band, 7 people was just a bit much. So we lost a little writing-influence, Reed Foehl and Jeff Hamer, so when they left the band we lost a little of their style.
Q: What’s the one song you’ve always wanted to cover but never have?
A: I’m going to put this up to the rest of the guys. Chris says “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney. Jim says “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” Lurch Mudpuddle says “Big Fun” by Barry Manilow and I’m going to have to say Neil Young’s “Country Girl.”
Q: Besides your instruments, what are some things that you must have while on the road?
A: Well, we’re all tongue-in-cheek looking at each other going, “Pot!” And lots of other records, XM radio, more music. Instruments in the back, music up front.
Q: What have you always wanted to learn how to do?
A: I’ve always wanted to learn how to have a radio talk show. I want to do call-ins. On the intersection of politics and music, which some people really hate so it would make for good talk. I think it’s absolutely essential to mix it, just playing is a political statement in and of itself.
Q: What is your all-time favorite movie to quote?
A: “True Stories” by David Byrne of the Talking Heads. I really recommend you rent it today.