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Tim: Promise of the Real

Promise of The Real:
Not Just Another Southern Rock/
Blues Roots/ Surfing Jam Band

By T.E. Mattox

f you can't quite put your finger on how to describe the music of Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, well that line starts right here… behind me. But, if you like your rock and roll wrapped in something decidedly different, original yet familiar, and with enough juice to light up a good portion of the California coastline, then you're really in luck because that line too, starts right here… behind me. I've seen Promise of the Real play on several occasions and every single time the only thing the band left behind was a big smoking hole where a stage used to be, and a collection of disheveled show stragglers walking around aimlessly. And I'm pretty sure POTR would have it no other way.

When I finally sat down with guitarist, Lukas Nelson and drummer Anthony LoGerfo it became apparent Southern California, and almost anyplace near the beach was home base. LoGerfo told me the band is "…pretty much based here, and Maui and also 'on-the-road' for the most part. Mainly when we're here, we're on the coast."

Big talk looking at your tour schedule… are you ever here? "Rarely!" Nelson laughs, "Probably three times a year, maybe." POTR doesn't appear to stop…for anything and both admit, "We like it that way."

Life on the road can wear on you, does it ever get old? "It's bittersweet; I guess" says LoGerfo "for me, at least." Lukas adds, "It depends on whether you have something to go home to, or not."

Both of you surf? "Yeah, we just surfed yesterday."

"Yeah," Tony adds, "we try to go surf whenever we can. That's also rare these days, but when we first met we surfed quite a bit."

"We're influenced by a lot of different music and I think that comes out. When we started the band we never wanted to have any rules really, of where we could go musically. We never know what we're gonna' do."
- Anthony LoGerfo

Let's talk about the band, who's in POTR currently? Well, we've got Tony, myself and Corey McCormick and Tato Melgar. I've known Tato since I was like, 8 years old and he's been my brother for that long. He's from South America, and plays percussion. And Corey's known Tony for almost that long."

"We've known each other for about eight years," Tony confirms. "We went to college together. He was a few years ahead of me. I always looked up to him a lot as a musician, and when we started this band we had another bass player and things kinda' changed. Corey had just finished playing with Chris Cornell and I gave him a call right away and he came down and jammed with us… we all just kind of meshed and here we are."

Lukas, tell me a little about some of your early guitar influences, players you liked? "Stevie Ray and Jimi are pretty obvious influences I think. I just grew up listening to them…endlessly. Mike Bloomfield too, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan's band." After a moment of reflection Lukas adds, "Bloomfield's tone was one of the best ever."

Tony, anybody stand out for you? "I like Led Zeppelin a lot, John Bonham's drumming really was a big influence on me. I like jazz music quite a bit…Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. I like Keith Moon from the Who." Lukas is nodding his head, "And we all have the same influences too, those are the same as mine."

Another revelation and a little more insight about this band came when I read Lukas was also a fan of Belgian guitarist, Django Reinhardt? "Django's huge!" Lukas grins. Now I can't help smiling as we talked about John Mayall growing up listening to his father's Django Reinhardt records. Lukas' eyes light up. "MY father has a huge Django collection."

One of the things I really find unique about this band is its diversity. Their distinctive rock sound can shift gears from backbeat and country-fried to power-driven and pseudo-psychedelic faster than a chord change in the Pali Gap. Still, it's kind of funny to find that POTR as a collective, share numerous musical influences and like a lot of the same players and groups.

So that begs the question, how would you describe the music of Promise of the Real? Lukas just smiles, "It's like a little bit colorful…it's got feathers on it, gotta' big beak and you can only find it in certain parts of the country...at certain points."

Tony concurs, "I couldn't describe it better."

Glad we could clear that up.

Promise of the Real guitarist Lukas Nelson and drummer Tony LoGerfo in an interview
Lukas Nelson and Tony LoGerfo of Promise of the Real share philosophies. Photo:Yachiyo Mattox

Okay, let's talk about school years. Lukas you attended Loyola Marymont in L.A., for music? "Yes." Then, in what seems to be a complete one-eighty, and in the age old tradition of the Blues, you began playing music on the street….more specifically along Venice Beach. "I just decided, personally, and it was my personal choice, to 'leave the nest' so-to-speak, and kinda' go and find out who I was. I had the complete support of my family and it was great. I had a good time. I played there a lot, and then I'd go and play on my school campus, I'd go and sit and play in the courtyard and have crowds of people come up. And there it wasn't even for money; I'd just play for fun on the street. There might have been a hat or something. It wasn't like I didn't have a place to go if I wanted to. It's just a different way of living. It's more…free, in a way. Especially in SoCal, I probably wouldn't want to do it in…Detroit, Chicago. (A little difficult to feel your fingers on a brisk January day.) But In Venice Beach, it's like, of course. I don't pretend I had a hard time, you know? I had a wonderful time. Sleeping in my car at the beach, I mean people go and do that anyway just for fun."

Tony, you attended school in Southern California as well? "I went to Citrus College and everything went really well. I never finished but I had the blessing of the school to go on and work in the music industry. I had been working and playing in a bunch of bands when I met Lukas, kind of free lance if you will, getting hired to work with different groups. (A serious understatement, LoGerfo's credits are as diverse as it gets… Jackson Browne, Gwen Stefani, UB40, Tone Loc, Ozomatli and the Wailers to mention a few) And then when we decided to kinda' get the band going, I think it was for all of us to let go of that thing of working for somebody, we wanted to do it ourselves."

POTR guitarist Lukas Nelson performing onstage
Lukas Nelson on stage. Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

As a relatively new and frighteningly young band, I'm seriously impressed by the amount of original material POTR records. Lukas currently does the majority of the writing for the band but adds they "…are branching out. I'm trying to write with Corey a little bit. Tony and I wrote one song together."

Any methodology to your writing processes? "It's like giving birth to a child," he says. "You have to get it out of your head; otherwise it will drive you crazy." Does that apply to everything you write? Lukas nods, "Yea, they all come that way; I mean if they're good they come that way. If I have to sit and deliberate on it, I just say, 'forget it.' I just stop. I just feel like the inspiration is where it should come from and if I'm not inspired and I'm having to work at it, then it's not real."

The band's playlist occasionally includes covers; how did you decide on Willie Dixon's 'Hootchie, Cootchie Man?' Lukas says, "I just always loved the song." Tony leans in, "I think that one was there before I was in the band. I remember just meeting you and knew that was one of the songs you always did." Lukas looks surprised. "Was it really? We change the lyrics around a lot."

Six Degrees of Neil Young…

Promise of the Real cut its first CD, Brando's Paradise Sessions with John Avila (yes, that John Avila…Food for Feet, Oingo Boingo). Tony told me it was collaboration that started when Avila was teaching a Master's Class on campus, "He kind of took me under his wing. I met his whole family who are all very cool, at Brando's Paradise which is his garage (recording) studio and he's cut some great records there. We hung out for about 6 or 7 years and then I met Lukas. And when we were ready to do our demo, I had never taken any band there, so that was the first person I ever brought over there…was Lukas." (The result was the 5-song Brando's Paradise Sessions) "John hooked us up with a great deal there doing an EP."

Lukas jumps in, "The reason Tony was telling me about John…as a producer and somebody we could record with, then he said, '…but he's a Neil fan.'"

"Yea that was the first thing," Tony says, "when I first met John I said something like, 'yea, Neil Young is my favorite artist ever, man. If Neil ever called I'd just…I'd go, you know?' He (Avila) says, 'Man, I knew I liked you for a reason, I've told all the bands I've been in the same thing. Man, if Neil calls you're just gonna' see the dust behind me, 'cause I'm outta' there.' (laughing) "It's a funny thing."

When I think of Danny Elfman or the music of Oingo Boingo, Neil Young isn't really the first musician that comes to mind. "He transcends boundries," Lukas says then Tony adds, "Yea, he does! And then the funny thing is…Lukas and I met at a Neil Young show. And we just saw Neil Young a week ago and he was totally digging the music, so it's really… spiritual."

the writer with POTR members Lukas Nelson and Tony LoGerfo
Lukas Nelson (l.) Tony LoGerfo (r.) and an 'Old Coastal Eddy.'
Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Being around these guys you sense an ingrained work ethic, determined to make it their own way, doing their own music on their own terms, but Tony says their roots go even deeper. "That's the thing; we all have really good family. Everybody has a great family and a lot of support. We are doing it on our own, but we have the support from them as far as love goes. And encouragement, and wisdom and that's all there."

So tell me a little about the charitable aspects of the group. You play benefits, special shows, charities, donate songs to raise funds… Lukas shrugs, "That probably has a lot to do with family too, you know? It was just the way I was raised. It's the way we were both raised." Tony smiles, "Just give back, that's kind of what this whole band is about. We want to only gain more fans and momentum so we can give back that much more."

"Yea, the more people that know you," Lukas says, "the more people you can reach." And Tony laughs, "We're pretty happy just having a small amount of stuff. We're not doing it for the big mansion on the hill."

Currently the band's 'mansion on the hill' is a tour bus, so what are you listening to on the road? "A lot of Neil Young." Lukas tells me, "Neil's the head honcho." Tony says, "Always Neil…really been into the Rolling Stones lately. Lukas has been getting into them." Lukas adds, "I just read Keith's book (Life) and I've just been really into the Stones, 'Exile on Main Street,' 'Beggar's Banquet.'"

Didn't you just play a show at the legendary Fillmore West, what was that like?

"It was great being up there," Tony says. "It was our second time going there; we played there in January of '09, when we started. That was kind of our first gig, one of our first gigs believe it or not, opening for Willie (Nelson). He does like four or five nights there when he plays. Then we went back and did it again. It was incredible, man. You feel the spirits and everything in the walls, you know? And hear the sounds at night; you can hang out there late. There are definitely some spirits hanging out in that place."

Speaking of psychedelic, were you guys channeling the Fillmore when you recorded 2012 - the Happy Ending? Tony starts to laugh, "You know the funny thing about that song? We recorded that at 11 in the morning, in the studio. We woke up, had our coffee, we went in and it was one take and we were done with that song."

Well keeping with that timeline…you know that back in-the-day; they used to have what were referred to as…'Happenings.' They were impromptu gatherings and pop-up concerts that would take place at 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning. They both just laugh and shake their heads. (I just feel old.)

That being said another POTR connection to the 'Summer of Love/Age of Aquarius' is Lukas' brother Micah, who is usually painting onstage as the band performs. He composes his own artwork during the entire show, much like the multi-media presentations during the psychedelic 60's… you remember, before the laser/digital era, with the colors of dripping water and lava-lamp projections behind the Airplane, and the Dead, Hot Tuna... (Really old!)

Lukas Nelson performing with John Avila on bass in the background
Nelson channels Hendrix (John Avila on bass) as the sunsets. Photo: Yachiyo Mattox

Tell me about one of your most unusual or wildest club dates? Instantly Tony blurts out, "Sturgis for me, we just played there a week ago." Lukas agrees, "It was amazing." Tony starts twisting an 'air' throttle, "Fifteen thousand, all revving their bikes at the same time after our set. (Laughter) It was pretty amazing."

Can we talk about the first real national exposure of POTR to most of the country, at FARM AID?

"Definitely," Tony tells me. "That opened a lot of doors for us, to play FARM AID because it's broadcast on TV. We played it a year before that one, too and that kind of initially got things going for us and then last year is when things really sparked. And as a band, we all played on Willie's set, too. We love it; we hope to be a part of it every year." Lukas says, "As long as it's existing, and hopefully it doesn't exist that long."

It's hard to believe but Farm Aid began in 1985, so this will make it 26 years. "That's why we don't want it to go forever," Tony shakes his head. "…because you know once it's done, it means the problems solved."

Mentioning benefits and fund raisers…POTR seems to be involved with a number of charities, educational programs and non-profit organizations. What's the deal? No trashing hotel rooms, throwing furniture into the courtyard…? TV's into the pool??? Aren't you afraid you might be setting a poor example for other bands? Or worse yet, giving Rock and Roll a bad name!? Tony laughs and Lukas just shouts, "You didn't see the last hotel we were in." (laughing).

Related Articles:
John Mayall, Dennis Jones, John Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, Preston Smith, Zen Blues Quartet


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Let Tim know what you think about his traveling adventure.

I was there at the Shrine to see Bob come in riding on a baby elephant. He says in the interview it was either '68 or 69: it was both – it was New Year's Eve (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Debbie Hollier, Nevada City, CA

* * * *

Who else played with Canned Heat and Deep Purple at the Shrine in '68?

Bill, LA

I think the Shrine show on New Years in '68, where Bob Hite rode out on the elephant, also featured Poco, Lee Michaels, Black Pearl, Love Army and Sweetwater. Don't know that Deep Purple was booked on that evening.

Bill, maybe you're thinking about the International Pop Fest in San Francisco a few months earlier that featured these fine folks... Procol Harum, Iron Butterfly, Jose Feliciano, Johnny Rivers, Eric Burdon And The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grass Roots, The Chambers Brothers, Deep Purple, Fraternity of Man & Canned Heat or possibly the following year in Jan of 1970 when Deep Purple appeared with Canned Heat and Renaissance on a triple-bill in London at the Royal Albert Hall.

One final note: The current Johnny Otis piece didn't mention it, but it was Mr. Otis that took Canned Heat into the studio the very first time to record in 1966. Small world, ain't it?

Tim

* * * *

Thank u for posting it! Bob is still boogin' around!! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite),

Stefano Di Leonardo, Fisciano (Salerno, Italy)

* * * *

Great Read! (See "The Bear," an article on Bob Hite) I will post it on Bob "THE BEAR" Hite Official Facebook Page,

Dave Tohill, Brandon, UK

* * * *

Hello Tim, thank you so much for letting a huge Canned Heat fan check out this
interview with the Bear. I really enjoyed it.

Best regards,

Rick Caldwell, Fairfield, Ohio

* * * *

I knew Bob Hite in the 60's. Canned Heat played at our high school prom 1966 Rexford High. The Family Dog, Chet Helms, Skip Taylor.

Max Kalik, Los Angeles, CA

Dear Tim,

I just discovered you from an email I received from Preston Smith disclosing his next event. I wanted to tap into his website Prestonsmithmusic but it would not link from your site for some reason. I have to say Preston really is a genius and I met him in Glendale at a jazz club about three years ago, after a fatal accident. By chance, I was invited to spend time hanging out with Preston and some friends after his gig. He is everything you say and I will never forget his amazing creativity and his positive influence in my life.

Janelle, Palm Springs, CA

Love the article! (on Lowell George) Lowell was my father.

Forrest George, Warren, Vermont

This Bob Hite interview is the most interesting thing I have read concerning Canned Heat. I have Fito's book, but I always was interested in learning more about Bob Hite. You did it here my friend...great interview!!!!!

Tony Musto - Pittston, PA

Hey Tim, Great article on Preston! I really enjoyed it and you did your homework. I'll probably catch PS this weekend.

Best,

Dave - Northridge, CA

* * * *

Hello, what a great article on Preston Smith! I actually met Preston one evening after an Acoustic set of my own at the Prestigeous Carlton Hotel here in Atascadero, Ca. We were loading up and he happened to be walking down the sidewalk and stop to say hello. I must say that he is a truly interesting and talented man that NEVER forgets to let me know when he is playing around the Central Coast where I live. It was so fun to read about who he truly is...(as if you don't know him the first time you meet him)! My adventures have only just begun as I recently returned from Nashville recording my self titled debut EP. I can only hope that my adventures down the road are as enlightening as Preston's and that I have the honor of a great writer such as yourself to share them with the world. Thank you for doing just that, sharing "Preston Smith" with the world.

Sincerely,

Amy Estrada - Atascadero, CA

Hi Tim,

My name is Bert, I'm from Italy and I'm a blues harmonica player...I read your article and it reminded me of the two trips I made in the Delta, in 2008 and 2009. I love Frank's music and I think it's a shame people don't really know his work. It's important that people like you write about him. Thank you! In the Delta I was only a "stupid" tourist, but it was a great, unique experience I consider one of the most important in my life: driving on the highways, Listening to the blues everywhere, jamming in places like Red's and ground Zero in Clarksdale or the Blues Bar in Greenville... are priceless things, something I will keep in my heart for the rest of my life. I met a beautiful, lovely woman there too (named Hope), but I behaved like a stupid kid and I lost her... Alas! I will never forget that days and the chance I had to find happiness...Well, I also wrote something about Frank on a website, but it's in Italian... I give you the link of the first part (the second will be published in the next weeks) anyway if you know some Italian or somebody who can understand it... Even if I'm thinking of making a translation ...www.bluessummit.com

Cheers,

Bert - Pavia, Italy

I wanna be Tim!

Brent, Seattle, WA

* * *

Those pictures give you an idea of what the Rockin' Pneumonia actually looks like and it looks BAD! But the man can still play! Enjoyed the article - give us more TRAVELING BLUES BOY!

Steve Thomas - NA, INDIANA

* * *

Good Stuff, Tim. Having been a Johnny Winter fan since the first time I heard Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo, it was great hearing his take on some his highlight moments that defined his blues career. His affiliation with Muddy Waters was particularly interesting. Kudos for bringing that out. Thanks to your dedication to covering the blues scene, this "one of a kind" music still lives for servicemen & women around the world. Keep it Up!

Brandon Williams, Moreno Valley, CA

* * *

Impressive! What a legend and how cool that you got so much time with him, Tim.

Don, Louisville, KY

Tim - Great article, enjoyed Little Feat/Lowell George story, really brought me back in time. Did not know he was a fishin' man! Wonder what surfaces out of the abyss of your memory next?

Steve Thomas, New Albany, IN

* * * *

Tim,

I really liked your travel back in time with Lowell and Little Feat. As a long time Feat fan (mostly the stuff with Lowell) it was cool to read. I learned several of their songs back in the day and they still stand up today when played live. Another singer I really liked from back then is TimBuckley. Thanks for the article.

Chet Hogoboom, Arroyo Grande, CA

Loved your last issue of TB, especially the Mayall piece. I want that guy's job!

Brent, Seattle, WA

Tim,

This is a great write up. Has it been printed in any magazines? It's better than a lot of things I read in my guitar magazines, so props for that.

Caejar, Moreno Valley, CA

Tim,

I can tell that you have this passion for jazz. I wonder if you yourself play any instrument. Or are you just a groupie like most of us?

I talked with a mid-aged flute jazz artist a few weeks ago and he lamented that despite his talents (and he is extremely talented) he says that the industry hasn't been kind to him. He said jobs are few and far between. He said the music industry is combating piracy and competition due to technology being readily available to private homes and that they are not as profitable as before. So they are replacing live talent for synthesized or digital instruments.

Do you see the same trend in your relationships with your music network?

Bob, Pasadena, CA


Stay tuned.


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