Keeping a band together for 31 years is one of the hardest things to do in music. But to do it without anyone quitting or getting fired during that time is almost unprecedented.
While Blues Traveler front man John Popper and guitarist Chan Kinchla can agree it hasn't always been easy for them — as just the last year of the band's career made painfully evident — at least they still enjoy one another's company.
"This is weird; I actually like John," Kinchla tells Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke. "I actually like him."
Indeed, the relationships among the band members remain strong after all this time. Popper says it's the only reason the new album, Hurry Up and Hang Around, was possible, given how the band had no management around it at the time.
While writing and recording the new album in an idillic house outside Nashville, Tennessee, Blues Traveler fired its manager, then hired a new one only to get a letter of resignation a few weeks later. In between writing/recording sessions, the band was interviewing prospective managers. Looking back, Popper is surprised at how smoothly it all went.
"I think it's interesting that we made the album about a year ago and it took us this long to finally get our crap together and sort it out," he recalls. "We made the album in our 30th year. ... So we're getting together interviewing other management and all we have is this place that we're in in Tennessee and this project we're doing, writing this album for our 30th anniversary. So it's kind of like this tumult — our entire world is kind of in flux, and all we had was each other. I think that helped galvanized us."
Kinchla adds that the band left the drama and stress at the studio door, which in this case was a garage door, just like in the old days.
"It was very neat," he says. "There was no drama in the house. Everywhere else there was drama, but us grown men trying to write an album, trying to write music, was very peaceful."
Popper adds that the setting probably helped lighten the mood, too. It's been years since Blues Traveler has made a record by just getting in the room and bouncing ideas off the walls.
"That was the key to making that really fun to do. We hadn't had a chance to do that in a while because the last album was us collaborating with a bunch of different artists, and the one before that was us collaborating with writers ... This is our first chance to do that, sort of, garage process again ... I think we had been saving up some stuff."
He adds one bit of sage advice for bands dealing with creative tension: "You have to try every idea; it's faster than arguing against it. You just try the idea and then it's very apparent the ones that work and the ones that don't."
Check out the full interview above, plus Popper and Kinchla's acoustic performances of "The Wolf Is Bumpin" and "Hook."
Blues Traveler is on tour now. Get the tour dates here.
Here's the lyrics video for "Accelerated Nation" from Hurry Up and Hang Around!