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Golden Ears: Chris Robinson Brotherhood Meet Their Match

by Richard B. Simon on January 17, 2014

Photo by Jay Blakesberg

Cantor-Jackson wants to bring Robinson down to Light Rail Studios, where she’s been mixing an album of the Glide Church choir. It has a big open room that is just like the studio at Front Street. The outside producer who came in to record Go To Heaven had wanted to build a control room. She said, no fucking way. She didn’t want to hear the control room. She doesn’t want to hear any confining spaces. She wants to hear the band in wide open space.

“Headphones, in other ways, is a confining space,” she says, “but it’s all right there. And I’m not dealing with the room. I’m dealing with just the band, in my ears, and the whole space is between my ears, and I can create my own air within that. My head gets to get bigger.” She laughs.

It becomes the room, I say. Your skull is the room.

“Yeah,” she says. “And the whole environment is there within.” She cups her hands around her head, her ears. Her brain. “And it’s all right there.”

* * * *

“We're really going by the electricity and the vibrations that we can sort of tune in to,” Robinson says. “And I think that’s a perfect component in terms of Betty’s aesthetic, as well. There’s a psychedelic component to it. That’s part of the greasing the wheels of the great cosmic engine, with psychedelic thought and philosophy and action. If you get my drift.”

The CRB have been slowly working on their next studio album—laying down tracks and overdubs here and there—over the course of a year. Titled
The Phosphorescent Harvest, it’s due at the end of April. It’s got an even hotter rock-and-roll feel than their last record, Robinson says. That seems to be
this band’s arc as they’ve grown into their own sound and, over some 230 shows, developed their mutual language.

But someone must be giving him a hard time for shifting focus to this little psychedelic country rock band, and away from trying to make big hit rock records.

“I’m not gonna have hit records,” he says. “I don’t write pop songs...but then, again, I find a deep need to express myself and how I’m feeling and where I am and where I’ve been and where I’m going by writing songs. I also get great satisfaction with having a partner like Neal to write songs with now, as well. That will be super-evident on the new CRB record, as a progression.

“We have great ambition for the CRB,” the singer says. They’d like to get more popular, so they can do more cool, eclectic projects and more conceptual stage shows. They’d like to be able to afford to bring Cantor- Jackson on the road, to lay down not only Volume 2, but Volume 20. They’d like to be able to feed their families with this band.

At the same time, Robinson said he foresees the band’s music getting more heavily conceptual, even incorporating electronic avant-garde jazz craziness, down the road. Europe ‘72 is his favorite Betty record—but Ned Lagin’s Seastones is up there, too. Given MacDougall’s sonic palette, it isn’t a far stretch to electrofunk.

“Why water it down?” Robinson says. “Why play it dumb? Why change something to make it easier for anyone else, when I think if we stay sincere and keep our energies in a real creative place, then people will wander into our small community, and it maybe would get more popular. And it’s funny—as it goes on, after doing a year in The Black Crowes, I realize, as well, the CRB exists on its own, you know? Black Crowes is a real rock and roll band. And CRB is definitely on more of a Cali cosmic wavelength.

“To tend that garden is not a heavy responsibility. But I want it to grow.”

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