California Born and Raised
By Jasen T. Davis
For local artist David Lowery a show in the desert is like coming home
David Lowery is a successful performer who is very familiar with the business of making music and the fame and fortune that goes along with it. As lead vocalist and guitarist for Camper Van Beethoven back in late ’80s/early ’90s, Lowery had already seen phenomenal success with the bittersweet single, “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”
After Camper Van Beethoven took a break Lowery and Johnny Hickman, lead guitarist, created the band Cracker. The hit single “Low” cemented the group as an independent act in its own right. Lowery grew up in Redlands and met the members of both bands while living in the Inland Empire, so performing at Pappy and Harriet’s on Sept. 15 will be like coming home for him.
“Camper was kind of alternative and folksy, while Cracker was rock with some country elements,” Lowery says. Camper Van Beethoven has its own influences, but Cracker has others. “The ’60s hippy rock band Kaleidoscope is a big influence on Camper Van Beethoven, along with UK’s The Fall and Nick Cave. With our next album we really plan to just carry on where we left off. Camper is more timeless, I’d say.”
Cracker is alternative rock with an Inland Empire twist. “A lot of the IE resonates throughout our entire catalog. We really are influenced by that part of Southern California, where we grew up.” Lowery is part of a proud tradition of music in the Inland Empire, which includes performers like Frank Zappa. “Zappa was here in the ’70s. A lot of surf bands also came from around San Bernardino County. The Rolling Stones even played one of their first U.S. gigs out here.”
Lowery always enjoys playing with Cracker, but he’s looking forward to touring with Camper Van Beethoven for its new album, set for a January 2013 release. “One of our songs is based on the Mexican drug lord ballads sung by artists like Chilean Sanchez, who was nearly assassinated onstage in Coachella.” This Latin flavor demonstrates the myriad roots Lowery has out in California.
“There’s a nice little ballad on the new Camper Van Beethoven album that starts out a little ska, south of the border, but it turns into a murder story,” Lower says. “It starts out all sweet and then you realize that the song’s hero is basically a homicidal maniac. It’s like the outlaw drug smuggler stories from Mexico.”
“I write lyrics after I’ve written the music, but a lot of times I like to contrast the lyrics with the music. It’s more interesting to play a happy song with weird, f@*#ed up lyrics.” This approach is part of why his past hits have had the impact they’ve had.
Lowery’s own 2011 solo album, The Palace Guards, was a critical success, but Camper Van Beethoven is where he’s glad to be. “I was happy with it, but I didn’t tour for that record.” He enjoyed the time off from touring, but ended up focusing on Camper even more from the experience.
“I spent a week after playing with The Palace Guards making music for Camper Van Beethoven,” Lowery says. “The solo album really helped me focus on another angle when it came to song writing.” As much as he enjoys touring with Cracker, Lowery admits that the band needs new songs. “I’m going to write a lot more songs for Cracker after the new album.” All the more reason to look forward to this year’s camp out and next year’s Camper Van Beethoven LP.
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven 7th Annual Campout at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com. Sat, Sept. 15-Sun, Sept. 16. 1-day pass $25, 3-day pass $60. 12 and under free.