Craziness goes hand in hand with confidence.
"I broke my foot in Vancouver trying to do a stage dive, and nobody caught me," says Joe Lewis, frontman of Black Joe Lewis, a blues, funk and soul band based in Austin, Texas. He seems to be boasting, not complaining. If he takes the plunge during his Feb. 26 show at the High Noon Saloon, an enthusiastic Madison crowd is bound to catch him. These wild stage antics spring from the raw emotion and unbridled energy he brings to live shows, and the cues he takes from legendary showmen such as James Brown.
This craziness goes hand in hand with confidence, too. Last year Lewis' band moved from Lost Highway Records to Vagrant Records. They also released their fourth album, Electric Slave, which features production work by Grammy Award winner Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, Modest Mouse) and John Congleton (St. Vincent, Okkervil River). I recently asked Lewis about making the record and moving to Vagrant.
Your act was called Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears for about six years, but for Electric Slave you went with a simpler name. Why?
The old name was silly. It was a joke, and it just stuck. We have a couple new members, and with the new album, we thought it was a good time to change the name.
What has the transition to Vagrant been like?
Vagrant is a lot more hands-off than Lost Highway was. They're both good.... There's definitely less press promotion that goes behind stuff when you're on indie labels. But we liked it.
How has Austin's music scene influenced you?
There are tons of things going on [musically] and a lot of bands that sound alike.... You have to set yourself apart from the crowd and come up with your own sound so people will remember who you are.
Why did you call the new album Electric Slave?
It's a sci-fi concept about the future, where everybody's completely dependent on electronics. We use our smartphones for everything now. You don't really have to figure out a lot of things for yourself anymore.