Lee Bob & The Truth (Photo: Kaitlyn Miller)
Photo: Kaitlyn Miller

Lee Bob & the Truth, the trio of Lee Bob Watson, Josh Lippi, and Steve Wyreman, recently released their debut LP, The Truth, and as you’d expect if you’re familiar with the players, it’s a fine piece of work. The charismatic Watson joined forces with Lippi and Wyreman, a pair of extremely talented and accomplished musicians, to create an album that was completely independent from any outside influence, and is quite simply some damn fine rock and roll. The band was spread across the world last week, so we got together online for a chat about the album and life. They’ll all be back together in San Francisco next Tuesday night for a performance at The Boom Boom Room – these guys are ridiculously good live, and you’d be doing yourself a favor by checking them out. Our conversation is after the album stream below.

The Bay Bridged: First of all, where are you all right now and what are you up to?

Lee Bob Watson: London.

Josh Lippi: I’m currently on tour with K.Flay, opening up for Third Eye Blind, Dashboard Confessional and Awolnation. Night now in hotel room in Springfield, Virginia en route to Charlotte, North Carolina.

[Note: catch Lippi with K.Flay on a Canadian TV morning show here.]

Steve Wyreman: I just got back to SF from LA working on a project with Nate Mercereau from Wove and another one with producer No I.D.

TBB: How was the album written and recorded – were the songs written with the band in mind?

JL: we started writing sessions at the Torta our studio, making new arrangements of some of Lee’s songs, and making new demos. Some songs that made the record were older Lee songs the band learned on the spot in the studio while tracking, like “Let the Hate In” because the vibe and sound was right and everyone in the group was so solid.

SW: some of the songs Lee had laying around and we all made the arrangements. Other tunes were riffs Josh and I had that Lee wrote lyrics to.

LBW: …What they said. More and more, the songs are written specifically for the band: how the band sounds live, individual voices and styles.

TBB: When we first introduced the band, Lee Bob said – “the band was born out of mutual love of The Blues and Rock & Roll (before the Blues bled out of it)”…what drew you to the blues and why is it important to have it part of this band’s music?

SW: I learned from playing blues. One of the first albums I learned from was muddy waters “Hard Again”. I came up playing with older guys in blues bands when I was a teenager getting to hang in the bars. The main point of the project was to get back to why we played music in the first place, so that’s where I started.

JL: I had been working a lot on the road in the pop music world and became pretty disheartened with the smoke and mirrors side of the industry and the lack of human imperfection in the music. I needed to go back to raw human emotion in music and nothing is more stripped down and real than the blues. It’s also the backbone of all American music.

TBB: What makes this release different from prior Lee Bob, Jackpot, and other projects you’ve worked on?

JL: It was different for me because it felt like we were all on the same musical page and it was exciting to work on a record where our only concern was making sure the three of us were stoked on the songs.

SW: it’s different for me because we get to make every decision from beginning to end. On other projects I’ve worked on the record label makes decisions on mixing, artwork, etc., and they normally ruin something.

LBW: In some ways it is similar to the early experiences of being in a band. The little things that sometimes you lose after years in the “pro” industry. These things have a chance to flourish in this band which is really nice: just building a world of sound where different players create a new thing. Like “The Band” — the band itself is the personality rather than the face on the front of the record. I like that a lot … and for me as a writer and performer it is an exciting opportunity that I haven’t always had.

TBB: Why so long between Lee Bob albums?

LBW: I’ve done a number of things. Some of them music related, some of them just life, love and regular boring paying the bills related. I went to Africa, I spent some time in Europe, I’ve recorded under different names and just thrown it out there. Mainly, I was just waiting for the right scenario to record these kind of songs — live in a room, with great musicians, 100% the right vibes — and this was all that and more.

TBB: How do you guys feel about the state of the music industry in SF and in general?

JL: There has never been a shortage of talented musicians and creative people in SF. The industry unfortunately can sometimes have a low ceiling for working musicians, and seems like more and more classic venues are closing. But the community and friendship among Bay Area musicians is one of the best in the US.

LBW: I check out new music all the time and in some respects I feel like the art is alive and well. I really dig some stuff that is out there. At the same time, I feel like our music is not part of any scene…so the typical feelings about this or that don’t really apply. I could say this : I’m hoping the pendulum is shifting back toward organic noises. I think the world is huge, human experience is broad, and popular music could reflect a wider range of sounds and human experience than it does. Sometimes people try to be cheerleaders for the way it is. I think that is bullshit. We are a at a critical time in human history with a lot of real shit to work out — but our art and cultural are failing us on that regard because we don’t expect more from ourselves and each other. It doesn’t have to be so cookie cutter, one directional and on the grid.

SW: I just moved back to SF to record this album so not really sure what state the SF scene is in. I try not to be involved in the current music industry as much as possible.

TBB: Was this part of why you moved back to SF?

SW: I had to get a balance between making a living playing music and doing music I want to do. If you’re not careful you can end up hating your passion

(for Steve) TBB: Did you help get that Darondo sample on Big Sean’s album?

SW- Haha, no I had nothing to do with that. I’m very happy they used it. I think I got called for that session and didn’t feel like going to LA. If I knew it was for that I would have, though!

TBB: Who do you consider to be your generation’s greatest minds?

LBW: I’m more interested in great hearts than in minds. I think people can be really soulful at mundane things and monstrous at “important” things. There is a lyric in “Live Forever” about it “best minds of my generation”… but that actually refers to “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. I’m thinking about the cultural dynamism in our age.. A lot of hype and resources are getting channeled to build up this giant nervous system called the internet or whatever. That’s fine. The Beats were not mainstream, you know what I mean? I think it’s important to keep the doors open to more sides of experience and memory if possible.

There are a lot of folks I dig. Here are a few: Reggie Watts, Jaron Lanier, Naomi Wolf, Jeremy Scahill. I get a lot of perspective from Shora, my partner, whom I trust, who is really sharp and challenges me … and turns me on a lot.

SW: I think Jack White. Drawing a blank on anyone else.

JL: Yea, agree with Steve, Jack White’s pretty rad.

TBB: Lee Bob, would you consider yourself an optimist?

LBW: I’m an optimist. But I think about “the state of the world” to an unnerving degree and it aint always good. I really dig people, I dig the diversity of human cultures and I think the earth is complex and will find a way to hold on to us and make us feel at home even when we have behaved like terrible houseguests. I don’t have a good reason to believe this so I guess that makes me an optimist.

TBB: What’s one thing you hope people take away from the album?

JL: Honesty

LBW: I hope some people really dig it and listen to it a bunch and find it useful. That is all.. Which is a lot.

TBB: What’s next for The Truth?

SW: We are working on songs for the next record. Recording in September at United Recorders, which was the Rat Pack’s studio in the late 50’s. We are all excited about that.

JL: Take it to the people on the road, and keep making more records.

LBW: Yep, what they said. Just take the music straight to the people and try to grow this thing…

Lee Bob & the Truth, Classy Touch & the Lush Groove
Boom Boom Room
June 30, 2015
9pm, $5