In this installment of #SoundsoftheDesert, we interview the local desert rock legend Bolin Jue about his band origins, his favorite summertime beverages, and how the Coachella Valley informs The Town Troubles. We think Bolin has had a formative role in defining the new east-valley sound of the past decade and this is why:– – –xx
Interview: Bolin Jue and The Town Troubles
conducted & written by Andy Lara of 4evertwentysomething
all photo by Sarah Scheidemanxx
First off, can you tell us when and how did Town Troubles form?Bryan and I knew each other in high school and in the summer of 2010 he called me to tune his drum set. I was bandless at the time and it was the first time I saw Bryan in years so I couldn’t pass this opportunity. We jammed after I tuned his set but i had just been coming out of “drummer mode” from the past 3 or 4 years trying to play guitar, and Bryan had been a guitar player trying to play drums. Neither of us knew what we were doing and it as very light hearted and not serious at all. Maybe not much has changed there but our first time playing in front of anyone was in August of 2010 at a bar called jdee’s landing. We had 3 songs that all sounded the same and Bryan even mixed up the parts between them but nobody noticed..Who does your current lineup consist of? Any previous collaborators?Well you’ve caught us at a weird time, we’re kind of in the middle of a band member transformation. We’re half 2 piece half 5 piece. Like 2 monsters in one, Bryan and I are the little alien inside the big alien and Sigourney Weaver is your ears. I just wrote an 11 song set for Bryan and I to play just the two of us july 13th in sacramento. I call it folk rock diet town troubles. At the same time, I’m currently writing songs for town troubles as if we had 2 drummers, a bass player, 1 guitar player and 1 guitar player/singer…and we do. Basically what will happen is our set will be broken up into two parts, 2 piece and 5 piece. Town troubles as a duo will be the first half of the set while the second half will be like when all the power rangers combine to become a massive force. Jack White broke his solo set up into two different sets. We’re unintentionally tapping into that same concept but this might be a little less dramatic. We’re definitely split up into a light section and a louder section, I just like keeping things interesting live. As of right now, town troubles are Rafael Rodriguez/Bryan Garcia-percussion/drums. Derek Timmonds-bass. Israel Castro-rhythm guitar. Bolin Jue-lead guitar/vox.xxWhat inspired the band name? Was there other band names in mind before deciding on Town Troubles?Band names are silly and are usually just band names. Ours is no exception. Bryan and i needed a name at the very first open mic we did and I had been drinking all day and we just finished watching fantastic mr fox. That’s all I remember.What are some of the previous bands you guys have been in?The bands i was in that actually played shows were hang yourself artist, sailor on shore, pterodactyls, DANDROID and something vague. Ive also done solo shows which im thinking about doing with a backing band, but that’s almost what town troubles already is. Town troubles is Bryan’s first band.How does Town Troubles differ from your previous projects?Well I’m the front man now, which I hate but it’s also nice to take control of the ship and set the tone for what we’re creating. One big difference is that because music and being in a band is very secondary to Bryan, i don’t hold very high expectations for this band. However with that being said, I’ve had more fun playing in this band than any other. It’s nice to not have to take being in a band so seriously, but at the same time music is a very serious part of my life that I’d probably go cray cray without. Town Troubles has been like a long term side project for me, but it’s also kind of like Gangrene and it’s growing on me. As far as songwriting goes, this band has a lot more preparation happening. My previous bands would just jam everything out. Someone maybe came to practice with a piano/guitar/bass riff while town troubles rarely practice without at least a verse or section i already have prepared. Usually, our songs are already done going into the garage while my previous bands made the songs in the garage.xHow would you describe the Town Troubles’ sound? What would you call your style?I don’t know how to describe our sound right now but I think anyone who’s expecting “desert rock” (whatever that is) might be disappointed. I don’t think we were ever that genre of music but now we’ve got Congas, dance beats, clean guitar, and piano and the songs get to the point a lot quicker. We used to have 6 minute songs with crazy extended parts. Now the fat has been trimmed. I think because we were a 2 piece with such an inexperienced drummer and a half conscious drunk guitar player, we needed distractions from what we really were. I don’t consider Bryan or myself talented musicians, if at all. So the songs had to be flashy, and the on stage dancing had to take some of the focus off of the two goons on stage. Now, I’m writing pretty much whatever I want and if we clear out the bar that’s ok with me but that doesn’t seem likely to happen when you’re playing what you feel good about.xxWhat artists inform or influence the Town Troubles?Definitely the Beatles. More so than any musical influence. The Beatles. They’re songwriting was great and they’re a band where you put their first album next to their last and it’s like two different bands. I love bands that keep widening their spectrum of work. I think it’s quite obvious we’re also fans of the white stripes.How does the songwriting process occur?For me, very quickly. Yet at the same time, songs in this band take a while before they’re played live. I write songs and then I record them. Bryan learns them and puts his own twists on them. Writing the songs isn’t what takes time, it’s controlling them and knowing them to the point where the songs are just a part of our movements and body. Shaping and discovering the form of a song is what i care about. Some bands can just never rehearse, go up on stage and jam and be totally fine, that’s probably because they’re good musicians. But I’ve always been interested in craft and the shaping of a creation, rather it’s a song or poem or film. So I’ve never cared about technicality, not that any good musician or artist can do without any. It’s kind of like a poem written in free verse compared to a sonnet. The form of the sonnet is what makes it difficult to write. So for us, creating something with a weird and unexpected form, but a form of some type nonetheless, is challenging and time consuming but it’s a very important part of our songwriting. Sometimes we’ll just jam if a cool riff comes out in the middle of practice and ill save it in my mental library. Pretty much every song we’ve ever written have revolved around a verse or a chorus I already had done. I’m a fan of “the hook” and the notion that a good chorus can make a good song. We’d rather play something that’s fun and cool to us even if it’s silly than worry about how it’ll do live and how it’ll do compared to what else is happening out here. Also a lot of drinking happens while we rehearse because practice makes perfect.What are some of your most memorable local shows and why?Back in the jdee’s days one night I remember seeing Mad Rappa. I don’t think he was actually part of the show but he was definitely putting one on outside and I was blown away. I don’t even know if he was rapping to anyone but he reminded me that a crowd of 2 genuinely absorbed fans is more important than a crowd of 100 snobby hipsters.One of the last shows we did at the hood was also really memorable for me because of all the out of towners that just happened to be there that night. I’ve never had such a positive reception from people I’ve never met. Thats why i like playing the hood, the majority of the people are strangers to us, or they’re simply there for someone else’s band, but we make their ears go up and if i can just lure the attention from one person I’m ok. I love converting people over to the church of town troubles. It’s really awesome but strange at the same time, I feel like fans of this band are all part of one big inside joke, and we’re the punch line. I’ve also noticed a lot of night time weirdos like us, which I’m ok with. Hot chicks don’t show up until the psychedelic bands play but we bring the weirdo music fans out from the dark corners of the bar. It’s actually intimidating because they’re music fans who are really watching and paying attention. If you can impress them, you’re doing alright.Also I saw Retox and Regents at the hood during the time when Cris Cichocki was booking shows there and it was probably one of the best mot intense shows I’ve ever been to anywhere.xxWhat are some themes you explore in your music?Definitely intoxication and love and all the possibilities that come out of that dangerous combination. The struggles of letting go of not only loved ones but things we love to do as well. The choices that make us who we are. I talk a lot about a loss of control as well, rather its willingly or not and rather it’s a mental or physical loss of control. Which is a really cool concept to demonstrate musically as well as lyrically. This desert has a lot of interesting themes and people to offer, and it seems like a lot of people out here resort to always being wasted because there’s not much else to do. There’s a sense i feel we have out here of searching for something with value in an environment that seems so baron, the desert is like a seductive figure waving you into a black hole. There is so much empty space and seclusion in the desert compared to a place like LA, yet there seems to be a romance in the desert air that is a lot more genuine yet seductive than the polluted clustered streets of a big city, and these are themes and feelings I try to capture both lyrically and musically. And of course there’s the occasional love and heartbreak songs we have. You can’t play the blues if you don’t got it.How does the desert influence your sound?Ive always been in the band playing in the Shadow of the headliner.The desert Doesn’t influence me musically, although we’ve been referred to as “new desert rock” which is kind of cool but weird for me at the same time. I can’t listen to a “desert rock” band unless it’s in person, but respect it and acknowledged it’s history I’m unavoidably a part of. I don’t like a lot of bands in the desert, but i appreciate the cause and effort because we’re all on the same sinking ship.The challenge with desert influence is more social than musical. Being in a good band will get you far out here, but partying with everyone who went to see you gets you even further. The desert vibe is weird, I wish people drank more so they’d dance more. Maybe it’s just us, it seems like crowds have become statues because they’re in awe or because they’re bored. It’s difficult to diagnose the cause from the stage which can make things really awkward. So, this desert influences me to be sure we’re not boring. Energy is really important to me. The desert inspires me to perform and deliver an energy that’ll slap you in the face. It’s all about playing your heart out no matter how many people are watching or are in the crowd. It should be like a ping pong game of vibes exchanged between the band and the audience. If they’re not giving us anything, it definitely inspires me to do something about it. The desert is a tuff crowd, but it demands we push ourselves more and I wouldn’t want it any other way.What are some upcoming plans for the band?We want to record again. With our good friend/family/master Nate, who was in the wonderful Forest Carter. And well, play shows, get hips shaking. No major plans, possibly playing somewhere in Northern California. But we’d have to do some damage down south first. This band is constantly changing so we stopped making plans long ago. Personally, I want to do another solo LP which I haven’t done in years. Doing so will probably change the town troubles sound once again. There’s also a lot of female singers I want to bring on board in town troubles which hopefully will happen this year.Who are some of your favorite local bands? Past or present.I think Pete from the UN Wardrum and Waxy is one of the best coolest sexiest beast like drummers in the desert. Las Feas are bomb. Tribesmen are representing the East side quite well, i think we need better East side bands. Everyone from Forest Carter will make you realize you need to practice more. Dani Meza, KC Bozanich and John Marek are my favorite song writers around these parts. Who else is left? GreaseTrap is my favorite super band and Psssstols are bringing sexy back without anyone even having to ask for it.xxHey, a couple of random questions just to end the interview with. What is the weirdest thing you’ve done for money?I’ve never done anything for money, which is probably why I have none.If you could change one thing in the world, what would you change?I’d change the president of the United States from 2001-2009.It’s pretty hot in the desert. What is your beverage of choice and why?In the summer? Probably vodka Tonics, because they’ll make you feel supersonic. Also if you’re sitting poolside, vodka is easily concealable. Just make sure to never mix up your h20 with h30. Gotta get chavelas with Negra Modelos, breakfast of chumps. But like an ex you miss, I can’t seem to get over whiskey.xxxFind out more on their music:Bandcamp: http://thetowntroubles.
bandcamp.com/6 demos recorded in 6 days, here are 3: http://thetowntroubles. bandcamp.com/album/mithra- demosFrom Feb2013 when they were just a duo: http://thetowntroubles. bandcamp.com/album/ towntroubles-epx