With no end in sight to the Black Crowes' now year-long hiatus, guitarist Rich Robinson has spent the past several months working with a new band, Hookah Brown. The group, which is rounded out by form
With no end in sight to the Black Crowes' now year-long hiatus, guitarist Rich Robinson has spent the past several months working with a new band, Hookah Brown. The group, which is rounded out by former Moke vocalist John Hogg, bassist Fionn O'lochlainn, and drummer Bill Dobrow, will kick off its maiden U.S. tour Tuesday (Jan. 21) in Baltimore.
Once the members of the Crowes went their separate ways, Robinson tells Billboard.com he "started recording all my songs by myself. I started writing lyrics, which I had never done, and singing, which I had never done. I wrote all these songs, but it got sort of tedious because I was playing all the bass, drums, and guitar, and singing. Eventually I felt like an idiot and I was like, 'Well, why don't I just get a drummer in here! Let's start there.'"
After auditioning a host of prospective players at his friend Teese Ghol's apartment in New York, Robinson eventually settled on O'lochlainn and Dobrow. Hogg was brought on the strength of Moke's performances opening up for the Crowes in 1999. Says Robinson, "I wrote about five songs worth of lyrics but I wanted to hear what John could do. I had all these other songs I didn't even bother writing lyrics for, and when he went to work on them, they came out unbelievably. I love the way he sings. I love his phrasing and his lyrics. It was something that really worked."
Hookah Brown played its only show to date in mid-November at New York's tiny Arlene Grocery. Robinson says the band has about 15 songs in its repertoire, one of which, "Cut the World," was previously a candidate for recording by the Black Crowes but never made it that far. "[Crowes vocalist/Rich's brother] Chris [Robinson] was like, 'Well, I'm not recording it.' So I thought, f*** it. I took my part of the song and turned it into something else!"
As for the sound of the new endeavor, Robinson says, "It's sort of like the Crowes in a way because it's the way I write. But it's different because it is a three-piece band and John. John's voice is different than Chris'. Instead of having two guitar players on stage at once plus a keyboard player, there is a lot more space. It brings a lot more clarity and focus to the music. I think it's easier to grasp what we're doing."
The group is in the midst of negotiating for a record deal but isn't in a hurry to sign on the dotted line. "I want to take my time and really suss it out," Robinson says. "I want someone to really be excited about what we do."
Robinson confirms that the Crowes remain "in a severe state of limbo. We don't have any plans to get back together and we don't have any plans not to get back together. Nothing has changed in the past year." However, Hookah Brown will offer up its takes on a few Crowes tunes at the upcoming shows, including "Halfway to Everywhere" and "Wiser Time." Offers Robinson, "people coming to see us are Crowes fans, so why not?"
Here are Hookah Brown's tour dates:
Jan. 21: Baltimore (Fletcher's)
Jan. 22: Philadelphia (North Star)
Jan. 23: New York (Bowery Ballroom)
Jan. 25: Asbury Park, N.J. (Stone Pony)
Jan. 26: Uncasville, Conn. (Mohegan Sun)
Jan. 29: Ithaca, N.Y. (the Haunt)
Jan. 30: Northampton, Mass. (Iron Horse Music Hall)
Jan. 31: Cambridge, Mass. (House of Blues)