The reason there’s been eight years between Bodeans studio albums is pretty simple. According to the core songwriters/guitarist/vocalists Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas, life got in the way.
“It was a big jumble of things,” Llanas says.
After 1996’s “Blend,” the Wisconsin-hailing band split with longtime label Slash/Reprise for which it had released seven albums that could be described as the epitome of heartland roots rock.
After a little time off, Llanas decided to try his hand at some solo work, “and that ended up taking a little longer than I thought,” he says.
Neumann also explored the solo route, while the BoDeans continued to perform select dates yearly, leaning on pockets of the Midwestern United States where they have traditionally been most successful.
But when it came to planning a new album, differences with management led the core original group — Neumann, Llanas and bassist Bob Griffin — to “really take it upon ourselves to put this record together ourselves and present it to record companies ourselves and just move forward ourselves,” Neumann says.
Llanas concurs. “They [management] just weren’t working with us and they had their own ideas about how we should be approaching it and blah, blah, blah. Finally we just sort of took it into our own hands.”
The 14-track “Resolution,” released June 22 on Rounder Records’ Zoe imprint, was produced by the band and recorded in Neumann’s studio, the Slamshack, in Buda, Texas, not far from Austin.
“For me this record reminded me a lot of our first record,” Neumann explains. “We approached it a lot that way. Just ‘Go in here and try to find the soul of the song and put it down on tape,’ which is really what we learned from T Bone Burnett making our earliest record [1986’s “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams’].”
To that end, “Resolution” boasts familiar BoDeans hallmarks: jangling pop songs of love and longing punctuated by Neumann and Llanas’ exceptional vocal harmonies.
Kevin Leahy plays drums and vibraphone on the album and joins the group on the road. Nick Kitsos also contributes drums several tracks, while Michael Ramos played accordion and Hammond B3 organ. On tour, recent find Bukka Allen will play keyboards and accordion.
Album standouts include such songs as “Wild World,” “Crazy,” “We Can Live” and opener “If It Makes You,” all of which have been road-tested over the last year-and-a-half.
“I think it’s pretty much what we’ve always done,” Llanas says of the new songs. “We’ve never ever been a band that was trying to break new ground. We were always trying to pass on the torch that’s been passed on to us.
Releasing “Resolution” via Rounder is something of a homecoming for the BoDeans, as it was the first label to offer the band a recording contract in the mid-’80s. The group was close to signing when major labels began making overtures, when “a lot of money started coming our way and offers and we really couldn’t ignore that,” Neumann says.
The band ended up signing with Slash, which had then recently affiliated itself with Reprise. The group became part of a roster that included like-minded acts such as Los Lobos, the Del Fuegos and the Blasters.
“What I remember the most is really being a fan of that label first, and all the music they were selling,” Neumann says of Slash. “When I first heard Los Lobos records, I was just knocked out. In the midst of ’80s hair bands, here was a label that was releasing this really cool music I could relate to and it was very refreshing to me.”
Having come full circle to join the Rounder family in 2004 represents a similar feeling to the BoDeans, who join the likes of Sarah Harmer, Cowboy Junkies, Grant Lee Phillips, Lisa Loeb, the Tragically Hip and They Might Be Giants at the Cambridge, Mass.-based label.
“When we got this stuff together and sent it out to them, they reacted right away,” Neumann says. “And, God, it was such a nice feeling to know we could still have that type of friendship. Some of the people are still working there from way back when. So, we felt kind of at home there.”
“I think Rounder’s a great size that they can handle it if you do have some success,” he adds. “And they’re not holding it against you if you don’t. I mean, every record company is a business first and foremost. But, obviously, some of them are more humane about it and more interested in the music.
“I mean, when you look at Rounder’s music, you just can’t argue that it’s all about getting great stuff out there that you wouldn’t hear on a major.”
Excited to have a new album to support, the BoDeans will kick off an extensive U.S. tour later this month. Although not yet in place, international trips are also being planned.
“I want to go everywhere,” says Llanas, who is itching to hit the road. “Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan. Anywhere that they’ll have us, I want to go there.”
Looking back at a songwriting partnership that began more than two decades ago in high school, neither Llanas or Neumann seem surprised that theirs has lasted, and that they still enjoy working together.
“Sam and I, there’s a pretty strong connection there between us and I think there always has been from the get-go,” Neumann says.
“I don’t think about it that much,” Llanas says. “It’s pretty natural because we are good friends and we always were good friends and we always wanted to do this together. There’s just something about doing something with a friend that makes it a lot more fun.
“I really think it boils down to strong friendship, mutual respect and patience,” he adds. “Deep down inside, I think we believe that we’re better together than we are apart.”
Here are the BoDeans’ upcoming tour dates:
July 16: Minneapolis (Aquatennial Celebration)
July 17: Winter Park, Colo. (Winter Park Ski Area; KBCO World Class Rockfest)
July 18: Park City, Utah (Club Suede)
July 20: Seattle (Showbox)
July 21: Portland, Ore. (Roseland Theater)
July 22: San Jose, Calif. (Plaza de Cesar Chavez)
July 23: Reno, Nev. (Reno Hilton)
July 24: San Diego (Belly Up Tavern)
July 25: West Hollywood, Calif. (House of Blues)
July 27: Tempe, Ariz. (Marquee Theatre)
July 28: Tucson, Ariz. (City Limits)
July 30: Dallas (Trees)
July 31: Austin, Texas (Barefoot Ball)
Aug. 5: Tampa, Fla. (Skipper’s Smokehouse)
Aug. 6: Atlanta (Variety Playhouse)
Aug. 8: Charleston, W.Va. (Mountain Stage)
Aug. 9: Norfolk, Va. (NorVa)
Aug. 11: New York (Bowery Ballroom)
Aug. 12: Washington, D.C. (9:30 Club)
Aug. 14: Somerville, Mass. (Somerville Theatre)
Aug. 19: Indianapolis (Vogue)
Aug. 20: Royal Oak, Mich. (Royal Oak Music Theatre)
Aug. 21: Sheboygan, Wis. (Lakefest)
Aug. 26-27: Highland Park, Ill. (Ravinia)
Sept. 4: Elkhorn, Wis. (Walworth County Fair)
Sept. 18: Deadwood, S.D. (Deadwood Jam)