Blues Traveler’s John Popper considers the group’s upcoming Hurry Up & Hang Around to be a 30th anniversary album — even if this is actually the group’s 31st year.
“As I’m fond of saying on stage, it’s in the band handbook that when you turn 30, aside from telling everyone you’re 30, somehow you make an album,” Popper tells Billboard about the set, due out Oct. 12. A lyric video for the track “Accelerated Nation” premieres exclusively below. “It kind of snuck up on us. At some point we realized, ‘It’s our 30th year and we have no plans to make an album.’ We really should have done this ahead of time, but it was in our 30th year that we decided to make the album, at least.”
Blues Traveler did have other things on its collective mind — including three management changes in a short span of time that waylaid the quintet’s forward progress. But last year the group retreated to the garage of a house in Nashville, where bassist Tad Kinchla resides, and began working on material that it would eventually take into the studio with producer Matt Rollings.
“We were shopping for management, which meant shopping for a label and all that, and we really were just clinging to each other at that point,” Popper recalls. “And there was something really awesome about that. There was a fire in the furnace and we were right there. There’s something about when exterior forces push in on you, you get hotter, and somehow in that period we wrote some of our best stuff. So when the right management finally did come along, we had a lot of great stuff stockpiled and ready to go. It was such a great collaboration; Everybody had such great stuff to offer and there was so much creativity coming from different directions. We all feel supremely proud of it.”
Popper says some of the songs from Hurry Up & Hang Around date back to the ’00s and have “matriculated and fermented and ripened” during the interim. “Accelerated Nation,” meanwhile, is a newer creation, built on a riff from guitarist Chan Kinchla which Popper says “feels very Zeppelin-y and you want to dance to it and it rocks. I looked around for some words I had and started to fit them in there, and what we have is a story about what it’s like to live in your car — at least the sense I get from it — and it just thumps. That’s one we’re all excited about.”
Working in Nashville also had a marked, and positive, impact on Blues Traveler during the project. “It really is a wonderful place to work,” Popper says. “There were so many great situations, so many great studios, so many great producers. The place we worked was right next door to one of the best barbeque places in the world, so we were filling up on barbeque and working our ass off.”
Blues Traveler has started its summer run and has a fall tour to celebrate the album kicking off Oct. 12 in Montclair. N.J. Popper, meanwhile, is looking even further ahead. “Some day we’ll be a 35-year-old band, and then we’ll be a 40-year-old band — I daresay that we will be a 50-year-old band,” he says. “And at each step of those I really, sincerely hope that we become a band that was worth following for 50 years. The good bands take people on a journey with them; You look at the Beach Boys and the Beatles and you see a growth, you see a story just on their albums. I think we can do that. The story, in my mind, doesn’t end until it really ends.”