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Arts and Entertainment

Austin's New Soul Man - Meet Black Joe Lewis

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Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears I Photo: Cambria Harkey

Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears I Photo: Cambria Harkey
The deaths of James Brown and the Wicked Wilson Pickett left a huge gaping hole in the soul universe, but all is not lost Black Joe Lewis is picking up where they left off. Bursting out of Austin with a eight piece set up, Black Joe Lewis and his Honeybears have been drawing fans like flies to a honey jar with their saucy dirty, blues.

The songs of their debut album,Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! get to the meat of what life is all about when you're young: being broke ("I'm Broke"), one night stands ("Sugarfoot"), amour ("Bitch, I Love You") and getting down ("Boogie"). Black Joe Lewis was kind enough to talk with us before his show at the Troubadour. Here is some of what was said.

Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears - "Boogie"

I heard you first picked up a guitar when you were eighteen and working in a pawn shop. Why did you pick the guitar?
Well there were more of them then any other instrument, so that was a factor, but I think everybody wants to play guitar at some point.

Did you take lessons or were you self-taught?
Oh, I never took lessons. I mean, I used to hang out with people who played and that's how I learned.

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How did you get together with the Honeybears?
Well I had a circle of friends who all play music and I had met Zach (Ernst) through them. I didn't have a band at the time and I was looking for people who could play. He knew a few guys, and we kinda just stuck together.

Is your band a democracy or a dictatorship?
A little bit of of both I guess. I guess I would be the dictator sometimes. Most of the songs I wrote on my own or with Zach.


Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears I Photo: Cambria Harkey

What song are you most proud of on the album?
I like "Master Sold My Baby" a lot. I like the way it sounds.All of you guys have such cool nicknames like Sleepy, Sugarfoot, Rooster, and Slyder McKnight the Night Train. Where did you get them?
We just made that up. We were fucking around one day and thought they were funny. We don't really use them.

Why are you the Honeybears and not just the Bears?
Honey's sweet, you know?

Who is "Bitch, I Love You" about?
My friend Brian wrote that song a long time ago. That's one of our oldest songs. It was back in the day when we were doing comedy stuff together. It was one of the of the first songs I learned.

Is "Sugarfoot" a true story? Did you really sleep with Sugarfoot's girl?
No, it's not. Not really. (laughs) Everybody's had a night like that before. A booty call, you know?

Sure. Where did you write "I'm Broke"? Were you having a particularly bad day?
Nah, that song is just about everybody I know. Everybody's broke. People get locked up for being broke. And watching the news and what not. It's ugly.

What was the worst show you ever did?
I've had so many of them, especially when I first started. There was a show in Pittsburgh where I was opening for someone, and there was this guy reading a book in the crowd. That was pretty lame.

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Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears - "Bitch, I Love You"

What is the weirdest thing you ever saw in the audience?
We were in England at this festival and the whole crowd was covered in mud, dancing around. It was our by Salisbury or something like that. They looked like aliens or something. It was pretty weird.

Do you have any strange promoter stories?
We played in Bloomington, Indiana and only got paid $30. Which between eight of us is not much. I fucking got really mad. There was lots of yelling. It was a shitty night.

Is it hard traveling with so many people?
Yeah, sometimes it can get a bit crowded, but it's a lot of fun. And it takes us just five minutes to pack up our gear or unload the trailer. It's like having a small army.

Do you have a favorite local band at the moment?
The Strange Boys are pretty good. And the Ape-Shits, but they just broke up.

All right last question, if you were on a deserted island and could only bring three worldly possessions what would they be?
Hm....I would take a girl.

Any girl?

Well, she'd have to be hot. A hot chick, food, and a helicopter so I can go back and forth.

What sort of food?

I dunno. Barbecue chicken and some greens. That would be good.

Sounds like a plan. Well thank you so much for talking with us, Joe.

Thank you!

Be sure to catch Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears at the Troubadour this Monday night. Doors at 8pm. Tickets $15.