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By: Sarah L. Myers

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As of this writing, Left Lane Cruiser has just finished a whirlwind North American tour with swamp rock legend Bob Log III and artist Scott H. Biram who was featured in Thirsty (August 2008). This exciting bill combined everything from acid rock to variations on the gospel hymn, all with enough whiskey-drenched sandpaper vocals to rival Tom Waits.

Cruiser's foot-stomping bare bones rock comes from Ft. Wayne, Indiana. It just takes one live show to finally believe such a big sound comes from only two guys - Freddy J IV (Joe), and drummer Bren "Sausage Paw" Beck, who "pounds through the kit, stretching the limit of the material like the seat on Kim Kardashian's jeans."

Left Lane Cruiser (photo: John Burkett)

It's straight-up down and dirty blues and rock n' roll. We caught up with Bren on the road, phoning in on a drive from Cleveland to Rochester. After this tour, the guys will bring pure American blues to Europe and beyond.

Thirsty: I was checking out the tour dates coming up, tell me about what's going on overseas. You're playing some shows in Croatia and Serbia in the fall?

Bren Beck: Yeah, we got invited to do the Tractor Blues Festival in France here in about a week, and that really opened up a lot of doors for us over in Europe. And there's a company over there called U-Turn Touring, a guy by the name of Bud, it's his company, he contacted us and asked if we wanted to go over there because we've done pretty well in record salesover there so far. We said yes and said as long as you can book it for us so he ended up setting up 31 shows maybe, or 29 shows, somewhere in that ballpark. But, yeah, it takes us pretty much everywhere throughout Europe.

Thirsty: Did you guys do that last year?

Bren Beck: No, this will be our first time. We go to France next week and that will be our first time overseas.

Thirsty: So you're bringing the American blues to France?

Bren Beck: Oh, yeah! (laughs) France eats it up and they love anything American that's kind of rootsy. They eat it up.

Thirsty: What kind of outlets do you guys have over there for your music? Is it just through the record label?

Bren Beck: Yeah, the label pretty much does most of it. But MySpace, I mean, it's such a powerful tool for musicians these days that it really, really helps. We've gotten a lot of love from overseas on that and people find it on MySpace, download it, and next thing we know it's in clubs over there playing on their iPods. It's weird.

Thirsty: What do you think is the appeal?

Bren Beck: I don't know, I just, they eat up the rootsy thing over there. In Europe they just have such a great appreciation for music and they love stuff that seems to, stuff that's not regurgitated I think, stuff that comes from, that's written from the soul, they just seem to really really like.

Thirsty: Let me ask you about the sound of the music. When you're playing the blues and you're drawing from influences like Burnside and other blues musicians, how do you keep it sounding fresh and modern? Or do you even try to do that?

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Bren Beck: You know, we don't really try and do anything honestly. We really don't try to make it sound any particular way. We both love Fat Possum and RL Burnside but Joe is real into classic rock, you know, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and that kind of stuff. I'm a big Clutch fan, which shows sometimes because definitely gives it that harder edge. Neither of us really listen to too much modern music though. It just somehow happened I guess. But you know, bands like the Shack Shakers and stuff, when you listen to their CDs over and over again, you're gonna pick up on a lot of stuff they do, you know, speeding up the tempo and bring a modern twist to it and things like that.

Thirsty: But you're mostly rooted in the blues, right?

Bren Beck: Yeah, I would say so, definitely. We both are just huge, huge blues fans. More Fast Possum style blues than old 12-bar stuff. That stuff gets really boring really quick.

Thirsty: So you must love playing in Chicago. Do you feel it hits a little bit harder here?

Bren Beck: Yeah, definitely. Chicago is a legendary city so you can't help but feel that way when you're there.

Thirsty: What's your process for writing songs?

Bren Beck: Joe pretty much writes, comes up with several different guitar riffs and brings them over and the two of us sit down and organize what we like where, and fit several of them together and then he'll take whatever we write home and add some lyrics over the top and then we'll just kind of start playing them live and see what happens and it's not jiving we'll take it back and we'll switch it up some. If it works, we'll just kind of roll with it.

Thirsty: Do you record at home?

Bren Beck: Sometimes. We record pretty much every track (at the) session because neither of us has a very good memory and we forget every song we write if we don't! But we try, we did our first album at home, and this last one they sent us to a studio in Cleveland actually. Which is cool, it's actually where the Grand Funk Railroad and the James Gang and a shit ton of legendary bands recorded. It was awesome. It's like a little log cabin out in the middle of the woods.

Thirsty: Tell me what it's like touring with Bob Log III! What's your background with him and how you first started working together?

Bren Beck: We found out about Bob Log probably five or six years ago would be my guess. Once we started getting into Fat Possum. Started with RL Burnside and all that, then we found the Black Keys. Bob Log was just instantly one of our favorites because it's so fucking weird! But he's just a phenomenal musician. He's just so out there. But he's a lot of fun but we've been trying to play with him for a long time. Not until this past year we actually have been able to make contact with him. He's just been super, super nice to us ever since and when it came time for this tour there was some hesitation about whether or not they were going to put us on because we're a two piece and it's pretty heavy compared to one-man bands. But opening for two one-man bands didn't seem to be too good a fit, but Bob Log made a couple of phone calls, said 'put these guys on. I want them on it,' and that was that. He got us added on pretty much the whole way.

Thirsty: You said he's one of your heroes, so what's that like touring with him?

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Bren Beck: It's incredible! We were really excited, but kind of nervous at the same time to play in front of him and see if he was going to like it or if he was going to be a nice guy, or if he was going to be a dickhead or what was going to happen. But it could not be better. He's just an incredibly nice guy. We both have a mutual respect for each other's music and he's just been great to tour with. Biram as well. He's been great, as well.

Thirsty: Are you guys drinking a lot of scotch on this tour?

Bren Beck: Yes! I don't think there's any way around it!

Thirsty: I love that your nickname is "Sausage Paw" and Bob Log's is "Monkey Paw!"

Bren Beck: Yeah! And he had Monkey Paw long before I had Sausage Paw. But everybody knew we were fans of his, and I have ridiculously short, stubby, fat fingers! It is excellent for drumming!

Thirsty: Maybe it's from the washboard!

Bren Beck: It could be! (laughs)

Thirsty: What else are you guys working on once you get back from the festivals in Europe?

Bren Beck: Once we get back from that I think we're going to do a little down time. We've been touring really hard for the last six months so I think we'll take a little time off and start working on some new material, since it's been awhile since we've actually sit down and tried to focus on some new songs. But T-Model Ford is talking about touring here maybe in February and we've been invited to tour with him on that one, and him just being a legendary blues musician, we would definitely tour with him. So I'm hoping for that.




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