Local band returns, debuts psychedelic music

People’s Blues of Richmond are currently on a tour of the East Coast. With songs like “The House on Oregon Hill” and “Richmond City Hangover Blues,” the band has carried an element of their hometown along with them. Photo courtesy of Joey Wharton.

Quentin Rice, Contributing Writer

Richmond’s beloved psychedelic blues band People’s Blues of Richmond have returned with two new singles titled “Journalist” and “I Don’t Give a Damn.” Currently on their east coast tour, PBR plans to release a new record before the end of the year.

Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Tim Beavers II, bassist Matt Volkes and drummer Neko Williams, PBR’s sound is a wonderfully strange and demented wedding of so many different worlds. It’s as if Les Claypool, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix started a pop punk outfit.

The trio released their first full length album, “Hard On Blues” in 2010. At this point, their sound was mostly informed by blues rock legends such as Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. These influences remained alongside more theatrical elements in their 2013 album, “Good Time Suicide,” featuring album artwork from Richmond artist Thomas Robertson Forester.

The band’s sophomore record plays like a demented circus, weaving in-and-out of drunken swooning verses and manic, bombastic choruses. Beavers said the record is meant to replicate the extreme ups and downs that cocaine users experience — local favorite “Cocaine Powder” is rife with cocaine puns.

2016’s “Quit or Die” fully embraces the twisted circus aesthetic, both visually and sonically. Featuring art of a disgruntled circus clown by Richmond artists James Callahan and Andre Shank, the album details the struggles of getting and staying sober. Although PBR’s sound is constantly changing, the Richmond element has never wavered in their work.

“Sometimes the places we live are in songs, like ‘The House on Oregon Hill,’” Beavers said. “Or sometimes they’re just inspired by daily life in Richmond, like ‘Richmond City Hangover Blues.’”

The circus music label, Volkes said, comes from a desire to entertain above all else.

“Part of the idea is about the environment we want to create for the show-goer,” Volkes said. “We want to be entertaining, psychedelic, manic and kind of dark, all at the same time.”

Certain songs such as “Just Tears” have a slight reggae hue, which no doubt comes from drummer Williams.

“My dad actually used to play the drums for The Wailers,” Williams said. “So I grew up listening to a lot of reggae music. Even some local Richmond reggae bands, like Awareness Art Ensemble and The Razor Posse.”

PBR’s new singles return to the band’s classic form, featuring the familiar manic-depressive structure and huge southern rock guitar tones. Beavers’ vocals on “Journalist” combine some of the neurotic and uptight deliveries of punk legends like Ian MacKaye with the storytelling blues crooning of Bob Dylan.

The band is uncertain about a release window for their next LP, but they are aiming for a 2019 release. They also plan to debut some unheard tracks on their ongoing east coast tour.

“We’ve got a lot of songs that haven’t even seen the studio yet,” Williams said. “When we get back to The Broadberry, there’ll be a lot of tunes you won’t know the names of.”

PBR will travel from South Carolina to Colorado on tour before returning to Richmond April 13 to perform at The Broadberry. Showtimes and tickets can be found at peoplesblues.com. The band’s new singles can be found on their SoundCloud page, PeoplesBlues.

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