Frontman, Andy Cobb of Itchy Hearts, talks about touring and the fickle matter of holding a band together:
Dingus: What inspired the formation of the Itchy Hearts? What is the core of the band?
Cobb: I remember when Hurricane Gaston came through Virginia I was in 10th grade, I think. I think it was 2004. My neighbor was throwing out all of her vinyl because her basement had flooded and the cases were practically destroyed. I took probably 300 records from her basement home, cleaned them off, and hung them up to dry in my garage. Seeing the hundreds of records hanging around my garage was one of the most exciting things I’d ever seen. Up until then, I was listening to Blink 182 and The Bouncing Souls and Avail and stuff like that. Then, all in a day, I had every Paul Simon and Bob Dylan album, The Four Tops, The Carter Family, Leo Kottke, Sam Cooke, Queen, and a bunch of weird African rock ‘n’ roll compilations, and a whole lot more. Then I listened to all of them, and I started writing songs. That’s when I decided I wanted to start a band. Then 3 years later I met 3 other people that wanted to be in a band, and that’s when Itchy Hearts started.
Since I started the Itchy Hearts, it’s had 4 lineup changes. Recently, we got a new lineup, and it seems like they might stick around. It was hard dealing with the lineup and the sound changing so frequently. So, I guess I’d say the core of the band is hard work and perseverance. I think all creative people have intense ups and downs during their artistic goals, but you learn that the only way things are going to work out is if you work hard and make the best music you can. Or you could just get lucky.
What is an Itchy Hearts tour like? How do you travel? What do you look for when booking gigs across the country?
Itchy Hearts tours are always extremely different, due to the fact that the lineup has been different on every tour. The first was like losing your virginity, ya know, very euphoric and romantic. Very eye opening. So, I guess not really like losing your virginity at all. We were all very excited just to be on such a big adventure across the country. It’s really fun when you do all the booking yourself because then you get to meet all the bands and bookers that you had been in contact with so long. The second one was with the second lineup and it was much longer, much louder and much drunker. People were expecting to hear the folk band that they heard on the first tour, so when we showed up with a drum kit and electric guitars, people were surprised. They were expecting a “folk” band, which is funny because the second Itchy Hearts found a drummer; we turned electric. In fact, we never set out to be a folk band. So the next tour was this one we just finished and was completely different. We had a very musical band, who all interpreted the songs completely differently than we ever had before. We traveled in a piece of shit ’91 Chevy Conversion van. It broke down right after the tour.
As for what we look for when booking gigs across the country, that’s a really hard question. It’s hard to judge if a venue or a house is going to be a good spot from looking at its info on the internet, or word of mouth. I just kinda use my best judgment and hope for the best. This last tour, we got banned from a venue called Flickr in Athens for being too loud. We’ve played frat parties, burlesque shows, puppet shows. You just never know what kinda shit you’re getting into until you pull up to the show.
It surprises me to hear you never set out to be a folk group, what did you intend?
We didn’t really set out to be much of anything. We just did what we could, to archive some songs I guess. I grew up listening to the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson and all that, and I found out how great music made me feel. Then I grew up and got into Blink 182 and all the 70′s punk and stuff, and I learned out fun music could be. Then I heard Townes Van Zandt and Richard Thompson and Bob Dylan and everything changed, ya know I found how music could really be something powerful. I mean, I started writing songs during the pop/punk period, but I think I finally started to get it together better later on. I wrote songs and we just tried to pull them off. I didn’t really have intentions. I think I kinda settled on this one kind of strum and song pattern for a while, so I just wrote like that. Plus, the first record, we just didn’t know any drummers. Songs like “S.S.” and “What” would have sounded great with drums. Actually, the first time we played “S.S.”, we played with drums, about two times slower. Then, for the next album, the only song we could record with a drummer was “Mary and Buddy”, then the third one was full of drums. We just have to use what we have around, with the people we can get together. I wish we had a big Phil Spector budget so we could get a bigger sound, but it just ain’t in the cards right now. Our next release, probably gonna come out in late fall, will not be very reminiscent of our original folk sound, even though it’ll have some of the original songs on it. Or maybe it will, I dunno.
Do you ever see the Hearts settling down into a solid line-up?
Hopefully! I never wanted the line up to consistently change, it just kind of happens. I’ve gone through four lineups in the last two years. It’s kinda funny because we lost our pianist about 2 weeks ago, ya never know whats going to happen. It gets really hard, changing band mates so frequently, having the sound change for each tour, always having different travel companions. I’m kind of getting to the point where I’ve accepted it, and kind of view it as a blessing in disguise. But I do think that the current lineup is going to stick around. We’re really working out our own personal sound, everyone is really motivated, and it’s more fun than it’s ever been. I think I’ve found some guys are just as excited about traveling and writing and performing as I am, and to me, that’s the most important part.