The label ‘super group’ gets thrown around a lot these day. It seems like every time you turn your head, a new amalgamation of superstar musicians is getting together to form a new band. Not that this is a bad thing, but how many of these bands last more than one album? In the end, it was a cool idea they got together, but think about the sea of disappointed fans left in the band’s wake.
Luckily, Trigger Hippy is not one of those bands. Sure, it is a gathering of an amazingly talented group of musicians, but this isn’t some fly-by-night, one-and-done super jam or an organized celebrity cash grab. No, Trigger Hippy is a straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band that’s come together over a love for great songwriting, live performance and getting fans on the dance floor and grooving all night long. It’s taken over 10 years for this band to fully realize itself, but now the group is on the road, blazing a path of rock ‘n’ roll glory.
Recently, we spoke with Trigger Hippy founder and drummer Steve Gorman about the band’s upcoming show at The Stone Pony tonight, the formation of the band and who’ll win the NCAA tournament.
You started Trigger Hippy as a jam between you and some of your friends in the music industry. Can you talk about the original idea and why you guys came together.
It started with Nick [Govrik] the bassist jamming together in 2004 in Nashville. We would get together at this bar on Wednesday nights. It would be us with a guitar player and a roving fourth person and literally just jam. We’d call out a song that we all sorta knew and play for tips. We had done this a few times, but Nick and I from the very get-go we played like a rhythm section in a real band. We felt we had something here that was more than two guys jamming. We talked about it for quite a while. For six years, we had this conversation, ‘Man, we should put something together for real.’ The Crowes were touring a lot from 2005-10, and during breaks I’d get together with Nick and the same conversation would happen.
Going into the 2010 Black Crowes tour, I knew they were going to take couple years off, so I said to Nick that summer, ‘Listen, it’s time. Six years of this nonsense conversation, we gotta do something.’ We had discussed the idea of what a band would be. The idea of who was going to sing came up. That summer of 2010 that we went through a list of every singer we knew, every singer we liked…all dudes. Not one woman came to mind because sometimes we’re just idiots. I had jumped into the car and ‘Saint Theresa’ by Joan Osborne off her first album, it was on this little indie station in Nashville. Then I just hit myself in the head, ‘Oh my God, Joan Osborne would be great.’ We’re friends, we go back to the mid-’90s. I hadn’t seen her in a few years, but I called her the next day and said, ‘Hey, how’s it going? How’s life? It’s been a while and do you want to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band?’ She said, ‘That’s so funny. I just had this realization the other day that I’ve never been in a band. I’ve been a hired singer, I’ve been on my own. I’ve always been in charge or filling in — I’ve never been in a band with my equals…and I would love that.’
Joan came to Nashville a couple months later. We got into a room, Nick, and Joan, and I and we threw some ideas around. The first thing the three of us put together, is on the album and it’s called Pocahontas. It was real loose and fun. Nick and Joan had never met and after three days we thought it clicked so well and we had something special here.
We were there in Nashville with a guitarist with Audley Freed. He wasn’t around for the long haul because he’s committed to a number of projects. We wanted to find a guitar player who could also play keyboard and possibly doing backing vocals too. Jackie Greene came to mind. The same thing happened — we called Jackie and told we had this thing going on and Joan was doing it and if he wanted to come and jam and see if he liked it. He said, ‘Man that’d be cool, it sounds like a lot of fun.’ A few months later he showed up and the same sorta thing happened. He had a bunch of ideas and we threw them around. Joan wasn’t there, it was just me, Nick and Jackie. So he was down, but the whole time we thought he was just going to be a player. He said he didn’t want to sing. When Joan showed up a couple of weeks later, the two of them sang a Motown song together just to pass the time and they really clicked as singers. Two great singers don’t necessarily sing great together, but they did. From there we never looked back. We felt this was absolutely something real.
That was in early 2011. We did a few gigs that year but we were mostly writing songs and putting ideas down. We had a million ideas, and a few made the record. There was always this concept of who’d be the guitar player for real. Audley did about eight, so I went to Tom Bukovac. Tom Bukovac is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever played with in my life. So I asked him, almost on a lark because I thought he’d be too busy. He showed up, did three gigs and after the third gig he said, ‘I’m in, this is a blast.’ As soon as we found him, which was early 2012, we decided this was the band, now let’s go make a record and have some fun with this.
Some people have labeled Trigger Hippy as a supergroup. Is this a false statement?
It’s not a supergroup by design. I mean, you could call it a lot worse. It was honestly started from — what would be good, who would we want to work with, what would be fun. If hadn’t felt good with Joan or Jackie or there wasn’t any inertia we wouldn’t have stuck with it. We didn’t say, ‘These are the perfect people for the band.’ We didn’t sculpt it out that way. For Nick and I, it was let’s just put some people in a room and see if it works and it worked out rather nicely. Everyone brings something different to the band but we all have a similar mindset — it’s a collective, it’s very socialist. That part was by design. We got lucky by calling people who were at a time in their life when this seemed interesting and it clicked it. If The Black Crowes hadn’t been on tour in 2013, the record would’ve come out that year and we would’ve been at a very different place.
You mentioned the duel vocalist team of Joan Osborne and Jackie Green. Do you feel having two lead singers is what makes this band special, or is this just a cog in the machine of Trigger Hippy?
It’s a cog. It might make it a bit more unique. Jackie wrote ‘Rise Up Singing,’ Nick wrote ‘Pretty Mess,’ and every other song on the record is a collaboration. Everybody is paired in different settings and written. It’s a collective and it’s never been forced. We’ve written songs where think, ‘Hey, that’s a good Trigger Hippy song’ and others we put together just don’t feel right. That’s not to say every song is the same or feels the same. I’m still waiting for our first band fight (laughs), everything’s been pretty easy up to this point. What’s special about it to me is there’s zero pretense and there’s no plan and we’re all on the same page.
You’ve given high praise to the talent and caliber of musicians in this band. Do you feel that working with them has elevated your game or has caused you to evolve as a musician?
Absolutely. Any time you work with new people you learn. In The Black Crowes we covered a lot of terrain, but it’s inevitable, that when you play together so long there is great strength in that and you become strong because of it. However, sometimes you get to know someone’s playbook a little too well. Every time The Black Crowes would go away for a year or two, everyone would go play with other people. The Black Crowes would reconvene and it’d be fresh again because of everybody played with different people. Everyone brought something back that they picked up.
When I first started played with Nick, we really clicked. We always felt like we had played together forever. That’s unusual. When Joan showed up and working with a guitarist like Bukovac, and someone like Jackie Green — everyone brings something. You can’t compare it to The Black Crowes if you’re going to compare the two bands I’ve put my most in during my life. They’re both rock ‘n’ roll bands and you can point to a million things that are similar. But, the way this band communicates on and off the stage has taught me so much. It’s something I was really ready for and overdue for that fact.
Has the band gone in a different direction from your original vision?
We went beyond my initial vision in about an about. It didn’t take long. I’ll take credit for the name and making some phone calls. Once everyone got in that room I couldn’t have imagined [the outcome] in a million years. There wasn’t a blueprint that stemmed from me and Nick. Once Joan got down it went past what I had heard.
Not to put the cart in front of the horse with this thing but A.) we’ve got people living in a couple different towns, and B.) everyone’s experienced, everyone’s played a couple thousand gigs — by design we’re not going to book a bunch of dates and figure it out on the road. None of us had any interest in doing that. We’ve all done that and we’ve spent so much time away from our families and lives at home, so we don’t want to do that. We’re going to play gigs and we’re going to get busier and buses but we wanted it to all be logical and sensible. We have nothing to prove to anyone, especially not each other. I get the concept of getting on the road and figuring it out. It’s awesome for some bands. With this band we have so much fun writing and being in a room together and playing, we’re never rushing to get on the road and checking off when we’ve played our 100th gig. We’re way too old and it’s a different mindset.
Everything about the band has happened at a pace that’s right and works for everyone. Everybody has very active and successful things they’re involved in (outside Trigger Hippy). The goal from Day One is when Trigger Hippy works it’s everyone’s focus. So let’s make sure we don’t go so far, so soon that anyone gets burnt on it. We want this to always be 100 percent dialed in and focused. If we’re doing 40-50 gigs this year, we’ll do 20 percent more next year. In a few years we’ll be touring regularly. We’re planning on doing more records and more shows. The record came out in September but we’re literally sitting at first base with a long-term plan in mind.
So, with The Black Crowes done, Trigger Hippy sure sounds like your home.
Oh yeah, this is my band. The Black Crowes are done. That’s been coming for years. I joke with Nick that it took six years for this band to happen, but from the first time I played with him I knew I wanted to be in a band with this guy. From the minute Joan showed up I said, ‘Trigger Hippy is a go, we’re going to do this.’ It’s unfolded perfectly. It’s been over a year since I’ve known The Black Crowes were done. That allowed for my musical brain and my musical heart just to think about Trigger Hippy. Basically this is something everyone has said, this is something we want to see grow and grow. There’s no reason for this to ever stop. This is what we’re doing.
Off topic for one second. You’ve your own radio show, correct?
Yes, I do. Steve Gorman Sports. I’m on Monday-Friday 6-8 p.m. Eastern on FoxSports Radio.
Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you who is going to win the NCAA Tournament this year. Who’s winning your bracket?
[It’ll either be] Arizona or Kentucky …. it’ll probably be Kentucky.
Alright, back on track. For those who are coming out tonight to The Stone Pony — what can they expect from a Trigger Hippy live show?
It’s fun first and foremost. We have a great time playing together. It’s not manufactured, none of it’s by designed. We’ve diligently not put our hands all over it. We aren’t shaping it. We have a great time and I think it translates very directly to the audience. If you see a rock ‘n’ roll band that’s A.) a bunch of bad ass players, and a B.) a groovefest with people dancing…Trigger Hippy, to me, is a play off Trigger Happy obviously, but I spelled it Hippy because it’s about hips and people move their hips at our shows. Come and dance and have a good time.If you’re a ‘muzo’ you’re going to have a great time. Tom Bukovac is on the highest level. There’s a tier for the freaks and he sits very comfortably there. As a rhythm section I think we’re up there. These are great rock ‘n’ roll musicians across the board and we’re having a blast together. We’re not waving some flag to save rock ‘n’ roll. We have a bunch of songs we’ve crafted and the emphasis has been on the writing. Live, it’s time to go have fun.
Trigger Hippy performs tonight at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey with special guests The Glimmer Grass Band. Click here for tickets.
Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom