CVIndependent

Wed11252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

David Lowery, the frontman of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, doesn’t think some musicians fully understand their rights.

“A lot of the younger artists don’t realize that the pay was considerably higher about 15 years ago,” he said. “It’s kind of like a one-two punch. First, you’re affected by online piracy, where that knocked off about a third of our income, and then the thing that’s happened lately—and none of us saw coming—is that our share from online streaming services is so low.”

Lowery is bringing Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker to the bands’ 10th annual Campout at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, from Thursday, Sept. 11, through Saturday, Sept. 13.

During a recent phone interview with the Independent, the former Redlands resident said that while he loves streaming music, there is a big downside to it.

“I have Beats Music on my phone; my kids have it on their phones, and we listen to it and find it convenient,” Lowery said. “But between the services and the record labels, the artist is getting a really small premium from that revenue that comes from streaming. With Spotify being valued at $6 billion now, and Beats Music being sold to Apple—and that’s $3 billion there—it doesn’t seem right to us. It’s not that we’re against streaming; it’s the share of revenue.”

He said that most people don’t understand what goes on behind the scenes regarding streaming music.

“It’s really hard to explain it to the general public. Basically, when the labels cut their deals with the streaming services, it looks like they trade in equity, given they own a part of Spotify,” he said. “Universal Records owns part of Beats Music, and Apple gave them a big payout. So, essentially, the labels traded our songs for … ownership in the services.”

Lowery conceded that the struggle between musicians and record labels is not new.

“There are these stories that go back to the ’50s about the blues band going to the record label and saying, ‘Hey, where’s my money?’ And they’re like, ‘Well, we got you this Cadillac.’ The Cadillac was worth less than the royalties. By the way, this story about the Cadillac: It’s true, because my mother-in-law worked for Sun Records, and my father in law was a car-dealer, and that’s exactly how they met each other. That really did happen!” he said with a laugh.

However, Lowery said there was a progression toward protecting artists and their royalties.

“There was a period in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s where the artists kind of finally worked it out,” Lowery said. “Between our unions and our songwriter groups, that were kind of like unions for songwriters, we could work out some pretty equitable pay arrangements—and we’re sort of back to square one right now. It’s not like it can’t be worked out, but it’s not going to get worked out without us bitching, moaning, screaming and holding these people’s feet to the fire. That’s how it’s going to get sorted out. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way it’s going to go.”

At stake, Lowery said, is the standard of living for a lot of musicians, some of whom struggle to make ends meet even after a hit song or record.

“They’ve seen their revenues fall from maybe having a nice middle-class existence to, ‘Oh, shit, I can’t even support my family on this!’ So, it’s tough times. It’s going to take guys like me, East Bay Ray from Dead Kennedys, John McCrea from Cake, and some (other) older musicians with a sense of what’s fair in this industry to speak out and explain this to people.”

He said the modern economics of the music business have led to some musicians deciding not to record new material, because it’s no longer economically beneficial.

“There are a lot of artists doing that,” he said. “I’m essentially an optimist for the long-term. Eventually, I assume these streaming services are going to have to start paying more to give people the incentive to make albums again. It’s going to have to work itself out.”

Camper Van Beethoven has recorded two albums in recent years: La Costa Perdida, which Lowery said is Northern California-themed, and El Camino Real, which is Southern California-themed. Cracker also has a new album in the works.

As for this year’s Campout, Lowery conceded he’s had some booking challenges, but he promised it’s still going to be a lot of fun.

“We had a few people who were in, and then they were out, and then someone bigger might come in, and we’ve delayed announcing a lot of details,” he said. Chris Shiflett from the Foo Fighters was going to come and do his country thing again, but he had to drop out. But we do have Brant Bjork from the Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age family. We have The Dangers from Riverside; we’ve got the various Camper side projects … and there will be local people like Jesika Von Rabbit, who’s going to do some stuff again. It’ll be great and just as good as last year.”

The 10th annual Campout with Camper Van Beethoven and Camper takes place Thursday, Sept. 11, through Saturday, Sept. 13, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $75 for a three-day pass, or $25 for one day. For tickets or more information, visit crackersoul.com.

Published in Previews

It’s September, so that means it’s time for the Campout at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

The ninth annual Campout will be on Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 12-14, and will feature good barbecue, good music and good times.

The history of the Campout begins with Camper Van Beethoven. The members of the band started playing together in Redlands, Calif., in the early 80s, under the name Camper Van Beethoven and the Border Patrol.

“There were a lot of great musicians who came out of Redlands, but there just weren’t a lot of places for us to play,” lead singer David Lowery said during a recent phone interview. “We never really played in Redlands. We played in Los Angeles and sometimes in Riverside. Backyard parties in Riverside were actually all you could do: People would have a big backyard party, have a band over, and invite the neighbors over. We played at some sort of biker party in Muscoy in San Bernardino County, and things like that.” 

In 1985, the band shortened their name to just Camper Van Beethoven, with the original lineup of David Lowery (vocals), Chris Molla (guitar), Jonathan Segel (violin, keyboards, and guitars), Victor Krummenacher (bass) and Anthony Guess (drums). Chris Pedersen eventually replaced Guess.

The band released their debut album Telephone Free Landside Victory the same year, which featured the hit single “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” along with a folk-style cover of Black Flag’s “Wasted.” The band’s mix of folk with ska, pop and several different types of world music has gained them a diverse audience, along with the acclaim of music critics.

Lowery said the eclectic style is both a blessing and a curse.

“It makes it easier that we don’t really have a specific sound, and it’s actually kind of helpful,” he said. “In another way, it’s kind of hard, because it’s not necessarily easy to make a wild, eclectic collection of songs. When we make an album, we’ll record a lot of songs, and we’ll pull out a couple of songs that don’t work with the rest of the batch. Ultimately, I think it makes it a little easier for us.”

In 1990, Camper Van Beethoven went on hiatus, and Lowery went on to form Cracker with his childhood friend Johnny Hickman. Cracker released their debut self-titled record in 1992, which featured the single “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now).”

“(Camper Van Beethoven) had the usual creative differences,” Lowery explained. “Victor Krummenacher, Greg Lisher and Chris Pedersen went off to do Monks of Doom, and I started doing Cracker. We ended up basically taking about a decade break, and we didn’t make an album for another three years after we got back together. We just kind of went our separate ways for a while, and then eventually came back together.”

Lowery said the band now has a different approach.

“To this day, there’s something about the pace of the band that makes us work in a part-time fashion,” Lowery said. “We’ll get together and write some songs; we’ll go off and do other stuff; then we’ll get together and write more songs, and then put out an album. It’s not like we go out and do a big world tour. We play a few shows here and there; we don’t burn ourselves out. It’s generally been a good thing for the band. It’s not good to treat a band like a full-time job.”

What would go on to become the Campout was not intended to be an annual event. David Lowery and Camper Van Beethoven have ties to the Pioneertown area and the high desert. In fact, Cracker recorded an album in one of the buildings located on the Western movie set in Pioneertown.

“The original intention behind it was that (it was during) my birthday, and a few people who work for us have birthdays around that weekend. We were going to have a combination of a show and birthday party in Pioneertown,” Lowery said. “We have a long history with Pioneertown. We’d rehearse there; we went there to hang out and write songs. It started out in 2005 as this idea that it’d be a birthday party for all of us, but there was also the strategic reason that there was never really a great venue for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven to play in, in L.A., and we always got shoved into venues we didn’t like. We thought we’d play in what we considered our ‘home turf’ in Southern California and basically have people come to us.

“It just started out by accident and then turned out to be a regular festival event. We didn’t really expect it to become a tradition, but it did.”

While Pappy and Harriet’s is a small venue, Lowery said it’s a great place for this type of event.

“I think it’s a very beautiful spot. It’s the high desert, so it tends not to be as hot as it would be if we played down in the Coachella Valley,” said Lowery. “I don’t really want to play down there in September. With the high desert—the climate, the terrain—the place has a cool vibe. I hope it continues, because it’s a lot of fun.”

Lowery explained what sets the Campout apart from other festivals.

“It’s based on friends and family. It’s either people who have played with us, people who are friends of us, and it’s the side bands that have come out of Camper Van Beethoven,” said Lowery.

The lineup for the three-day event includes some great names, including Gram Rabbit; Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett and his band, the Dead Peasants; Jackshit, featuring members of Elvis Costello’s backing band; and, of course, Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, and the Victor Krummenacher Band.

The ninth annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout takes place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 12-14, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $27 for one-day passes, or $68 for a three-day pass. For tickets and more information, visit www.crackersoul.com/fr_home.cfm.

Published in Previews

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