Interview with Bill Stevenson: Blood Pumps
“Blood Pumps, the name, haha” Bill Stevenson explains to me while we are both sitting in Austin traffic. He’s just finished a practice session and late lunch at Ramen Tatsuya. I’m in between a music lesson and Book People. “Its about getting your blood pumping and adrenaline,” he said. “See, I thought of a bloody stiletto,” I shared. He said that he has heard all kinds of interpretations about his band name which came to him in much the same way that he writes songs: organically.
About his song-writing and album-naming process, Bill said he noodles around with words and lyrics until something jumps out. “I’ve thrown away way more ideas than I’ve completed,” he said. “I plug in the beat machine and am constantly jotting down notes and lyrics, and eventually things will start coming out. It’s a matter of constant idea collection and one way or another – songs come out.” A Gemini with a Cancer Moon and Scorpio rising, Bill’s song writing is about being steeped in thinking about and feeling the music.
“Our second EP (Too Many Kids) is particularly strong and I’m super stoked about it,” he said. Their first EP, America and Burgers is available to hear online through spotify and all the mainstream platforms. Bill said the song that is most representative of the feel of their band is probably “Long Gossip.” “It’s us in a nutshell,” he said, “that’s the calling card song that represents what we can do. It’s unique; Nobody’s doing those arrangements.”
Bill started playing with Black Joe Lewis, a mid level, national touring act with a cult following in his early twenties. The Blood Pumps is an offshoot of their first act and features Joe Lewis on guitar, Mike Brinley on second guitar, Jordan Cook on drums and Bill Stevenson on bass.
About his bass, Bill plays a 1973 Rickenbaker. “I use flat wound strings on it,” he said. “It’s a 4003 model. Actually a friend of the band from the Black Joe Lewis operation gave it to us. It’s a really rad, beautiful bass – I love playing that thing, it’s my pride and joy. I’ve definitely been all over the world with it and I love it.”
Bill was born in Dallas, and grew up there for the most part. After his parents divorce, he spent some time in Spain and England as a child to spend time with his father. Bill played a year of clarinet in fourth grade and switched over to the orchestra snare in middle school. In high school he played and fronted bands. “My brother Paul had a guitar and he was the first one to throw a bass in my hands and ask me to play bass,” said Bill. The brothers played Nirvana and Weezer songs. “I don’t think I appreciated the bass for what it was at the time.”
Bill moved to Austin after high school in 2004 and began playing the dirty sixth street with it’s racket. He saw Joe (Lewis) in the spring of 2006 and met him the following year at his residency at the Hole in the Wall. “A friend of mine would go down there with me to check him out,” Bill said. “We both loved him because he played raw, in the best way kind of way, the blues. When the Weary boys left on tour, Joe needed a backing band – and that’s when I started playing with him.”
Bill’s advice for bands starting out? “Don’t try to use a 1970s drum machine,” he says in all honesty. Bill also made note of the necessary evil of having music videos and albums out as a way to legitimize your band and give people a place to see your style. “It’s a different trip now,” he says about playing music in comparison to a few years ago.
Favorite place to eat in Austin: Kome
Interview wtih Acey Monaro and Ben Burdick: Go Fever
Go Fever is comprised of Acey Monaro on vox and ryhtym guitar, Ben Burdick on bass and vox, Sam Rives on keys and vox, and Keith Lough on lead guitar. We had a chance to visit with Acey and Ben about their background and their approach to music.
Where are you from?
Acey: Maitland, NSW, Australia (although I lived in Sydney for nigh on 7 years)
Ben: I’m from a little town called Arcata in the middle of nowhere bum F- Northern California. It’s a beautiful place where the Redwood mountains hit the Pacific Ocean and right in the heart of Humboldt County so everyone assumes I’m either a weed dealer or I must be a pot head.
When did you start playing music?
Acey: My first instrument was bass- I got one for my 12th birthday, because I was a massive Suzi Quatro fan. Been singing all my life. My stepfather is a singer/guitarist/band leader and I was always around it. I only played 3 or 4 chord country standards on guitar until I started performing solo in 2012. Then I played 3 or 4 chord originals!
Ben: I started picking up my dad’s guitar when I was 16/17 and basically played a variation of a D chord for 6 months. I think I annoyed the shit out of him so he bought me my own guitar and taught a few more chords and I was off. I’m mostly a bass player now and I inherited a beautiful ’73 Jazz Bass from my Uncle when I was 8 yo. Then I left it in the closet for 10 years before I started playing in a local “roots rock” act (remember I’m from Humboldt County). I was playing my band mate’s crappy squire for 6 months before I remembered I had that awesome bass collecting dust. I took it out and I haven’t had the need for another one since. Probably my only priceless thing I have.
When did you move to Austin and why?
Acey: 2013, to be with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Ben (Go Fever's bassist).
Ben: I had a couple of friends who had moved down here and were trying to get me to follow for a few years. I was finally at a crossroads in life and decided to wing it. 8 years later…
What are your other band/music projects?
Acey: None right now, although I've been writing new stuff that doesn't necessarily fit in with the Go Fever sound. I'd also like to get a country band together, but I'm too busy with Go Fever to even think about following through with that idea for the foreseeable future.
Ben: I also play in a band called Star Parks.
Which musicians and albums/songs have inspired you over the years?
Acey: Thousands, but off the top of my head, here are some artists: B-52's, Angel Olsen, Roger Miller (his ballads especially), Neko Case, Hound Dog Taylor, Harry Nilsson, Carole King, The Pretenders, Dwight Yokham (he mainly inspires me to drink), Camera Obscura, Elvis Costello.
Ben: It really is a limitless list. I started out on Paul Simon’s Graceland. It’s my earliest memory of listening to music aside from Raffi. At this point if I was to make a small list it would look like Neil Young, Harry Nilsson, everyone from The Traveling Wilbury’s, Howlin’ Wolf, Wilco, The Band, The Kinks, Tame Impala, Bowie, The Beach Boys… and so many more. I’m inspired by something new every week it seems. As far as bass influences go it’s pretty clear for me: James Jamerson (Motown), Rick Danko (The Band), John Stirrat (Wilco) and Paul McCartney
What is your songwriting process?
Acey: I write down one liners and couplets and vague narrative ideas in a notebook, then when I dedicate a day to songwriting, I go through and start fleshing one out on an acoustic guitar. I usually write a chorus first, then verses, then finally (maybe) a bridge. I edit my songs a lot- there were songs on our record (recorded last year), that I started writing in 2011, 2012, and were completed in 2016. I'm a verbose writer, for the most part, and I spend a lot of time editing lyrics and probably not enough energy revisiting and improving melodies and structure.
What is a story behind one of the songs you have written?
Acey: Outdoors Man is the story of Ben and I meeting and falling in love. He bullshitted me by pretending that he was an adventurous type, who loved to camp, hike etc. because that's what I liked to do. In reality, he liked to sit in his room and watch shit on his lap top. The first time we went camping, he was so unprepared and we didn't have anything to sleep on inside the tent. I told him that I needed some protection, because I didn't want to get any "morning dew" on me. Unfortunately, Australians pronounce 'dew' like 'Jew', so he took it as a racial slur (he's Jewish). Luckily we sorted that one out pretty quickly. Last time we went camping, just a few weeks ago, I left the packing to him for the first time, and he brought so little food that we had to drive to the closest town and get pizza. So not much has changed on that front.
What advice do you have for other musicians starting out?
Acey: 1. Quit your 9-5er (if you have one) and get a demoralizing service industry job and dedicate yourself to playing music. There's time to make money later if it doesn't work out. I left it so late to take that risk.
2. Go out and see as many local bands as possible and be a part of the local music community. I have amazing musician friends, who I know I can call or text whenever I need to vent about booking or whatever, and they make me feel appreciated. It's especially hard being a band leader/manager because it's a full time job (if you're doing it properly) and not everyone understands that. You're gonna need support!
3. Play as much as possible.
4. Don't be jealous of other bands who are doing better than you. Be inspired.
Ben: Start early and practice, play all the time. It’s my biggest regret in life that I didn’t focus on music from an earlier age. Expose yourself to as much as you can.
What is your favorite place to eat in Austin?
Acey: I would eat the arse out of a low flying duck, so I'm not terribly choosy. But I do love Matt's El Rancho. No yuppie joints.
Ben: I’ve been eating regularly at Bouldin Creek since it was a little coffee shop down the road.
What is your birthday/zodiac sign?
Acey: Cancer. My birthday is July 3rd SAME AS TOM CRUISE
Ben: Taurus. April 24th
Where do you see yourself musically in 5 years?
Acey: Better at guitar, writing more, with multiple projects and still questioning the point of it all.
Ben: Probably busking down on the drag trying to get a gig at the Hole In The Wall. And thus is the circle of life in Austin, TX.
Anything you want people to know? Album coming out? Cool folks you've recorded with? etc.?
Acey: We're touring west in June, passing through Tucson, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Nevada City, Cottage Grove (OR), Portland and Seattle. Dates are on our website.