Stretching their legs
Blues-punk rockers Daddy Long Legs are embarking on their first tour of Australia this month.
Starting out on Norton Records, home of legends such as Andre Williams, the Sonics and Link Wray, the New York City-based group recently dropped their new single, "Nightmare", a cracking and frighteniing tune that sums up what we’ve all gone through the past few years. They even got their mate Wreckless Eric to do backing vocals.
Singer/guitarist Brian Hurd spoke to me on the zoom machine while the band was mid tour in Europe.
I-94 Bar: Dave Laing, who teed up this interview up, told me he can’t stop listening to the new Daddy Long Legs single, "Nightmare". Once I heard it I kept pushing repeat as well.
Brian: Right on, thank-you!.
It’s certainly a song of the times, did you write it about all the stuff that happened in the last few years?
Brian: Yeah it’s absolutely of the times, and inspired by everything that’s happened all around us. The story behind it is, in January 2021 I got sick, I had the COVID bug, and I had these crazy dreams that were super vivid, and every night I would dream a different song.
One of the nights that I was under the weather, I had a dream that I was hanging with all these leather clad, denim clad rockers, long hair dudes, and they were telling me how much they dig Daddy Long Legs and they were telling me their favourite song was called "Nightmare".
Well pre-COVID, before all this happened you made a LP called "Lockdown Ways" (2019), so you really have nailed the current times before it happened, AS WELL!
Brian: (Laughs) Yeah.
So with a new single out, do you have a new LP coming out soon too?
Brian: Yes, it is slated for March 2023, we can’t say the name of the title but we’re making the announcement in January.
"Nightmare" also features the backing vocals of Wreckless Eric, how did that come about?
Brian: Man, we’ve been a fan of his for years. Obviously, we’re all big fans of the whole Stiff Records catalogue. We all love 70s punk, proto punk and the pub rock bands. So Wreckless Eric was always on our radar, and we knew he lived in New York State, somewhere.
We showed up at an in-store he was doing in North Carolina, and then he came to see us later that night, and he was blown away, he said: “You guys remind me of seeing Dr Feelgood back in the day, or my mate Lew Lewis”. After that we became friends and we’d run into each other once in a while. Then we made this record upstate, and he lives up there. So he would show up every day see what we were up to and how it’s going.
So we said to him, “Why you don’t sing some backups while you’re here”. He ended up singing a few tracks, Nightmare being one of them. So good to have him around.
I loved the vocals on "Nightmare", loved how you had real rough-as-guts vocals then the great gang vocals for the chorus?
Brian: Yeah right, real spectrum there.
Considering it sounds like you go full till with the vocals, how do you manage to keep them intact?
Brain: A lot of water, I do my herbal teas, and proper sleep is important. But it’s almost impossible sometimes, it has gotten easier, I’ve been doing this for so long, I think my voice can withstand a lot of abuse. When your singing blues it helps to have a rough edge around it.
That’s good to hear, because your pretty much coming to Australia straight from Europe?
Brian: We play our last gig in Madrid, we have a day or two to sleep and prepare for the flight but when we get there its goanna be non-stop action.
Your first two LPs was released on Norton Records, how did you became associated with that great label?
Brian: Oh man, well I grew up in St Louis, and when I was 16-17 years old I heard the first Hasil Adkins LP Out to Hunch. I was just starting to get into '70s punk, I never heard full-on hillbilly music, or anything like that. I got turned onto that LP and it blew my mind.
I heard the Sonics LP "Boom", and I thought hang on, Hasil is also on this label, what is the connection? I just started digging through Norton and made the rest of my collections obsolete. I wanted to know all the weird and wonderful stuff from Norton. And simultaneously, we didn’t know each other, but down the road I would run across our drummer Josh Styles, he was actually Norton’s first ever employee, he was Billy and Miriam’s first intern, when they were running the label from their apartment.
We weren’t to meet each other for another 10 years, and when we did we became pals, I meet Billy and Miriam and became friends with them, I would see the A Bones a lot and get invited to their holiday parties. When we started the group they saw us, and saw that the whole Norton thing was in our blood.
Punk or blues, which was more of an influence on you?
Brian: Ah man that’s half and half, the first bands I was getting turned onto by my older brothers and sisters was the Ramones, the Stooges, New York Dolls. But being from St Louis, Chuck Berry was right there, the early Ike Turner and the Rhythm Kings stuff. Super deep St Louis stuff like Charlie Jordan and Henry Townsend.
So R 'n' B was there as well, and I appreciate the history St Louis had music-wise. But I was more interested in doing a punk band, in the vain of the New York CBGBs era stuff. But once I got to New York I saw so many people were doing that and I was like well, we’ll add this whole rhythm and blues side of things and that will be the concept behind our punk rock band
I feel when I listen to you guys you’re the real deal when it comes to the blues, you know you guys know and respect the history and the bands that made it what it is and you’re not faking it. It’s like when Ween made 12 "Golden Country Greats", and all these bands decided to go country but they didn’t have the respect they did.
Brian: Yeah it doesn’t make sense for us to cover "Key to the Highway", and all these standards that have been beaten to death, we’re better off doing our own stamp on it and putting it inside out really.
Considering you do a mix of country and punk was it hard to find a solid fanbase? You know punk purists didn’t care for the blues side and vice versa?
Brian: Hasn’t been the case with us. Being a New York City band we already had a built in crowd for what we were doing, plus we had history with the other groups we were in, and the whole Norton thing when we had our first LP with them, it was like we already had a built-in audience. I remember the first time we came to Spain and the UK, all these folks in Norton Records shirts showed up, it was like the Norton stamp of approval. We’re still here a decade later, grinding, being on the road, we find our people or they finds us.
Is New York City an influence on your signwriting?
Brian: It’s a big influence. I’ve always been a fan of blues and gospel and all the deep roots music, but also it’s that position of being in an urban city. I think we’ve fully embraced it now, and this next record it’s a reflection of urban decay, a band of the people, but from the city at the same time.
Are you aware of the Tumbleweed song "Daddy Long Legs"?
Brian: I feel like I’ve come across this on YouTube before but I can’t really recall. It was a heavy band from what I remember
You mentioned Dr Feelgood before, what was it like playing with Wilco Johnson?
Brian: Oh man, it was amazing, we would never think that would actually happen. We’re all such fanatics, and he’s one of the most unique guitar players ever. We’ve been lucky to meet him, have pints with him and have him join us on stage for a few tunes here and there. It’s an honour.
Aside from Eric who else did you bump into that you became mates with?
Brian: Too many to name. But we became close with Lenny Kaye, he became a big fan of the band. Andy Shernoff from the Dictators. We used to be close with Arturo Vega from the Ramones when he was around. Danny Fields, forever the coolest guy in the room. The list goes on. Billy and Miriam, got to mention them. We’ve done a really good job of seeking out our heroes and making friends with them. I guess they see whatever we’re doing and they seem to dig it and know its coming from an honest true place, so we’ve been fortunate in that regard.
Daddy Long Legs Australian tour dates
11, 12, 13 – BLUES AT BRIDGETOWN, WA
15 – DUKE OF GEORGE, PERTH
16 – THE ZOO, BRISBANE
18 – ELTHAM HOTEL, NSW
19 – ENMORE HOTEL, SYDNEY - FREE SHOW
20 – THIRROUL MUSIC FESTIVAL, NSW
22 – THE CURTIN, MELBOURNE
23 – CHERRY BAR, MELBOURNE
24 – HOTEL WESTWOOD, MELBOURNE
25,26,27 – QUEENSCLIFF MUSIC FESTIVAL