Today’s Feature – May 21 – June 1: Lucinda Black Bear

June 1, 2008 at 1:27 pm (Today's Feature)

Lucinda Black Bear is the brainchild of Christian Gibbs (you may know him as C Gibbs), backed up by some of the coolest musicians in Brooklyn – Mike Cohen on bass, Kristin Mueller on Drums, Chad Hammer, and Clare Burson on violin. And these guys are pretty friggin’ cool – they know exactly what they like and they play the hell out of it. Rulers of the “ghetto rock scene,” they attempt to describe their sound as “Moody Chamber Pop Folk Minor Keyed Atmospheric Rock; grandiose in a subtle fashion if one were to embellish.”

They released “Capo my Hear and other Bear Songs” in November 2007, a collection which “frolics the musky musical landscape with palatable sonic morsels incorporating cellos, feedback, loops, pianos, drums, and oddly tuned acoustic and electric guitars.” The record hints at pieces of Elliott Smith, Radiohead, even Neil Young – something for the true music enthusiast. Definitely something different.

The record is special for C Gibbs – a rare time his melodies include a true band backing them up; all the members of LBB playing live on stage are the same people who made the album great. Those live performances are perhaps a bit more boisterous than the record – “We throw a few surprises at live shows and it tends to be more raucous than what you would expect.” Check out a show if you get the chance when they start the tour in August, and grab the new record (it includes a bonus free video on the disc). Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Lucinda Black Bear (PEV): Tell us about how you first jumped into becoming musicians?

Christian Gibbs (CG): I grew up in the 70’s so my Mom was fascinated with Saturday Night Fever. She took us to see the film 12 times. That’s probably where I get my falsetto vocal influence from (Bee Gee’s) . My dad always had a guitar lying around but when I asked him to show me songs he would say “learn to read the music,” so I learned a bit of classical guitar at first. Then I was fascinated by Kiss so I got a guitar teacher who was Paul Stanley in this Imitation Kiss band. They were so popular that the real Kiss shut them down for copyright purposes. He had a picture of him and Paul Stanley and he was my idol even though he was a fake Paul Stanley. I remember my first guitar lesson before I could play a note I asked him how to do the cool moves. He said, “let’s learn how to play first, I’ll show you the moves later.”

PEV: Now calling Brooklyn, New York home, what kind of music where you listening to growing up?

CG: The first record I bought was the single “Little Red Corvette” by Prince. Then I got into The Who, The Doors and The Trogs. I was a mod for awhile. Definitely a contrived existence in Sunny San Diego without a Vespa or an english accent and in the wrong decade. I later started a band called Chronic Rythmic Yells. We played in Tijuana and loved Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, Echo and The Bunnymen.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process. What kind of environment do you have to be in to write music?

CG: I need to write in the morning, especially after a couple cups of coffee. I have a little studio and record snippets of ideas from guitar or piano and write the words usually later or while I am in motion like on the subway or in a car if possible. I then tie it all in together when I have the privacy and time at home.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Lucinda Black Bear performance?

CG: We are a bit rowdier live and like to joke on stage that we are a folk rock band from Brooklyn after we do a little number called Medicine Bag (not on album). We throw a few surprises at live shows and it tends to be more raucous than what you would expect.

PEV: Tell us about your first performance as a band. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

CG: I did the first performance under the name Lucinda Black Bear with Chad our cello player. Our first performance as a band was at Pete’s Candy Store ( a tiny converted cabbose) in Williamsburg. We barely knew each other, which was invigorating musically. It still is, though I suppose we are more loose nowadays and after touring a bit, more comfortable getting a little rowdy at times.

PEV: What can fans expect from your latest release, “‘capo my heart’ and other bear songs”?

CG: Well for one thing there is a free video on the disc beautifully shot and directed by Austin Lynn. If you like Elliott smith, Radiohead, Granddaddy, Neil Young, and the Beatles and moody atmospheric songs chances are you’ll enjoy our album.

PEV: How is this album different from your past projects?

CG: My past projects recently have been under my name so this is very much a band. All the members you see playing live are the same people who played on the album. There is also a modicum of discipline and restraint employed in the making of this album to keep certain songs off it that didn’t fit within the aesthetic of LBB. I think this constraint of sorts contributed to the album as a whole.

PEV: How would YOU describe your sound?

CG: Others have answered this question much better than we have. If I were to attempt a description I would say Moody-Chamber-Pop-Folk-Minor-Keyed-Atmospheric-Rock (say that ten times real fast!); grandiose in a subtle fashion if one were to embellish.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Lucinda Black Bear?

CG: I like Pudding. Chad likes Double Bypass Cheeseburger. Mike and Kristen like a good Chamay from time to time. We all love espresso. On tour at the truckstops they have these little creamers that are basically a shot of espresso. Truckers spike their coffee with them for long drives. We are addicted to them. “Stok” , I think they are called. We drink those before every show.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

CG: I don’t think you ever know that music will be a career but I think that I’ve always known I’d like it to be a career. I’ve been signed to major record labels and found myself back to square one. Its a rollercoaster and can be a volatile pursuit. I enjoy the process more than the result so I know I’ll never quit playing music. I think it is important to get out of what a friend of mine called the “Indie Rock Ghetto” by keeping yourself open to musical endeavors that might not necessarily be what you had in mind. I am playing guitar in an afro-baroque-rock musical on Broadway (Passing Strange) and it has been very liberating and financially auspicious. So presently I am am very fortunate but I am realistic and know that what tomorrow has in store might not be what you had planned.

PEV: What one word best describes Lucinda Black Bear?

CG: “Callipygian.” If thats too racy then “moody.”

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts?

CG: I love the long drives on country roads. I actually get disappointed when we get to the club ’cause we have to stop driving. We like going to Thrift stores and record stores. Sometimes in the van on long drives a couple of us begin speaking in English Accents. There is usually someone in the band who gets annoyed but they eventually join in. Once, by the time we got to our show in Ashville, North Carolina we had been speaking this way for three hours and decided just to confuse people to keep speaking in English Accents at the club. They were like, “aren’t you guys from Brooklyn?” and we say “yea mate, so what?”

Other less enjoyable moments are finding a place to sleep in a strange town after playing in front of 3 people. I’ve slept on moving blankets on stained mattresses in padlocked rooms. Other situations are too graphic to mention. Oh yeah, and breaking down in Fargo on a Sunday is never pleasant.

PEV: In all your travels, which has been your favorite city to play (US or International)?

CG: Tokyo and Soluthurn were great. Soluthurn is in Switzerland and is the oldest Baroque town there. I had horsesteak there once. It is a three story ancient inn on the river. You eat dinner downstairs, go up a flight to play your show. Then, when finished, you go up the last flight to you hotel room. The Helsinki Club in Zurich is also wonderful.

Stateside, I will always have a fondness for Hattisseburg, Mississippi . The Thirsty Hippo and T-Bone Records are fine establishments and the people there are sweet as pie. Knoxville is great. Same can be said for Boone, North Carolina.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

CG: They were very pleased with some of the press we got and especially the little NPR piece. We are still a struggling band in many ways but we now have a booking agent and a manager which we didn’t have before the album came out. We still have alot of ground to cover though.

PEV: What can the members of Lucinda Black Bear doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

CG: When we play in Cape Cod we go to the beach. Kristin and I bring our surfboards and surf before the shows there. I can only speak for myself but I have developed an obsession with RV’s. Lately, I’ve been shopping for one of those.

PEV: Which artist would be your dream collaboration?

CG: John Vanderslice, Elliott Smith, Neil Young and David Lynch.

PEV: Is there an up-and-coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for?

CG: She Keeps Bees is a great band. Jessica sang on our song ‘Capo My Heart.’ Also at Mercury Lounge we played with this fabulous band, Numbers and Letters. Just the right mix. Used to be Women are some friends of mine that play good ol’ rock -n- roll ala the Stones; their new album kicks. There are many others.

PEV: What is your take on today’s mainstream music scene?

CG: There is some stuff I like but most of it makes me want to give my dinner back. The new Breeders record is great. They did it all analog. I also like John Vanderslice’s new record . Are they mainstream? If you mean whats on MTV 1,2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, I can’t watch that anymore. We got called “Indie Outsiders” which to me is a superfluous term and exhibits how out of touch we are with mainstream. I do like Gnarls Barkley and a host of others. I listen mostly to my Ipod in the car or news radio, so I am pretty out of the loop unless its staring at me in a ubiquitous advertisement somewhere.

PEV: Ten years down the road, where will Lucinda Black Bear be?

CG: Hopefully in our brand new RV (Class A) on a long country road to a town near you!

PEV: So, what is next for Lucinda Black Bear?

CG: We have a tour in August. Between now and then we have a batch of new songs to rehearse and then record. There may be some overseas stuff. I eagerly anticipate recording the follow up to Capo My Heart which is first on the list.

For more information on Lucinda Black Bear, check out


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