of The Real:
Not Just Another
Blues Roots/ Surfing Jam Band
By T.E. Mattox
f you can't quite put your finger on how to describe the music of Lukas
Nelson and Promise of the Real, well that
line starts right here
behind me. But, if you like your rock and
roll wrapped in something decidedly different, original yet familiar,
and with enough juice to light up a good portion of the California coastline,
then you're really in luck because that line too, starts right here
behind me. I've seen Promise of the Real
play on several occasions and every single time the only thing the band
left behind was a big smoking hole where a stage used to be, and a collection
of disheveled show stragglers walking around aimlessly. And I'm pretty
sure POTR would have it no other way.
When I finally sat down with guitarist, Lukas Nelson
and drummer Anthony LoGerfo it became apparent Southern California,
and almost anyplace near the beach was home base. LoGerfo told me the
band is "
pretty much based here, and Maui and also 'on-the-road'
for the most part. Mainly when we're here, we're on the coast."
Big talk looking at your tour schedule
ever here? "Rarely!" Nelson laughs, "Probably
three times a year, maybe." POTR doesn't appear to stop
anything and both admit, "We like it that way."
Life on the road can wear on you, does it ever get old?
"It's bittersweet; I guess" says LoGerfo "for
me, at least." Lukas adds, "It depends on whether you
have something to go home to, or not."
Both of you surf? "Yeah, we just surfed yesterday."
"Yeah," Tony adds, "we try
to go surf whenever we can. That's also rare these days, but when we
first met we surfed quite a bit."
by a lot of different music and I think that comes out. When we
started the band we never wanted to have any rules really, of
where we could go musically. We never know what we're gonna' do."
Let's talk about the band, who's in POTR currently?
Well, we've got Tony, myself and Corey McCormick and Tato Melgar.
I've known Tato since I was like, 8 years old and he's been my brother
for that long. He's from South America, and plays percussion. And Corey's
known Tony for almost that long."
"We've known each other for about eight years,"
Tony confirms. "We went to college together. He was a few
years ahead of me. I always looked up to him a lot as a musician, and
when we started this band we had another bass player and things kinda'
changed. Corey had just finished playing with Chris Cornell and I gave
him a call right away and he came down and jammed with us
just kind of meshed and here we are."
Lukas, tell me a little about some of your early guitar
influences, players you liked? "Stevie Ray and Jimi
are pretty obvious influences I think. I just grew up listening to them
Mike Bloomfield too, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan's
band." After a moment of reflection Lukas adds, "Bloomfield's
tone was one of the best ever."
Tony, anybody stand out for you? "I like Led
Zeppelin a lot, John Bonham's drumming really was a big influence on
me. I like jazz music quite a bit
Elvin Jones and Tony Williams.
I like Keith Moon from the Who." Lukas is nodding his head,
"And we all have the same influences too, those are the same
Another revelation and a little more insight about this
band came when I read Lukas was also a fan of Belgian guitarist, Django
Reinhardt? "Django's huge!" Lukas grins. Now I can't
help smiling as we talked about John
Mayall growing up listening to his father's Django Reinhardt records.
Lukas' eyes light up. "MY father has a huge Django collection."
One of the things I really find unique about this band
is its diversity. Their distinctive rock sound can shift gears from
backbeat and country-fried to power-driven and pseudo-psychedelic faster
than a chord change in the Pali Gap. Still, it's kind of funny
to find that POTR as a collective, share numerous musical influences
and like a lot of the same players and groups.
So that begs the question, how would you describe the
music of Promise of the Real? Lukas just smiles, "It's like
a little bit colorful
it's got feathers on it, gotta' big beak
and you can only find it in certain parts of the country...at certain
Tony concurs, "I couldn't describe it better."
Glad we could clear that up.
Lukas Nelson and Tony LoGerfo of Promise of the
Real share philosophies. Photo:Yachiyo Mattox
Okay, let's talk about school years. Lukas you attended
Loyola Marymont in L.A., for music? "Yes." Then, in
what seems to be a complete one-eighty, and in the age old tradition
of the Blues, you began playing music on the street
along Venice Beach. "I just decided, personally, and it was
my personal choice, to 'leave the nest' so-to-speak, and kinda' go and
find out who I was. I had the complete support of my family and it was
great. I had a good time. I played there a lot, and then I'd go and
play on my school campus, I'd go and sit and play in the courtyard and
have crowds of people come up. And there it wasn't even for money; I'd
just play for fun on the street. There might have been a hat or something.
It wasn't like I didn't have a place to go if I wanted to. It's just
a different way of living. It's more
free, in a way. Especially
in SoCal, I probably wouldn't want to do it in
(A little difficult to feel your fingers on a brisk January day.)
But In Venice Beach, it's like, of course. I don't pretend I had
a hard time, you know? I had a wonderful time. Sleeping in my car at
the beach, I mean people go and do that anyway just for fun."
Tony, you attended school in Southern California as
well? "I went to Citrus College and everything went really well.
I never finished but I had the blessing of the school to go on and work
in the music industry. I had been working and playing in a bunch of
bands when I met Lukas, kind of free lance if you will, getting hired
to work with different groups. (A serious understatement, LoGerfo's
credits are as diverse as it gets
Jackson Browne, Gwen Stefani,
UB40, Tone Loc, Ozomatli and the Wailers to mention a few) And then
when we decided to kinda' get the band going, I think it was for all
of us to let go of that thing of working for somebody, we wanted to
do it ourselves."
Lukas Nelson on stage. Photo:
As a relatively new and frighteningly young band, I'm
seriously impressed by the amount of original material POTR records.
Lukas currently does the majority of the writing for the band but adds
are branching out. I'm trying to write with Corey
a little bit. Tony and I wrote one song together."
Any methodology to your writing processes? "It's
like giving birth to a child," he says. "You have to
get it out of your head; otherwise it will drive you crazy."
Does that apply to everything you write? Lukas nods, "Yea, they
all come that way; I mean if they're good they come that way. If I have
to sit and deliberate on it, I just say, 'forget it.' I just stop. I
just feel like the inspiration is where it should come from and if I'm
not inspired and I'm having to work at it, then it's not real."
The band's playlist occasionally includes covers; how
did you decide on Willie
Dixon's 'Hootchie, Cootchie Man?' Lukas says, "I just always
loved the song." Tony leans in, "I think that one was
there before I was in the band. I remember just meeting you and knew
that was one of the songs you always did." Lukas looks surprised.
"Was it really? We change the lyrics around a lot."
Six Degrees of Neil Young
Promise of the Real cut its first CD, Brando's Paradise
Sessions with John Avila (yes, that John Avila
Food for Feet,
Oingo Boingo). Tony told me it was collaboration that started when Avila
was teaching a Master's Class on campus, "He kind of took me
under his wing. I met his whole family who are all very cool, at Brando's
Paradise which is his garage (recording) studio and he's cut
some great records there. We hung out for about 6 or 7 years and then
I met Lukas. And when we were ready to do our demo, I had never taken
any band there, so that was the first person I ever brought over there
Lukas." (The result was the 5-song Brando's Paradise Sessions)
"John hooked us up with a great deal there doing an EP."
Lukas jumps in, "The reason Tony was telling
me about John
as a producer and somebody we could record with,
then he said, '
but he's a Neil fan.'"
"Yea that was the first thing," Tony
says, "when I first met John I said something like, 'yea, Neil
Young is my favorite artist ever, man. If Neil ever called I'd just
go, you know?' He (Avila) says, 'Man, I knew I liked you
for a reason, I've told all the bands I've been in the same thing. Man,
if Neil calls you're just gonna' see the dust behind me, 'cause I'm
outta' there.' (laughing) "It's a funny thing."
When I think of Danny Elfman or the music of Oingo Boingo,
Neil Young isn't really the first musician that comes to mind. "He
transcends boundries," Lukas says then Tony adds, "Yea,
he does! And then the funny thing is
Lukas and I met at a Neil
Young show. And we just saw Neil Young a week ago and he was totally
digging the music, so it's really
Lukas Nelson (l.) Tony LoGerfo (r.) and an 'Old
Photo: Yachiyo Mattox
Being around these guys you sense an ingrained work
ethic, determined to make it their own way, doing their own music on
their own terms, but Tony says their roots go even deeper. "That's
the thing; we all have really good family. Everybody has a great family
and a lot of support. We are doing it on our own, but we have the support
from them as far as love goes. And encouragement, and wisdom and that's
So tell me a little about the charitable aspects of
the group. You play benefits, special shows, charities, donate songs
to raise funds
Lukas shrugs, "That probably has a lot
to do with family too, you know? It was just the way I was raised. It's
the way we were both raised." Tony smiles, "Just give
back, that's kind of what this whole band is about. We want to only
gain more fans and momentum so we can give back that much more."
"Yea, the more people that know you,"
Lukas says, "the more people you can reach." And Tony
laughs, "We're pretty happy just having a small amount of stuff.
We're not doing it for the big mansion on the hill."
Currently the band's 'mansion on the hill' is a tour
bus, so what are you listening to on the road? "A lot of
Neil Young." Lukas tells me, "Neil's the head honcho."
Tony says, "Always Neil
really been into the Rolling Stones
lately. Lukas has been getting into them." Lukas adds, "I
just read Keith's book (Life) and I've just been really
into the Stones, 'Exile on Main Street,' 'Beggar's Banquet.'"
Didn't you just play a show at the legendary Fillmore
West, what was that like?
"It was great being up there," Tony
says. "It was our second time going there; we played there in
January of '09, when we started. That was kind of our first gig, one
of our first gigs believe it or not, opening for Willie (Nelson).
He does like four or five nights there when he plays. Then we went back
and did it again. It was incredible, man. You feel the spirits and everything
in the walls, you know? And hear the sounds at night; you can hang out
there late. There are definitely some spirits hanging out in that place."
Speaking of psychedelic, were you guys channeling the
Fillmore when you recorded 2012 - the Happy Ending? Tony starts
to laugh, "You know the funny thing about that song? We recorded
that at 11 in the morning, in the studio. We woke up, had our coffee,
we went in and it was one take and we were done with that song."
Well keeping with that timeline
you know that back
in-the-day; they used to have what were referred to as
They were impromptu gatherings and pop-up concerts that would take place
at 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning. They both just laugh and shake their
heads. (I just feel old.)
That being said another POTR connection to the
'Summer of Love/Age of Aquarius' is Lukas' brother Micah, who is usually
painting onstage as the band performs. He composes his own artwork during
the entire show, much like the multi-media presentations during the
you remember, before the laser/digital era, with
the colors of dripping water and lava-lamp projections behind the Airplane,
and the Dead, Hot Tuna... (Really old!)
Nelson channels Hendrix (John Avila on bass) as
the sunsets. Photo: Yachiyo Mattox
Tell me about one of your most unusual or wildest club
dates? Instantly Tony blurts out, "Sturgis for me, we just played
there a week ago." Lukas agrees, "It was amazing."
Tony starts twisting an 'air' throttle, "Fifteen thousand, all
revving their bikes at the same time after our set. (Laughter)
It was pretty amazing."
Can we talk about the first real national exposure of
POTR to most of the country, at FARM AID?
"Definitely," Tony tells me. "That
opened a lot of doors for us, to play FARM AID because it's broadcast
on TV. We played it a year before that one, too and that kind of initially
got things going for us and then last year is when things really sparked.
And as a band, we all played on Willie's set, too. We love it; we hope
to be a part of it every year." Lukas says, "As long
as it's existing, and hopefully it doesn't exist that long."
It's hard to believe but Farm Aid began in 1985, so
this will make it 26 years. "That's why we don't want it to
go forever," Tony shakes his head. "
know once it's done, it means the problems solved."
Mentioning benefits and fund raisers
to be involved with a number of charities, educational programs and
non-profit organizations. What's the deal? No trashing hotel rooms,
throwing furniture into the courtyard
? TV's into the pool??? Aren't
you afraid you might be setting a poor example for other bands? Or worse
yet, giving Rock and Roll a bad name!? Tony laughs and Lukas just shouts,
"You didn't see the last hotel we were in." (laughing).