“Music is just the big cosmic flowing river. Either you’re in it, you’re swimming around or you’re just on the side watching it all go by.”
In the depths of cognizant reality lies the reverberation of man’s expedition to bring ideologies of peace and love back into the music. That man is Chris Robinson, the former lead vocalist and founding member of The Black Crowes and current ringmaster of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
CRB, which formed in 2011, has pumped out a steady stream of eclectic jam rock centered around deep grooves and danceable rhythms that have encapsulated audiences since their first record, “Big Moon Ritual,” back in 2012. “It’s called the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, but it actually is all our band,” said Robinson. “That’s what I wanted from the start; this is our little hippy baroque enclave that we have created.”
After the split of Robinson’s alma mater, The Black Crowes, in early 2015, all efforts have been exhausted into the longevity of CRB, with their efforts culminating into a fourth studio record this July entitled, “Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel.”
In what is their first self-produced record under Silver Arrow Records, CRB has experimented heavily in terms of song composition due to extended time in the studio and their efforts show. “Every one of them [albums] has had their own sort of unique voyage from point A to point B, which is kind of built into the architecture of the band,” said Robinson. “Having to be the hunter gatherers of the music business each day, you use your environment for your survival.”
“Then poof; magic. Alchemy.”
The album breathes influences of everything from Parliament Funkadelic to The Rolling Stones and explores the depths of his enigmatic cranium. “Forever As The Moon,” the second track off the new record, drips in bluesy riffs with howling vocals courtesy of Robinson and reflects a conscious realm that begs to listener to understand that “anyway you love, we know how you feel.”
“Some Gardens Green” is acoustically beautiful and transcends the listener into an auditory trip for the ages as one feels like they are floating through time and space, ushering in a feel of “American Beauty” by the Grateful Dead. CRB engages fully in their jam rock roots with “Narcissus Soaking Wet” as the chorus seductively engages the audience to get down on Robinson’s dance zone of love and peace.
Self-producing the record has also allowed for a higher sense of communication between the band members and a sense of trust that has blossomed over the years of CRB’s existence. “Our communication levels are open to each other and in a creative space, that’s really ultimately what you want. You want this kind of feeling of trust that like I don’t have to worry about Tony [Leone], I never have to tell Tony what to play. I never have to tell Adam [MacDougall] what to play. Or Neal [Casal],” said Robinson.
As Robinson progresses with CRB and his adventures as an aging musician who has been active for the past 30 years, he continues to perfect his craft and accept his place in the vast plateau of music. “At a certain point, it all becomes you,” said Robinson reflectively. We’re too weird for rock n’ roll and we’re too rock n’ roll for the jam band scene.”
“Part of it is the pursuit of freedom. If you look at freedom in terms of success, then we are already ultimately successful. We kind of live outside the mainstream music business. We are a cottage industry in California. It’s our own farm and our own grocery store on the farm,” added Robinson.
Robinson’s cottage industry is certainly bustling though while the group pushes new architectural boundaries, the mass market of saturated pop culture seems to overshadow the efforts of both CRB and other hard-working musicians. “There are only highly fetishized, sexualized things and dance things, which is cool. Just a lot of people with laptops,” lamented Robinson.
So what is Robinson’s approach to combating the constant wave of over-mixed pop music? “You can dance and still hear a little poetry,” said Robinson, who crafts his songs to have rhythmic beats that open his audience to fun yet meaningful song structure.
“I like to use the adage of the craft beer movement. Anybody can go buy a 12-pack of Bud Light or you can wait out here in line in California for hours to get two bottles of Pliny the Elder. That’s all you can get and you’re happy,” continues Robinson.
What sets apart Robinson and CRB too is the visual accompaniment provided by the artwork of Alan Forbes, a screen printer who has been working with Robinson since his days in The Black Crowes. The prints, album artwork and concert posters designed by Forbes draw on elements of folklore and mysticism, experimenting with images of psychedelics, fairies and bearded wizards.
“It starts with mythology. It starts with theology. Having an esoteric curiosity, not everything is as it seems in this fool’s paradise so say the early Christian Gnostics. I believe music is magic just as I believe psychedelics are magic. Love is just magic,” said Robinson. “The songs and the performance and the concerts are one thing, but to me, Alan Forbes’ artwork is equally a breath of life into this thing. It gives it substance and space and sometimes, lack thereof.”
To celebrate the release of the new album, CRB will host a show for the ages at the Warehouse on July 29, which falls on the same day as the show.
“Is there a tuxedo rental near the place?” Robinson quipped.
Well stated, mate! I particularly felt the craft beer analogy