The Grand Rapids band celebrates release of its new album on Saturday at Founders Brewing. But before that, the group stopped by WYCE to rock Studio X. (Story, video, podcast)
THE BAND: The Legal Immigrants
THE MUSIC: Rock
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE BAND: 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids
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With its straight-up, garage-fueled, edgy-yet-melodic rock sound, it’s no surprise that The Legal Immigrants frontman Joe Bockheim has a soft spot for Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Jack White – in particular, “the nastiest darkest stuff” from White’s Deadweather project as well as anything “wicked sweet” that friends might recommend.
“I just let the music take me where it goes,” the singer and guitarist insists. “I don’t have any ideas or plans. If I don’t write a song for six months, it’s because nothing hit me that sounded good to my ears. I just wing it.”
Through stops and starts, and various lineup changes “as is tradition” with the Grand Rapids band, The Legal Immigrants release their sophomore album, “Drugs to Roses,” on Saturday night at Founders Brewing Co., with Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish opening the show at 9:30 p.m. ($5 admission)
It’s the culmination of a sometimes-turbulent two-year voyage that started with a roster change and the addition of bassist Kevin Kitsch, led to recording sessions at the all-analog Goon Lagoon studio in Grand Rapids and, just before the album was to be released, the departure of longtime lead guitarist Trevor Reidz. Ben Taber, a Sutton’s Bay guitarist who just spent eight months living in Nashville, has joined The Legal Immigrants and will perform with the band on Saturday.
“He’s a beast on the six-string,” Bockheim said of the band’s newest member. “Someone wanted to leave and someone wanted to join, and we expect a lot of skeptics and lots of people curious what’s going on tomorrow (Saturday). We’re just bursting with joy to get up on that stage and show everybody what we’ve done.”
SATURDAY’S SHOW TO FEATURE THE ‘PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE’
(Reidsma, for his part, told Local Spins: “Unfortunately, we came to a disagreement and it led to me having to make a choice and leaving was the best option for me. I do have other arrangements in process so shouldn’t be too long before I’m back on my feet.”)
Bockheim noted the band already has enough songs for “a whole new record,” so will be playing selections from “Drugs to Roses” along with a handful of new songs – some with “kind of a country vibe” with “rocking parts” that might surprise some folks.
“I’m going to freak everybody out,” he joked, “pulling out all the stops.”
That attitude, for the most part, has served Bockheim well as a songwriter and for the band in attracting a diverse fan base.
“It’s definitely grown by leaps and bounds, just learning how to play better and sing better, and I guess be more creative,” he said, noting the band’s music draws “grandparents, bikers, punks, hipsters. We have no clue if we have a demographic. We just like to play music in front of people that like to dance and make noise.”
The Legal Immigrants – Bockheim, drummer Anthony Lubenow, Kitsch and Taber – will be doing plenty of that as they promote the new album in coming months, including “weekend gigs out of town in front of new faces” and an upcoming fall tour. The band’s new music already has been featured on several different websites.
“Whatever outlet you’re onto, you’re going to eventually hear from us if we’re going to your city,” said Bockheim, an alumnus of Grand Rapids’ West Catholic High School and Central Michigan University. “Then, it’s just about proving to people that they should come back.”
The band gave fans a sneak preview of the new album and their Saturday night performance on Local Spins on WYCE on Friday, playing two songs – “Bily Goat” and “Temptress” – on the air. Check out a video of “Bily Goat” below.
Listen to the entire Local Spins on WYCE podcast here, including in-studio performances by Jukejoint Handmedowns as well as new tracks from Big Boss Blues, The Accidentals, Nathan Kalish & The Lastcallers, Molly Camille Janusz, Rusty Wright Band and Ed Dupas, along with songs from TruckStop Cobras, The Outer Vibe and The B-Sides.
And return to Local Spins later this month for a feature story on Jukejoint Handmedowns, along with a video of their in-studio performance.
VIDEO: The Legal Immigrants, “Bily Goat”
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