Jammin' In The Ham with Kris Gottlieb of CBDB May 31, 2016 09:23

Photo by Patrick Hughes: Faces of Festivals 
Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

As we prepare for the upcoming weekend at Jam In The Ham at Zydeco in Birmingham, we are sitting down with several of this year's performers to learn a little more about this year's lineup.  It only seems appropriate to kick things off with Kris Gottlieb of CBDB, one of the hottest young bands in Alabama.  CBDB is scheduled to perform on Saturday night at 12:30 AM.

CBDB is a progressive rock/jam band formed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, whose stock is rising fast. Fresh off the release of their third album, entitled The FAME EP, they are seeing a pattern of snowballing momentum with large, energetic crowds hungry for their unique brand of progressive jam-rock, dubbed "Joyfunk". CBDB blends soulful vocals and virtuosic instrumentation with smart, tasteful songwriting resulting in a sound that can be enjoyed by the casual listener and audiophile alike. On stage, they parade tight, ambitious compositions that seamlessly gives way to loose, adventurous improvisation and have quickly become a must-see act.

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So CBDB got started about five years ago in Tuscaloosa.  Tell me a little bit about the bands early days, how you got started, and how the band has progressed to where it is today.

Kris: Well, Cy and I met in Tuscaloosa at a place called The Bear Trap and jammed a bit.  I was in a band with Glenn (Dillard) at the time, so he came in as well.  He was actually just playing sax at the time.  David (Ray) and Paul (Oliver) came around a little later, maybe early 2012 and late 2013.  That kind of finalized the lineup.

I’m guessing you guys were playing the bar scene and fraternity houses pretty heavily early on, and things started taking off from there?

Kris: Yeah, really just trying to stay busy playing, cutting our teeth, and honing the craft in much of 2011 and 2012, you know? And really, you never stop learning, so we are still doing that today.  In a place like Tuscaloosa, you can play 4 or 5 nights a week in different places.  You can do different things each time and really stay busy.  We ultimately got to a point that we realized that this was something we should really pursue, because it’s something unique that we truly enjoy.

People seem to be responding positively.  It seems like you guys have been everywhere lately, and your demand continues to increase.

Kris: Yeah man...we're just grateful that people are enjoying our music, and we are glad that we can play it on the road at so many great venues.

Watch CBDB's official video for "Ground Score" here:

On the topic of writing and recording music, you guys put out your first album Phone Keys Wallet in 2012, and followed up with a second album (Joyfunk is Dead) and The Fame EP in 2015.  Tell me a little bit about how those recording experience differed.

Kris:  I think we were learning at a more rudimentary level of playing with each other and writing when we did Phone Keys Wallet.  I don’t really go back and listen to too many of our recordings after I have heard them once.  It can be tough to listen to at points.  You cringe and ask yourself “Why did I do that?”  So I think with The Fame EP and Joyfunk is Dead, we used the things that we learned in recording Phone Keys Wallet.  We were such a fresh band when we did that album.  We went into the studio within a month of Paul (Oliver), our drummer, joining the band.  That record has a lighter feel, and it's maybe a little beachy in a way.  That might be something we need to play with again in the future. 

In terms of the experiences, I mean…walking into FAME was like walking into a church.  You feel like you're breathing wrong at first, then things eventually start to come together and happen.  That’s just an amazing place. It’s both humbling and empowering in the same way.  I don’t think there is a word that describes that feeling.  If there is, I don’t know it. 

Let’s talk a little bit about the 2016 touring schedule.  I’ve been particularly impressed watching how well your tours have been put together.  You guys recently signed on with the Progressive Global Agency in Nashville.  How has the schedule come together this year?

Kris:  Well, we first talked to Owen (Gray), our agent, in October of last year.  After talking a few times, we decided it would be a good fit.  We were obviously drawn to the fact that PGA is Widespread Panic’s agency.  We are all big fans of them.  Then there are also bands like The Werks and Zoogma, and Backup Planet had recently signed with Owen as well.  He’s really been looking out for both of us this year.  We’ve been on quite a few shows with those guys. 

We’re really excited about doing this Claypool Lennon Delirium Afterparty in New York. David is as big of Claypool fan as I know.  It’s kind of ironic, because a week before we landed that gig, I was talking with a friend of mine in Tuscaloosa about Sean Lennon.  We listened to a few of his albums and really appreciated how similar and different his sound is to his dad’s (John Lennon).  So it’s really kind of neat full circle thing. 

Tonight is another example.  It’s actually my 27th birthday today.  I was born in Atlanta, and we’re here in Atlanta playing Terminal West tonight.  Paul and I saw Rush in Atlanta last year on my birthday.  We’re actually going to cover the Rush song “Sprit of the Radio” tonight.  That's just another example of things coming full circle.  We’re really excited about it.  So, no birthday drinks tonight until I can successfully pull off Rush (laughs). 

Going a little further on the touring, you guys are on for several festivals this summer, including Jam In The Ham in Birmingham next weekend.  I know you guys are excited about that one. 

Kris: We’re really excited about Jam In The Ham.  That’s like a homecoming for us.  We’re really grateful to be a part of it for the second year in a row.  Zydeco is such a historic room.  Paul and Glenn saw Snarky Puppy at Zydeco a few years back, right before they blew up.  We actually saw those guys in Memphis last Wednesday.  That kind of puts things into perspective.   I’m really happy to be a part of a great thing there, with a lot of other great bands.  You’ve got Permagroove, Little Raine Band, Modern Measure…just so many bands.  Ryan Keef is gonna be doing some acoustic stuff that I’m really excited to hear.  That one is gonna be a lot of fun. 

It’s great to see so many great, young Alabama bands playing together.  There really seems to be a great thing going on within the Alabama music scene right now.  You’ve got to love events like this that showcase the collective group of bands.

Kris:  Yeah absolutely.  We’re just happy to be a part of it.  Zydeco is so much fun.  And you’re right… Just look at CukoRakko last weekend.  That was awesome.  McLovins, Permagroove, Funk You…there was so much great music.  The fact that a lot of it is coming out of Alabama is just incredible.  I can’t wait to see Little Raine Band again.  I haven’t seen those guys play in months.  We’re actually going to be in Macon, GA with them next week, and that’s going to be a lot of fun.  Anytime you get to hear Davis play…it’s a treat. He’s the man.

Watch CBDB's official video for "Somewhere to Fall" here:

Absolutely.  So before we wrap this up, are there any other big plans or major highlights that you guys are looking forward to in the second half of 2016?

Kris: Yeah…we actually just announced this morning that we’re going to be playing the official Umphrey’s McGee afterparty in Charlotte, NC later this summer.  We have some great friends out that way, and we are excited for that to be the next move for Charlotte.  That was a great feeling this morning.  I had an alarm set, as we were supposed to announce that show at 10:00 AM.  It was fun to announce the Umphrey’s afterparty on my birthday after a long night.  It’s a great move for us, and I’m really looking forward to it. 

The Werks are opening for Umphrey’s that night, so we’ll see who all makes it over to our show.  Hopefully a few of those guys will make it, and we’ll see if we could maybe get Joel (Cummins) to come play some keys with us.  Maybe I could get my face melted by Jake (Cinninger)…that would be humbling and awesome (laughs).

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