The Blue Rider is the kind of band that must be experienced live. That's not to diminish the band's records, which are captivating in their own right. But through speakers, Blue Rider sounds a bit like you're playing an obscure Doors record at the wrong RPM. It's loud and convoluted, and without a certain ear or certain drugs, the nuances that make the Blue Rider what it is can get lost. The frantic drums, insane keys and synth and old rock-and-roll songwriting is best experienced live, preferably among friends and good drinks. The band is celebrating the release of its first full-length album, Year of the Horse, this weekend at the hi-dive, which gives fans a chance to hear it first — live.
We spoke to the band about touring with the Night Sweats, haircuts, dealing with the psych-rock label and more.
Westword: I feel like the Blue Rider just burst onto the scene. Some local bands play the same small bars for years, but in the course of this year, your trajectory has been from "Oh, there's this band called Blue Rider" to "Blue Rider is opening for the Night Sweats and the Black Angels." What do you make of the year you've had?
Blue Rider: We've had a really great last couple of years. I think between dosing our audiences with a special concoction of space dust and charm, and our consistent haircuts, we've been able to establish some fans and turn some heads. Maybe turn some stomachs, too. I hope 2016 brings more of the same.
Obviously, Mark Shoosz is part of the Night Sweats. Has it been challenging to balance two projects, especially when one is garnering international attention? How have you handled it?
It's always hard when there are multiple projects. Before Shoosz was in the Sweats, Alex Eschen was [and still is] in Warhawk. Maybe that was a little different, but the point is, balancing external factors and band life is just the name of the game. The Night Sweats have been really good to us, and we enjoyed a super-fun tour with them this past summer. They're all welcome in our clubhouse anytime.
There's been a little backlash (probably unfairly) this year about an overabundance of psych-rock bands in Denver recently. How do you respond? Do you care about genre labels like that?
What kind of backlash? I hope Denver's psych bands aren't being targeted in any way! Personally, if I see a psych band getting a noogie in the hallway, I think I'd say something to a hall monitor. Unfortunately, a lot of new psych isn't all that exciting. There are quite a few current psych bands we love — Night Beats, Black Angels, Man and Astroman, to name a few — but a lot of it sounds recycled and tired. There is still nothing that beats the classic stuff (Silver Apples, Electric Prunes, etc.). We like to call our sound "psych-soul" because it's really a blend of that rompin' R&B shit with some "psych" elements. I think I'd like to start seeing people get "PsychSoul" tattooed on their lower backs.
When I first saw the Blue Rider, I half-jokingly said, "They're like the Doors if Jim Morrison was good." Who are your influences? It's clear that you're drawing more from a musical past.
Influences vary...depends on who you ask. I think we all agree that the Stones are a big one, but also the Standells, the Seeds, Otis Redding, Can, Silver Apples, Jacques Dutronc. Rett [Rodgers] is like Herman Munster. Eschen is like a bombardier from World War IV. Shoosz is kind of like Tiny Tim.
What can people expect from the album-release show?
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Lots of laughs. We've really dialed in our awkward in-between-songs banter. A lot of bands these days make it on just banter, so why can't we?! We will also be playing a brand-spankin'-new cover, I think. We might play another new song, too. And some great opening bands – U.S. Tygers & Riprats are good boys. Should be fun, a lot of laughs.
What's next for the Blue Rider?
Gonna take some time and record. Might not resurface for a few months. Might all have new haircuts when we do. Haircuts happen. A lot of psych bands go to "the desert" to be weird and make music. We'll probably not do that, though.
The Blue Rider with Riprats and U.S. Tygers, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, January 16, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, 303-733-0230.