Home / Arts and Entertainment / Youth, Napster, And A Little Green Worm: Q&A With The Relationship’s Brian Bell and Jon LaRue

Youth, Napster, And A Little Green Worm: Q&A With The Relationship’s Brian Bell and Jon LaRue

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Don’t call Weezer guitarist Brian Bell’s other band a side project.

Since 2006, his power-pop outfit the Relationship has been busy — and it stops in Gainesville on Thursday. Bell, along with guitarist Nate Shaw of U.S. Bombs and drummer Anthony Burulicich of the Bravery, produced a debut album, joined LA-based hipster hub label Burger Records and, most recently, released a 7-inch single called “Oh Allen.”

The single, which includes title track “Oh Allen” and B-side “Young Temptations,” for which a black-and-white music video was shot on the fly at this year’s Burgerama Music Festival.

WUFT spoke with Bell and bassist Jon LaRue as they drove from Pensacola to Tampa.

Jon and Brian, how did you guys first meet?

BB: We had a mutual friends — Ryan Gentles, who managed the Strokes and then Albert Hammond, who’s in the Strokes.

I was going through this situation, and I needed to talk to somebody. Albert, who was another person Jon and I knew mutually, told me to call Jon. And even though I’d never met Jon, I’d heard a lot about him. So I called Jon on the phone, and we ended up talking for two hours on the first phone call, and we found out we lived right down the street from each other.

So it started as a friendship, and a couple years later Jon sees The Relationship opening for the Fountains of Wayne, and I’ll never forget it: Jon comes up and says, “Wow, that was great! You guys need a bass player instead of a session guy, I’d totally be willing to step in.” I said, “Can you play bass?” And he said, “No, but I can play guitar.”

So I thought about it, and I said, you know, I’d rather spend a year waiting for Jon to learn to play bass than hire a session player. Because it’s all about chemistry. We already can be in a room together and get along, and that’s what you do when you’re in a band — you’re in a room with other people creating something just through through sheer chemistry alone. That’s the sound we’ve cultivated over the last couple years, and that’s the sound we’re taking out on the road and to Gainesville tomorrow night.

JL: It was just a no-brainer. And it said so much that Brian was willing to put the band on hiatus for close to a year so I could really get the parts and the technique down [bass]. I wanted to do my best, because I didn’t want the band to be put on hold for nothing.

On the new album, Brian, you said the theme is “youth.” Can you tell me how you arrived at that?

BB: This record is released on a label called Burger Records, which, whether they know it or not, that is their theme. I felt that these songs felt most at home on that label, and it’s what they responded to the most from the demos that we had at the time. And I was so excited to have these two songs [“Oh Allen” and “Young Temptations] sound so good next to each other and not have to worry about ten songs sounding good next to each other.

JL: And I gotta say, one thing about Burger, just the way they operate and the fact that they put out music because they like it, and they’re not that kind of corporate thing with their profits — there’s something so cool about that.

BB: And that’s a great scene to be a part of. You can really see that in our video release for “Young Temptations,” which I think you can access through Nylon magazine.

JL: It just caught the atmosphere of what the song is talking about and the atmosphere that day at Burgerama. And it wasn’t like we brought in a real high-profile director; that was Daniel, a manager at our management company filming it.

BB: Nothing was planned for that other than that we were gonna play the song at Burgerama and get footage at Burgerama. Things just were serendipitous that day, and it happened to coincide with the lyrics.

JL: We really didn’t even set out to do the video. I got a call two days later from Daniel saying like, “Hey, I’m gonna try to edit this into something.” The idea was to get some promo footage, but he was like, “I think I got enough to put together a video.” Literally, less than 48 hours later, he had almost what you’re seeing on Nylon.

You guys told the Tampa Bay Times that you use different guitars and vintage and boutique amps to get that ’70s power-pop sound. What are some of your favorite pieces of vintage equipment that you bring with you on the road?

BB: My Silvertone amps are very cool. I’m not too much of a gearhead; it’s really not about the gear, it’s what’s being played through the gear. Jon has a beautiful ‘59 P bass —

JL: ‘57.

BB: I’m sorry, ’57 P bass. We did a line of bass research, and this is, like, the holy grail of basses. We happened to be lucky enough to stumble upon an affordable one at Guitar Center in Hollywood.

JL: And only because somebody had refinished the paint job was it even affordable and not a museum piece. You play music long enough, you know when you pick up an instrument that speaks to you. It doesn’t have to be expensive or valuable, but this one just happens to be valuable.

And I’m definitely not a gearhead myself. My most important piece of equipment I brought out here is probably my toothbrush. But making things sound good is important.

Can you tell me about what the best and worst things technology and the Internet have done to music?

JL: I kind of grew up in the era of Napster, and for me, that whole sharing music and stuff — I bought more music in those years than I’ve ever bought before or since. I’ve always been an advocate of music sharing, as long as people understand if you like a band, go out and support them by buying their music.

Maybe that’s a musician thing, but I’ve never had a problem with people sharing music, and I know that’s not a popular opinion. But to me, the social media thing…lets bands interact with their fans in a very close way. Anyone that’s on our Facebook, our Instagram or whatever, they can write a question and they can get an answer back.

BB: I just want to say about the negative side of it — it’s a very strange time we live in where fans almost expect feedback from the people they’re idolizing — I’m not saying us or anything, just a general statement. The type of people that would actually take the time to put these opinions out onto the Internet aren’t always the balanced people.

JL: There’s so much bile that gets thrown out because people can hide behind a keyboard, and it’s not like when you sit and look someone in the face. And that is a downside to the Internet, but overall, for the normal, everyday people who just like music, it’s pretty awesome. If some guy wants to know what kind of bass strings I use he can ask, or find out what kind of guitar strings Brian uses, or stuff like that.

Do you guys have any weird Florida stories from performances in the past?

BB: I have one! There was a little bug in the vegetable plate that I still talk about. It was this little green worm that was writhing up and down a carrot stick.

JL: He can’t let it go. It still haunts him to this day.

The Relationship will perform in Gainesville Thursday evening at High Dive downtown.
The Relationship will perform in Gainesville Thursday evening at High Dive downtown.” credit=”Photo courtesy of / Rebel Union Ent.

When and where did the worm incident happen? Do you remember?

BB: I can’t remember, to tell the truth. This was a long time ago; I’m sure Florida hygiene has changed a lot since the 1990s.

JL: We don’t want to put down any Gainesville food establishments. It may or may not have been Gainesville.

But we’re looking forward to coming to Gainesville and playing these shows. Everything seems like it’s been clicking recently for us. It feels like we’re in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. We’re promoting a single we’re really proud about.

BB: When your timing is right and you truly believe in what you’re doing, things just sort of work out for themselves. The universe is opening up for us.

The Relationship will appear at High Dive Thursday night with openers Gringo Star and Former Planets. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here for $10 in advance or $13 at the door, with VIP meet-and-greet packages on sale for $50.

About Chloe Finch

Chloe is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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