by Dave Mesrey
Hot on the heels of their new album, Enthusiastic Attempts at Hot Swing & String Band Favorites, the inimitable Two Man Gentlemen Band is back in town at Cliff Bell's tonight.
Yesterday we caught up with one half of the Gents, singer-guitarist-banjoist-kazooist Andy Bean, barely coherent after a red-eye from L.A. to Chicago.
METRO TIMES: It’s been too long, Bean. When’s the last time the Gents were in town?
ANDY BEAN: 2012.
MT: I find your new album quite enthusiastic. For some reason I get a taste for lemonade when I listen to it. Were you guys drinking a lot of lemonade in the studio?
BEAN: It was lemonade-infused. There was a lot of mansweat poured on it, too.
MT: And it shows. Where’d you record it?
BEAN: It was recorded in sunny Pasadena. There were between four and six guys gathered around a 70-year-old microphone.
MT: The last time I saw you, I nearly got mugged in Cincinnati. You ever been mugged?
BEAN: I’ve only been mugged once. It was in New York City. Valentine’s Day 1999. I’ve got a 15-year run goin’.
MT: You recently wrote the theme music to a kids show called Wander Over Yonder. What the hell is Wander Over Yonder?
BEAN: It’s a show on the Disney XD Channel. It’s great. Our first season’s still in progress. I do the music for the show every week. Half of the music is Two Man-esque. It’s more filled out with banjos and steel guitars and mandolins and harmonicas and kazoos. We also play metal for the bad guy. AC/DC-ish, cock-rock metal.
MT: I’m afraid this interview is gonna be online only. That OK with you?
BEAN: That’s fine. I never want to be in print again. You can’t embed a video in print. You’d have to include a supplementary VHS.
MT: If one should wander over to a Two Man Gentlemen show, must one attire oneself like the Brockton Brawler?
BEAN: Well, unlike Marvelous Marvin, we don’t have a strict dress code. Even for us. I think we’ve evolved a little bit more from the ’20s-style dress. We’re more of a casual Western swing band in our onstage appearance now. With our respective moves to California and South Carolina, we've grown fond of sandals and linen. Not a smart career move. When the crash happened, we thought it was going to be a boom for Depression-era music. Big mistake.
So, no shorts ... closed-toe shoes ... that’s all we can ask.
MT: Your partner, this Councilman fellow ... he doesn’t talk, does he?
BEAN: I’ve been trying to do a Penn & Teller thing. But Counce keeps opening his mouth. I’d like it if he didn’t say anything. (I’ve got a lot to say!) The Councilman doesn’t even do magic ... he should be able to juggle or something.
MT: What’s Counce like on the road? I like to imagine he eats a sensible diet.
BEAN: For all you young bands starting out, you should just put your musical affinities aside. What you really want is to find someone with the same dietary habits and drinking schedule as you. Counce and I drink the same, we eat the same, we’re on the same sleep schedule.
BEAN: Well, “Taft” caught on like wildfire. We tried to follow it up with “Franklin Pierce.” Didn’t do well. That’s just alienating your audience. I had a 44-president project in mind, but I had to cut it short. Sophomore slump.
MT: You have a song called “Me, I Get High on Reefer.” What kind of reefer does a Gentleman get high on?
BEAN: The key to that song is that it’s truthful. “Me, I get high on reefer, then I fall asleep.” You play that song awhile and you start getting offered stuff. We’re trying to figure out one that’s more useful. “Me, I Get High on Antihistamines.” Or cholesterol medication. “Me, I Get High on Lipitor.” Who knows? The kind of music we play, two 65-year-old fat guys ... “Me, I Get High on Boner Pills.”
MT: You also have a song called “When Your Lips Are Playing My Kazoo.”
BEAN: We Gentlemen have been guilty of being very sophomoric early in our career.
MT: You ever smoke reefer out of a kazoo?
BEAN: I have, actually. It’s just why would you make a pipe that has the world’s shittiest plastic and light it on fire? Tastes like a petro chemical spill.
MT: You have a song called “Fancy Beer.” What’s the fanciest beer you ever drank?
BEAN: What we’ve been finding is we don’t like our beer modifier. We find we don’t like our beer too fancy — it just has more alcohol, more hops, not always our taste. We like a good, but simple beer. We should’ve called it “Pretty Fancy But Not Too Elaborate Beer.”
MT: I see you’re headed back to Europe later this summer. They actually like you in Europe?
BEAN: They like us enough to have us back. We play 75-seaters. So there are cities in England where at least 75 people can tolerate us. With the economics of a two-man band, you just have to draw half as many people as a quartet.
MT: I had Trader Joe’s tikka masala last night. Man, that's good. What’d you have for dinner?
BEAN: I had Trader Joe’s Indian food, as well. I was in a rush. I usually prefer my wife’s home cooking.
MT: Speaking of home cooking, I ever tell you about the time I met Keith Richards?
MT: He asked me if "a reefer" was in town cuz he could really use some home cookin'.
BEAN: He probably meant Aretha.
BEAN: What's on second.
MT: Who's on second?
BEAN: No, he's on first.
MT: Who's on first?
BEAN: That's right.
Is it true you wrote a math book?
BEAN: I went to grad school for mathematics. I reached a sort of Gentlemen’s level of stature in the publishing world, in that the book is widely unavailable. State-specific text prep books. Ninth-grade Michigan math standards workbook. If anyone needs some math help after the show ...
MT: What ever happened to your blogs? Lessons in Etiquette?
Letters from the Gentlevan? That shit was brilliant.
BEAN: I think it was a good public service that we provided. You meet strangers, you encounter ill behavior. You wanna share those stories.
MT: Weren’t you guys supposed to write a book?
BEAN: It’s in progress. When people grow tired of our music, they might have more interest in the written word. All the fun without all the music.
MT: Anybody opening up for you tonight?
BEAN: No. It’s three full sets of Two Man Gentlemen Band. So maybe come early, watch the first set, skip the second set, catch the third. What we do is great. ... but three full hours is not the recommended dosage. It’s like if you just bad back surgery ... you take one Percocet. Just one.
The Two Man Gentlemen Band plays Cliff Bell's Friday, June 20. Doors at 7 p.m.
2030 Park Ave, Detroit, 313-961-2543; cliffbells.com.