Roger Blevins of Mingo Fishtrap has learned a bandleader needs to delegate work in order to move forward.
However, Blevins wrote and sang each of the songs on the band’s new album, “On Time,” which he produced. He is the spokesman for the band, so he does all of the press interviews. When Tahoe Onstage placed a call to his cell phone, Blevins was in a hotel parking lot in Maryland working on the tour bus while the rest of the band slept.
“It’s not that I want to be out changing the oil in the generator, it’s that I know how to do it and it will cost me a third of what it costs to take it to a shop,” Blevins said. “We are a large band and even though we are getting some traction, it’s still an expensive endeavor.”
But, like the title of our favorite song on the new CD, “Things Ain’t What They Was.” Blevins said the entire band – the touring and studio ensembles are the same – contributed to each of the arrangements. And he said he had plenty of production help. Moreover, it was the first album on the Blue Corn Music Label, and Mingo Fishtrap’s most successful.
“We’ve been together a couple of decades but it’s only a couple years with outside booking, outside label, outside publicist and it makes a huge difference,” Blevins said. “This record debuted in the top 40 Americana and we’ve never had anything close to that before. Hopefully, the work is getting better but it’s also about having some people who care and believe in you and are doing a job behind you.”
The eight-piece band from Austin, Texas, is on its fourth West Coast tour in as many summers. It plays Sunday at the Squaw Valley Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest.
While “On Time” is listed on Americana charts, it clearly is based in soul music. It’s a big band with a horn section, Blevins has a soulful voice who sings substantive lyrics, even on humorous tracks such as “Mason Jar.” (It has magic powers.)
“My heart lies with Memphis and New Orleans music,” Blevins said. “That’s what I grew up on, so that’s what I bring to it. But that’s a big band. There are a lot of influences.
“I call it a soul band because the basic building blocks are there: the horns and the organ and the driving beat. We’re not trying to copy anything but were not trying to actively break new ground, either. We love that sound as a collective. We love soul music in all of its incarnations, so we are trying to do our best to be a part of that world.”
Blevins’ greatest influence is his father, Roger Blevins Sr., who is from New Orleans and plays bass in the band.
“I was lucky because my pop was playing all the stuff when I was growing up,” Blevins said. “So it was part of the daily language.”
Since the octet and a roadie are driving throughout the country and Blevins works on the vehicle, special attention is given to the infamous highway pass with a cannibalistic history.
In another form of delegation, Blevins’s crew will rent vans to ascend the mountain in quicker time that it has on previous trips.
“We were going about 4 mph,” Blevins said. “We’ll change our approach this time: come in hot and hit it. Hit it hard.”