Flagpole interview with Kevn

Drivin' N' Cryin', seen here doing neither.

Drivin' N' Cryin' Returns

12 Years and One Tumor Later…

“We didn’t realize 12 years had gone by," says Drivin' N' Cryin' lead singer and guitarist Kevn Kinney, "and when they told us, we said, ‘Oh, really? Wow!'”

Wow is right. The Great American Bubble Factorymarks the band's first release in over a decade, and, frankly, considering what the band's been through, you can't really blame the guys for losing track of time.

After a dozen years playing festivals and touring, Drivin' N' Cryin' has finally refocused and recorded a hard rocking album that showcases the band’s songwriting chops after an almost 25-year run. But it is an album that Kinney thought would never happen. Issues with his voice had almost taken the band off of the touring circuit and made him wonder what life looked like after rock and roll.

“Before I got my voice fixed, [recording an album] wasn’t an option. I could do a show, but it’d take three days to recover. I couldn’t tour, I couldn’t do interviews and I couldn’t talk over the phone. I sounded like a mobster when I spoke,” says Kinney.

Kinney demonstrates by whispering in the gruff, hushed tones of a consigliere in a Scorsese film, a marked departure from the singer’s Neil Young-influenced and, at times, nasally lead vocals.

“I thought I was done. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” he says. Rest only seemed to exacerbate the problem, and eventually Kinney agreed to seek medical attention. “I finally went to the doctor, and they were like ‘Jesus Christ, you know you have a huge tumor on your larynx?’ And I said 'no.' They told me that I should be dead, and they said that I needed to have the surgery immediately. After resting for two months I got my voice back, and I thought that maybe I should put another record together,” says Kinney.

That record, The Great American Bubble Factory, is a return to form for the Atlanta-based band. Built around a wall of electric guitars, punk-rock-meets-AC/DC rhythms and a whole lot of attitude, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ sounds like a much missed part of a bygone era: the rock and roll band, dangerous and full of a no-frills beauty that is hard to come by in this day and age when the lines between musical genres are nonexistent. To Kinney, that’s where the science of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ comes into play.

“It feels good to be able to do what we do. We’re out here to irritate people a little bit, and to try to do it with some techno beats or something wouldn’t work. We are what we are. We’re Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, and we’re not going to be Apples in Stereo,” he says.

In contrast to the sleek, tech-savvy bands of the early-to-late-aughts, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ is an amped-up muscle car, full of unnecessary power and gas-guzzling fury, all topped with a heaping helping of fist-pumping, foot-stomping and even head-banging populism. But even that assessment doesn’t do the straightahead rock and roll justice; Kinney instead offers his own description:

“We’re just a dumb ass rock band that likes to play and fuck with people.” Now two years after his “dumb ass rock band” was almost taken away from him, Kinney is thankful and happy that he (and his band) can still play shows night after night. That is a motivating factor for Kinney to keep his shows a light-hearted and positive affair where the rock and roll comes first and the darker things are left outside of the venue.

“[Rock and roll] is fun. I’ve seen a lot of shit, and I’ve lost a lot of friends, but I can’t get heavy,” says Kinney. Instead, Kinney has a no-frills solution to what he’s seen and been through in an almost-quarter-century career playing punk rock bars, honky tonks and biker rallies.

“This band is cheap self-help for me,” he says.

Jason Bugg