The cell phone reception in Kevn Kinney’s Brooklyn apartment, which is across the street from The Hold Steady’s rehearsal space, is dodgy. Except in the bedroom. So that’s where Kinney is calling from.
Drivin N Cryin, the Southern “rawk” institution and early-90s MTV sensation Kinney sings and plays guitar for, is the subject of an upcoming documentary, “The Great American Band.” Turns out there’s another group Kinney would like to see a documentary of: ’70s power-pop trio Cheap Trick.
“They’re kind of interesting,” Kinney says, “because they don’t really get the respect they should—maybe it’s because Rick Nielsen has funny-shaped guitars. They have a lot of great hits. And they’ve been around since like 1972. They recorded some songs with John Lennon for ‘Double Fantasy,’ and then Yoko thought it was a little too ‘rock.’ ”
I just watched some online footage of you singing your song “Detroit City” on “Rock Band.”
Well, that was pretty surreal. They put it on “expert.” All the (programmer) guys did it, and then I said “I’ll sing it.” You know how it rates how close to the real thing you get? They all got 98, 99 and I got like 60. (Laughs.)
o what it’s like being the subject of a documentary?
I was just enjoying the process of it. It’s like I’m a Kardashian or something. I hope what translates is the band’s sense of humor. This band is very humble, and we understand our place in the world. Here’s the good news: We created our own world. Drivin n Cryin is like its own thing. It doesn’t really fit in anywhere else. The bad news is we created our own world. (Laughs.) We’re never really folk, we’re never really alternative, we’re never really rock.
The band just returned to The 40 Watt in Athens. What are your fondest memories from playing there back in the day?
I did a show at the old 40 Watt right after “MacDougal Blues” (Kinney’s 1990 solo LP) came out, and R.E.M. was rehearsing next door. They all got up and played “Losing My Religion” for the first time—like right after they wrote it. That’s a good song. (Laughs.) My favorite
rock shows there, I wasn’t part of. Seeing Nirvana there was cool.
Which DNC album would you put in a time vault?
There’s a record we never put out and it’s really great and we’re going to try and find a way to put it out. It was recorded for Westwood One maybe and played on the radio once maybe. It was Drivin N Cryin live at The Troubadour in L.A. It was like ’93 on the “Smoke” tour. We only wound up with it accidentally. Some other band requested something from a studio and they got it and were like, “What is this? I think it’s Drivin N Cryin.” And they sent it to us.
Your band’s trailer and equipment was stolen in September.
It was a great barometer of how much people care about us. I hate for something like that to happen, but the outpouring of help…This one guy coming out of the Aurora Coffee in Atlanta—I was out hanging up flyers for a show I was doing—and this kid comes running after me, he’s 25 or 27, and gives me $20. I was like, “No, man.” And he was like, “No, that sucks you guys got robbed like that.” I didn’t know what to do. We used (the trailer theft) as a platform. Boys and girls, watch out. Don’t keep your good stuff in the trailer and make sure you back it up into a fence.
What was the best song Drivin N Cryin played at its first gig in 1985, at Atlanta’s now-defunct 688 Club?
Our mini rock-opera, a song called “Saving Grace” There’s a version on “Wrapped in Sky” without all the guitar jams.
When DNC toured as The Who’s opening act in 1997, what did you notice about them onstage from watching their sets every night?
It was great to see Pete Townshend does not go through the motions. Pete really believes in what he’s doing. That was inspiring to me. It was always good, but I remember one night in Virginia Beach that was amazing. He and Roger (Daltrey)…you could see that spark of what it’s like to be with someone in a band that long. We too have been together now 25 years. So I kind of know about that now.
by Matt Wake
December 8, 2010