If you were paying attention to the Southeast region during the ’90s, it would have been hard to miss Drivin’ N Cryin’. And why would you want to? This brainchild of Kevin Kinney and Tim Nielsen has remained one of those special bands that truly never tried to fit into a neat category.
Their debut, 1986 album “Scarred But Smarter” set the tone for the schizophrenic batch of albums that followed. The more rock-oriented “Fly Me Courageous” in 1991 proved to be its most successful release, but the band never stopped putting out new music. 2009’s “The Great American Bubble Factory” was the band’s first album in 12 years, although Kinney and Nielsen stayed hard at work on Kinney’s solo material.
We had the chance to catch up with Nielsen as the band prepares to invade Tavern Under the Bridge this weekend. Nielsen was excited about the future of the group that has defined so much of his life, and he even opened up about the band’s possible future as outer-space garage-rock artists.
Michael Staton: You guys are still out in support of “The Great American Bubble Factory,” but what took that album so long?
Tim Nielsen: We started work on the album the day after September 11, 2001. We tried to work on it and after a few days we all just looked at each other and said, “We really can’t do this right now.” We had a lot of half-done sessions and we all got preoccupied with other things, so we never really got around to it until 2009. Kevin and I were busy doing his solo stuff and playing shows.
MS: Is being in two different bands with Kevin odd for you at times?
TN: Not really. It’s different material, but things tend to overlap. We play some Drivin’ N Cryin’ at Kinney shows and vice versa. Kevin’s music is a little more jam-oriented, so if we need to go that direction at our shows we can. Playing Kevin’s music is kind of nice because we don’t have to meet Drivin’ N Cryin’ expectations. When we do a Drivin’ N Cr
yin’ show we absolutely have to play “Straight to Hell” and “Fly Me Courageous.”
MS: Do you ever look back on the past 25 years with the same band and wonder how you made it in a climate that has changed so much since the mid-’80s?
TN: It’s weird to think that I’m 47 now and we’ve been a band more than half of my entire life. You can’t think too much about that kind of thing. I’m to a point now where I’m just proud of what we’ve done and continue to do. We were honored by the Georgia General Assembly for our music and charity work. Back in the ’80s we didn’t think about that kind of thing, but now we realize that the most important thing is this band and its legacy, so it’s time to seal the deal on it and put in 100 percent.
MS: Your fan base has certainly kept you going while most bands’ fans inevitably fall off.
TN: I can’t say enough about them. We love new fans, but it’s the old ones that we provided a soundtrack for that have kept us going. We play a July 4 show at the Isle of Palms every year and it’s gotten to a point where we see the same people every time. People make a pilgrimage from out of state for us. They’ve definitely just gone with our flow, but they’ve been the ones that have kept it all together.
THE ESSENTIALS WITH TIM NIELSEN OF DRIVIN’ N CRYIN’
Essential Album: “London Calling” by the Clash. This was a band that proved they weren’t just another punk band.
Essential Song: “Rockaway Beach” by the Ramones. That’s one of a few songs that takes me back to younger days that I can also sing to my kids.
Are you a fan of synthesizers? I was never into new wave. I loved Devo. Maybe our next album will be in the vein of punk space garage rock. You never know.