Sunday, September 18, 2016

Greg Humphreys Lucks Out - Part 1

The Greg Humphreys Electric Trio's Lucky Guy fall tour kicks off this Friday, September 23rd at the Brooklyn Americana Music Festival, the Carolina Ramble & Reunion on Oct 1 and continues through the Carolinas & Georgia in early October. Go see them live!! The transcript of my interview with Greg about his career will post on Wednesday September 21st.

Do you know Greg Humphreys? You've got a better chance if you live on the east coast because that's where Greg is from, the area around Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I know of Greg even though I lived on the opposite coast.

In 1993 I was living in San Diego and working on a fanzine with my friend and then-housemate Jeff Motch. It was Jeff's project, he ran it and did all the design. I wrote album reviews and got to do some pretty cool interviews.

One day, Jeff handed me a CD with an abstract cover, two origami figures, one in blue, the other orange. The band was Dillon Fence and the album was Outside In. Greg was the main singer and guitarist for the band, handling a good amount of the songwriting duties as well. (This is not to take away from the songwriting contributions by Kent Alphin and Chris Goode, both of whom added excellent songs to the DF oeuvre.)

I put the CD in the player and was unprepared for the wall of guitars that followed the in-breath captured at the outset. A gorgeous, sensitive, soaring opening for a great record.



Dillon Fence put out two of the best rock records of the 90s but like many bands weren't able to keep the momentum going. The early 90s were a strange time for music and there wasn't much room for a great straight-ahead rock & roll band in amongst all the  Pearl Jam soundalikes and punk-wannabes riding the coattails of Nirvana & Green Day.

Dillon Fence was one of a group of great but not necessarily similiar bands like The Veldt, Superchunk, Polvo, and The Connells who hailed from the Triangle area in North Carolina in the 80's & early 90's. The college rock/"alternative" scene was the catch-all term, but that just meant anything that didn't have a place on mainstream radio at the time - hard rock, MOR, country, soul/R&B.

Living on the West Coast, I never got a good chance to see the original Dillon Fence play live. Then, not too long after their tour cycle for Living Room Scene ended, I heard they were breaking up. (This was back before hiatuses were a thing) In the nascent days of the capital-I Internet, not every niche was being served, so it took me a few years before I heard that Greg was now fronting a band called Hobex. I may have even read about that in Spin or some other magazine, just offhand.

Hobex was not Dillon Fence 2, however. Greg's musical background and tastes pushed him toward blue-eyed funk & soul. The music of Hobex didn't gain much traction in the mainstream rock garbage fire that was the late-90s, early-00s rock music scene, coming as it did on the cusp of the end of the major label/radio stranglehold. Not that there's a huge retail market for that music anyway, but Hobex did settle in on the festival circuit. (Think of the current status enjoyed by St. Paul & the Broken Bones or Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings at large festivals - Afternoon slots, and everyone grooves along and has a great time.)

Much like Dillon Fence, Hobex eventually reached it's conclusion. (Much like Dillon Fence, there was no animosity and both bands regularly re-form and play gigs.) The Hobex wind-down had Greg moving through changes that were more personal than personnel. It seemed the right time to slow down and the next four records were just solo affairs.

After those records and a move to Brooklyn, NY, he met up with Matt Brandau and Keith Robinson - both highly accomplished in their own rights - and formed the Greg Humphreys Electric Trio. Their newest album Lucky Guy was released in June after a Pledge Music campaign raised almost 200% of their goal, with the funds going to print vinyl & CDs for the fans, as well as hiring a publicist and making videos. (The band even donated 5% of post-goal funds to the American Brain Tumor Association.)

Greg Humphreys Electric Trio - Greg, Keith Robinson, Matt Brandau
Where Greg's solo records of the late 00s-early 10s were more subdued affairs, Lucky Guy, like the other Electric Trio records, is more upbeat, which is to be expected from the title. Greg's life is in a swell place, having moved from North Carolina to New York City after meeting the woman who is now his wife, and the arrival of their son. The record is made up of newer songs alongside the band's re-recording of a few songs that appeared on his earlier solo releases.



23 years after I first interviewed Greg about Dillon Fence for 360 degrees (scans below), he and I spoke at length (not kidding, about 2.5 hours!) about his career from Dillon Fence through Hobex and his solo records, and the Greg Humphreys Electric Trio. We talked about his vocals on the Dillon Fence record Rosemary, how he put the GHE3 together, and his inspiration for Lucky Guy, the song and the record. Come back on Wednesday to read that interview!

Dillon Fence - Greg Humphreys interview from 360 fanzine - 1993 (Click to see full size)
Dillon Fence - Greg Humphreys interview from 360 fanzine - part 2 - 1993 (Click to see full size)

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