For more than a decade Chris Adolf has been making music. With Bad Weather California he seems to have finally found his footing and in 2009 it became the main focus and Denver’s most street-level band. Trading in the acoustic guitar for reverb and electricity, Chris Adolf has been leading Bad Weather California on cross-country tours and skateboarding trips when he’s not driving across Colorado to pick up plants for his day job.
AudioVore: We’ve been following you for a long time Chris and the first question we’ve wanted to ask you is, what happened that changed you from the solo folkie to the now country-tinged front man of a band?
Chris Adolf: Well, I’ve noticed over the years that I’m a reactionary person, a counter-ist. Whatever I see going on or is happening right now in music, I tend to be grossed out by and try to move the other way. Coming out of Grand Junction starting way back in the ‘90s, it seemed for a while that everyone was into playing real tough guy punk music. So my reaction to that was The Love Letter Band, which was real tender and not tough guy. Fast forward some odd years later, living in the city and now indie music is a more mainstream musical style. It feels like everything now is too tender, arty, somber and heart-sleepy and I’m moving the other way; at least that’s been over the last 8 or so years.
AV: So what have you been listening to that helped spur that reactionary change in you this time around?
CA: In the last year I’ve been listening to very extreme music like black metal or hardcore gangster rap. I love ‘90s gangster rap music, I think it was a real golden era and the music really moves me.
AV: Do you feel a connection to that music scene with your ideals of street-level music?
CA: Yeah, your “indie” music is really not from the streets. It’s for white college kids. I feel like even people that play the acoustic guitar and stuff, that’s not folk music. I honestly would say that Juggalo music is closer to folk music because it’s music actually made by your more average, normal people. I don’t dig Juggalo stuff but I do think it is the current day version of what’s from the streets. And hip hop too, hip hop is modern day folk music.
AV: So how much of Bad Weather California is a collective influence rather than your personal vision?
CA: It feels like that chemistry is organic when you get whomever together. It’s really hard to say what’s mine and what’s just that natural chemistry. I do send those guys a lot of YouTube videos and stuff like that; lately I’ve been on this Venice Beach kick with a lot of Suicidal Tendencies and such. I definitely have a lot of visions but those kids bring their own to it as well.
AV: What special qualities do you think the Denver music scene has?
CA: Denver is an island. It’s really isolated. I feel jealous of your more coastal bands. Denver is unique because if you’re a band here, you’ve got to drive at least 8 hours to play the next city where people do that kind of thing. I don’t know how it affects the Denver music world, but you know it’s got to. A lot of bands really concentrate on building within Denver instead of other areas. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad really, but it is unique to Denver.
AV: What other bands today do you feel have a connection to that street-level music idea?
CA: I think there are a lot of people making street-level music. Broncho is a band from Oklahoma City and it’s definitely street-level music. You can tell that stuff wrote itself and there is no pretention to it. I think locally, Pictureplane’s music is very out there and philosophical and he has an ideological aspect but he’s also really un-pretentious. I like watching Sauna too because they just got their friends to start a band with them and there is a rawness to that band. I’ve seen a lot of adults try to capture that energy of your first teenage band but Sauna actually is that, you know? (laughs)
AV: How good of a skateboarder are you?
CA: I’m not that good of a skateboarder, but I like to skateboard. Joe and I just went yesterday, I got a 4-foot 50/50 grind on the coping. I’ll be 35 this month and I’ve done it since I was 14 so it’s always been a part of my life but I never got that good at it.
AV: Who’s the best skateboarder in the band?
CA: Joe, definitely. And he’s older than I am too! For an old man, he’s really good. We’re both the stupid guys that just mess around but on the transitions and stuff, Joe is really good.
AV: How was playing behind Daniel Johnston?
CA: Up until the moment we were playing, it was very intimidating. Once we were playing though, it was great man. That guy is in the pocket with you. I was nervous though, I didn’t want to mess up with someone that I really look up to, someone who’s been a big influence to me over the years, truly one of our heroes. That’d be awful to mess him up on stage! So it was really nerve wracking, and when you listen to his earlier songs he’s just pounding those songs out on that little air organ or whatever and the rhythm isn’t always there, it’s more like his soul pounding these songs out. So we were worried that we’d have to follow his rhythm and watch him and when he skipped a beat be right there with him, but he’s a good musician. It was really great though. I just kept looking up and being like “Wow, this is happening.”
AV: Talk to us about the thought behind putting your album out on tape.
CA: Yeah, Sunkissed is available on CD/LP through Family Tree Records but it’s also available on tape called Wizard of the Ghost out of Seattle. I mean I’ve been around that North West DIY world since the beginning with The Love Letter Band, that was kind of the scene I came out of. But the tape world is legitimate. I’m really happy the new album is on tape.
AV: On 2009’s Young Punks, you revisited some of your older solo songs with the new band, do you have plans to do that on future releases or has Bad Weather California progressed too far?
CA: Back then I was so close to those songs. Now a days I’m so far removed from that. I don’t really feel those songs anymore; I’m not that into them and everyone’s like that about their own stuff. A lot of people like those old songs but I don’t. I’m more excited about new stuff these days. The first album was about me taking songs I wrote and arrange them for a band but now that we’ve got this band, now it’s like the band doing songs together.
AV: Do you think that the Daytrotter image of you captured your likeness?
CA: They did the beard way bigger than it is! I just had a little bit of stubble at that point but they made a big beard on me. But whoever draws those things did a pretty good job. I have this chip in my teeth and I think they even got that chip in there.
AV: How crucial do you think your relationship with Akron/Family is?
CA: Right now driving on the highway to go pick up some plants, not crucial at all. (laughs) However musically, they’re our guardian angels. They kicked the door open for us, we owe them a lot.