Following a 15 year hiatus, Speedealer have come charging back with their latest album Blue Days Black Nights. We reviewed the album a couple of weeks ago and recommended that you not only buy this ass-kicker of an album, but also to “schedule your appointment for a Speedealer tattoo posthaste.” While line-ups have changed over the years, guitarist Eric Schmidt and drummer Harden Harrison remain, bringing The Buck Pets Ricky Pearson in to play bass and The Swingin’ Dicks Daniel Barron to sing. This lineup has been playing live since 2016 and are hardly catering to their fan bases nostalgia. They’re just as great as they’ve always been and Blue Days Black Nights proves there’s plenty of gas left in the tank.
We caught up with the band ahead of their West Coast tour with the Supersuckers to learn more about what they’ve been up to over the last decade and a half, details of their new album, and future plans. Following their run with the Supersuckers, the band returns to Dallas for an album release show at Three Links.
It’s been 15 years since the last album. What’s been going on since then?
Eric Schmidt: Fill in the void, really…with projects. Before that 15 years, it was probably another ten years before that of just non-stop touring. But, when Hardin and I joined as a package deal, REO Speedealer had just lost the “REO” moniker. We had to prove to the world that we weren’t just a great band name.
And we made another record right after that called Here Comes Death and we played 250 shows that year, I think. Or no, actually, when we joined and we wrote the record on the road, we played 250 shows that year. That was the meat and potatoes for a good…however many years, almost 10 years, 20 years of just non-stop touring and just really making some great music together and just hammering the world. Japan, Europe…my first time in Europe was sixty days in a row with Motorhead as main support.
And then it kind of petered out because we never graduated above the van, really. We were punching each other by the end. The carrot kept dangling, it was great, we had a nice run. But, we felt like after the Bleed record, we were all just petered out and Hardin and I kept going with other band projects, Mitra and Hint of Death with Ricky.
Ricky Pearson: Exactly, it was kind of the second phase. They started right after Speedealer ended, they started Hint of Death, and they had a big run with that and then it kind of stopped.
Eric Schmidt: And this festered up completely by accident, no intentions of re-starting Speedealer. It was a response to a favor, or a gift really, to a Speadealer fan that was getting married and his reception was being held at Three Links and he really wanted Speedealer to play it and I was like, “Dude, that’s not gonna happen. It’s just me and Hardin and Jeff’s long gone.”
We didn’t know what to do. I go, “I’ll tell you what, we’ll put together a set list and we’ll just gather a bunch of people and just have fun with it. We’ll have a bunch of different singers.” I called the Swingin’ Dicks guy and he was out with the Dictators at the time, and I said, “Man, I gotta whip together this Speedealer set.” I go, “Could I send you a bunch of Speedealer songs and you tell me which ones you know, ’cause I might have a bunch of different singers.” He goes, “I know all of them.”
Ricky Pearson: We decided, well if Jeff’s not gonna do it, we’re gonna call it Dealers Choice.
Eric Schmidt: So, Dealer’s Choice was our moniker for just this one show, for a wedding reception. It was kind of a train wreck, but it was fun, I mean, there were a bunch of people who showed up. And the next day we got an offer in New Orleans. The word got out and then it just kind of started steamrolling.
Ricky Pearson: Yeah, we were like…this is what we’re doing and then all of a sudden everyone’s calling us Speedealer, and they’re calling us REO Speedealer, and there’s posters being made, it’s like hang on a second!
Eric Schmidt: And then we even got notified by REO Speedwagon again (Laughs).
Ricky Pearson: So we did those few more shows as Dealers Choice and then it was kind of like, fuck this, call it Speedealer. Don’t waste your time with that, ’cause this is who you are, this is who you’re playing, call it fucking Speedealer and move on.
Eric Schmidt: And that’s when Jeff, the original singer, said “Hey, don’t mess around.” He just said let’s just do this proper. I think he had seen enough videos and realized that we weren’t hack jobbing it. We were doing a really good job of it. Because people were showing up, old and young. We were mostly nervous about the older fans, making sure that we were doing it right.
When did you decide it was time to record a new album?
Ricky Pearson: I would probably say it was less than a year ago. We got together actually with Jeff, it was right after he came to see us. He saw us play at a sold out show at Three Links and was like “Okay, if you’re gonna do this, you need to do it for a reason. Y’all need to fucking put a new record out, don’t fuck around. Do it for real.” We were already playing like three news songs from the shows I’d played with him from 2010 to 2014.
Eric Schmidt: And there were naysayers, but the only person we were really worried about was him.
When were these songs written?
Ricky Pearson: Like in 2010, 2009…around there. Three of them were kind of at the end of the band, with the other line up of the band when they were kind of done. Probably like late 2000’s, I guess. Everything else, the rest of record was created within six months of the recording.
Eric Schmidt: Three of them were a long time ago and the other ones we just crammed in. We just wrote them, right there and then, and booked ourselves in a studio. We did it with a good friend of ours, Daniel Rey. He had done a lot of our catalog. We flew him in and he helped us produce the record. He was there for those three days of live recording and checking us on tempos and being a producer. It was cool. It felt old school.
That guy’s got some pretty awesome credentials with Ramones and Misfits…and he did a Richard Hell album, some other shit that kind of caught me off guard, Ronnie Spector or something.
Eric Schmidt: We saw him in Square Park play a show once with her. Because we would also…in the Speedealer heyday we would always play the Joey Ramone birthday parties. We would hang out with the Ramones guys, and Ronnie was always there.
I was curious about him, how he got in the mix, and I saw that he had done an album I think in ’98 or ’99 with you guys.
Ricky Pearson: He actually live recorded the CBGB live record that we did, Burned Alive, and he did Here Comes Death too, which was ’99.
In terms of what a producer does, what does he bring to the table?
Harden Harrison: He’s in the control room, so he’s helping out a lot with that. With the engineering and telling us what recording devices to use and things like that, and maybe telling us which microphones to use. Also, after we’ve done several takes, he listens to them all and he picks out which takes he thinks are the best.
Eric Schmidt: And the actual ones chosen are the ones that flow the best and not feel herky-jerky. He’s that fifth wheel guy that’s not in the band, but he can hear the most natural take. He’s good at that and so I think he captures it pretty good. There’s a nervous energy that happens while you’re playing, but I’m super stoked about how our record sounds, like it shows off our maturity maybe, I don’t know. Which is kinda weird to say because it is very aggressive, it’s very classic Speedealer. Daniel Rey is good at capturing that.Who was responsible for lyrics?
Eric Schmidt: I think that’s largely our fifth member, Jeff. We push some words around here and there just because a lot of us are doing a lot of gang vocals. We pushed words around here and there, but it’s largely Jeff lyrically.
Do you guys feel like lyrically there’s any particular theme to the album or do the songs stand on their own individually?
Harden Harrison: It’s kinda the same as the other Speedealer albums, well the more recent ones. Doom and gloom and depression and sort of…that’s really the only theme. Different songs are about different things, maybe, but never anything jolly or anything like that.
Daniel Barron: Some of the lyrics were nods to the early years. “War Nicht Genug” is talking about back in the day…all the touring and everything like that, and how no matter how much he did it wasn’t enough in the end. There were a few lyrics…I fooled with a couple things, some of them that I changed around or made my own, there’s some of them that I interpreted as my own. A lot of them are open to interpretation.
Harden Harrison: Just like a lot of good poetry, regardless of what it meant to who wrote it, people can interpret it in different ways, get their own meaning from it, it’s not specific, like clear cut.
Tell me about the instrumental track that closes the album.
Harden Harrison: We’ve always done some, well not always, several times we’ve done a weirdo instrumental at the end of the record. A lot of the times its just to eat up time, even though we have ten songs.
Eric Schmidt: That’s part of the continuity, too. Because we have done that if you go back to all the other records. We have a bit of a instrumentally jammy thing at the end. I don’t know, it just feels good. To me, it’s somewhere between Neil Young and Butthole Surfers. But, it’s kind of a release valve.
The album’s pretty diverse, but you guys tie it together. Y’all are the continuity of it, rather than just somebody being like, “Okay, now we do a metal song. Now we do a punk song.”
Eric Schmidt: And I think I’ve heard those records and they came up short. Hopefully, we made the decision like, “Hey, if we’re gonna do this, this is us, we’re doing it to the best of our ability.” We took it very seriously and tackled those genres in a very physically and mentally knowledgeable way, because we’re just fans of all different kinds of music.
How much of the new album are you playing on the upcoming tour?
Ricky Pearson: Seven of the ten songs we’re gonna do. And we already want to play the other ones, there’s only so much time in our slot.
You wrap up the West Coast tour with the Supersuckers and come back here June 1st for the Dallas album release show. Do you have any summer or fall touring plans?
Daniel Barron: We got something in the works for August for an east coast tour. We got invited to Europe for November. We’ve been getting a lot of different offers. I know we really wanna do the east coast in August/September time, but at the same time these different offers keep coming in. We might hop on this thing, do a few days with this band. Hopefully play with some heavier bands so we can whip out those heavier songs. We’ve got a whole catalog we could play with High on Fire and play like songs like “A Reckoning” and different things like that.
Speedealer w/ The Supersuckers Tour Dates
5/15 Vancouver BC at Rickshaw Theatre
5/16 Seattle,WA at El Corazon
5/17 Tacoma,WA at Jazzbones
5/18 Eugene,OR at The CiderHouse at Wildcraft Cider Works
5/19 Portland,OR at Dante’s
5/21 Reno,NV at The Saint
5/22 Oakland,CA at Starline Social Club
5/23 Santa Cruz,CA at Moe’s Alley, Santa Cruz
5/24 Morro Bay,CA at The Siren
5/25 Los Angeles, CA at The Echo
5/26 San Diego,CA at Soda Bar
5/27 Costa Mesa,CA at The Wayfarer