If the measure of a “breakout band” is how quickly every quarter of a scene lays claim to it, then no one had a bigger 2009 than Black Joe Lewis And The Honeybears. The group’s debut, Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!, could be heard on radio stations from KVRX to KGSR, while you could catch its Stax-meets-Screamin’ Jay Hawkins strychnine-soul on stages from the Continental Club to Scoot Inn, in front of families at the Austin City Limits Music Festival or surrounded by writhing burlesque dancers. People beyond Texas borders fell in love with Lewis too, with the band popping up on late-night TV and playing sold-out shows in Europe—just a few milestones passed by every rising star. The A.V. Club asked Lewis about some other common “breakout” landmarks he achieved in the past year.
Hearing his songs on the radio
Black Joe Lewis: I turned the station really fast. [Laughs.] It’s cool that it’s on there and everything, but I don’t really like listening to my own music. I like playing it. I don’t like listening.
The A.V. Club: It wasn’t like the movies, where you call your mom and hold the phone up to the radio?
BJL: Nah. She heard it eventually, but not from me.
AVC: You also landed on the soundtrack for Showtime’s Californication.
BJL: My friends watch that show a lot, so that was cool. I’ve never had my song on TV—and it’s a good show. That guy fucks a lot of chicks, which is always entertaining.
AVC: And your music is good for that.
BJL: Hell yeah, man. [Laughs.] These are booty jams.
Quitting the day job
AVC: You used to deliver for Quality Seafood (5621 Airport Blvd., 512-454-5827). Have you quit that yet?
BJL: Yeah, I got fired back in April. I was actually trying to keep the job as long as I could, because I like having money coming in from more than one place. But I was leaving town a lot, so they fired me. There’s only so long a job’s gonna let you do that. I’m glad it happened. I make more now then I ever did there—and I actually enjoy going to work.
Touring the world
BJL: People loved us [in Europe], and we had a lot of sold-out shows. I didn’t know so many people had heard of us over there. Gotta say, Spain is my favorite country, and France is my least favorite. They’re just fucking rude, man. They’re not very happy people or something. Everybody told me I needed to learn how to speak English better, because they couldn’t understand me.
AVC: The French told you that?
BJL: That’s what I said! I was like, “Dude, you’re from fucking France, and I’m from Texas—obviously we’re not gonna talk the same way.” I just started talking really slow to them between songs, like they were kids. You ever hear that Buck Owens stuff when he goes to Japan or Scandinavia, where he talks to the audience like they’re really stupid? I just did that. People liked us there, but they just talked a bunch of shit to us afterward.
Doing photo shoots
BJL: It sucks, man. You only get so much time out of me. I’m pretty difficult to work with after a while. But you know, after about 20 minutes, you should have enough pictures and shit. And they try to get me to pose and shit. I think a photo shoot should be, like, we all go to a bar and you come follow us. I hate posing. I feel like a model or some shit—like some really feminine, metrosexual guy. I’m trying to get around saying the “g word,” but you know what I’m saying. [Laughs.] It just don’t feel right.
Being named 2009's best band
AVC: Now there’s a lot riding on 2010. How do you live up to it?
BJL: I just want to keep getting better, and keep this thing going for as long as I can. I feel lucky to be here in the first place. It would be amazing to get to do it until I’m old and not have to go back to a really bad day job. My whole goal for forever is to get better and make better music every time—and make some more money.
AVC: You know what that means: more photo shoots.
BJL: I know. But I know how to work it now. You just give ’em a half hour, then turn into a bitch. [Laughs.]