The Weekly interview: Robert Randolph

The man, and his Family Band, take over Brooklyn Bowl this weekend.
Chris Bitonti

What are your thoughts on being part of Brooklyn Bowl’s early Vegas lineup? It’s great, man. Brooklyn Bowl is such a great brand—a great venue and such a great time. It started with the one in Brooklyn. It’s kind of that old-school feeling with new school. It’s got, like, a juke joint feeling with great sound, great lights, the ambiance is great and it’s affordable for the die-hard music goers. I can’t wait to come out there and be a part of it.

You have some brunch shows scheduled here. How do you change up your set for that versus a night show? We’re gonna have to see if we can get the brunch energy going. I’m so used to playing at night, so the brunch thing will kind of be cool. It’s a new thing. I’ve got so many different elements in my music—blues, gospel, jam, songs that we’ve written, cover songs—so it’ll just be cool to test the waters at Brooklyn Bowl. Vegas Bowl. (laughs)

What’s your favorite food at Brooklyn Bowl? Everyone knows the wings are so good, but my new favorite is the Sloppy Joe. That Sloppy Joe is on the money, man. As a matter of fact, we played Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn last night, and I had the egg shooters and a Sloppy Joe. I’m gonna try to go run off the Sloppy Joe, but it’s so good. Something about it is actually kind of addicting. One day I ordered three of them back to back. (laughs)

You’ll have to do some trail running while you’re out here to work off all the Sloppy Joes and see the mountains. I kind of did that last time I was there. I ended up staying at the Red Rock Casino once, just to get off the Strip, and that was actually the first time I realized there is so much more to Vegas. We did the trail—the horseback riding trail—and that was cool.

I know you’re also a big sports fan, and you’re going to be here for the Final Four. You gonna place any bets? Oh yeah; I did last year. We played there last year during the Final Four as well, at the Cosmopolitan. I ended up winning like a thousand bucks. A buddy of mine ended up winning 15 grand, but he already has a lot of money, so he can take more chances.

It seems like you guys are constantly on the road. Where do you fit in the time to write new music? Well, one of the coolest things that happens being on the road between shows and soundcheck and doing as much improvisation as we do, I come up with so many different riffs and choruses and hooks we pretty much have a record done sometimes. At least, that’s the way it’s been recently. Right now I’m actually about to release another record, probably in the next three or four months, because of that same new energy that’s been found.

Like, last night at Brooklyn Bowl, we made up four different things on the spot. That’s the cool part about being on the road a lot—you get in that mode of having guitars and music around you already, so it’s like you don’t have to get warmed up. Your creative energy is already going.

How do you translate your live energy to recording, where the process can get mundane and everything has to be perfect? I think some people can do it and some people can’t do it, but then some people don’t want to do it. I think you just have to want to be able to do it. You have to keep the energy going when you get in the studio and make it fun.

You’ve performed with Galactic a few times. Are you planning on guesting with them, or vice versa, while you’re both in town? Yeah, I probably will.

How do you plan to switch up your sets? A great part about the challenge in that is finding different things. We’re doing Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn last night and next Tuesday and the following Tuesday, so I think so far in the last year or so we’re up to 10 or 12 shows at Brooklyn Bowl. You just gotta find new ways to create things.

I just read that bassist Danyel Morgan left The Family Band. Yeah. He just wanted to take a long break. He couldn’t take all of the traveling, and his son is disabled, so it got kind of rough on him.

Danyel has that really high voice in your songs, right? Yeah but we’ve got another cousin that sings even higher than that, so he’s with us now. That was always the idea with our Family—over the years we added my sister, and I’ve got so many of my other cousins that have been wanting to get in. One plays the keyboards and now one plays the bass. And last night we also had Citizen Cope and Alex Skolnick at the Brooklyn Bowl. We like to bring in guests.

Do you have any guests planned for Vegas? I haven’t thought about it yet; maybe once it gets closer. Hopefully Santana will be in town, and he’ll come out and hang.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band April 4, midnight; April 5, 1 & 9 p.m.; April 6, 1 p.m.; $10. Brooklyn Bowl, 862-2695.

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