Pembroke Pines, FL – PCN Magazine correspondent, Ivan Romero, recently had a chance to catch up with John Lum, drummer, of the Allman Betts Band as the band is touring in support of their new album, ‘Bless Your Heart’.
PCN: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us hear at PCN Magazine. This is actually a real honor for me. I love the Allman Brothers. I’ve loved the Allman Brothers and I’ve been listening to what you guys have done. I just love the jam sessions. I listened to one of the tracks on the new album and absolutely loved it. I didn’t want to turn it off, I was actually working my day job and had to cut it short. Congratulations on your new release.
JL: Thank you so much. I really appreciate those words. I am glad that people are enjoying it and that you are enjoying it. It’s great to hear from you.
PCN: What has it been like for the Allman Betts Band given the Covid-19 pandemic situation?
JL: It has been very interesting but we are extremely excited because despite everything that has gone on over the past 8 months, we are still overjoyed being able to release our record and have people be able to hear it, you know, during this specific time in history. The outpouring of love that has come from our fans, current fans and new fans, regarding the reception of the album and how much, you know, the way the band sounds on that album, has been just very wonderful. We are all extremely grateful for the reception of this music that we worked on last December.
PCN: Well, I tell you, it is well deserved.
JL: Thank you. To further answer your question, it has been amazing to be able to release an album and have any measure of success during this time period. We’re also very excited about being able to play together and have streaming shows and social distancing shows and stuff like that because it is very satisfying to get all the guys together and just jam. That’s the thing that we all love the most, I think. So it’s very positive in a lot of ways.
PCN: Amen to that, man. I can tell you; I surely miss the live shows. So, you did mention that the album was recorded some time in December, which I guess would have been pre-pandemic. Given that, did the pandemic have any impact, now that your touring, on the rehearsal process for the Allman Betts Band as you tour to support ‘Bless Your Heart’?
JL: Ummm, yeah, it has definitely affected the rehearsal process a little bit, only in frequency. It is a little more difficult to travel now but we are. Despite all of those factors we are able to be effective in the time we do have to rehearse. When I’m in rehearsal, I feel like I am listening to the record, you know, just like anyone else would be. The band is so locked in that i am not thinking, like, here comes this part of the song or whatever. I don’t have to think about any of that, because we are all on the same page. As far as rehearsals go, with the limitations that we have to deal with sometimes, we’re still very productive because we are all on the same page, you know, as a group.
PCN: That is fantastic. That is great to hear. So, I was looking at the tour schedule and it looks like you guys have planned this tour will into next year through October 2021, which is fantastic. The optimist in me is saying, that is great. I hope it comes to fruition, knock on wood. Have you had to cancel any shows yet? Obviously, I won’t ask you if you’re going to because we don’t know that yet. Have you had to make different arrangements based on rules or regulations?
JL: There has been maybe one instance where we have chosen to do that, in August, that was shared on social media and that was really the only time we had to do that. We have a team of people looking at the different places we are scheduled to travel and we are able to make it happen. Other than the instance in August, we are able to do the shows in a safe and positive way and it’s been really, you know, considering what’s going on right now, this is going very well, and it’s been very positive.
PCN: That’s great. Again, I am just very happy to see the live music scene come alive. It’s been a rough few months for the fans as well.
JL: It is not like we look forward to a day off, we want to get out and play. We would like to be out there playing because that’s what we love to do. So, yeah, you know, especially being in a situation trying to stay healthy and isolated, it makes you really appreciate the opportunity we have right now to be able to do shows. We are all super appreciative.
PCN: Understood. So, this is an off the cuff question here. Most southerners know that “Bless Your Heart” is not necessarily a compliment, right. Was there a subliminal message intended in the title? Was it directed at someone or some group?
JL: Umm, I think that it’s best, that’s a two-part answer. I think that it’s best, like most things, left to the interpretation of the listener.
PCN: Ok, I get it.
JL: And I think that if you do listen to the album in its entirety, you’ll have that answer for yourself. It certainly not a negative connotation toward anything or anyone or any idea. It is just kind of an open-ended thing for you to decide. When you hear the music, what do you think “Bless Your Heart” means, you know?
PCN: I worked with a company that was based in Tennessee for some time, so when someone looked at me and said “Bless Your Heart”, i knew exactly what they meant. (laughing)
JL: Oh yeah, there is that. If anything, we are saying that that to our fans in a genuine way.
PCN: Ok…. that is great….
JL: “Bless Your Heart” to our fans for being the best fans in the world and being so extremely loyal to us during a very difficult period. I think it has definitely taken on that meaning for me, personally.
PCN: That’s funny, because having that exposure to, let’s call it, the real southerner, and hearing it from that perspective, it’s a ray of sunshine to hear that perspective of it. Quite honestly, that wasn’t the perspective i saw it from so thank you for your candor and honesty there.
JL: I get messages every day from fans and a lot of them live south of where I am. I am in St. Louis. They are so elated that we chose to release music and keep making videos and giving them things to be excited about. It really took me back, you know, it’s March/April, I am not out doing anything, I am at home in my own little world and i am getting messages and emails flooding in about the album and how much they miss us and stuff like that. If anything, it’s a message to our fans that they are awesome and that they are blessing us too.
PCN: Actually, that’s a great lead into my next question. I think you mentioned earlier that the reception for the new album has been great. So, based on your answer that the fans have received it well, in today’s world we are not counting albums necessarily as we used to; album sales, cd sales. Now its more of an online, or how many likes you got on a YouTube video or things like that. How would you interpret how this has been received overall by the fans?
JL: You are talking in terms of not only unit sales but just digitally…. I see a very unified trend of people who are really digging the album as a whole piece of work. The biggest comment I see on socials and reviews is that it’s an album that functions in its entirety from beginning to end musically. And music fans really appreciate that. There is that element of it and also a lot of different songs from the album that have been chosen and put on a lot of really good Americana and Blues and Rock Spotify playlists. That tells me that people are not only looking at it as a whole unified body of work, but they’re also taking certain songs and falling in love with those songs, kind of like singles and those songs are trending well on socials and streaming networks. Everything is kind of moving in the same direction as far as appreciating the music on and off the internet.
PCN: That is great! It is certainly much more different than when I was younger. I worked at a record store, so I knew what it meant to have the physical sales. It’s a completely different animal nowadays.
JL: Yeah, I remember going to the Streetside Records in my hometown and checking out the 10 or 14 records that came out each Tuesday and “oh what’s this?”. I remember all the excitement of getting a new cd and opening it, the smell of the plastic and all that stuff! I remember all that and now it’s just a tap on my phone or my laptop and hear any band. It’s a different time, you know.
PCN: So, in the current environment, you guys are touring and doing this in much smaller venues; more intimate venues with smaller crowds. How does the band feel about that? Do they take it easy or do they deliver the same show they would in the larger venue?
JL: We are very, very grateful for the positive reception of what we are doing and going about it in a safe way. Everyone is feeling good about doing the concerts even though it is kind of a bizarro version of what we would consider a normal concert compared to what we were doing. We’re pants up. We want to play. The energy from the band in these shows, if anything, almost kind of supersedes what we were doing musically before and my opinion from where i am sitting behind the drum set. The hardship kind of amplifies the creativity we all have and tap into and it affects the jams. We are getting done with these shows and i am like, “I want to play another show! I want to play for another hour. I want to play for another two hours!” There is no slacking once we hit the bandstand. It was never that way before either. If anything, we are more excited to play for our fans at this point.
PCN: It’s awesome that you are kind of leading me in my questions! You mention that you want to play for another hour, or you want to play another show. You have 4 upcoming shows at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, Florida. By the way, a great historical venue. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but it’s a great little venue down here. So, these are going to be acoustic shows. Is there anything special the fans should expect in this setting vs a traditional Allman Betts band set?
JL: You can expect to be dug in a little deeper with some of these songs because you’re going to be hearing them differently than on a record. Arguably probably for the first time because we haven’t really done a show like this; a stripped-down show like this in a while. We’re excited to bring it to the fans and to hear some of those songs in a whole new light. I am excited to do those shows in that style at the Funky Biscuit for sure because i know who has played there and I know that it is a historic venue. A little bit of that energy is probably going to be wrapped into the version of the songs that we are going to be doing too. It is going to be very special.
PCN: I am hoping to make it out to the show at the Funky Biscuit. In the event that I can’t make it, break a leg!
JL: Hey, we’d love to see you there.
PCN: I have two last questions. I am a huge music fan so i have to ask, what was it like to record your debut album at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio?
JL: From my perspective, I can tell you exactly what that was like, because I had never been there. I had heard about this place my whole life. I have listened to all these now iconic bodies of music that came out of that place and in a lot of ways it was like going home. Nothing really has changed about the way that studio is constructed or designed, the way it functions. It’s still the same place. It kind of felt like going back to my grandparents’ house. I didn’t feel like it was this sterile studio environment where I had to get everything right or everything was under a microscope. Another analogy that i will use is, I think that Muscle Shoals is like a positive energy portal. There are so many good things that happened and came out of that place, that you can’t go into that building and have any sort of negative emotion or attitude that prevails. It goes away because you are in a place that has had so many positive things happen over time. That was what i felt during and after that initial session at Muscle Shoals in 2018.
PCN: I got goosebumps. Thank you very much for being open with that.
JL: If you go, you will get what I am saying as soon as you walk in there.
PCN: OK, I will need to add that to my bucket list. The last question, as we wrap up, what is on the horizon for the Allman Betts Band? Obviously, you will be touring through the end of next year. I know you just released an album. Is there already talk of new material?
JL: Ummm…. Of course there is! Devin and Dwayne and everyone in the band is feeling in good place with what we are able to do with our music. Now we have two albums out and I definitely know that there is new material being workshopped and worked on and concepts for a third record have certainly been discussed. On a personal level, there is nothing, official moves being made that i am aware of. Again, I am the drummer, so if there is some writing going on, I am the last one to find out. So, take what I say as you will, but I am absolutely certain that there is a direction and some ideas being tossed around for a third record. That is very exciting for me to know. I would be remiss if I didn’t pass on that information along a little bit. I can’t go into specifics or anything, but, I know that there is talk about what we are going to do for this third record and how we are going to do it. That is definitely a discussion and it should be had because we like playing together. We have a good thing going between everyone in the band and we want to continue to make music together so why not?
PCN: Absolutely! It’s not like 2020 didn’t give you enough material to write about, right?
JL: Exactly! There is a lot of reflecting going on and a lot of time to sit with your guitar or your drums and work stuff out and find new inspiration. As weird as a time we’re living in, I think everyone in the band has had the time to kind of reflect and appreciate and be inspired to do more of what we’ve been doing.
PCN: Awesome. John, I just want to thank you for giving me a little bit of your time this evening. This really was a lot of fun. I am very excited to get the opportunity to speak with you. I am really hoping to make it out to the Funky Biscuit to see the Allman Betts Band. Nonetheless, if I don’t make it, best of luck to you and the band and on behalf of PCN Magazine, thank you for your time this evening.
JL: Thank you so much for calling. I really enjoyed this. It is great the hear from you. I hope you are able to make it to the Boca show. It was a pleasure speaking with you. I really appreciate your kind word about the album. I hope to see you at a show one day.
The Allman Betts band will be touring through October 2021 in support of their latest release, ‘Bless You Heart’. You can see upcoming tour dates at https://www.allmanbettsband.com/tour/.