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Bradenton's Have Gun, Will Travel is a band of brothers: interview

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Have Gun, Will Travel band members, from left, Daniel Burke, Scott Anderson, Matt Burke and J.P. Beaubien at their rehearsal space and recording studio in Bradenton. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER.

It’s a Monday night and the guys from Have Gun, Will Travel just returned from a tour across Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in support of their freshly pressed fourth album, “Fiction, Fact or Folktale?” The fellows have spent a lot of time together in tight quarters lately. But when they file into their cozy Bradenton recording studio – that also serves as a killer man cave complete with pool table – the four men greet each other with hugs.

Mind you, these are huge, haven’t-seen-you-in-years hugs. Being back in Bradenton, where the nationally-acclaimed Americana band headlines a festival celebrating the one-year anniversary of Riverwalk on Saturday, always lifts their spirits. But they embrace like this regardless of where they’re gathering.

Have Gun, Will Travel’s members, all in their 30s, all with wives and children who are also all dear friends, have made music together for many years. They’ve spent many years dealing with grueling touring conditions and the rest of the trials and tribulations and, yes, jubilation, that goes with being an indie band.

Have Gun, Will Travel’s many honors include a feature on NPR, a song in a national Chevy ad and drinking (and profiting from) their own award-winning craft beer “High Road Ale.” But it’s an ongoing struggle for these guys; a battle to make time to create music, get that music heard by the people who will be moved by it and, most importantly, provide for their wives and children in the process.

“Basically, what people should know about Have Gun, Will Travel is that we’re hard-working, fun-loving, family dudes who share a vision and a passion for making music together,” singer Matt Burke says. “I also want people to know how supportive all our families are. This would all be impossible without their support.”

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Have Gun, Will Travel band members, from left, Scott Anderson, Matt Burke, Daniel Burke and J.P. Beaubien at their rehearsal space and recording studio in Bradenton. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

Family, in every sense of the word, is paramount. Matt is three years older than his brother and band mate Daniel Burke, who sits across from him Monday night. J.P. Beaubien and Scott Anderson might as well share the same surname, too. Here’s the thing, though. They’re a band of brothers, btu without the silly, highly detrimental, sibling rivalry stuff. That camaraderie has paid off.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Matt, Danny and J.P. created national buzz as the alternative rock band The Chase Theory. In 2006, though, Matt made a daring move. Playing all the acoustic instruments himself, he released Have Gun, Will Travel’s self-titled, debut ep, which, long out of print, features seven original songs. I interviewed Matt to advance his first show as Have Gun, Will Travel, which was a solo gig at the old Fogartyville Café in Bradenton.

“At home I had always written stuff on acoustic guitar that never really translated into Chase Theory material,” Matt told me in 2006. “So, I had that whole side of writing songs that I never really had any outlet for … I decided that I was going to do something with it and it wasn’t just going to be a hobby. I really wanted to have a go at it and see what I could do.”

Matt soon brought Danny and J.P. on board and in 2008 Have Gun, Will Travel released its proper debut album “Casting Shadows Tall As Giants.” Scott made his first appearance on record with Have Gun, Will Travel on the following year’s “Postcards from the Friendly City,” and then 2011’s “Mergers & Acquisitions.”

Matt, a multi-instrumentalists who mostly plays acoustic guitar and harmonica on stage, writes the band’s richly detailed and often poignant, occasionally playful, lyrics. While Matt likely comes up with the melodies, too, the music credit on “Fiction, Fact or Folktale?” is shared between all four members; with Danny on bass, J.P. on drums and Scott playing lead guitar.

“We trust and respect each other and everyone contributes individually to better the end result,” Matt says.

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Have Gun, Will Travel vinyl album cover art and photography by Alexandria Santangelo. Layout and design by Riley Keshner. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

“Fiction, Fact or Folktale?” takes its title from a line in the song “Silver and the Age of Opulence," which first appeared on the out-of-print EP. In fact, each full-length Have Gun, Will Travel album includes a full-band version of a song from Matt’s solo disc. “Silver and the Age of Opulence” might be the best of that bunch. Over a catchy chord progression Matt uses his reflective, reedy voice and clever lyrics to thoughtfully examine loss of innocence.

“My wife will attest to this,” Scott says, “I used to play that song over and over again. I remember thinking, ‘I want to be a part of this.’”

Have Gun, Will Travel continues to surge forward, recently inking a deal with Atlanta-based label This is American Music to distribute "Fiction, Fact or Folktale?" It’s available in various digital formats as well as CD and handsomely packaged vinyl. Scott recorded the album right here at “Mile Wide Music,” the official name of their longtime recording studio and, yes, man cave, nestled in a warehouse near downtown Bradenton.
Recordings for “Fiction, Fact or Folktale?” were also made at Ardent Studios in Memphis. It’s the same place The White Stripes, ZZ Top, Big Star and numerous other bands made landmark albums. Rodney Mills, who engineered Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most famous LPs, mastered the album in Atlanta, just as he has with recordings by everyone from Pearl Jam to Soulja Boy.

“He’s the guy Ronnie Van Zant is saying ‘turn it up’ to on ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’” Danny says with a smile in between sips of beer. “How cool is that?”

American Songwriter magazine premiered the music video for the propulsive, gallows-humor-filled “Standing at the End of the World,” the first single off “Fiction, Fact or Folktale?” The song, along with several more from the new album, is enjoying heavy airplay on Tampa-based WMNF (88.5). Other like-minded stations across the country are also playing songs off Have Gun, Will Travel’s latest release with glowing reviews popping up on sites from various corners of the Internet.

“It’s great to be able play these different places all over the country and have people actually know our music,” J.P. says with a smile. “It was real surprising at first but it's exciting, especially when we return to the same place a year or something later and there are the same people there, plus a bunch of their friends."

On Friday, Have Gun, Will Travel partners with pals from the Atlanta-based band Whiskey Gentry for a co-album release show at New World Brewery in Ybor City. Bradenton Riverwalk, one of the city’s most ambitious and successful projects of the past decade, celebrates its one-year anniversary Saturday with a “Pickin' Picnic” featuring numerous local acts, headlined by Have Gun, Will Travel, before the band performs Sunday at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

But this one at Riverwalk, it’s special. Matt, Danny and J.P. were born, raised and still reside in Bradenton. Their parents and wives will be there, as well as more than enough children to field a football team.

"It’s totally cool to be a part of something attached to the City of Bradenton,” Matt says. “To be at all associated with the one-year anniversary of Riverwalk, which we love, is an honor.”

In November, the band hits the road again for a bunch of national dates including a couple in New York City.

“We’re constantly moving forward; when one project is done, we’re on to the next,” Matt says. “And we’ll keep going in that direction ‘til the wheels fall off.”

CONCERT PREVIEWS
HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL WITH THE WHISKEY GENTRY
9 p.m. Friday; New World Brewery, 1313 8th Ave., Ybor City; $10; 813-248-4969; newworldbrewery.net
PICKIN' PICNIC
Bradenton Riverwalk celebrates its one-year anniversary Saturday with a "Pickin' Picnic" featuring Have Gun, Will Travel performing at 9 p.m. in celebration of the band‘s new album "Fiction, Fact or Folktale?" Geri X (5:15-6:15 p.m.), Muphin Chuckrs (7:45-8:45 p.m), Faceless Bandits (4-5 p.m. ) and Waking Giants (6:30-7:30 p.m) round out the roster.
Blues singer Lauren Mitchell’s band launches Riverwalk’s music series, which continues through Nov. 8, with a free show from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.
Bradenton Riverwalk, 452 3rd Ave. W. , Bradenton; free; RealizeBradenton.com.

 

CONCERT PREVIEWS
HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL WITH THE WHISKEY GENTRY
9 p.m. Friday; New World Brewery, 1313 8th Ave., Ybor City; $10; 813-248-4969; newworldbrewery.net PICKIN' PICNIC
Bradenton Riverwalk celebrates its one-year anniversary Saturday with a "Pickin' Picnic" featuring Have Gun, Will Travel performing at 9 p.m. in celebration of the band‘s new album "Fiction, Fact or Folktale?" Geri X (5:15-6:15 p.m.), Muphin Chuckrs (7:45-8:45 p.m), Faceless Bandits (4-5 p.m. ) and Waking Giants (6:30-7:30 p.m) round out the roster.
Blues singer Lauren Mitchell’s band launches Riverwalk’s music series, which continues through Nov. 8, with a free show from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. Bradenton Riverwalk, 452 3rd Ave. W. , Bradenton; free; RealizeBradenton.com.

Wade_Tatangelo_by_Mike_Lang_HT_06212013 Wade Tatangelo has been an entertainment reporter, columnist and reviewer for more than a decade at publications nationwide. He is a Hershey, Pa., native who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida. Wade joined the Herald-Tribune in 2013. He can be reached by email or call (941) 361-4955.
Last modified: October 21, 2013
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