Riding the border
David Serby and The Latest Scam rock Firefly Bistro Wednesday
By Bliss Bowen 11/05/2013
David Serby is nothing if not prolific. The San Gabriel songwriter always has more material than he can use when sequencing his albums — and that was never more true than with his fifth album, the just-released double-disc “David Serby and The Latest Scam.”
“I wasn’t really sure what I was even doing,” Serby confesses. “I probably wrote about 50 songs. I’m not saying all of them were good; I’m not saying that by a long stretch. But I went over to [producer/guitarist] Ed Tree’s and we put down acoustic demos. I was really into listening to Rockpile and my initial thought was, ‘I’m gonna put together a trio.’”
What he wound up doing was cranking the amps to 11 with a rocking four-piece comprised of himself, Tree, bassist Greg Boaz (Dave Alvin, Tex & the Horseheads) and drummer Dale Daniel (Hacienda Brothers). The new tunes bolster Serby’s reputation as a literate wordsmith, and the heart-wrenching “Better With My Hands” (an older song that didn’t fit on either of his last two albums) stands as one of the most emotionally potent songs he’s ever composed. Musically, the new album straddles the line between old-school rock ‘n’ roll and the honky-tonk for which he’s best known.
“I wanted to make a more energetic rock ‘n’ roll record,” Serby says, “but I didn’t want to absolutely reject everything I had done before. I was absolutely trying to ride that [rock/country] border so people who like that stuff and those songs could find something on the record that they would enjoy.”
Worrying about fan reactions is a quality problem for an independent artist, especially one with a demanding day job who finances his own recordings. He’s enjoying the opportunity to mix things up at songwriter nights — and potentially attract new listeners — especially since he started out playing punk. (“I didn’t know how to play an instrument then; I barely know how to play one now,” he says with a laugh.) But he strives not to alienate fans who have supported him. The steepest challenge facing independent artists these days, he says, is “cutting through the sonic fog” presented by myriad competing musical options.
“The key is convincing somebody that somebody thinks you’re somebody,” he says. “You’ve gotta get somebody [tastemakers] to think you’re worth listening to. If you can create that interest or buzz, then you’ve got something. … Creating material is not the difficult part.”
Serby says writing and running keep him sane. “If I can’t do either of those things, I get super super depressed,” he explains. “Once I posted on Facebook, ‘creating content creates content.’ If I’m not purging and trying to puzzle out things, I feel like I’m not really living.”
David Serby and the Latest Scam play Brad Colerick’s Wine & Song showcase at Firefly Bistro, 1009 El Centro St., South Pasadena, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Admission is free. For more information, call (626) 441-2443. davidserby.com, wineandsong.com