The Hippo


Oct 22, 2019








Bees Deluxe. Courtesy photo.

Bees Deluxe 

When: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m.
Where: Riverwalk Café, 35 Railroad Square, Nashua

Buzzing band
Bees Deluxe play CD release show in Nashua

By Michael Witthaus

Though he’s quite good-natured about it, Bees Deluxe founder and guitarist Conrad Warre sometimes feels like he’s from a musical Island of Misfit Toys. The Boston band calls its music Acid Blues for the 21st Century. Informed by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Tom Petty and Herbie Hancock, it’ a heady mélange of sounds that can confound fellow performers. 

“Blues bands, they tell us to get off because we sound like jazz, and if we go to a jazz room, they say we’re a rock band, but on a rock bill at some place like T.T. the Bear’s, they say we’re a blues band,” Warre said in a recent phone interview. “We’re sort of hated and despised by all of them, because we don’t really match … yet we like all of them and incorporate things that they all do in our garage.”
While some musicians may scratch their heads, the band is reliably booked throughout New England. On Sept. 17, they appear at Nashua’s Riverwalk Café in support of their seventh album, A Can of Bees. The excellent new disc opens with a cover of Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” a track that’s a primer on Bees Deluxe eclecticism. Warre’s guitar melds rock, blues and jazz, shifting from fluid and spacey to rocked up and revving — in three and a half minutes.
From there, the band — Warre, drummer Patrick Sanders, Carol Band on keyboards and bassist Allyn Dorr — get down and dirty on the blues rocker “A Quitter Never Wins,” a 1990s hit from Tinsley Ellis. After that, they channel a smoky 1960s jazz club on “Zoe’s Chromatic Blues,” with help from Bruce Mattson on Hammond B3; Mattson was BD’s keyboard player until Gregg Allman poached him for his latest tour.
Asked about his personal influences, Warre demurs a bit. 
“Analog musicians … jazz and classical mostly; I love to listen to guitar players but I find it infects and upsets me,” he said. “It’s kind of like an actor watching a better actor — you don’t want to do that, it’s just upsetting.  So I don’t listen to the stuff we’re approximating.”
Warre finds inspiration in less likely places, soaking up sounds and occasionally translating them into a Bees Deluxe number. 
“I go back further in time and listen to stuff that I know we can’t do, like Ray Charles, Amy Winehouse and Etta James,” he said. “We’re never going to sound like them, but they do things that are really worth documenting and rearranging.”
A U.K native, Warre came to America when he moved to New York City in the mid-1980s. 
“I’m from London, but now I consider myself from Brooklyn,” he said. He added with a laugh, “My mother always says my accent is halfway in between the two; I’m in the Sargasso Sea.” 
Warre’s early years in the States were interesting, to say the least. 
“I arrived with a typewriter and a green corduroy suit and found an illegal sublet in Tribeca. I’d dumpster dive for paper behind the printers and do illustrations.”  He built a portfolio, which he used to scout for magazine work. “The art directors would say, ‘We haven’t got a job, but can I buy that illustration from you?’  Then I’d go back to the loft, do that drawing again, sell it to a different magazine.” 
It was a heady experience. 
“Living in New York as a young man and not knowing anybody is a baptism of fire,” he said. “Whenever I go back to England now, I’m shocked at how little people do there. … The pace of life is so extraordinarily different.”
His wife’s work brought him to Boston a few years ago. 
“I haven’t been back since, although I miss New York terribly,” he said, mentioning that Manchester’s Strange Brew Tavern, where his band appears frequently, evokes memories of his first U.S. home. “It’s long and narrow and reminds me of the Bitter End in Manhattan; the people at opposite ends of the stage can’t hear or see each other.”
Warre chose the CD release party venue with care. He considers Riverwalk Café a musician’s room, one of the region’s best. 
“When we first got there I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” he said. “It’s completely professional; I wish there was a cafe like that where I live — I’d be playing there three or four nights a week.”  

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