With airy instrumentals and carefree lyrics, G. Love & Special Sauce could almost pass for Santa Barbara natives. But while its untroubled philosophies might be at home on the West Coast, the band has proud roots in Philadelphia, where front man Garrett Dutton formed the band as a duo in 1992.
Two band member additions, seven full-length albums, and 15 years later, G. Love & Special Sauce has become an established alternative hip-hop outfit, often compared to the likes of Jack Johnson, 311, and Donavon Frankenreiter, all of whom call G. Love colleagues both on stage and in the studio. On August 5, the quartet will find themselves headlining their first Bowl show after 10 years of warming up for other bands. I took a call from the man in the spotlight to find out just how frightening the Bowl can be when it’s your name on the marquee.
How often do you play in Santa Barbara, and how does it compare to other places? Well, it’s California so it’s fucking perfect. We’ve played the Bowl a bunch of times, opening for Jack and Donavon and 311, but we’ve yet to play any of the clubs. The Bowl has been a part of our circuit for about 10 years now, and the community has been very supportive, especially KJEE. I kinda fantasize about living in California. But my kid lives in Boston, so I’ll probably live there.
You just released your first DVD, A Year and a Night. What inspired you to make it? It’s kinda what you do now. It’s good to have one for the whole musical thing, and on a more creative level I think it’s interesting for people who can’t get out to see a show. We wanted to do something a little different. It focuses more on the personalities that make the music than the actual music. I think the personalities are more important than the music.
Most bands turn away from that. Well, it’s definitely revealing. It shows you all different sides. Sometimes it’s not the prettiest picture that’s painted.
Your sound has a very “West Coast” mentality. Coming from Philadelphia, how do you think it evolved that way? Our thing’s always been kind of a summertime sound. One thing I really like to do is sit outside and just play music on a nice hot day. I would argue that our music has a mentality that anyone can get into, regardless of which coast you call home.
What’s it like to be headlining your first Bowl show? This is a milestone for me. When you open for a big show, the spotlight isn’t really on you. It’s not up to you to make sure the people have a good time. The people are there to see who you are opening up for, not you. We’ve been playing with Ozomatli for years in international festivals, and they are definitely a tough act to follow. They’re an amazing band that I’ve watched from the beginning. We’re doing the whole tour like a co-headline tour. We’re both ricocheting off each other.
What will you bring to this show that you have not brought to previous ones? We just added Mark Boyce, an organ player who was an original member of The Goats. We’re all playing great right now. We’ve got a lot of material. We’re in a great space, we’re cruising. It’s time to step up.
What can Santa Barbara and the rest of the world expect from G. Love & Special Sauce in the future? Well, with God’s grace we’ll just continue our forward momentum and continue to make records that sound great, like the one we are making right now. I really hope we can start to do a lot more with our music than make people feel good, like help the environment. Like that Live Earth thing; I’d love to do that. But first, I basically need to sell a shitload of records. I definitely made one classic record with my first record, and I would love to make more. It’s kind of an elusive thing. Every time you go in the studio it’s like buying a lottery ticket, you never know what you’re going to get.
G. Love & Special Sauce co-headline the bill on Sunday, August 5 with Ozomatli and The Expendables. For tickets and info, call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.