Bourbon House Are Serving Up Full-Bodied Rock N Roll

Every band has at least a few legendary influences, but not many end up being mentioned alongside them. This, however, is exactly what’s happening for Wisconsin-based rock band Bourbon House.

Founded by singer Lacey Crowe, and guitarist Jason Clark, Bourbon House’s brand of blues infused rock has been drawing comparisons to the classic rock bands of the ‘70s they’ve always loved. In fact, some have gone as far as to call Bourbon House a modern classic rock band.

Bourbon House’s latest album, titled The Fourth Album, was released earlier this year, and listeners are finding it’s the kind of bourbon that warms the soul.

I caught up with Lacey and Jason to find out more about The Fourth Album, as well as what it means to be a modern classic rock band, and the unique, completely non-musical way they initially met.

The new album is titled The Fourth Album. First off, how long did it take to come up with that name? 

Jason: A year.

Lacey: It’s really funny, but it actually did take a long time. We wanted to come up with, obviously, another title, but …

Jason: We brainstormed ideas for a year, and couldn’t agree on anything.

Lacey: But the very first time he said, “Why don’t we call it The Fourth Album?” I was like – that’s the one.

It’s interesting because it’s not like you’re doing the Led Zeppelin thing, you had album titles for your previous three releases. 

Lacey: Yeah, it’s also, the more we thought about it the more it makes a lot of sense, because I feel like we’re really coming into ourselves, and more people are knowing about us now than the other three albums, so it’s an indicator of what we’ve already done.

People see that it’s the fourth album, and they just discovered us, so it’s a little tactical.

Am I crazy, or is the blues influence coming out a little more on this album? 

Lacey: I don’t think you’re crazy. I think there’s definitely more blues, especially with “Hotel Bar Blues,” which is a 12-bar, and the harmonica comes out. We had the best harmonica player we could find in Wisconsin do that. His name’s Big Al Dorn.

You also have a lot of classic rock influences, and I’ve noticed you’re sometimes referred to as a classic rock band. How do you feel about that designation? Is it cool to be affiliated with the bands you grew up listening to, or is there a limiting factor to it? 

Jason: I think that’s what we’re aiming for, and that’s what we would like more than anything.

There’s kind of a classic rock revival happening right now, and I think what a lot of these newer bands are forgetting is that those bands from the ‘70s were very diverse. They didn’t just do blues rock, they did anything. You can listen to any Led Zeppelin album and hear five different genres on it.

We’re trying to be fairly diverse, and have a lot of different styles and influences represented on our albums.

Lacey: It’s always gonna be pretty bluesy, and classic rock-y, it’s always gonna be that, but we just want to be as dynamic as those bands were, the bands that influence us. So I don’t take it as a limiting thing, I think it actually broadens us more, because classic rock is a very broad genre.

You noted that classic rock is having a resurgence. In the ‘90s – a decade which I absolutely love – every subgenre was allowed to grow on its own. Do you think that while that was great for all the subgenres, maybe it made it so that the albums had to be more singularly focused? 

Lacey: Maybe. I don’t know if it made it that way, or if people just kind of followed each other, followed the trends, and then it just became very monotone.

I think one problem in the industry is that people think they have to kind of stick to a niche thing because they don’t want to alienate fans, or whatever, and maybe a label, or producer would hate to work with us because of that, who knows … but I think maybe there’s just a belief that music consumers are less sophisticated than they are.

Jason: Yeah, the culture’s totally different, too, because in the ‘90s it was all about getting on the radio, even getting on MTV, and VH1 still, so you had to really commit to a genre, or a style, because you wanted to get on college radio, or alternative radio, or rock radio, depending on whatever genre you were pursuing, and committing to. Now people don’t use the radio to discover music, they discover music on streaming platforms, so if you have one or two songs in a certain genre it’s OK if you have a totally different genre on your album.

People generally aren’t going to go buy the album anyway, and listen to it from top to bottom, they’re looking for songs they like, the bands they like, and they’re browsing all over the place.

The record companies don’t even have total control over the bands anymore. In the ‘90s they would pressure the bands to make a commitment to – who are you, what’s your genre, the whole album should sound pretty much the same – so they had to do that. Now bands are mostly independent, and if they have a label, the label’s pretty cool with them, and gives them quite a bit of freedom.

With the diversity in your sound, have you been able to pitch yourselves to different streaming playlists? 

Lacey: Yeah, and I think we’ve been able to pitch ourselves to different fans, but they tend to overlap at the same time. It’s really interesting to me.

We just did an interview, and everybody was picking their favorite songs from the album, and the same guy whose favorite song was “Out For Blood,” which is our heaviest song on the album, his other favorite song was “Blue Magic,” which is totally opposite.

So it’s kind of allowed us to pique the interest of certain fans by having different genres, and different kinds of songs, but then they’ll still come over, and be like, “Oh, but I also like this.”

Music consumers are better than people give them credit for. They’re not one dimensional.

Jason: Most music fans are fans of multiple genres.

You mentioned “Out for Blood,” which I was about to bring up, because it shows your storytelling skills. Where does your storytelling ability comes from, and how has it developed over the years? 

Lacey: Well, me and Jason are both writers, actually. We used to write fiction, and that’s how we actually met.

That’s definitely where it comes from. We like stories. We read a lot. We watch a lot of movies.

Did you meet in a fiction writers club? Did you meet in a class? Let’s get into that. 

Jason: We were writing novels, and promoting ourselves as writers, and we joined the same website where you could upload your novel, and get feedback from other writers. There were about 10,000 members at the time, and we read each other’s books, and just started talking. That’s how it started.

Lacey: I charmed him. My book was his favorite.

A romance in NaNoWriMo form! 

Lacey: {laughs}

That’s amazing, though. If there were 10,000 people that means there was a 1 in 10,000 shot that you would meet each other. 

Lacey: Right, and that was for writing. We didn’t know about musical abilities, or even musical influences either, which is interesting, because I could’ve been like, “Taylor Swift is my fave,” who knows?

Or he could’ve said that! 

Lacey: Yes, exactly. {laughs}

Were you living in the same place, or did someone have to move? 

Lacey: Look at you, you’re asking all the great questions. You’re bringing all the stuff out. I’m Canadian, actually.

So you moved from Canada to Wisconsin. That’s a similar climate depending on what part of Canada you’re from. 

Lacey: Yeah, it’s very similar. I’m from Ontario. Then I moved here, to Wisconsin.

Was there a culture shock, or not really? 

Lacey: Not really. I’m like wow, there’s more turkeys here. {laughs}

And people really love this Badgers football team. 

Lacey: Oh yeah, the football thing is a little bit shocking, actually, because everybody’s into hockey (in Canada).

It’s still large people hitting each other at high speeds. 

Lacey: Yes. That’s what people want. {laughs}

Getting back to your music, you release your work via your own label, Steel Jacket Records. What have been some of the most difficult things you as label owners have had to say to yourselves as artists? 

Lacey: We always say the hardest thing is for us to not repeat ourselves.

Obviously we write a lot, and we produce a lot of music, so the hardest thing has definitely been for him to hold me accountable, and for me to hold him accountable when we’re writing. When he’s doing something, and I hear him do a riff, and I’m like, “That’s cool and everything, but it’s too much like something we’ve already done,” we have to be able to speak to each other like that.

Jason: Yeah, holding ourselves accountable, and being self-disciplined is probably the biggest challenge of owning the label, because we don’t have executives coming in from a label that we don’t own, listening to our songs, and saying, “I don’t hear a radio hit,” or, “Your songs sound too similar,” or, “I don’t know, is this kind of derivative of things you’ve already done?”

The things that label execs would say, those are the things we need to say to ourselves, and each other, so we need to be very careful about setting deadlines for ourselves, meeting the deadlines, and then holding ourselves to a high standard like a label would do.

In addition to the band, and the label, you two are a rock n roll power couple. How does music help keep you together? 

Lacey: I think music is the only thing keeping us together.

Just kidding. {laughs}

I think that it adds a level of respect to our relationship that maybe a lot of other people have to search for.

We own a business together, too, and that’s a really hard thing to do with your partner. I feel like the fact that we’re both doing our part, and we’re both doing a good job at it, it’s probably helpful that it’s because I don’t want to let him down, and I think he doesn’t want to let me down either.

I think now we have probably a little more respect for each other.

Jason: Yeah, it’s more a thing that holds us together. It’s a pretty cool thing. It’s something that most people don’t have. I think every couple needs to come up with some things that tie them together, and bond them, and help them get closer over time, and if it’s gotta be Netflix, it’s gotta be Netflix, but ..

Lacey: This is cooler, I think.

Jason: It’s a lot more fun.

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