Dishwalla: An Interview

May 16. 2005 | By Jason Jurgens

In the survival of the fittest music business, Dishwalla has gone from the top of the rock food chain to the brink of commercial obscurity and they couldn’t appear happier. Nearly a decade since Pet Your Friends infiltrated the airwaves with the uber famous, oft misunderstood single “Counting Blue Cars,” Dishwalla continues to make girls wet (with tears) and guys envious. With the release of their new self-titled album, Dishwalla gets back to a gripping hard rock edge.

Having signed on at an independent label, Dishwalla has gained more control over their music and is intimately connecting with fans one show at a time, proving that life exists after commercial success…and may even be better. Their recent show at the Last Day Saloon in Santa Rosa revealed how they’ve matured into a formidable rock band with “Behind the Music” scars and plenty of juice left for radio America. Lead singer J.R Richards gives us a glimpse at Dishwalla today.

Owl: What lessons have you learned having traversed through the trenches of rock ‘n’ roll?

J.R. Richards: Don’t wear leather on a hot day. You can’t move in it…it sticks to you. I went through this rock ‘I’m gonna be Jim Morrison phase.’ I started playing in the south and I was rippin’ pants left and right. Truthfully, I’ve learned to try and know a little bit about everything. You don’t want to micromanage the people that you hire to work around you, but you want to know enough to have a good sense about how they’re doing. When we started we were pretty young (21 when we got signed) and we really had no sense about the business. Get a better grasp of what you’re doing than just singing or playing guitar especially if you are selling records because there is a lot of money being generated. We always joke that we’ve made a lot of other people rich. Keep an eye on things because they can happen quickly.

Dishwalla’s longevity is inspiring to young musicians…what’s the secret to staying together?

Don’t do it for the money. Concentrate on doing it because you love music and playing together. The band knows how to compromise well. It’s like being in a marriage; in fact we’ve outlasted many marriages. In those lean and dark periods, between albums and label changes, we would still show up and play music and have fun. I think the day that it’s not fun anymore is the day that we stop playing together whether we’re selling a million records or ten.

The new self-titled album has an edgier in your face vibe as opposed to your previous album “Opaline.” What can you attribute to the mood change?

Opaline came at a real dark period of label changes and realizing that it isn’t as easy as it seems to write a song, get it on the radio and have a hit. That was a difficult thing to do. We went through a lot of changes and that was very reflective of us trying to keep our heads together. This new record has more energy because we tried to capture the energy of a live performance in a studio recording. A lot of the songs were written during live performances and we got great feedback.

What is your greatest rock memory?

When I was really young I saw Billy Joel do a backflip off the piano live with my parents. That showed me that a piano had a place in rock.

The new single “Collide” seems to be about conflict…what does it refer to?

It refers to the people that I care about the most. For whatever reason, if we are hurt or unhappy we tend to beat up on the people we care about the most, probably because they’re the closest. We feel that comfortable that we can unleash on them. But at the same time I found myself doing it I would get disappointed at myself. The song is about not understanding why we do that and wanting not to do that again.

What are 5 albums you can’t live without?

Depeche Mode: Music for the Masses
Gordon Lightfoot: Gordon’s Gold
Peter Gabriel: So
U2: The Unforgettable Fire
Kingston Trio’s Greatest Hits

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