It would be unfair to call Pokey LaFarge your run of the mill road weary traveling musician. Pokey does his stage name a disservice by maximizing any and all time off from the road through renovating and flipping properties in his hometown of St. Louis. In fact, when Pokey and I held out call, he had just finished “knocking down walls and scraping pigeon shit off” of a friend’s property.
In a way, Pokey’s environment in St. Louis sounds eerily similar to Nashville all of about four or five years ago, and in St. Louis’ case, Pokey could very well be the bastion of cultural idealism that spearheads St. Louis’ own revival, a la Jack White in Nashville.
There’s an innate understanding that a good thing requires more commitment to sweat equity rather than talent and general proximity. Point and case being the home renovations – Pokey doesn’t sit idly by waiting for things to fall into his lap.
The same concept of idle hands being the devil’s workshop can be attributed to Pokey’s approach to songwriting and recording in general, minus the detriment brought about by sitting on one’s hands. Pokey knows that any and all projects – be it recording or renovating – require some time and patient finesse (then again, most things do).
Pokey does what he wants, but knows that the most desirable outcome invites a particularly trying pathway.
“It seems like anything you want to do – well, they don’t call it an endeavor for nothing.”
Pokey LaFarge released his eighth studio full-length, Manic Revelations, this past May, and as it turns out, it was a long time coming. Pokey had been sitting on the album for the better part of two years. Granted, the 730 days of relative down time did grant Pokey the time to dive deep into his own house flipping “endeavor” and undoubtedly keep up with baseball a little more intently (“Be careful, I could talk to you [about baseball] until your ears bleed,” says Pokey).
But in the end, much like the album’s namesake, Pokey came to realize that his innate need to create with a certain “frequency” had only grown stronger. In turn, the call to the road was stronger than ever. He’s upped his game in when it comes to creative production, which in turn means there’s a glut of new music to follow the new music off of Manic Revelations.
“Its kind of like being a neurotic dog. When your owner leaves home, you know you shouldn’t chew through that screen to get inside. Or you know you shouldn’t chew through the couch, but you’re going to anyway, because you have to.”
While the tour is on the front end of its journey when this article runs, Pokey is already undoubtedly looking forward to demoing out on the road, as he continues to build out his new American songbook. But that’s not to say he and his South City crew won’t be simultaneously crushing it on the road. Naturally, Pokey likened it to a professional baseball team.
“Its kind of like a baseball team, where the front offices put together the team, and you have to go out onto the field and execute. So that’s what we’re kind of going to try and do. Go out there and do our job, try to live in the moment and make some memories.”
For Pokey, his approach to life as an artist, a creator, a musician, and everything in between is eerily similar to that of a professional athlete. Every day needs to show some sort of incremental improvement, or as Pokey puts it, “evolution.” He’s always writing, but in demoing throughout the tour with the touring band makes for an interesting dynamic that might not be as accessible off the road. Such was the case for Manic Revelations, and despite ending up with an exceptional outcome, Pokey is down for something a little “weirder.”
“But let’s say you’re recording a record, you’ll probably want to get drums and bass down first, behind a scratch track and vocals later. Well, in this case, in terms of time, obviously, while we’re on tour, having a day here, a day there – you don’t really have that much time to fucks with all that stuff. So you know, maybe just get in and set up some mics and say “Hey let’s get weird.” And you record it all live, so you can get it in the can, as a point of reference if nothing else.”
So while Pokey and his band take the road by storm in support of Manic Revelations, don’t be surprised if you see your perception of the traveling bard change throughout the summer and into fall, because he’s going after those evolutions with a conviction that’s bound to excite in a way far different from Manic Revolutions.
“I think it helps the band and the team be more a part of those further evolutions. Like, with ‘Manic Revelations,’ being off the road for so long, kind of doing our own thing. I came to the guys with totally different songs. Like even in their infancy, those songs are totally different that they are on the album. They’re not fully realized either. So the songs can be perceived, or misperceived. You know, just because a song isn’t fully realized, and it can be a shock if every day, every week hearing all the different things I’m listening to like writing every day along with the things that I’m experiencing every day of my life. So its even more of a shock for the listener, because its just like boom, here it is. And that’s why I wanted to put music out more frequently, to show a deeper side.”
A man of deep convictions and deep perspective, Pokey LaFarge may have made some Manic Revelations in the past and even the present, but in the coming months, he’s bound to be nothing short of the standard for how an artist operates in the ever changing, evolving, and weird world of music today.
Pokey LaFarge will play the Mercy Lounge this Thursday (6/22) with support from Lillie Mae.