Calling on classics

People’s Blues of Richmond (PBR) is taking their audiences back to what they call “heavy and raw” Rock ‘n’ Roll/Blues music with the release of their first album. RVANews sits down with this Richmond-based trio to learn about the band, the vision, and the experience.

In the arena of homegrown tunes, one Richmond-based trio, People’s Blues of Richmond (PBR), is taking their audiences back to what they call “heavy and raw” Rock ‘n’ Roll/Blues music mixed with touches of folk tunes and psychedelic sounds.

The three say they formed about a year and a half ago and recently released their first studio album, “Hard-On Blues,” this past June.

Here RVANews sits down with PBR vocalist and guitarist, Tim Beavers (21); drummer, Raphael Katchinoff (23); and bassist, Matthew Volkes (21) to learn about the band, the vision, and the experience.

How did PBR get started?

Beavers: We (Beavers and Volkes) both came out of the same suburbs, so we knew each other from high school. We met Raphael in a bar.

Katchinoff: I used to do open mic nights down at Emilio’s.

What are your inspirations, (musical among others)?

Volkes: The Black Keys, Howling Wolf, Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, Robert Johnson — anything we can get our hands on from before now.

Beavers: Drug abuse and failed relationships with women.

Katchinoff: Alcohol, brick work, and really cold pavement.

Brick work?

Katchinoff: Well, Richmond is known for its architecture, and I think we’re heavily inspired by the look and feel of this city.

What challenges has PBR faced while emerging in the Richmond music scene?

Beavers: With three people hanging out a lot as friends and playing together — being on the road a lot — but also being business partners, that’s been the biggest challenge for me.

Other than that, it’s been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. A lot of bars won’t even listen to demos, they’ll just take your word for it and let you play. Hanging out and talking to people is really easy, and I think some bands may struggle with that.

I mean, gas money sucks too.

How would you compare Richmond’s music scene to those in other cities?

Beavers: We’ve been to a lot of other cities that have more blind musical support. If you play a show here and nobody knows who you are then not a lot of people come out. But there are a lot more places out of town where people will check out a scene, not because they know who the band is but because there is music playing.

Katchinoff: The music scene is really close here, but you’ll find people usually stick with what they know or have done, like specific genres. This city has so much to offer musically and it’s interesting what people don’t go to check out, and what bands they pass on because they’re different. A lot of people don’t go out to as many shows as people in other cities too.

How would you describe your sound and what you want to do musically on your first album?

Beavers: I wrote a lot of folk tunes a couple of years ago and a lot of those were up for consideration for songs that we might play with this band, but I pretty much said no to all of them and wrote a lot of songs for this Rock ‘n’ Roll band. I didn’t want any filler on (the album), I wanted it to be heavy. It’s the youngest album I’m going to make so I wanted it to be young and raw and express a lot of youthful values.

Musically, just getting back to Rock ‘n’ Roll/Blues. It was fun working in the studio. We got to make some stuff more psychedelic than I had planned.

Katchinoff: Tim wrote a bunch of songs and the songs we have on the album, we worked on together. The album turned out really well. We had a bunch of friends who came and sat in on the record for us. Like Tim said, we wanted it real heavy.

Volkes: I wanted to produce what some call baby-makin’ music and for it to be real heavy and raw. Yea, we did have some friends sit in but it wasn’t like we had somebody sitting over our shoulder — telling us it should be this way or that way. It turned out how we wanted it to turn out.

You all seem to strive for a “heavy and raw” sound. Can you elaborate on what that means exactly?

Beavers: Yea, just a lot of distortion on the guitar and my singing can’t be described as beautiful or melodic—my throat by definition is raw.

Raphael beats the shit out of the drums too, and some of our live recordings come out like a drum song with guitar and bass in the background. It’s really heavy in that aspect and we bring a lot of energy to it.

Matthew’s bass playing is from a couple different directions that really come together well. He’s really good at adopting different styles, genres. Like if I write a song and was listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin at the time I wrote it, he can listen to a lot of John Paul Jones and write a cool bass line to it. His Blues training it unlike any other bass player that I’ve played with.

How would you describe PBR’s relationship with its fans?

Beavers: They like to get drunk with us. At the beginning of the night we see people being more calm and held-back but luckily it’s a lot of our friends out there anyway and they come out and hang out.

Volkes: We build off their energy though. If we play a show and no one’s there, we try out hardest to but when you’ve got a room full of your friends, there’s nothing like it.

Beavers: We get a lot of people who will come up to us at the end of our shows and say, “You know, I’m going to be at all your shows from now on,” or “I’m a new fan.” I’ve never been in a band before where so many people who hadn’t known us, come up and tell us they’re going to follow us.

Does PBR tend to stay local?

Volkes: Actually we’ve been really working on traveling out of Richmond a lot lately. When we first got together we headed up to Vermont on this crazy adventure—we played for free, ended up spending a bunch of money and had the best weekend so after that we try to get out of town as much as we can.

We’ve been to Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina and played at a lot of the colleges around the area like VCU, Longwood (University), and James Madison University.

As far as in Richmond goes, we’ve played at The National a couple of times, Hat Factory, The Camel — any bar really.

PBR has some festivals planned in the upcoming months. How do these compare to regular shows?

Beavers: We just got into playing festivals. As far as headlining goes, we haven’t played as much with other bands in or around Richmond so we’ve mostly been playing three-hour shows at local bars but with festivals — we’re just getting our name out there and we have a lot of support from people who are starting to come out to watch us play.

Where will PBR be five years from now?

Volkes: I have a five dollar bet with someone that within four years we can get on a late-night TV show. That’s really what the whole bands about — the five dollar bet.

Katchinoff: Probably keeled over in an alley somewhere.

Volkes: He has woken up in a dumpster.

Katchinoff: It was a rare occasion. I have no idea what happened.

Beavers: Well, in the next two years I think we’re going to be infinitely busy with touring and we’re going to be playing a lot more festivals. I think the ones we have coming up are going to go really fucking well. I think we have something different to offer—we’re a different style and we’re going to stick out from the other bands. You don’t see bands like the Black Keys at festivals usually, so I think that’ll help. I also think we’re still relevant to the young crowd too. I also want to make as many records as possible.

How has the experience been playing in PBR?

Katchinoff: It’s been a wild ride, I’ll tell you that.

Beavers: I’m glad we’re here in Richmond and I think there’s a lot more to come from us.

PBR will be playing at The Big Up Festival on August 5 at the Sunnyview Farm in Ghent, NY and at Elysian Fields, which will take place August 6 through 8 at Huntingdon Farm in Boyce, Virginia. For more information about PBR and to sample some of their music visit the their website, Myspace page, or Facebook page.

(Pictured from left to right: Matthew Volkes, Raphael Katchinoff, and Tim Beavers)

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Erica Terrini

Erica Terrini is a contributing writer for RVANews and currently attends Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is also the executive editor for The Commonwealth Times. During her time in Richmond, she has gotten used to running around like a crazy person with a never-ending checklist in her pursuit to report the local news of a thriving, raw, and pretty fly city.

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