By Annie Bohling
March 24, 2017
Kris Lager Band’s new album is as feel-good, funky, bluesy and upbeat as their live shows.
The band will celebrate “Rise and Shine” with an album release show today at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln. The new album dropped in November, but this will be the first time Kris Lager Band will play the new album in Lincoln.
Just as it’s impossible to sit still at a live KLB show, the same is the case as soon as you hit “play” for “Rise and Shine.” This is especially true for the second track, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us.” And the third track. And so on. Things slow down for about three tracks sprinkled in, which show off the band’s dynamic talents.
The album is a true and mature representation of the band that brings original and fresh music full of funk, soul, blues, rock and roll and psychedelic rock influences, not to mention their radiating energy and positive vibes. If Nebraska had a shelf of flagship, prided albums, “Rise and Shine” would be an impressive addition.
The band has toured across the country and continues to be on the road seemingly more often than not.
“We spent December taking it to Florida and back,” Lager said. “In January and February, we were in the mountains and out west. Now we’re bringing it back home. Then we’re going on tour again through June.”
Kris Lager Band is able to bust out an array of old and new tunes on stage as Lager writes prolifically.
“I like being creative and expressive,” Lager said. “I feel like the audience deserves to know where I’m at now.”
Lager writes the songs, sings and plays guitar. He said he started playing music as a form of expression, founding the band 17 years ago, when he was 17, as “just a kid who loved playing guitar.” Then, he discovered the magic of transferring those written songs to the stage and from the stage to the audience.
“The main reason I perform on stage is to lift up other people’s spirits,” Lager said. “I feel like every musician who has toured has to ask themselves, ‘Why do I do this?’ and question what motivates them. Since 2009 or 2010, we’ve taken on the mission of lifting people’s spirits and making them happy. That’s the main purpose of music. It’s not about idolizing or celebritizing people. I’m just a dude that loves playing music.”
He said the band’s sound has naturally strengthened and evolved over the years.
“I grew up heavily influenced pretty much solely on blues guitar,” Lager said. “After a few more trips around the sun, I’ve spent time soaking up other influences, mostly funk. I fell in love with a lot of New Orleans style funk. And soul music, gospel, R&B, country and zydeco. I’ve expanded my sound a lot just by picking up and falling in more in love with more styles of music.”
The beauty of songwriting, Lager says, is that there are no rules. He writes songs in countless ways, he explained.
“Some are just on my guitar,” Lager said. “A few are written with me plugging a drum beat in my ears while I’m driving and writing it in my head and then later sitting down with a guitar and figuring out what I wrote in my head. Sometimes, I have a vocal line in my head. On this album alone, some songs start with guitar, beats, vocals or piano, because I play piano, too.”
A lot of the songs came to Lager and the band pretty easily, he said. They went into the recording process with 30-some songs, which were boiled down to the their top 16, Lager said.
Membership of the band has changed some of the years, but Lager said that hasn’t majorly affected the band’s sound.
“If it did, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a band leader,” he said. “That’s what I do – I tap into my guys and I find their strengths and run with it. … The major part of the sound starts with the drummer. I feel like the drum is the base, and the bass is the glue. As long as I got Scooby on the drums, I feel like the songs feel pretty consistent” along with Lager’s voice, guitar and writing, he added.
The band has a new bassist, Aaron Underwood of Wichita, Kan. Keyboardist Jeremiah Weir, who has been in the band with Lager for 15 years, is on the album and will play the Zoo Bar show Friday, but will not be on the KLB tour.
“My big hopes and dreams are bigger paychecks, larger crowds, tour buses, drivers, a manager. All that stuff – mostly so that I can provide better for my people,” Lager said. “My biggest dream is to keep doing it. … This has been my dream since I first picked up a guitar at 14.”
An immediate goal, Lager said, is to produce a ton of music and put it online where listeners can access it for free and donate if they can.
The album release show for Kris Lager Band’s “Rise and Shine” is at 9 p.m. at the Zoo Bar on Friday, March 24. There is no opening band. Preview the album at krislagerband.com.
Annie Bohling is one of KZUM’s tireless interns.