Ex–San Diegan alt-rockers Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver are returning to the studio for the first time since 1995.
The new recordings will feature frontman Andrew McKeag, guitarist Dave Jass, bassist George Viduarri, and original drummer Paul Brewin, who left the band after the release of the group’s first album in 1994.
A single is due via Portland-based Red River Records later this year. The release will follow the label’s digital release on April 21 of the band’s two album’s, recorded for local label Headhunter: the self-titled debut and Chick Rock, which came out in 1995. Both will include demos and some of their irreverent live classic-rock covers. The releases are part of a digital relaunching of McKeag’s entire catalog, including almost a dozen groups, though not his work with indie-rock group the Presidents of the United States of America. Meanwhile, on Record Store Day, April 21, Red River will issue a seven-inch vinyl single by McKeag’s latest combo, Hard Roller.
Headed by guitarist Kasey Anderson, Red River’s roster includes such Americana-inclined artists as Eric Ambel and Dead Rock West. It was McKeag’s joining Anderson’s band, the Honkies, that started the ball rolling. “I saw [McKeag’s band] Shuggie many times and absolutely loved that band and wanted Andrew to revisit a couple of Shuggie tunes for the record my band was working on,” Anderson said. “One night I checked iTunes with the intention of downloading and learning the tunes, but there was no Shuggie to be found. That’s a pretty easy problem to remedy, and I figured it ought to be remedied, so that’s how all this came about. And if I’m going to re-release the Shuggie records, then that old Uncle Joe’s stuff might as well get a dusting off, too, right?”
UJBOD began to perform sporadic reunion concerts in 2006. While most shows have been local, they also opened for the Muffs in San Francisco in 2011. “We never really made a decision of any kind to make it a more regular thing,” said McKeag. “Tim [Mays] and others kept asking us to come play a gig here and there, and it was so much fun we couldn’t say no.”
He notes that while Brewin and Viduarri both still live in San Diego, he resides in Seattle and Jass in Minneapolis. “Logistically and financially, doing anything with UJBOD doesn’t really make any sense. We fly in a day early, rehearse somewhere, and then do the gig and get paid a fraction of what it costs to get us there. But it’s so damn much fun to play that we just do it anyway.”
The plan is to record only a couple of songs, but McKeag sees the band falling into its old ways as soon as they enter the studio. “Knowing UJBOD, there will probably be a cover song or two that finds its way to tape. Second single? Four-song EP? Who knows?”
McKeag notes that while the music remains much the same with UJBOD as it was in their heyday, the same can’t be said for the band members themselves. “What’s changed is that we’re fatter, older, and our hair is going gray and thinning at a rapid pace,” he joked. “And, we care even less about being good than we did then.”