Calen Lucas and I had lunch with Chris Hillman once. “The Byrds guy, right?” he says. Exactly. We’d both been invited to a private luncheon with Hillman and his wife that preceded the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s appearance at Point Loma Nazarene University’s writers’ conference last year. Lucas had taken the opportunity on that day to slip me a copy of his own EP. He was a student there, and he was just starting a band, he’d said. He called it Family Wagon. Lucas calls from Huntington Beach, but a Kansas area code shows up on my cell. “I grew up on a farm there. 7000 acres of wheat and corn,” he says. “I’m still on the family phone plan.” Will he ever go back to farming? “Hopefully not.”
Family Wagon is logging some road time. They’re headed, he says, for shows in San Francisco. I wonder if the farming lifestyle has informed Family Wagon’s music in any way. Lucas is not entirely sure. “There’s a vintage feel,” he says, “but without some of the redundancy. It’s pretty simple, but not exactly three-chord rock.” What do I hear? Family Wagon’s family tree has Bad Company and Free and Mountain in it — with Randy Newman as producer.
Point Loma is a long way from Kansas. “I grew up in the Nazarene church, so it was predisposed that I would go to one of those schools. I got recruited by Point Loma to run track. Once I saw the ocean, there was no turning back.” This spring, Family Wagon crashed SXSW and played before the assemblage of music-industry types that mass-migrate annually to Austin, but they left with no record deal, says Lucas. They’ll go back next year. “Until someone tells us flat out, ‘No, you’ll not be a rock star,’ we’re gonna keep at it.”
Conveyor and Bangladesh also perform.
Family Wagon: Soda Bar, Sunday, July 22, 619-255-7224, 8:30 p.m., $5.