Recently, Lehe was officially diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, which means he is losing his hearing in a big way and will need to drastically alter his career plans in the days ahead. It’s a tough blow but one that makes this band’s debut, Cocoon (receiving official release at the Sweetwater this week and available online here), all the more special. Rounded out by the rhythm section of bassist Mark Murphy (Izabella, Huckle) and drummer Zach Bowden (Jackie Greene), the Fulero/Lehe Band has the feel of a beginning of something special, a combination that allows hitherto unknown talents to shine, a collaboration that sparks the best in those involved.
“The prog thing is there, but it was really that epic night with Everyone Orchestra that created an instant connection. We walked away thinking, ‘I want to play more with that guy!’ Then, I saw Izabella not long after that and thought they were a good band, but more, I thought, ‘That guitar player…and that bass player are fantastic! I want to steal them away and do a rock band!’ [laughs]. The more we hung out the more we realized we had exceptionally similar listening tastes,” says Fulero. “I’m a little more classically trained than Sean, and he’s a little more of a psychedelic warrior than I am. In that way, we push each other a little bit. It’s really great finding somebody along the way that you feel that kind of kindred connection to. It just seemed that everywhere we went we would run into each other – High Sierra, some show in Seattle – and after a while we said, ‘We need to do something together.’ I’ve dreamed of having a rock band for ages. After playing with Scott Law for so long, I was really missing that classic rock quartet thing.”
Cocoon finds the band putting a lot of this theory into practice. The songs working in the studio setting but suggesting in classic jam band fashion the scintillating live extrapolations to come hiding in the notes.
By Steve Kennedy-Williams
“I had never worked with the drummer before but Sean and he had worked together in The Bumptet. So, we didn’t have a full-time drummer. We’d worked with a bunch of different drummers including Dave Brogan (ALO). But when it came time to do the record it just made sense to use Zach,” says Fulero. “I had never actually met Zach before the first day of recording, but he’s such a talented guy that it went well. He has such a natural feel for all the general grooves in the book. We were looking for some fairly classic things, so he was able to go to his natural tendencies.”
“[As producer on the album], I didn’t add as much as it seems. I mostly worked and reworked the mix and fixed some vocals, but other than that all of it was laid down in the original three day session,” says Fulero. “We didn’t fix any solos or backing parts. I might have done a few editing things to tweak timing here and there, but it was mainly mixing. We didn’t have a big budget to go into a big studio and spend a bunch of days getting mix right, so I kept at it at home. After three or four tries, I hit upon a feel that was fairly classic but also had a modern energy. I wanted it to be modern rock with a classic feel.”
Opener “Time Goes By” has an unmistakable Steely Dan feel, the jazzier end of rock explored delightedly, but Fulero explains that their influences haunt the entire album.
“This is also a chance to step up and be a lead singer as well,” continues Fulero. “Both of us are singers and songwriters who love the power of the voice. I don’t either of us are the greatest singer in the world, but that never stopped lots of people [laughs].”
Despite their gusto for the project, Lehe’s health issues have drastically altered the original vision for Fulero/Lehe.
“At this time, I’m getting two or three vertigo attacks per week, where I have to grab something and ease myself down to the ground. They’re called drop attacks. It’s definitely a scary thing,” continues Lehe. “It makes it hard to tour, but I’m a performer – that’s where my heart and soul are at. It’s what I do. I play live music. But what I think is in the future I’m done playing loud, drunken bars. That’s not going to be part of my life anymore. I’ll be moving into quieter instrumental music. I have a new project here in Sacramento called Wires and Wood with my good friend who plays mandolin and Weissenborn, and we have a stand-up bass player and percussionist. The instrumentation is almost exactly the same as the Garcia-Grisman group, but we’re leaning more towards instrumental stuff. I’m also doing this thing called The Bumptet, which I’ll be releasing the debut for in a few months, which is a tribute to my brother, who passed away last year. In the future, I’m going to need to rely more on direct connections to get my music out to people. My time of playing 120 gigs every year is coming to a close. But if I am going deaf then I’m going to get in as much playing as I can before then.”
The Fulero/Lehe Band performs Thursday, April 26, at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA with special guest Garrin Benfield opening the show.
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