Interview With Tom Miller of The Righteous Kind: Pt. 1

L to R: B. Burrhuss Bran, Charles Ray, Tom Miller, Larry California

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Tom Miller – a.k.a “The Electric Bass Cat” – plays a particularly funked-up brand of 4-string in Gainesville’s The Righteous Kind, a psych throwback once described by bandleader Charles Ray as “The Beatles plus the Mooney Suzuki plus Ike plus both Elvises.”

In other words, TRK makes music to get high to.

From what I can tell, Tom does his part to – um – light the fuse of electric human love and, at this stage of the game, seems to have a pretty tight grasp on the whole rock ‘n roll thing. He’s currently helping The Righteous Kind promote its new garage-goes-Summer-of-Love album Wild Hibiscus. No truth to the rumor the liner notes double as hallucinogens, though you can check for yourself at Friday’s release party at the Atlantic.

I caught up with Tom outside of 8 Seconds at the third annual AM/FM Gainesville Music Showcase. In part one of our interview, we talk Bieb vs. Beatles and discuss the relative merits of ’60s teen idol Bobby Sherman.


Ana(b)log: Do you think you’re part of a retro revival? Seems like psychedelic music’s more popular…

Tom Miller: I’ve never heard any of the latest stuff. I don’t know if retro ever died. I’m not really interested in Justin Beieber or anything happening today. So I think retro is actually what I call the “neo retro” – the new old – which has just been around the whole time. People are probably tired of corporate Taco Bell music.

A: So what would not be corporate Taco Bell music?

TM: In today’s world or back in the day?

A: No, according to you…

TM: Janis Joplin wouldn’t make the first round of American Idol… I have very eclectic tastes, so I wouldn’t be a good judge of that. I don’t know. Justin Bieber – I guess he sings good, but you know, he’s like the Bobby Shermans. There’s always a cute dude who does fluffy music. It’s a great thing and everybody’s into it and lots of money gets generated, and he’s probably a great singer. But do you know any Bobby Sherman songs?

A: No, I don’t.

TM: Do you know any Justin Bieber songs?

A: So you don’t think he’s here to say…

TM: My question was “Do you know any Justin Bieber songs?”

A: No. I can’t name one.

TM: Do you know one lyric or one title?

A: Not one.

TM: He’s outselling The Beatles. So there you go. That’s what’s happening. Just like the Backstreet Boys did. Do you know any Backstreet Boys songs?

A: I do unfortunately.

TM: How many?

A: Three, maybe.

My favorite

TM: Wow. That’s amazing. How many Beatles songs do you know?

A: I know… all of them.

TM: How many Beethoven songs do you know?

A: Not many, unfortunately.

TM: Can you name three Beethoven songs?

A: I can name a Beethoven symphony.

TM: And you know when he was doing music. So it’s not an ageist thing or a time thing. It’s – other than the financial operation of music – is it worth anything? Does it tell a story? Does it make you feel something? At the very least, is it decent background music? So much on the radio is just so overcompressed and computerized. I shouldn’t say that – “without emotion” is what I’m trying to say. Because even computers can make great emotion. I know a lot of music that’s only made – you know, guys get in there and program stuff – but the music somehow carries an emotional content. And that to me is the thing that’s missing. I don’t really feel an honest emotion coming out of a lot of today’s music.

A: And so that’s what you’re going for in The Righteous Kind.

TM: Well, what we’re going for in The Righteous Kind – I’m pretty sure – is fun and rock ‘n roll. There’s really nothing complex about it at all. We want to have fun and we want to play rock ‘n roll. There’s nothing to read into it. You just show up, take your boobs out, run around naked and drink some stuff, jump around, freak out and smoke a joint.

A: Do those things happen at the typical Righteous Kind show?

TM: We’re trying to encourage more of that, but no… Maybe. All the stuff that used to be “rock ‘n roll” is now illegal.