Glory Hallelujah

After working the Picket Line, Kevin Russell and the Gourds finally make a record as good as they are

Every now and then, Russell will run in to someone who owns a copy of the Picket Line Coyotes' Fashion Dogs, released in 1987, or 1990's We Shall Annex the Sudetenland. They might shout out a request for "Benevolent Dictator" or "Pills." And Russell's response is usually the same: "Get the hell outta here." He has long since moved beyond a band whose legacy consists of three cassettes. Russell will acknowledge that Ghosts of Hallelujah hints that he and Smith are inching ever closer to what they sounded like way back when. But it's just a function of having played live all these years, having to compete with barroom chitchat.

Russell would rather look ahead, though perhaps not too far. The new record was to be the last for the band's tiny label, Munich Records (based out of the Netherlands...and Austin), but they've decided to stick with it for one more album. Meanwhile, their friends keep getting deals with majors, though Russell insists he doesn't want to be in the Damnations' position. Not for anything.

"I know now this is the best way to do it," he says. "You just take your time and build your grassroots following around the U.S. and Europe. You don't make a lot of money, but you make a living, and over time you build this into something you make a lot of money at." Here, he laughs. "I don't like their music, but Phish has been very smart about it. That's the model we use--try to be as accessible to the fans as you can and just do it, and take as many years as you need. We're not messing around with a major label. You're screwed either way. If you don't sell, you're dropped, and you may lose your masters. And if you do sell, you're famous and you gotta make videos and be a pop star, and none of us want to do that. That would be a complete distraction. This is our lives we're talking about--our family, our homes, our music. We're trying to figure out how to make money and have a good life."

The Gourds perform March 6 at the Gypsy Tea Room. The Baptist Generals open.

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