Chris Robinson calls his latest project, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, a “farm-to-table psychedelic rock band.” It’s a description that is both a tongue-in-cheek snub of corporate meddling in All Things Creative and a nod to the band’s growth from independent sonic experiment to relentless road poet-warriors.
The Brotherhood formed in Los Angeles in 2011 and embraces San Francisco as its kindred-spirit home away from home. Tuesday night the band brings its late ’60s and ’70s California jam and country-rock vibe to Harlow’s. Laurel Canyon (sort of) meets Haight-Ashbury as the cosmic echoes of the Grateful Dead, Flying Burrito Brothers and even Moby Grape resonate throughout material from the Brotherhood’s three studio albums of mostly bluesy, soulful, roots-flavored originals.
“We’re a locally sourced band,” said vocalist-guitarist Robinson last week by phone during a four-show run at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, amplifying that farm-to-table philosophy. “We have done everything DIY, and we’re gonna stick with that kind of routine and see what happens, because I think the real traction musically for us and for the audience is to maintain that.”
The Brotherhood includes lead guitarist Neal Casal (who has worked with Phil Lesh and Ryan Adams), former Black Crowes keyboardist Adam MacDougall, bassist Mark Dutton and session drummer George Sluppick.
The band released its first two records, “Big Moon Ritual” and “The Magic Door,” in 2012 after performing 118 live shows in 2011. When recording, band members set up in the studio just as they had on stage and played live on the floor. Their third album, “Phosphorescent Harvest,” which dropped in April, has a heavier production mindset in terms of overdubs and sonic texture and layering, and is a testament to Robinson’s deepening, more expansive songwriting partnership with Casal.
Robinson, 48, pulled the band together during one of the hiatuses of the Black Crowes, the Georgia-based rock band that he and his guitarist brother Rich started in 1984 while in high school. The Crowes released their first studio album in 1989, “Shake Your Money Maker,” and have since sold more than 30 million albums. Early in his career, Robinson drew media attention for moments of rock-star excess and marriages to actresses Lala Sloatman (niece of Frank Zappa) and Kate Hudson (daughter of Goldie Hawn). But his music, and its evolution, has always remained a primary focus.
“The Black Crowes were a blues-based, harder-rock band,” said Robinson. “This (Brotherhood) is more folk-oriented, jazz-oriented, more melodic. The one thing about the Black Crowes ego ride for 25 years was everyone wants to be louder than everyone else, which was kind of a pain … when all I have is the throat. So definitely one of the main design elements of what we wanted to do with this band is have the vocals, because all of us sing. We’re really into the harmonies.”
So does the Brotherhood feature a more-mature Robinson moving down a new path of enlightenment?
“It’s just a rock ’n’ roll band,” said Robinson. “But yeah. We’ve all been in lots of bands and made lots of records and been through lots of stuff, so if you can take all that energy and find the wisdom in it, then the difference between being a child and being an adult is not making the same mistakes and taking responsibility.
“There has to be some responsible part to it,” he continued. “You see Bono or whatever, talking about saving the world as he’s cramming his … music onto my Apple product. Martin Luther King wouldn’t have thought of that, homeboy. He was too busy really doing the work, you know. I really don’t like hearing millionaires talk about politics. But my point is, we are happy to have this clandestine scene. That’s how we started.”
Taking responsibility, however, doesn’t preclude having a good time with a few cold ones. On Tuesday, the Brotherhood will showcase a new collaboration – Brotherhood Steam Beer, made with San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing (maker of Anchor Steam). From the beer’s website: “A distinct malt bill gives the beer its copper color, and dry-hopping with Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops adds aromatic hints of citrus and mint.”
“I think we are cool with the fact that it’s not for everybody,” Robinson said about the band-endorsed beer. “It’s not exclusive. It’s not elitist.
“But it’s funny,” he added. “ And I can leave you with this: In the novel ‘Steppenwolf’ by Hermann Hesse, when the guide to the magic theater sees the magic door, over the magic door, the letters appear to him, and it says entrance not for everyone. But that is a question in your mind. It doesn’t say you can’t come in. It just says it’s not for everyone. But guess what? I don’t think the people that like this here beer are just anyone. So come on in, and see what I mean. Come on in.”
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
What: Boundary-dissolving psychedelic and country rock
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J St., Sacramento