Q&A with Tweed Feat. Gervis Myles: a band of the “soul-revival” movement with their own style of Memphis flavored music

"I can say this without prejudice that Blues music is essential to ones life. Weather they like it or not, weather a person actively listens or not, in some way it will influence them or impact them. We can say Blues music is a Black music born out of White oppression. One would not exist without the other."

Tweed Feat. Gervis Myles: Love Strong

Formed in late 2010, Tweed Funk garnered national attention with the release of 4 albums and dates throughout the Midwest, Northeast, and Southern United States. With the passing of front man Joseph “Smokey” Holman in October of 2017 due to complications from multiple myeloma cancer, the band has brought in Gervis Myles as the lead singer and now performs under the moniker of Tweed Featuring Gervis Myles. In preparation for a 2018 European Tour the band was in the process of writing material for a new album. With Gervis Myles on board, the band recorded, mixed, and released “Love Strong” (2019) in just 8 days, a 10-track album featuring 9 original songs. The album was initially released with limited availability for the European market only, in tandem with band’s 12 date tour playing festivals and clubs throughout in Europe.

Gervis Myles began singing in Church choirs as child and recorded on numerous albums as guest vocalist for local artists. He is with Milwaukee Blues band Idle Minds since 2009 featuring guitarist Jeff Dagenhardt (Hubert Sumlin and Charlie Musselwhite) and performed as guest vocalist with legendary Milwaukee harmonica player Jim Liban. On his many trips to Mississsippi Gervis met and was been mentored by BB King, Honey Boy Edwards and Jimmy "Duck" Holmes. Gervis is currently working on a new solo blues album of original music with Milwaukee producer Danny Zelonky (Lee Scratch Perry) with plans to release a vinyl single 2018. Embarking on European tribute tour spring 2018 to Milwaukee blues singer Smokey Holman with Tweed. The band are: Gervis Myles – Vocals, Eric Madunic - Bass/Keys/Vocals, Andrew Spadafora - Sax/Keys, Dave Schoepke - Drums/Vocals, and Randy Komberec - Guitar/Vocals.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Gospel influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

They all came together for me while sitting at a kitchen table in Indiana Mississippi with my Uncle Randle Carver. He asked me in a statement basically, "God does not expect to us to enjoy ourselves. I’m not supposed to listen to blues." I have had to come to terms with the age-old dilemma. God’s Music and the Devils Music. Whatever that means. I disappointed a lot of people when they found out I was singing Blues. But on the other hand, I made a lot of folks happy. And then there are those who like to hear me sing both. Both are to me truth. And both are one in the same. When I’ve sang a gospel song personally or heard one that has been done with heart and mind and spirit well it takes you to another place. Blues does the exact same thing. So, I see no difference. When they are combined, we get what I believe is Soul music. I love singing both so I guess that really makes me a Soul singer. A place of Joy, pain, love and hate that one has experienced. I never really understood either until I went through some shit.  Loss of love, death, racism on the job being a victim of crime looking at the state of the world and politics. the environment etc. A broken relationship kinda put me on the path but my Mother’s death hit me in a way that told me this shit is real. It always comes back to these 2 for me. Like the movie the Dark Crystal by Jim Henson back in the day. At times I am that piece that is placed back in the crystal that was missing.  So, to truly answer the question I think my journey has influenced my view on the music if I’m explaining it correctly. Hell, it’s one big circle.

What would you say characterizes Tweed feat. Gervis Myles in comparison to "Tweed Funk"? How do you describe band's songbook?

Prior to me being invited to join Tweed I think Tweed Funk was more Southern Soul based. I heard Memphis, and Malaco. They had them horns and Sweet voice of Smokey that reminds me of a cat putting his mack down with the horn riffs and background vocals to a funky beat with guitar and bass line with a sprinkle of guitar rhythm and licks. I mean this sound took me back to them days of my Mama and Daddy’s Tavern’s juke box. Songs that didn’t make main stream but those in the know knew. Tyrone Davis comes to mind and even a little Impression sound.

With me and I would be amiss not talking about Randy Kumbreck on Guitar and the rest of the cats they have this twist on the Blues that stays in a traditional pocket for a minute then goes to some places that is like yeah. RAW and hard. I throw in some lyrics that I have I based on a vision of the rhythm and guitar licks. I run it past the cats and I’ll be damned it fits. They let me stand in front of the mike and collar. They like what I do. Which is humbling. For me I’m trying to develop more melodic vocals to match what they are doing. I think the basis is more raw in that the trio of bass guitar and drums is like damn. When they messing around in rehearsal, I’m like wow! Then you throw in Andy on sax that just goes places outside here I go again am. We are finding our way. Myself I think I have various degrees of things inside my head as far as but as far as the sound I would have to quote and paraphrase Gate Mouth Brown. We Play World Music Milwaukee style. I would have to add my daddy in this because he had a record collection of 78’s and 33’s that would be worth millions today. From Jackie Gleason to Ramsey Louis and so many others in between. What we have is a unique blend of genres that have transcended time into a mix of who knows what. But at the core It is Blues.

"When I’ve sang a gospel song personally or heard one that has been done with heart and mind and spirit well it takes you to another place. Blues does the exact same thing. So, I see no difference. When they are combined, we get what I believe is Soul music."

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Acquaintances I can name dozens. Mrs. Baldwin my choir Director. Mr. Pollack My grade school teacher who would lead us a Capello in hymns with his Baritone operatic singing.  Dude was like man. I was like if I can do that without music I would be on my way. These were the early ones, The Mighty Stokes of Milwaukee a real deal Blues man. Jimmy “Duck Holmes” Little Jimmy Reed. These cats were the real deal Blues men I personally met along with BB King. But the encounter and personal talk I had with BB was it. “Always do your best.” Not nobody else’s best but your best.” It was my Mother who after a lot of persuasion put me on the path to meet him just prior to her death.  Hers was the most important cause I dismissed her belief in my singing Blues. Or singing period.  And I would say Jeff Dagenhardt who was close and personal friends of Hubert Sumlin who told me you can only be the best Gervis Sumlin there is because out of all the guitar players and duos he and Wolf are my favorite. My grandfather listening to Howlin Wolf. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes hat cat puts it down real. He gave me a history lesson on blues and blues men and told me write shit down because that comes from God.  Always keep a note pad by the bed for them late night messages. The cat is real. T Model Ford and Honey Boy Edwards who I met and had a chance to talk with. I mean as my Poppy told me, when you decide to go in a certain direction God puts people in your life who are going there also.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

A studio session that I recall that really took me was walking in on our drummer Dave Shopke adding some rhythm tracks to the song Love strong at Making Sausage.  You see I wrote that one myself and not being a musician of understanding theory and all that it was my first crack at something outside of a traditional 1 4 5 blues formats. Keep it Simple lyrics and other stuff.  I walked in and I’ll be dammed what was inside my head was now getting ready to be put out into the world. That is humbling and for people who hear that tune and dig it makes me feel like what Santana said, “Be a Weapon of Mass Compassion.” Cause as mad and hateful as I can be this song is really who I am and what I want for the world. Love Strong.  With Steve Hamilton the Wizard. I would add my experience at Steele Bridge and meeting and Talking with pat MacDonald. I had worked on a song for our group and presented it with him and next thing I know I am in the studio with Eric McFadden, Wally Ingram Cathy Grier and others and I’m like what the hell. I am one fortunate Dude.

And Finally, my recording session at National Recording Studi with Danny Zelonky when we recorded Element of Love and Thirsty on Analog.  That was Freaking cool because that’s the way they use to do it back in the day recording to tape. The sound of that record is like for me WOW! But the European scene in Kemnitzs and I believe Gailsdorf. Man, oh man Let me tell you. I felt we are doing this. The energy was phenomenal.

"Watching my family party when a particular record would come on the juke box in my dad’s tavern. Watching men cut loose and dance more than the women.  Seemed men danced more back then. Either with the pool stick, a broom stick or a can of beer. They would just dance and sing or bob their heads staring into the mirror.  What was going on, what were the emotions etc. For me it was folks like Little Milton and OV Wright that brought the stuff. The small but intense crowds, people buying a round for the house, all that..."

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

What I miss is the feel of a song that sounds like it’s fell off a truck and crashed and still stays together. It felt real. Not rehearsed though playing it a thousand times in clubs and what not is really the rehearsal but them cats back in the day had some feel, some soul, Maybe I can relate because growing up and takin them trips to Louisiana and Mississippi in the late 60’s into the 80’s and even now to some degree and listening to the folks talk. This shit is real. Ain’t nothin pretty bout life yet it was pretty cause they had each other and they shared that. Listening to these men and women talk then you’d hear some tune on the radio or juke box and you’d be like DAMNNNN! that’s what they was talking about. Wow! The clothes and hats. I hope that Blues does not die in that it will be lost by those who created it. That is my biggest FEAR.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That it could always just be fun. I had an experience recording with a cat I love dearly. But his way was the only way. Which I get at times is needed.  And what we did and where he took me was like damn! But at the same time if I’d stayed completely blinded to that vision I would not be where I am and currently going.  Which is I don’t know but it’s moving and not at all backwards. It’s moving. Hopefully I can return to that unfinished project but in the meantime, I am continuing my education on this experience with Tweed and another local group I sing with. I get calls to play the juke joints and small stages and big stages and I’m like Damn, look at me. This is real.

What touched (emotionally) you from the local (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) blues scene? What characterize the sound of?

Watching my family party when a particular record would come on the juke box in my dad’s tavern. Watching men cut loose and dance more than the women.  Seemed men danced more back then. Either with the pool stick, a broom stick or a can of beer. They would just dance and sing or bob their heads staring into the mirror.  What was going on, what were the emotions etc. For me it was folks like Little Milton and OV Wright that brought the stuff. The small but intense crowds, people buying a round for the house, all that...

"What I miss is the feel of a song that sounds like it’s fell off a truck and crashed and still stays together. It felt real.  Not rehearsed though playing it a thousand times in clubs and what not is really the rehearsal but them cats back in the day had some feel, some soul, Maybe I can relate because growing up and takin them trips to Louisiana and Mississippi in the late 60’s into the 80’s and even now to some degree and listening to the folks talk."

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

I can say this without prejudice that Blues music is essential to ones life. Weather they like it or not, weather a person actively listens or not, in some way it will influence them or impact them. We can say Blues music is a Black music born out of White oppression. One would not exist without the other. I can get mad at say White people for not hearing me or seeing me but when I grab the microphone and plug in a guitar and strike bend some notes with a story. You still may not acknowledge me but you cannot deny the spirit. Like Jesus in the Bible, he didn’t stand and argue or debate with folks about what was true. He put it out there and left you to decide what to do with what’s inside you. At the same time Black people in a lot of ways have turned their back on Blues. It’s old and out dated to some. But I don’t care I LOVE IT AND WILL ALWAYS LOVE IT. It helped me deal with racism in the work place because there is always a song to match the context.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I think I would wanna go to the Dockery Plantation and see and visit Charlie Patton teaching Howlin Wolf and Pops Staples. I would wanna see the day to day life of work and play. What made these cats. They were deep. I am not romanticizing this era cause they were lynching and torturing Black folks for simply passing them on the highway or drinking from a fountain or just because. That pain is real. I would want to really talk to them about life and what motivated them to do what they did.

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