Q&A with guitarist/singer Brock Alexander of The Old No. 5s, a Kansas City-based band make a formidable sound

"Music is universal and ALIVE because it conveys the human experience without the need of spoken languages. Similar to what I already said, I enjoy that there is so much music out there today. But, conversely, so much music also means people tend to block out music without knowing it. We block out the music at the grocery store, or in waiting rooms. Wouldn't all music benefit if it weren't shoved down our ears all the time."

The Old No. 5s: Kansas City Blues

Kansas City, MO has long been a breeding ground for great Afro-American music. From the jump blues of Big Joe Turner, to the jazz of Charlie Parker to more modern artists, KC has done more than its share to bring great tunes to the world. The Old No. 5s, made up of Brock Alexander (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Adam Watson (percussion, vocals), and Olie Bowden (bass, vocals), they are self-described formidable sound from the City of Fountains. Brock Alexander, band guitarist and vocalist, has been a part of The Old No. 5s since the band first started nearly 10 years ago. The lineup of band musicians has varied over the years and today Alexander is the only original member of the group but the high energy rock n roll vibes have remained consistent. Nearly 5 years ago as the band and its sound was evolving, Alexander recruited Adam Watson, a respected drummer and singer from a band with similar musical influences. And three years ago, the trio was completed when they met bass player Olie Bowden. 

(Photo: The Old No. 5s)

The Old No. 5s sound started with steady repertoire of classic blues/rock covers from musical icons like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Eric Clapton. Over time, the band’s vibe has broadened in range to include a spectrum ranging from country to blues to funk – regardless of the exact genre the band loves to crank up the rock n roll! The group balances a blend of classic covers and with their own originals, altering the 50/50 ratio to suit the audience. At Volleyball Beach, The Old No.5s tend to play more recognizable covers, tossing in an occasional original for the listeners’ enjoyment. The Old No. 5s have released their third album “Moment to Lose,” in August 2021. While previous albums exclusively featured the band members’ own work, the new album also includes a few special guests!

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

I would say I'm personally more influenced by the Beat movement as opposed to the counterculture. Everyone loves the music from the counterculture, sure, but let's not forget who inspired them in the first place (The Beats).

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My ideal description of my music would be much like The Beatles "White Album" - something in there for everybody. I tend to not worry so much about where the songs come from or what they sound like. I feel I mostly write for myself and usually the voice within songs is simply me having thoughts or conversations with myself about my own feelings or emotions.

What is the story behind band's name "The Old No.5s"?

It kind of means whatever YOU want it to mean. The simple answer is we were drinking Jack Daniels and just changed the 7 to a 5. The long drawn-out fabrication of the name is more like, "The Old No. 5" was Brando's favorite cigar...

"I would say I'm personally more influenced by the Beat movement as opposed to the counterculture. Everyone loves the music from the counterculture, sure, but let's not forget who inspired them in the first place (The Beats)." (Photo: Brock Alexander, Kansas City MO)

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

At this point even the shittiest gig is an opportunity to play and emotionally gift others with music. I am grateful for every show, regardless of circumstances.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Nobody likes a smartass. Be kind, no matter what. Humility will take you further than your music.

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

I'm certain that there are fewer and fewer places for artists and musicians to perform nowadays, and I'm probably still considered a pup in the game.  Makes me ponder how future artists or musicians will be able to refine their skills and music without venues to do so. The Internet is not a venue.

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

I would value the importance of creativity within music or anything for that matter. Its great to have so much musical content out there...but maybe if we elbowed some or made them B-sides instead of putting shit out all the time we'd be better off.

"My ideal description of my music would be much like The Beatles "White Album" - something in there for everybody. I tend to not worry so much about where the songs come from or what they sound like. I feel I mostly write for myself and usually the voice within songs is simply me having thoughts or conversations with myself about my own feelings or emotions." (Photo: The Old No. 5s, made up of Brock Alexander on vocals, guitar, keyboard; Adam Watson on percussion, vocals; and Olie Bowden on bass, vocals)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Music is universal and ALIVE because it conveys the human experience without the need of spoken languages. Similar to what I already said, I enjoy that there is so much music out there today. But, conversely, so much music also means people tend to block out music without knowing it. We block out the music at the grocery store, or in waiting rooms. Wouldn't all music benefit if it weren't shoved down our ears all the time.

What would you say characterizes Kansas City, MO blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes?

They play! I have lived in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Kansas City.  While everywhere seems to have "Jam Sessions" - Kansas City seems to have an abundance of places that are remarkably full of talented individuals and welcoming ears. Playing every night isn't a challenge here.

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

Hamburg, Germany in the early 60s...when the Beatles were there performing, before they were famous. "Mach Schau"

The Old No. 5s - Home

(Photo: The Old No. 5s)

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