When asked why Big Medicine Head keeps making music after all these years, Bob Gemmell, the band’s singer, lyricist and guitarist, sums it up: “We make the time.” They also take their time. The band’s forthcoming effort, The Handsome Years, due out next spring, was supposed be released before the 2013 Summer Love-Off—Big Medicine Head’s annual tour—but they knew the album wasn’t ready.
“There were some songs I didn’t want to rush,” Gemmell says. “So we backed up and said, ‘Some of the stuff we have lying around isn’t available anymore,’ and we also have some songs I wanted to re-sing and re-mix—so, we released Hobo, which is a combination of unreleased and remastered songs.” Two tracks from the new album—the country-tinged Americana number “Loretta in Laredo” and the bluesy rocker “Prayer Shack”—shine a light on a theme that appears throughout the band’s catalog: contemplating American culture through the lens of evangelism. “When I was a kid, I remember sitting in front of the TV and watching Billy Graham, and I was captivated,” Gemmell says. “The showmanship and the fervor that people like him spoke with—I just had this fascination with how people could believe something so much. And when we were doing Rex Hotel [their first record], there were a lot of scandals involving TV preachers. They’d be proselytizing and yet they’d be getting caught in hotel rooms with hookers. The hypocrisy just drove me. I really wanted to shine a light on that.” In addition to thought-provoking material, the normally electric band has something special in store for Friday’s Crepe Place gig. “This show is going to be really fun because we’re doing it more stripped down,” says Gemmell. “When we play acoustic, it’s closer to the way the songs were originally written. Also, I actually get to sing instead of trying to yell over all the instruments, so that’s fun too.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.