Personality Crisis

Escaping the shadow of his former band, Tucson's Rich Hopkins has found a niche leading his band of Luminarios

In a sense, Hopkins has come full circle with Devolver, and that's a source of great contentment for him:

"It's not like I'm learning to sing anymore. I've finally found my voice as a singer; we've toned things down a bit and don't play as loud. Not every song is a 'rock' song. [laughing] Maybe after six or seven records I've finally learned how to 'get it' a little better! The musicians I'm with are better, and I think the songs are better, too. Now, I think in terms of making a record as diverse as possible. But it's taken this long to get to that point, and in a lot of ways, yeah, this might be the record I'd been wanting to do all along."

The Luminarios just returned from a six-week tour of Europe. It was Hopkins' seventh venture overseas, and his inroads in that market have charted a steady progression. For the past few years, he has jointly released Luminarios albums with his own San Jacinto label and with Germany's venerable Blue Rose Records, and the partnership has yielded a rising profile.

Noted Austrian music observer/archivist Georg Hammerer followed the group's recent Euro jaunt: "I'd have to say it was their best tour ever. The Luminarios are great performers; you get the impression these guys love playing the show, that it's not a job for them. Rich speaks no German but he has a very good ability to communicate with the audi-ence.

"The main reason for the growing audience is the constant touring; the radio stations over here only play Top 40, so that's the most important way to get known. The band is hot among music insiders here, and the albums are reviewed in the two most important music magazines in Germany, Musik Express and Rolling Stone."

Hopkins agrees that the tour and the growing attention overseas have afforded him the kinds of opportunities that eluded the Sidewinders/Sand Rubies in the States. "People over there really like roots-rock, the guitar bands and the singer-songwriters. It also seems like somebody at those two magazines really likes us, because they always review the records when they come out and it's always favorable. We finally cracked the Rolling Stone Readers' Poll, too, one of those Top 10 lists that appears in the back of each issue."

Despite the European stronghold -- the Luminarios return this summer to play some of the annual outdoor festivals -- Hopkins doesn't intend to ignore the American market. A fall or winter tour of the East Coast is in the planning stages, and word has it that a few U.S. labels have requested copies of Devolver. That's fine with him, but unlike younger musicians these days who misguidedly equate a label deal with artistic validation, Hopkins, who's been through the major label gristmill twice already, understands that patience is indeed a virtue.

"I'm pretty content to let Blue Rose handle the situation for the most part, and I can get enough copies to sell them over here [via Hopkins' Web site, www. sanjacintorecords.com]. For any band, there's a time and place, and things happen for a reason. One thing that happened on this trip was that a promoter from England came over to see us, and it looks like we'll be setting up a tour of England soon. So that's sort of the way it grows, and all you can do as a band is to be there to back it up.

"When Mike and Stefan and I are talking, we just kind of laugh and call ourselves 'the people's band.' We get along really well with the people we've met, and people really, really like us. We're not some inaccessible group that nobody can come up and talk to. That's a pretty good feeling, after all."

Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios are scheduled to perform on Friday, March 31, at the Arizona Roadhouse in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.

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