As much as he thrives on being a road warrior, there's plenty of things Robert Jon Burrison of Robert Jon and the Wreck likes to come home to when he's not on tour. They're simple pleasures, really-- sipping a whiskey and coke at Memphis Cafe, hanging out with friends, and getting into random conversations with strangers about his facial hair.
"It's not really a beard because there's nothing on the sides," Burrison says, his words escaping through his bushy, blonde goatee that reaches well below his shirt collar. "But around here, dudes come up to me and go 'Hey, nice beard bro.' And you're like 'Cool man. So where does this conversation goes from here?'
It's not just the dudes though. While at Memphis giving an interview, a woman sitting nearby requested to touch the goat, caressing it with her fingers. "They're just jealous because they can't grow it like this," she says."
"Nah they're jealous because they have a 9-5 job and they're not allowed to grow it like this," Burrison says.
A steady job isn't something Burrison or his band have had much time for lately. The last few months since the release of their album Glory Bound have been busy on tour, spreading their gospel of Southern rock, blues and Americana. Since Day One, their sound has been unapologetically 'Merican. And while they may be one in a sea of bands striving to capture that sound on the west coast, they'll be the first ones to say that their style has found greener pastures elsewhere, not only in the south and mid-west, but especially in Europe. They just got back from a non-stop, two month European tour playing everywhere from Germany to Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and France, setting up for crowds often three or four times the size of what they're used to in OC. It's proven in the past to be a reality for local artists like Walter Trout, who can make a killing across the pond without the same level of recognition back home.
"Over there it's just a lot more fans. It's weird you can't even compare it," Burrison says. "It was an awesome experience but on the other hand it sucks to come home after that because we had this awesome energy out there."
Of course their homecoming show with their buddies Jeramiah Red at Slidebar should garner a warm welcome. With it being their first show back since February and they're first summer off the road in a while, the opportunity for a mutual love fest with the locals is long overdue.
It's also good to come back with a little more knowledge and some international dirt on their boots.Though Burrison was used to life on tour as a solo artist prior to starting the band, he says he and guitarist Chris Butcher, drummer Andrew Espantman, keyboardist Steve Maggiora and bassist Dave Pelusi (who replaced Nick Phakpiseth right before the band went on the European tour) have definitely come a long way from who they were when they started. Touring has forced them all to think on their feet and seize the moment when opportunities come their way, including their shot at opening for Long Beach-based buzz band Rival Sons on the East Coast after touring Europe.
"Things just happen so quickly," Burrison says. "Like the Rival Sons Tour that we did, we booked that after our CD release, a week before we left for Europe. Nothing's ever just laid out on a platter. And for a band our size we have to take what we can get."
Of course, sharing the hard charging riffs of Glory Bound at a place like Irving Plaza only added fuel to their fire for Europe which garnered them a response they weren't used to seeing after linking up with promoters Teenage Head Music who promoted them to death before anyone in the countries they visited had ever seen them live.
"When we came over there was already posters for our shows everywhere weeks before and people were curious and excited to see us, it's not something we're necessarily used to here," Burrison says. Considering they're a band whose won their fair share of OC Music Awards (including Best Live Band in 2013) that's kinda saying something.
So can we expect the guys to be a little more spoiled now that they've tasted success elsewhere? Yeah, probably. But luckily they have OC to keep them grounded--even if they do get their egos and facial hair stroked by the public from time to time. Plus they've chosen a good time to ground themselves as well.
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"This is the first summer they haven't been on the road," Burrison says. "It'll be nice to actually experience a California summer for once."
Robert Jon and the Wreck perform with Jeramiah Redand the Van Eps at Slidebar on Saturday, June 20 at Slidebar. 8 p.m. Free show. For more info, click here.