The 88 gig at the Echo on Saturday, discuss working with Ray Davies on 'See My Friends'
"See My Friends," the recent solo album by erstwhile Kinks leader Ray Davies, has gained much attention for its boldfaced collaborators -- Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Corgan, Jon Bon Jovi, Mumford & Sons, Spoon and Black Francis among them.
But Davies’ most significant creative partner on the project may be local Los Angeles rockers the 88, who became the album's de facto backing band, providing support for three songs on the record, from Lucinda Williams’ poignant take on “Long Way From Home” to their own propulsive version of “David Watts,” a satirical rocker from the classic 1967 album "Something Else by the Kinks." “Davies asked us specifically if we wanted to do that song,” explains Keith Slettedahl, vocalist and guitarist for the 88 (at far right in the photo above). “We were playing it live, and I think he liked the way it sounded.”
The 88 originally encountered Davies when the band was handpicked to back him on a 2010 solo tour. “It was so out of nowhere,” Slettedahl says. “In the middle of recording our last record, we got a call saying Ray Davies was looking for a band.” Davies requested that the 88 demo three Kinks songs; the band complied, adding three more for extra credit. After getting the gig, Slettedahl was surprised to learn that Davies “doesn’t like to rehearse. We hadn’t even met him before our first show together! He didn’t even give us a list of what to do, so we just practiced a bunch of Kinks’ songs at random.”
The 88’s involvement with "See My Friends" began with the first session for the album: late rock legend Alex Chilton’s incendiary blast through “‘Til The End Of The Day.” Initially, Chilton and Davies laid down the song together, using just acoustic guitars, with the 88 fleshing it out later with the full band. “The track was so great in its original state, we didn’t want to touch it,” Slettedahl admits.
Afterward, Davies demonstrated that the respect between the musicians was mutual by supplying backing vocals for the 88's 2010 single, “They Ought to See You Now.” “It’s hard to stay even-keeled about it,” Slettedahl says. “Ray is a huge influence on my songwriting and music. Just to even meet the guy was just such a thrill.”
The 88 perform a Saturday evening show at the Echo as part of a benefit for the Matt Cwiertny Memorial Foundation, a charity devoted to finding a cure for the Epstein-Barr Virus and associated diseases. Taylor Locke (Rooney) & the Roughs will open the show at 6 p.m., and the 88 go on at 7 p.m.
-- Matt Diehl
Photo: The 88; from left, Anthony Zimmitti (drums), Adam Merrin (piano), Todd O’Keefe (bass) and Keith Slettedahl (vocals/guitar). Credit: from Big Hassle