Interview with John Garcia | By Hutch
Coming in from playing football with his son on a brisk autumn day, John Garcia answers the phone, ready to sit down. His son is going to eat. “He is 7 years old, a precocious 7,” he says. “And I have a 13-year-old daughter.” This day is moving into a quiet evening for the children while their dad—the iconic lead singer of desert rock legends, Kyuss—continues to answer journalists’ questions. Garcia has also fronted several other projects, like the killer Vista Chino, Slo Burn, and Unida. “He and I played some football, got done with the Christmas tree,” he continues. “It was good day.”
This relaxed Garcia seems to be a contrast to the fiery bellows that propelled Kyuss. However, this demeanor is perfectly reflective of his new acoustic record, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues, out now on Napalm Records.
The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues is a showcase of restraint. The overall impetus for this album was Garcia’s yearning for a challenge. “Making an acoustic album was not some box I wanted check off,” he says. Instead, he wanted to “not push wind in the normal way I sing, but in a more controlled manner in a new environment.” Defiantly claiming that this is not a “project,” but merely his band playing songs acoustically reiterates this as a mark of progress for Garcia.
The idea came to Garcia last year. “I wanted to do an acoustic tour,” he recalls. “My guitar player, Ehren [Groban], he was into it.” Garcia pauses, “We thought it was a good idea until we got into rehearsal studio. It was not as simple as one guitar, one vocal—[it’s] much more than that. There had to be some figuring-out to do.” Garcia explains that many choices regarding musical arrangement are embedded in this process; they could not simply play old songs on acoustic instruments. “‘What guitar did we use? Twelve-string? Nylon strings? Six-string steel? Do we add bass or percussion?’” he says, mimicking the problem-solving process.
Garcia does not even declare that the decisions he made were correct. As he delves into his approach, he admits to feeling trepidation, but “it is not perfect on purpose,” he assures. “We wanted people to hear Ehren breathing, the rattling of strings. Except for a little reverb, it was just raw. We used a six-band EQ shaped in a ‘V,’ instead of a 100- or 32-band EQ. We wanted to keep it simple.” When discussing The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues, the two words Garcia keeps repeating are “challenge” and “fun.”
Garcia goes through the different songs on the album, both Kyuss classics and ones from his self-titled 2014 solo debut. Garcia’s refrain of “challenge” appears again. “We thought it would be as simple as pressing a record,” he admits. “It proved a lot more challenging, but we figured [the songs] out.” He exudes pride when he references the beloved Kyuss track, “Green Machine.” “Taking a song like that from one end of the spectrum to the total other was an interesting challenge,” he says. Other songs that were reworked include “Space Cadet,” “Gardenia,” “The Hollingsworth Session,” and newer tunes like “Kylie,” “Give Me 250ml,” and “Court Order.”
“This record is not for everybody,” Garcia states frankly. “This record is not for a Saturday night raging party, but a Saturday night relaxing with your lady.” But the crowds have been digging it. The band’s European tour went very well. Garcia illustrates the ambience of the approach, explaining that they chose smaller venues, more intimate ones. Additionally, their presence was accented by their stage decor. “We brought Ehren’s living room from Palm Springs to Germany, Italy, and London,” Garcia reveals. “We had lamps and tables and a little bar. People responded well.”
Lucky audiences watching the soul-crooning frontman of Kyuss playing stripped-down songs in their living room? The recipe is obvious. But again, it’s Garcia’s calm eagerness that brings the oft-repeated description of “fun.” “Though it took a lot out of Ehren and me—emotionally and physically—the record came out super rad,” he concludes. “I’m stoked.”