The telephone rings over here at County Grind, and on the other end is Max Johnston, bass player for Miami band Plains, formerly of Pygmy and Down Home Southernaires. He wants to know if we can push the interview up so he can make it to the 10:15 showing of Lincoln, an incredibly hopeful undertaking for such a time of day. Suddenly he has an idea, says he'll call right back.
"That was Jorge (percussionist for Plains). We're going to hang out later and watch Dredd instead," he decides.
Well, now that he's on the phone...
No, we had practice earlier. Got some kinks worked out. You know, now I'm doing something else.
You play bass for Plains, but that's not the instrument you claim as your own.
Yeah, I have been playing the guitar for about fourteen years. Since I was thirteen. I wouldn't consider myself a bass player because the guitar has always been my thing, but when you play guitar it's easy to want to dabble in other stringed instruments, banjos and bass guitars. Bass has a similar feel to it so it's not too hard to make that transition.
Ok, so lets pretend we're driving to Churchill's. Is there anything you do before a show to get pumped? Do you sing along to "Eye Of The Tiger"?
I guess I don't have anything I really do before a show to get pumped. It's more like getting focused. You wind down a bit and you kind of say to yourself, "OK, I am going to get up there and play a show now," and then that's what you do. I kind of talk myself into it because it's not a usual thing.
Isn't it though? You've been in one band or another since you were seventeen.
True. I guess it just feels like that lately. This is our first show in a while. I'd say I've been on that Churchill's stage maybe about fifty times, you know with Pygmy, Downhome Southernaires, and Animal Tropical. I'm probably the most comfortable there. People expect there to be music there, so it's not like your ruining someone's drinking time with your music. You go to Churchill's because there's going to be music.
It's been about six months since your last show. Where has Plains been?
Well you know, a lot of bands play every weekend or at least a few times a month. I've been in bands where we've accepted almost every show that comes our way, just to get our name out there. Plains functions a bit differently. We want to be able to offer a bit more than a live performance, including videos and recordings. We just released a video that we recorded live, and we plan to record again later in the spring. We also all have work and families and things that get rough to coordinate around.
Plus, we don't want to wear it out or anything. We like to be a part of the music scene here, but there's room for everyone. We've got a good supply and demand ratio going on. Just when you thought you'd seen the last of us, we dangle another show out there.
In the business of dangling, then?
Yes ma'am. Dangling.
Jorge Rubiera is the drummer for Plains, but you've played with Jorge in bands previously. Do you consider yourself a dynamic duo of sorts?
Well, you know, the bands I've played with have kind of had this group of the same revolving members. It seems to have filtered down to Jorge and I from previous ventures. Playing with Mike McGinnis and Jorge Graupera is something different. It's kind of like Mexican food. Similar ingredients making up different dishes.
So, if Plains was a Mexican entrée, what would the breakdown of ingredients be?
I would say Jorge Rubiera is mole. That's the good stuff that you don't always get with a lot of Mexican restaurants. You know you found a good Mexican restaurant when they've got mole. Mike would be the meat. The protein. That variable that defines the whole meal. Jorge would be something like a salsa, but not your run of the mill type salsa. Or maybe like a hot sauce.
And so how does Max fit into this?
I guess I'd be beans. You know, you always get beans. There's got to be beans. Bass equals beans. I'll be beans.
Just for the record: Rocky or Rambo?