Music News

What the Heck's a Limbeck?

Gathered around the low, round hotel table, four booze-broken musicians out of Orange County, California, lean forward with goofy but tired smiles and introduce themselves to the tape recorder that stands before them.

"Hi, my name is Robb."

"Hi, my name is Patrick."

"Hi, my name is Justin."

The fourth, a quiet newcomer to the band who will later blame his relative silence on his rookie status, mutters, "My name is Jon."

Beside him, guitarist Patrick Carrie (also harmonica, electric sitar, glockenspiel, gong, and beard enthusiast) flexes his vocal muscles and declares, "Together we are Liiiiiiiimbeeeeeeck!"

It's Sunday morning, technically the last day of the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. Musicians and industry cronies are fleeing town as quickly as possible. Limbeck, a cocktail of Jayhawks roots rock and Shins dream pop, is part of the exodus. Three shows, tons of parties, and too much drinking have taken their toll.

"He takes the drunk title of the week," Carrie laughs, pointing a finger at lead singer/guitarist Robb MacLean (like Carrie, a beard enthusiast).

"I don't really remember what I did," MacLean admits, sinking in his seat. "I think my girlfriend is going to tell me. I know I was trying to talk to her last night, but I couldn't talk. I was in the worst shape I've ever been."

This is par for the course for some of the hardiest partiers in the biz. Even the All-American Rejects, former tourmates, have tipped their hats to Limbeck's collective love of the bottle: "The band Limbeck — they're badass drinkers," Rejects frontman Tyson Ritter told Rolling Stone. "You have no idea the kingdom of drunkenness that this band reigns over." Hell, the boozing might have even been to blame for the departure of original drummer Matt Stephens last August (when newbie Jon Phillip joined). Bassist Justin Entsminger, the only original member of a band that spent its nascent years in flux, calls the split "a mutual thing," but that sounds as hokey as a divorce being called an "amicable split."

"Matt doesn't drink," Carrie says. This comes out of his mouth like a punch line.

Limbeck, in case the picture isn't coming together for you, is that rare mix of work ethic and irreverence. Band members bust their asses on a nightly basis, doing whatever it takes to expand their fan base while marinating their livers and fucking with every incompetent journalist who comes their way. Take, for instance, the many rumors that surround the origin of the band's name.

"Which one's your favorite?" MacLean asks, grinning.

There are a few, with mutations even more numerous. The one that everyone buys is about the late, great star of the Milwaukee Brewers, Don Limbeck; apparently, he was the ill-fated hero of a World Series a few decades ago. Or maybe not.

"We got fact-checked by that one," MacLean says. "We had an interviewer call three days later and say, 'The Brewers were never in the World Series in 1979, nor was there ever a player on the roster called Don Limbeck. '"

The real fun begins when you Google Don Limbeck and discover at least a dozen references to his legend. In the Oregon Music Guide, the band claims he was killed in an accident following five home runs that brought his team to victory in the 1978 World Series. To, Carrie asserted that Limbeck died on the way to Vegas in a plane crash after hitting those homers.

Carrie is laughing now. "We've told that story countless times, and there's only been one other person who called us on it," he says. "Just goes to show people don't do their homework."

It turns out that the real-ish story behind the odd name has more to do with '80s actor turned Christian nutjob Willie Aames, star of Charles in Charge. He played Buddy Lembeck, the sidekick of nanny Charles, played by superthespian Scott Baio. Entsminger and some high school bands decided to name their pop-punk band the Bastards of Limbeck (misspelling the name, notice), but the odd moniker hurt the feelings of a classmate whose father happened to be Willie Aames. To spare the guy insult (after all, he already had to deal with the fact that his father was Buddy Lembeck), Entsminger renamed the band Limbeck.

The transition from high school pop-punk band to ethereal roots rockers was a slow one that began with the reshuffling of the band's lineup, bringing MacLean and Carrie onboard shortly after graduation. Along the way, an EP that sounded a lot like Green Day appeared, as did a Bastards of Limbeck record, now out of print, titled This Chapter Is Called Titles. "There were three years between that and [our follow-up] Everything Is Great," Entsminger says, "so people didn't hear the transition. There was just such a big period that people didn't hear, and they automatically assumed we changed our sound. But it was a gradual thing."

Their latest release, Let Me Come Home, was recorded entirely on analog tape after working through and rehearsing songs MacLean showed up with on early studio mornings. Consequently, there's a raw immediacy to the sound, but somehow the rough edges only reflect the fun the four had as they recorded the album.

"We didn't like switch over, like, 'Wow, this is our new sound,'" Carrie explains. "It was just getting comfortable with our sound. We sucked for a long time. Now we're decent. We're all right. But it's just us getting comfortable playing our instruments and playing what we dig playing. There's definitely some country stuff and definitely some hints of our past — we were definitely into pop-punk."

"Still are," MacLean interrupts.

"That melodic element, that catchy element is still around," Carrie continues. "I guess we got the best of both."

Behind MacLean, Limbeck's tour manager, John Cheese (yet another beard connoisseur), appears, crossed arms draped across the back of the chair. He listens to the conversation for a moment, but it's clear it's time for Limbeck to make its escape from Austin too. South by Southwest 2006 is history — just like the late, great Don Limbeck.

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Cole Haddon