Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Questions With... Andy Fleming of Brother Trucker (Or Actually, Four)

Andy Fleming playing at the Fire Trucker Brewery in August
(Photo by Bonita Crowe)

I spoke with Andy Fleming briefly outside of el Bait Shop a couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday night. His band, Brother Trucker has been in the habit of playing there on the first Wednesday of every month, and coming into December, it had been announced that this particular night would be the last go-round for this monthly tradition. 

Jeff Bruning, or Bruno as he is known as publicly, is an owner of el Bait and the driving force behind the establishment's marketing genius. On KXnO's Morning Rush show several weeks ago he said that the music gets too loud, and in the winter time people don't have access to the patio like they during the summer. Bruno is a regular guest on the Morning Rush show, where once a week he goes into the KXnO studio and discusses everything that's new and exciting in the national brewing culture.

He went on to explain that when el Bait opened, there wasn't a hotel downtown, and his clientele wasn't as based on that fact as it is now. "We've had bands in that have been too loud and we've had people leave," he said. "We decided to just stop having bands play. At least for now."

Thankfully, he had a change of heart. Before Brother Trucker played a single note, Bruno announced that he was going to keep the first Wednesday of the month tradition going into the new year. Great news for fans of Brother Trucker. The fact that the place was absolutely packed might have had something to do with that. When I arrived shortly after 8:00, I didn't see too many people who weren't there to see the band. The place was feisty and jubilant.

After the band's initial set, Andy made his way outside for a moment, where I bumped into him at the entrance on his way back in. We stood in the frigid December air for about 10 minutes talking about this latest success and the music scene in general. People were walking in and out, and most everybody who passed by stopped to shake Andy's hand. 

He is highly revered in the local music scene, and people are automatically drawn to him. He calmly smiled and spoke to every single person that approached him. 

Andy Fleming is a troubadour on the stage, but he is a pioneer in other ways. I emailed him the next day because I had always been curious about why he had put the letters FUBVP on his yellow Strat underneath a sticker of the US Flag.

Andy Fleming has a message for Bob Vander Plaats
(Photo by Bryan Farland)
What FU stands for is obvious... but for those who don't know, BVP refers to local headache and anti-gay spokesman Bob Vander Plaats, who's annual Family Leader Summit gets way too much notoriety and fanfare among the ultra-right wing political class. Fleming has always championed the little guy and taken the side of the underdog. A song called "Downtown" that he wrote tells the story of a kid who, after his parents discovered that he was gay, was pushed out into the streets. The teenager was forced to make a new life for himself on the streets of Des Moines.


What exactly is the story behind the FUBVP on your guitar? 

About the same time my dear friend/musical mentor Bejae Fleming (no relation) and her partner Jackie Blount were tying the knot… legally, Brother Trucker was booked at the State Fair. I wanted to use our larger moment of visibility to convey - in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Joe Strummer as well as Mike Cooley of the Drive By's - a message of solidarity behind those who deserve equality.

What kind of guitar is it exactly?

American Fender Telecaster purchased at Dirk Netwon’s Guitar Shop. Proudly. Dusty from Stuttering Jimmy/Slopcycle/Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers… bought the other blonde Tele hanging next to it at Drik’s… we’re kind of guitar kin in that way.

What would you like to say to Bob Vander Plaats if you had a chance to meet him? 

To go fuck himself. I’m kinda kidding. “Would (he) let Mike Huckabee’s son dog sit for him?…"

What drives you so hard to respect people's individual personalities? 

Mostly out of desire for giving what you hope to get back…the do onto others – value. – I honestly, seriously need to do a much better job in being able to articulate a true respect for those individual personalities I disagree with most. I’m really under-performing in that area.

As a husband, a father, a musician and a friend, Andy Fleming is a highly respected voice. I for one find it refreshing that he has chosen to use his guitar as a billboard to push back against Vander Plaats and the rabid message he preaches. Woody Guthrie played a guitar that has "This Machine Kills Fascists" written on it. It's nice to see Andy is in compliance with his hero.

Catch Brother Trucker at Wooly's tonight (Friday, December 19) where he'll be playing in support of David Zollo's CD release party along with BFD faves King of the Tramps. Doors open at 9:00.

And of course Brother Trucker will play el Bait Shop on Wednesday, January 7th. See ya there. 


Brother Trucker Official

Brother Trucker on Facebook

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