“Goddamn;” sometimes you just have to move on.
Tom Hamilton’s song from the third American Babies album ostensibly is about a couple’s breakup, but it could be a reference to the songwriter’s decision to take a break from his longtime, successful band, Brothers Past.
“We were trying to combine the world of electronic music and songwriting,” said Hamilton, whose American Babies headline the Railroad Earth after-party Wednesday, March 12, in the Crystal Bay Casino. “It felt like it was getting dumbed down. It had nothing to do with songwriting anymore. It was just like any kid with a laptop, a Juno keyboard and a van who learned to play a house drumbeat and went out on the road. It felt so disingenuous and it frankly was offensive to me.”
So Hamilton made a studio album of acoustic songs with some help from his roommate at the time, Joe Russo, best known, perhaps, for playing with the Grateful Dead offshoot Further!
Hamilton has been in seminal state ever since.
A second album, “Full Logic,” was followed by the October 2013 release of “Knives and Teeth,” which has received entirely positive reviews to the annoyance of Hamilton, who seeks “constructive criticism.” He also has an acoustic duo with fellow Philadelphian Ginger Coyle and an EP, “Stark & Red,” will be released April 1. Hamilton also has taught himself how to make videos, one of which being “Goddamn,” in which his real-life girlfriend portrays a total bitch (all an act, he assures).
“It’s a fertile time in my life for being creative,” Hamilton told Tahoe Onstage by telephone from Denver.
If creativity brings energy, it’s good for Hamilton, who toured heavily for years with Brothers Past, including several West Coast swings which included Tahoe. Although the American Babies have played San Francisco, it is now on its first extensive tour through California. Six of the shows will be with Tea Leaf Trio, which is three of the five members of Tea Leaf Green, including Cochrane McMillan, who made the offer to have the San Francisco players join the band on tour for a week.
The American Babies, which include David Butler, Adam Flicker and Marc Friedman, also are close with members of Railroad Earth, who bassist, Andrew Altman, filled in with the Babies until Friedman came aboard.
“Both bands are heavily focused on songwriting and I think that’s where the kindredness comes into play,” Hamilton said. “Obviously, we are both in the jam world. We try to make our live shows as interesting and enjoyable as possible for the fans, but when it comes to songwriting, we take it very seriously. You know there’s that stigma about jam bands where people say they have throw-away lyrics or have songs that are just silly and vehicles for a jam, which I agree with, but that’s not how American Babies or Railroad Earth function.”
Hamilton, who said he wrote 70 percent of the Brothers Past songs, said the American Babies live show includes some songs from his other group.
“We’re building a thing again,” he said. “It’s something I did with Brothers Past in the 2000s and I am excited to have that feeling again. It’s like there’s an electricity. I can feel a buzz and momentum. I am grateful that it’s happening.
Red Room after-party with the Tea Leaf Trio starts after Railroad Earth show
Crown Room headliner: Railroad Earth at 9 p.m., tickets $25 (sellout likely)