Giles Corey talks on-the-job training for Lubriphonic
By Brian Tucker
In the early nineties as Giles Corey attended college in Chicago it seemed every band in the city was being signed to a major label, from Smashing Pumpkins to Veruca Salt. Corey was honing skills as a sideman, playing for older band leaders on the south side of the city and eventually at bigger venues like Buddy Guy’s club. It was all part of a plan that led the singer-guitarist to co-founding Lubriphonic, a blistering confection of blues, funk, rock and soul.
“At the time I needed to learn how to do it right,” Corey said by phone from Cleveland. “I always had the idea I would start a band but I needed more seasoning.”
Lubriphonic plays The Soapbox Saturday and opened for Galactic last June.
Corey says he followed a similar path of a lot of kids, listening to The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton. He read about these acts being influenced by Chicago blues. His first blues record was The Best of Muddy Waters then discovered Freddie King, Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Albert King. From there it led to soul music. By age seventeen he was playing guitar professionally in bars. Growing up in a house where music was always around, but things he wanted to listen to. Corey was inclined to play classical music and his parents supported him. His mother occasionally drove him to gigs and read a book while she waited.
Corey would leave Connecticut for college in Chicago at eighteen and has lived there ever since. He studied English Literature and received on-the-job training showing up at blues clubs asking to sit in with musicians. That tradition of sitting in on shows in Chicago led to his first jobs as a musician.
“It was the third set, the last one where everyone is tired and the crowd is starting to thin out – put the kid up there and go grab a beer.”
After graduating Corey held off putting a band together, playing professionally as a sideman. He continued to make a living, playing with Billy Branch, touring Europe several times a year and even playing with his guitar hero Otis Rush. After working as a sideman for years he formed Lubriphonic with drummer Rick King (who played with Koko Taylor).
“We had the idea to make our own music but we were also still learning the ropes playing with national blues acts,” Corey said. “Learning how to play a big stage and manage a show and work a crowd, there’s a lot to it. I watched and observed how to command a stage, really reach an audience and how to perform. You’re up there for your audience not for yourself – to really give as much as you can even if you have the flu or something.”
Making a living as a musician meant Corey and fellow players had to play, play, play. For rank and file musicians to earn a living means playing five or six nights a week, something possible in Chicago, a town Corey cites as one of the few remaining cities where you can make a living as a musician.
“There’s fewer and fewer cities that really support live music. Even ten years ago people in their twenties would go out on a Friday, Saturday night, and that’s what they did – see a band. Now they stay home and play video games or go to a dance club situation with a DJ.”
By 2008, Lubriphonic began touring, eschewing sideman gigs altogether, and played with bands like The Black Crowes and The New Mastersounds. Those bands are known for playing extended jams during their sets, but Corey doesn’t think of Lubriphonic as a jam band.
“We improvise; we’re jamming whatever is part of American music, blues, jazz, bluegrass, country. Galactic isn’t a jam band I don’t think but they’re on that circuit because the jam band audience is one of the last audiences that support a wide variety of live music. I’m sure there are plenty of people in that community that would like what we do. The jam band community, speaking of the climate and the way things are, has been a refuge for a lot of bands that wouldn’t have a home otherwise.”
The band toured a lot and all the work paid off. Still, changes in culture and habits haven’t deterred the singer-guitarist who remains adamant about the power of playing music for audiences.
“If you put people in a situation where there’s funky, good music happening, they’re gonna shake their ass. It’s in our DNA, to really enjoy getting together with a large group of people, getting down and partying. It’s a ceremony. Its something people have been doing for thousands of years and we’re losing that as we get more isolated in our choices for recreation.”