With hits like “We’re An American Band,” “The Locomotion” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” Grand Funk Railroad has been putting out high-energy rock ‘n’ roll for nearly 47 years. They perform Saturday at the Clearwater River Casino in Lewiston.Formed in 1969, the band rose to popularity in the 1970s with songs that continue to get regular airplay on classic rock radio. Along with Mel Schacher on bass, Don Brewer is one of its current members who was part of the original group. We caught up with Brewer, the band’s drummer and vocalist, via phone to find out more about Grand Funk Railroad, their music and the upcoming show.
360: After some years off, you guys came back together in 2000. How did that come about?
Brewer: We put together a new incarnation, I like to call it. We got some great people — we have Max Carl from 38 Special, Bruce Kulick who was with KISS and Tim Cashion who was with Bob Seger. We’ve been touring now 17 years together. I think the longevity of the band is the result of the music, the music has just lived on.
360: Do you perform new songs, or focus on the hits that people know and love?
Brewer: We’ve always got new songs. Right now we’re opening the show every night with a song called “Bottlerocket.” Then we’ve got one called “Lightning and Thunder,” and that’s all percussion. We’ve had tons of stuff that’s come and gone — we’ll do it for a few years and then move on.
360: If the band is writing and performing new songs, why aren’t you producing more albums?
Brewer: It’s hard for us old bands to get any kind of attention, any kind of airplay on the radio. You look at people, even like Paul McCartney … he’ll put out a new album and you never hear it on the radio. It’s difficult to justify spending a year working your tail off in the studio for something that no one is going to listen to — so we do it live. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way it is.
360: What would you say has been your contribution to rock ‘n’ roll?
Brewer: I like to say that we delivered real, honest rock ‘n’ roll music. Especially with the three-piece group we started with, there were very few overdubs on a record. It was honest, it wasn’t overdubbed, overproduced.
360: And how is that different from today’s music?
Brewer: The music today is overproduced. It’s not about the song or the performance — and that’s what good music is supposed to be, those are the two things that should matter. Making a record is simply capturing that moment. But today, there are production techniques, sounds … the song is the last thing on the list. And it shows in the music that’s being delivered today. There’s no creativity, there’s no heart and soul.
360: How do you keep your shows fresh year after year?
Brewer: No two nights are the same. We’re going town to town and the room is different, the audience is different, everything is different every night. That and the fact that we don’t get on a bus and play 200 shows a year. We do 40 shows a year, we go out on weekends, we have a good time and then we go home.
360: So we can expect a fun, high-energy show from you guys this weekend?
Brewer: (Laughs) Yeah, we like everyone to smile and sweat and have a good time.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Grand Funk Railroad
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Clearwater River Casino, east of Lewiston
COST: $20-$65; tickets can be purchased in advance at the casino box office or at ticketswest.com