Gary James' Interview With Carl Bova Of
New York's Premiere Eagles Tribute
Desert Highway Band
They've only been together for less than three year, but already they've gained the reputation as being the truest sounding Eagles tribute band in the United States. We are talking of course about Desert Highway Band.
Desert Highway Band member Carl Bova spoke with us about the band.
Q - Carl, where does Desert Highway Band perform?
A - We're finally branching out of Long Island. We're going into the Westchester area and we've got some Jersey gigs. It's been very, very difficult for us because there's been some other bands that have been more established than we have and kind of got the niche for The Eagles thing. So, it's kind of hard for us to break in. It's been little disappointing at times. But they deserve what they get. They've been around a long time. They paid their dues in the business.
Q - How much of a demand is there for an Eagles tribute band?
A - Believe it or not, there's a huge demand for an Eagles tribute band because it seems to be one of those groups... of course it's very difficult to compare to The Beatles, but it seems to be one of those groups that crosses over so well. It draws a crowd of anybody from 16, 17 years old up 'til their 70s. Everybody has at least one song from The Eagles they relate to. So, there tends to be a huge demand for it, not only from what I see, what we're booking, but other Eagles tribute bands.
Q - How often does your band work?
A - We tend to be more of a seasonal kind of thing. Our season really picks up in June. The Eagles, in a sense, is more of a concert type band. It's the type of music you want to sit and listen to. It's not like you can go into a bar or a club or anything like that. When the weather gets better over here, we tend to do a lot more outdoor concerts. We don't travel right now. We kind of stick local. It's pretty much seasonal for us.
Q - You're telling me in those off months you don't play bars to keep your chops up?
A - Oh, we do. A couple of local bars. You think this area would be hipper to all that kind of stuff, but it really isn't. For some reason Long Island is going back to the '70 and Disco. They're having all these dance bands playing the clubs. It seems to draw the people in. People want to dance. So, there really is not that many clubs around here for us to play.
Q - What instrument do you play? I didn't see that mentioned on your website.
A - I play bass guitar.
Q - What were you doing before Desert Highway?
A - Oh, where do I begin? It's funny because we're the group of musicians that almost weren't. A lot of us have had major label record deals back in the early '80s that didn't quite make it. You know, that type of deal. But my musical career started at a very young age. I went to Berkeley and had a very successful R&B Funk band in the area, back in the late '70s that played around all of the New England area, that was actually on the verge of signing a deal, but that never panned out for other reasons. I came back here and started an original band called Shelter. We eventually signed with Polydor Records and recorded the album at The Hit Factory in New York City. It was a pretty interesting time. Got to meet a lot of interesting people and a lot of famous players and rub elbows with some really serious players.
Q - What year was Shelter signed?
A - 1980. We actually signed with Champion Management, which at the time was Tommy Mottola before he became President of C.B.S. Our record deal was part of the Yoko Ono deal that was signed at the time with Polydor. John had just passed away at the time. The person who was doing the recording of our band was very good friends with John and Yoko. We kind of like piggy-backed off her deal. Our album did extremely well in Europe at the time. It was in line with a Foreigner type of thing, AR kind of classic Rock 'n' Roll music.
Q - Since you recorded at The Hit Factory, did you ever get to see John Lennon?
A - No, no, no. When we first met Eddie, it was not too long after the fact. He recorded his last album, which you know, at The Hit Factory. We were in the same studio he recorded in. It was a pretty intense moment at the time. He was definitely one of my idols on all The Beatles.
Q - You mentioned the other guys in Desert Highway had recording deals?
A - Yeah. Matter of fact it's so funny because we didn't know each other at the time. The lead vocalist and guitar player, Mike Green, was actually recording at The Hit Factory after we came out. He had worked out a deal with Eddie Germano. Joe Salucci, who was the other lead singer in the band, actually had a band out. I'm not sure what label he was on. He was more like an R&B Disco type thing at the time where Mike and I were doing more like a Foreigner type deal.
Q - Which was very big at the time, that sound.
A - Oh, sure. I remember sitting in at one of the sessions when Foreigner was doing "I Wanna Know What Love Is". We were up in Studio A and they had the choir in. I don't have to tell you what the end of that song was like. It was just so majestic and so incredible being able to watch that. But I got to rub elbows with Stevie Nicks up there and Hall And Oates. All the people of the time in the early '80s. Springsteen. Everybody passed through The Hit Factory. It was just a tremendous place. It was like the studio at the time. I kind of wish I could go back and take it in a little differently. We were a lot younger and you don't really realize what's going on around you.
Q - At the time you probably thought it's going to last forever.
A - Of course. You're looking up and going, is this real? Am I really here? Is it going to happen? It's like the lottery. Getting five numbers and never quite getting that sixth number. There's a lot of us like that obviously all over the country, almost could've, almost made it, got a taste of what it would have been like. And it was very cool at the time.
Q - And today the music industry has been gutted.
A - It's a shame. The only station I listen to is the Fordham station, 90.7. You remember WNEW from New York?
Q - I remember hearing about that station.
A - It was like the Rock station and they're all on that station right now. It's the only place where you get to hear some decent "indie" music and some of the old album cuts. You would think in a city like New York we'd be just like hipper to it. I don't want to sound like I'm old, but it's kind of a shame where music has gone. People don't have an idea what 'live' music is all about. I appreciate 'live' music no matter what it is or what venue it is. It's what it should be.
Q - You grew up in an area when 'live' music was appreciated. Now we glorify DJs in clubs.
A - Well, that's what happened to the business we're in. It's more like glorified Karaoke kind of thing. A lot of these bands are using tracks and playing with click tracks. Some of the biggest Eagles tribute bands, and I'm not going to mention names, are doing that. Matter of fact, I happened to catch one last year that were here and the song was over and the vocals and everything were still going on. They wanted to crawl into a hole. This is like the biggest Eagles tribute band in the country. For me it was kind of time to just get up and leave. I don't want to see this. I'd rather hear a mistake or a bad note and something that has feel. I don't have to tell you, when you're playing through a click track, you can't deviate from what you're doing. It is what it is. To me, if you're doing a tribute thing and you're doing that, it just takes away from it completely. I can see adding if you're doing like a Beatles thing and you want to add some orchestration like they did. But to be adding like vocals, just takes away from it. That's just my opinion.
Q - How did you get this reputation as being the truest sounding Eagles tribute band in the United States?
A - Are you familiar with a gentleman by the name of Jack Templeton?
Q - No, I'm not.
A - He wrote some of the tunes for The Eagles. Those are what people comment about the band when we do some 'live' things. It's some of the promo. If you hear the band, you will hear that. The Eagles were kind of like a blue jeans Rock 'n' Roll from the heart kind of band. That's where we try to bring in from. That's basically where we're coming from. We're not a Vegas type act. We're just trying to re-create it the best we can. Whoever it takes to re-create it, that's what we do.
Q - This is a seven piece band.
A - Yes it is.
Q - Weren't there five guys in The Eagles?
A - Originally, was it five or six. Yeah, I guess there were the five core players, correct. But I think when they were touring, I think they might've had six players. I guess it was six when you add the keyboard player in the band at the time.
Q - So, the extra member you have in your band is there to do what?
A - Basically he is the last person who does not play anything, Joey, who actually does the Henley stuff. It's so funny 'cause he actually is a drummer. In other words, we can do it as a six piece band, but we bring him out front just to give us the element of somebody performing. If he was in the back, you wouldn't see him, that type of deal. We utilize him as a front person in the band, basically.