Trevor Rogers, guitarist and singer for the Clumsy Lovers, is a displaced Canadian living in Missoula with his wife, two sons and infant daughter. For many touring bands, having three kids in as many years would be the end of the line, but Rogers isn't letting family life slow him down. Beginning Oct. 19, he'll set out on a six-week tour with fellow band members Jason Horney, Jeff Leonard, Devin Rice and Robyn Jesson. After a couple of shows in Idaho and Big Fork, the band will play the Top Hat in Missoula on Oct. 26, the band's first show in town since Rogers moved his family here last year.
I first met Rogers last September on a crowded Saturday night at the Rhino. A mutual friend introduced us based on this thing we had in common: We were both artists from out of town, hoping to suck the marrow out of Missoula's strange and eclectic scene. Funny how this town worksa year later I invited his entire family over for a vegetarian barbecue in my meat-eating roommate's backyard.
"We've toured in a lot of different vehicles over the years," Rogers tells me, including a van with 400,000 miles. The band has been traveling together for nearly two decades, and they do all the driving themselves, so this latest stint is not their first rodeo. Rogers explains to me with elaborate hand gestures how the drums will be stacked into his family's minivan (I forget to ask what the kids will be riding in while he's on the road), how he's taking just one guitar instead of two, and how they plan to "cannonball it" the 1,200 miles from their gig in Billings to the show in Milwaukee, Wis., two days later.
"What's it mean to 'cannonball it'?" I ask. I think I imagined a human slingshot, but no. It means the band will do the drive straight through, alternating pilots for all 19 hours of that flat, cow-sprinkled expanse through North Dakota and Minnesota.
This latest tour is in support of their ninth album, 2010's Make Yourself Known. The Clumsy Lovers' sound is a blend of rock and bluegrass, with some Celtic influence. The beat bounces and meanders and so, too, do its listeners. The music is designed for dancing, which means they have to get out on the road and play shows. Lots and lots of shows.
"We've played the Top Hat around a dozen times," he says, "And maybe 25 times in Missoula overall."
Those numbers represents a grueling tour schedule over nearly 20 years totaling more than 2,500 live gigs in 49 states and throughout Canada.
The Clumsy Lovers are a working band and have been for many years. These days, Rogers schedules tours around the family schedule. His sons are shy toddlers with tow-blond hair and a penchant for playing in the dirt. His three-month-old daughter looked around the backyard at everything with what I guessed was a knowing bemusement. When they first arrived, the two mini poodles I've been dog sitting charged the boys and made them cry, a natural reaction when you're so low to the ground; imagine it: My little dogs arrived like snarling white lions.
The Clumsy Lovers started making records in Vancouver in 1993. Since then, they've gone through some personnel changes, but Rogers remains a constant. "The band is getting younger," he tells me. Rogers left his day job to tour full time at 27, and now he's a young-looking 44. Jesson, their latest fiddle player, is 24 and plays like a maniac. Rice, the 24-year-old drummer, joined the band straight out of music school, after a series of killer auditions on Skype. Such is the makings of a modern band.
We are busy talking about the group's various adventures and I burn everyone's veggie burgers. They looked like hockey pucks, but we decide they are edible. Inside, my roommate's grilled meat goes cold on the counter next to him while he and Rogers talk about the election and war. It is deliciously old fashioned.
Many times throughout the night, we halt our conversation to take various things out of the kid's mouths: a piece of dog food, lint, some BB gun pellets out of a box that looks to a two-year old like a milk carton. It might sound like I'm joking, but I mean it: The whole thing was very rock and roll.
The Clumsy Lovers play the Top Hat Fri., Oct. 26, for the free Family Friendly portion of the evening from 6 to 8 PM and again at 9 PM. $7.