Tales of a Traveling Band

Like the ballad from which the band draws its name, Streets of Laredo is a little bit country and a little bit rock-‘n’-roll. Originally from New Zealand and currently based in Brooklyn, the indie quintet consists of brothers Daniel and David Gibson, David’s wife Sarahjane Gibson, and Si Moore and Tom Darlow. Tomorrow, the group will release its debut record, Volume I & II.

We recently spoke with Dan Gibson about the origins of the band and recording in a converted movie theater.

ILANA KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit about the background of your new record, Volume I & II?

DAN GIBSON: We did a five-track demo and we were like, “Man, this is really great stuff.” We were into it. We moved to America, and we started Streets of Laredo here. We worked out more songs, we went back to New Zealand, and we had a friend’s holiday house where we prepped the songs. We did the album at the Lab Studios, which is this old movie theater and dancehall from the ’50s and ’60s. It’s this really fun place. Our friend Tom Healy who mixed and recorded the album made a makeshift studio there. We were there for about three weeks and inhabited the place. We recorded all of the songs there. That was the process.

KAPLAN: Is there a theme that goes throughout the album lyrically?

GIBSON: Yeah, for sure. We were kind of moving around at the time. We had moved to the States; there was a lot of change going on. When we started the band, we wanted to base it off of adventure and having a good time. It’s not about where you end up, but the journey that you take. Adventure, journey, struggles, missing home, not being able to pay rent, and being broke-ass musicians in Brooklyn are themes you’ll find in our album.

KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit about your first single, “Girlfriend?”

GIBSON:  The song is just about New York City being that tough mistress. It kind of loves you at first and then throws you to the pavement. I started writing that song in New Zealand just before we left, and my brother and I collaborated on it and then finished it up in the States. Sometimes songs have been not that apparent. When we moved to America, it lyrically finished off and started making sense.

KAPLAN: How did you come up with the band name Streets of Laredo?

GIBSON: Well my sister-in-law Sarahjane actually came up with it. I remember reading the book when I was younger; I remember reading the book a long time ago—it was lying around the house when I was growing up. Dave and I were trying to come up with band names and Sarahjane was like, “What about “Streets of Laredo?'” Obviously there’s the Marty Robins cover and the Johnny Cash cover of the song, but it’s also a prolific story about an old, dying cowboy and a young cowboy. My sister-in-law was like, “This is pretty cool. Dave’s like old, dying cowboy and you’re like the young cowboy coming up.” We liked the sentiment of the story and it fit, so we went with it.

KAPLAN: What’s it been like working with The Strokes’ longtime manager Ryan Gentles?

GIBSON: It’s been amazing. We’re so lucky Ryan came to our show at Mercury Lounge. We have a really great team. He’s got a really great history, and we’re honored just to be a part of that time. It’s been totally awesome.

KAPLAN: Who are some of the band’s biggest influences?

GIBSON: There’s obviously the stuff we grew up on. My mom and dad were into Keith Green, Paul Simon, and Billy Joel. I had an older sister and brother so I would steal lyric records. There’s Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, and that folk kind of stuff. Growing up you develop your own taste in music, so anything from The War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and the new Delta Spirit album. I really respect their music and what they’re doing. We definitely have a wide range of influences in the band, but we grew up with folk revival.

KAPLAN: You mentioned that your journey has influenced your music.

GIBSON: It’s been great—I think it’s influenced our music in a positive way. Brooklyn is the mecca of everything creative. The musicianship, bands, and songwriting coming out of the city are amazing. As a musician, writer, and as a band, it’s really challenging. It inspires you to get better. It makes you competitive. It’s really colorful, too—there are a lot of awesome sounds coming out that I haven’t heard before. It really challenges you sonically. We’ve been demo-ing a bunch of new songs. When you’re in a place like New York City and there’s so much high-level art, it inspires and challenges you.