Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers have been turning heads in and beyond the Northern California rock scene for years, so it may come as a surprise that the group is just now about to release its first “real” album.
“This really is the first record that we’ve done as a band,” lead singer Nicki Bluhm said. “The other two albums, the band wasn’t even together.”
Nicki Bluhm is joined by husband Tim Bluhm (vocals, keys, guitar), Dave Mulligan (vocals, rhythm guitar), Derrin Ney (lead guitar), Steve Adams (vocals, bass) and Mike Kern (drums).
All members but Mulligan played on Nicki Bluhm’s first two albums; “Toby’s Song,” released in 2008 and “Driftwood,” released in 2012. As the Gramblers hadn’t been formed yet, the albums were billed as solo records by Nicki Bluhm.
Titled “Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers,” the new album was recorded at the Bluhms’ personal studio, with the band largely recording together rather than individually.
“We recorded a lot of it live in the studio,” Nicki Bluhm said. “We did it in Tim and my studio in San Francisco called “Mission Bells.” It’s our studio, so it’s definitely nice to be able to have that time. When it’s your own, you don’t have that clock ticking, which kind of lends to a more relaxed environment.”
The Gramblers recorded the tracks immediately after a heavy bout of touring, meaning they were warmed up and clicking as a group.
“It was a nice time to record music because we were so in sync with each other, which made the process a lot easier. It made it go a lot faster,” Nicki Bluhm said.
While fans may have already heard advance tracks from the album, they now have the opportunity to hear the entire record played live.
“There’s been a couple tunes that have already been released, ‘Little Too Late’ and ‘Ravenous,’” Nicki Bluhm said. “Those have been kind of floating around for the last few months. We play the album in full. It’s a nice collection of tunes that we’re really digging. It’s really fun to play live.”
Thus far, the Gramblers have kicked off a number of release parties, including a sold out Aug. 20 show in the Lodge at the Regency in San Francisco.
“It was great. Hometown people were really digging it. They were really attentive,” Nicki Bluhm said. “We sold a ton of CDs and posters. I think it was well received. We all felt really good about it. It’s always a little nerve-racking to play these songs for the first time, but when you have that hometown support it’s a lot easier.”
The band has been having a blast performing the new songs live, she said, mentioning a few especially enjoyable tunes.
“‘Hey Stranger’ is a pretty fun, high-energy song that we do, and we just came out with a little music video which is kind of fun. You can find it on our Youtube page,” the lead singer said. “And we have a song called ‘Nothing.’ It was really fun to sing it the other night for the first time. I enjoyed it lot. And it’s one of mine. It’s a different experience when you’re singing someone else’s song as opposed to your own song.”
An upcoming Crystal Bay Casino show is the second Tahoe performance in 2013 for the Gramblers. The group also played there in March.
“It was fun,” Nicki Bluhm said of the March show. “I always have such a good time there. Blake takes good care of us. The sound and the light experience is good. It really is a great venue. We always love playing there, and our drummer loves to gamble so he loves it there.”
For the immediate future, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers are focused on promoting and performing the new album. Nicki and Tim Bluhm will also be headed overseas for a separate project before long.
“Just a lot more touring,” Nicki Bluhm said. “Tim and I take a trip to Europe this fall. We’ll be there with Scott Law, kind of as a trio. Then in 2014, some bigger rooms. Hopefully we might be announcing some tours coming, so I guess just keep your ears perked.”