Bees Deluxe, from left, are Carol Band, Jim Gildea, Conrad Warre and Paul Giovine. Chris Yeager photo

As most of you know by now, I really love chatting with new-to-me groups and learning how they go about making the music that they do. Such is the case this week when I interviewed Conrad Warre, guitarist and founding member of the blues band known as Bees Deluxe. He is joined by Carol Band on keyboards, harmonica and vocals; Jim Gildea on bass and vocals; and Paul Giovine on drums and percussion. For quite some time I’ve been getting email updates on the group and when I learned that they were actually heading up to Maine for a show on the 3rd of October, I jumped at the chance to finally find out what they are like. To prepare for the conversation, Warre sent up their two latest CDs: “Voice of Dog” and “Mouthful of Bees,” from 2018 and 2022 respectively. When I reached him, he was on a break from a rehearsal down in the Boston area, and I was able to thank him for that shipment.

Q: In the note you put with the two CDs, you stated “Hope you enjoy the music!” Well, I definitely am enjoying it. I wasn’t sure as to what to expect, and it’s always neat when it just clicks and you go, “Whoa, nice!”
Warre: Good, thank you.

Q: I started with the newest one, “Mouthful of Bees,” and there’s a Mark Knopfler vibe to your guitar work.
Warre: I can explain that away. As a guitar player, I do what’s called ‘hybrid picking’ which means I use the fingertips on my right hand and not a plectrum, which is what he does and he copied that from Chet Atkins and Robert Cray.

Q: Well, I’ll be damned!
Warre: (Chuckle) So, what you’re responding to is how the guitar strings sound when they’re plucked by flesh and bone and fingernails other than a plectrum.

Q: Ah, gotcha, thank you for that explanation, because I’ve often wondered about that particular sound.
Warre: So, when you listen to Jimmie Page or Neal Schon in Journey, you sometimes hear a little click before the note, and that little click is the sound of the plectrum hitting the string before they strike the note. And the other thing that bothers me about plectrum playing is that guitar players tend to scrub their chords, meaning they sweep across the strings with a plectrum that makes them sort of arpeggios really fast, what I like to do with a chord is pluck five strings simultaneously so it’s more orchestral than mandolin-like. Maybe you’re not a guitar player. …

Q: Oh, you’re right about that!
Warre: So, for a non-guitar player, when they hear that they think, “Oh, that’s what he’s doing: he’s sounding like Mark Knopfler” but that’s not the point, the point is I’m using all the fingers of my right hand.


Q: Well, thank you for the guitar lesson. It makes it much more interesting; it was very informative.
Warre: Oh, not at all, it makes it more fun to play, actually, if you play like that.

Q: Over the 50 years I’ve been doing this I’ve talked to a lot of guitarists, and it’s always neat to hear about the way they approach the playing of their instrument.
Warre: Yeah, right, it’s like looking under the hood (chuckle).

Q: Exactly, yes, exactly! But there seemed to be, not a disconnect, but a difference when I then listened to “Voice of Dog,” which came out before “Mouthful of Bees.”
Warre: Oh, definitely. “Voice of Dog” is all originals and done: drums one day, bass the next day, keyboards the next day, guitars the next day, assembled like a building, but “Mouthful of Bees” is kind of like a swamp where we all played at once. So, that’s why there’s a huge sonic difference between the two.

Q: Do you prefer one way over the other?
Warre: It depends on what your goal is. The goal of “Mouthful of Bees” was to document the tour. We’d just played 30 dates in a row, all the way down to Miami and back up again, and I said to myself, “The band is really hot now, we have to capture this before it goes away!” So we went into the studio and looked each other in the eye and played the show to ourselves.

Q: So, basically, what one hears on that CD is what folks can expect in a concert setting.
Warre: Yes, that’s what happens when you are standing in front of us and we’re all playing.

Q: And you’ll be playing in Rockland …
Warre: Yes, we’re coming up to the Grey Owl which, for us, used to be the Time-Out Pub, but Paul Benjamin, who is a wonderful impresario, has moved into the Grey Owl in Rockland.


Q: Do you perform much up here in Maine?
Warre: As often as we can, as often as we’re committed (laughter).

Q: Now, those 10 songs on “Mouthful,” is that the show you’ll be bringing to Rockland?
Warre: Those were some of the highlights of those live shows. Sometimes, Lucky, we play for three hours so the repertoire is enormous; we’ve got a spreadsheet of repertoire that could be played for four or five hours. So, we narrow it down to our favorite tunes and also tunes that we think the audience might like more than others, and that is just a sample. With “Mouthful of Bees” it was like, “Let’s just do 10 tunes that we like playing, that we’ve been doing very well.”

Q: So, when it comes to, say, a 90-minute or a two-hour show, is it fairly easy to choose tunes from that repertoire?
Warre: We could do that extemporaneously, we could just stand on stage and call tunes and play them. But if we have a time constraint we try to develop as much contrast as possible.

Q: How so?
Warre: We don’t play the same tempo all the time; we don’t play the same key all the time; we don’t play the same mood all the time. You juggle those because, as you know, music to be interesting to the ear has to have contrast and change in it.

Q: Exactly! And that’s something that I’ve been preaching in my columns for a long, long time: bands that take chances, push the edges of their own envelope, are the most interesting to hear. Now, here’s my final question: Is there anything, Conrad that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Warre: Oh, I hope they sort of visit us on YouTube, Facebook and on our website where we meet and chat with people that we don’t know or do know, so I really encourage people, if they are online, to come and look at us and listen, as well.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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