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Camper and Cracker hit the road again

Guitarist-violinist Jonathan Segel returns with Camper Van Beethoven Cracker play Cubby Bear Friday night. Tickets are $15. | Ian Weintraub

Guitarist-violinist Jonathan Segel returns with Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker to play the Cubby Bear Friday night. Tickets are $15. | Ian Weintraub

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When: 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Cubby Bear, 1059 W. Addison

Tickets: $15 advance, $17 door

Info: (773) 327-1662;

Updated: May 9, 2013 7:18PM

More than 25 years ago, Camper Van Beethoven kept ’80s college radio stocked with smart stoner songs such as “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” Singer David Lowery turned up the yee-haw a bit in his next band, Cracker, and dipped a toe into the mainstream (“Teen Angst,” “Low”). Between CVB’s end in the early ’90s and its 2000s reincarnation, Lowery produced many acts (Counting Crows, Sparklehorse), guitarist-violinist Jonathan Segel got around (Hieronymus Firebrain, Jack & Jill, great solo albums including the recent “All Attractions”) and bassist Victor Krummenacher played with Monks of Doom and made his own solo albums.

But the rebounds always came back to Camper and Cracker. The two bands share enough off-kilter whimsy and personnel that for most of the 21st century, they’ve been touring as a package.

“As David put it, ‘There’s no benefit to quitting,’” Segel told me in a recent interview. Answering questions online from his current home in Stockholm, Segel talked about Camper’s legacy, its reunion and the band’s latest California-centric album, “La Costa Perdida.”

Q. David Lowery told me a couple of years ago: “Cracker is so much my personality and Johnny [Hickman]’s, what I write we can do some version of. Camper is a particular beast.” Can you describe the particular beast that is Camper?

A.Well, we have always been some sort of alchemy of the members of the band, regardless of the lineup at the time. A multiheaded hydra! So who are we? One of the really interesting things about writing “New Roman Times” (2004), and even more so with “La Costa Perdida,” was bringing everything that we have all individually done in the interim to the table. We have feelers in all sorts of different types of music, we all are avid book readers, we all have now been playing music all of our adult lives (and longer). It’s tough to describe the thread, but there is a definite California personality that comes out, complete with the punk and hippie personae, and a politicization that verges on the tinfoil-hat regime.

Q. What about “La Costa Perdida,” and what identity has it carved out in the Camper catalog?

A. We zeroed in on the California theme, taking some inspiration from the Beach Boys “Holland” record. We decided to hold back some tracks to make the album very NorCal-centric, while the remaining ones were tending to head toward SoCal and L.A.. Anyway, the record grew like a plant, with all of us as gardeners. Some of the recordings really show some maturity and musicianship growth on all of our part — after so long we actually know how to play pretty well these days, and the recordings contain some beautiful parts and arranging (if I do say so myself!) and some subtle beauty.

Much more of this interview is online at

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