Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson Explains ‘Happiness Bastards’ Album Title: Brothers ‘in a Good Place, but Don’t Forget…’

“It just resonated,” the longtime front man says

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The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson has confirmed suspicions over the title of the band’s ninth studio album, “Happiness Bastards.”

As fans of the Southern rock band would presume, the title of the album — set for a March release that marks their first record of new music in 15 years — is indeed rooted in the many years of turbulence he shared with brother and cofounding member, Rich Robinson.

But Chris Robinson, speaking in an interview with the Loudwire Nights radio show and podcast, said it was also a nod to a Beat Generation novelist.

“Well number one, it’s hilarious,” Robinson said. “It’s representative of me and Rich — you know, that was kind of — and where we are today. We might be in a good place. But don’t forget. We’re still bastards, you know.”

The Robinson brothers have in fact patched their famously troubled on-and-off relationship enough to tour in support of the album, their first of new music since 2009’s “Before the Frost … Until the Freeze.” (In 2022, they released an EP compilation of six cover songs from 1972 aptly called “1972.”)

“Actually, I completely stole the idea,” Robinson said of “Happiness Bastards.” “Kirby Doyle was a more obscure Beat writer, and he wrote a novel called ‘Happiness Bastard’ in the ’50s, uhh, maybe early ’60s.” (Doyle’s novel came out in 1967.)

“It’s a pretty good book,” Robinson continued. “I mean, I read everything from Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg … I have a very active relationship with literature. Just, for another interview, horribly boring, it would be like the worst podcast ever — the best 100 books … even the suede patches on my jacket would fall off while talking about French literature or whatever.

“But no, it just resonated, you know what I mean?” Robinson said.

Robinson also revealed the origin of the album’s artwork, recalling that part of his early reasons for starting a band were rooted in the passion he had for art and the thought of being able to have input on the artwork associated with the band.

“I have a deep interest in graphic art,” Robinson said. “To me, it’s not just a band, it’s the world, you know what I mean? Now they call it a brand or whatever. But to me it’s the world we live in, and we’ve always wanted it to be — there’s many messages within everything, you know. And in this case, even when the album comes out, the artwork was done by my wife, Camille.”

Robinson said Camille was at one time in her life a “graffiti writer” and that it was also her idea to paint the graphic lettering of “Happiness Bastards” over the fronts and backs of old Black Crowes album covers — “so part of it is like vandalism.”

“Conceptually it was like everything we wanted with this kind of new place that we are,” Robinson said. “And it’s funny, that’s how we’ve always been.”

The Black Crowes front man then recalled the cover art production of the band’s second album, “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion,” released in 1992, and how his efforts — “I had books and notebooks of ideas” — put him in rare, Hall of Fame company.

“I went over to the art department at Warner Brothers, and everyone was like, ‘What do you want?’ And she was like, ‘No, come into the office,’” Robinson said of the company rep he was working with. “She was like, ‘You know, no one in bands come in here. They’re looking at you because there’s only ever been one other person who brought their ideas in like this.’ I said, ‘Who?’ Neil Young. I was like, ‘Cool, good company.’”

In other words, if Robinson wants control over the creative directions of the Black Crowes — in whatever area — he can have it, and he has no issues with owning it.

“It’s the same with stage design,” he continued. “It goes all the way to the laminates and s–t, you know what I mean? Part of the world of the Black Crowes is, I want it to be stimulating. I want it to be inviting. I want you to think about it. I want you to think about it when you’re not even thinking about it. The average person might see that and think, ‘Oh they painted over their album covers.’ But there’s a lot of meaning in that, you know what I mean? To us, it’s about depth when you don’t think there’s any.”

Listen to Loudwire’s full interview with Robinson here.


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