To hear Duane Betts talk about this point in his life is to hear a man that at once has had already a career’s worth of experiences in rock and roll, yet is back at the beginning with his new group Brethren of the Coast. Growing up the son of music legend and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts, and having played in a slew of Malibu-based bands, from Backbone69 to Whitestarr, that saw varying degrees of success- including a short-lived record deal with Atlantic and a New York Times piece spotlighting the emerging scene- not to mention a near-decade stint playing guitar in his father’s Great Southern outfit, Betts has done more than most dream possible. Yet, here he is at 36, loaded with optimism for upstart Brethren of the Coast, prepping plans for a debut record and tour. We spoke to Betts shortly after Brethren completed a four-night, late-August run through California as an opening act for Great Southern.
What can you tell me about Brethren of the Coast?
Brethren of the Coast is something that Pedro Arevalo, Damon Webb, and myself put together. Pedro and I play in my dad’s band together; Pedro plays bass in that band, and in Brethren he plays guitar. It was just a loose kind of thing and it developed into what it is now. We have Jamie Douglass on drums, and we’ve added a keyboard player (Steve Taylor), and the vision we had for it, it’s slowly developing into that. It seems like it took a while, but it’s starting to come together now.
Has your obligation to your father’s band, Great Southern, been a reason why Brethren hasn’t been playing more often?
That, and other things. I was doing things with other people, studio bands, so I was recording some of the songs I play (in Brethren) with other musicians backing me, just because I had opportunities to do so. For instance, I did a few songs with Steve Cropper in Nashville. At that point, we (Brethren) were rotating drummers, and things that any band goes through, those kinds of common obstacles.
The repertoire for the band is made up of your own material, and some covers?
We will throw some covers in there. Pedro has a repertoire of a lot of really cool, old-time songs, plus he is writing some really cool original tunes, too. It depends on the gig, really. If it’s a long gig, we’ll play more of that stuff to fill it up. The songs that I do are songs that I’ve either written or co-written. More or less, they have all been written in the last year or two. There are one or two old songs, actually one I wrote when I was 21, that I’ve polished up and changed. Pedro has tunes that he’s played in other bands that take on a new life.
Is the next step to try and extend the band’s reach beyond the Los Angeles-metro area?
We’re starting to play outside of the general Southern California area. We’ve played a few places down south and have gone up to Santa Barbara. We played in the Bay Area, opening up for Great Southern at Sweetwater Music Hall, and we had another gig up there at Terrapin Crossroads with Grahame Lesh’s band Midnight North, and another in Humboldt. So, we’re starting to branch out and get out there a little more. I think our next goal is to get something recorded that is good, and then from there we can get on tour and start making our dreams come true. (laughs)
The name of your band, Brethren of the Coast, is that in any way a nod to the Allman Brothers, or is it a reference to the pirate term?
Honestly, I heard it on the History Channel. I like that Henry Morgan didn’t call his inner circle, ‘pirates.’ They referred to themselves as brethren of the coast.
In addition to Brethren, you have also been doing some studio work as of late?
I do all kinds of stuff. I’ll play just about anything. I’m not a session player. There’s a lot to learn. I have to make a living playing guitar. I enjoy doing it.
But Brethren of the Coast is your main project?
This is the project I’m working on now and I’m seeing progress. I feel like whatever this is, I’m pushing ahead. I’ve had the opportunity to write with a good friend of mine, Stoll Vaughan, and I’m really happy with that. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s getting there. I want to get on the road and do all that. I don’t know what the future holds, but this is the focus.
You have done some recording with Marc Ford of the Black Crowes producing. Will you do more?
I’d like to go back and do some more work with Marc. I was really pleased with the results. He’s just an authentic, cool guy. He gets it.
When you first started out, the goal for most bands was to get a record deal. Now, record deals seem like an afterthought. What’s the game plan for Brethren of the Coast?
We’re just trying to get out there with something we’re really, really proud of. If you have a vision, you just want to fulfill that vision, however it works on the business end. We’re trying to do it organically.