Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil are the Laurel and Hardy of blues rock. Jack Beisel—Hopeless Jack—is a tattooed guitar player with bruising chops, and Pete Thomas—The Handsome Devil—is the subdued and unassuming baby-faced drummer. And while they may be different in stature, they are both bullheaded rockers, hell-bent on claiming a slice of the proverbial pie.
From meeting in a bar in 2010 and literally forming their band overnight to completing a successful tour in Europe earlier this year, Beisel and Thomas have relied solely upon themselves to make things happen. They aren't shelling money out for a tour manager or a publicist and sure as hell aren't splitting their concert dough with a supporting band. These guys duke it out on stage night after night with uproarious blues and punk rock moves and, right now, they're hot.
Back home in Portland and fresh from the recording studio, Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil are ready to hit the road again in support of their upcoming EP.
SW: Back in the States now, huh? How was Europe?
PETER: It was my first time out of the country.
JACK: Not what we thought it was gonna be at all. Very much a workingman's tour. We played 24 shows in 20 days. We got to see a lot of the culture, but we worked our asses off.
SW: Why did you have to work so hard?
JACK: Music is a different animal in the states than in Europe. You are the dog and pony show. You're the only band and you are required to play for three hours in bars that are smaller than most people's living rooms. We weren't ready for that.
PETER: Trying to take what we do with our really big stage presence was a bit of a shock to us. We got a lot of requests to turn things down.
SW: But generally you were well-received? How'd they like the hard rock over there?
JACK: Belgium likes that rock stuff— rockabilly, old blues and soul stuff. We fit in very well as far as people's tastes there. We got a lot of comments because they didn't know what we looked like. People [who had listened to the music] would say 'Oh, we thought you guys would be older, or 'We didn't think you were white.' We've already been invited back to Belgium in January and will expand into Germany and France.
SW: You guys are pretty rowdy on stage. Is that the reality away from the music?
JACK: Away from the music, we are pretty tame as far as most bands are concerned. We like to joke that we are the anti-rock and roll band. We show up on time, we drink coffee instead of beer. We work out, eat healthy. We put in the same amount of hours and thought and time and think of it like a business. We want to bring the best possible version of us on stage. We don't stay out late drinking. We get our rest so we can bring it.
PETER: If we didn't, we'd end up passing out on stage. That's a concern for us. It's not a joke. We just had a serious conversation about that.
JACK: Yeah, we need to start jogging. The idea behind the songs is that the music and lyrics are important, but the emotion is what we want to come across on stage and our recordings. I think about it as method acting. I have to revisit those same emotions on stage or else the songs don't come off well. So when we play them it's like we just had a break up and buried our friends.
SW: Since it's just the two of you trying to get noticed, what is the thing you like doing the least but that needs to get done the most?
JACK: I feel like it's really hard to cold- email venues in towns you've never heard of and tell them that you're worth their time and money. We make our own flyers, sell merch. Not having representation and just being two guys from Portland asking to play a show on a date, you almost have to beg. It's really humbling when people tell you that you're not worth their time.
SW: I understand Pete's dad was a drummer for a band in the '80s. Has he passed on knowledge that has helped you guys?
PETER: My dad was the drummer for the band Shooting Star. They were the first band to be on the American Virgin label. The game was completely different then, though. Jack and I have read books about it, but everything has changed.
JACK: We talked with some of the guys from Larry and His Flask, and they said, 'You just keep pushing, don't let up. You just keep going has hard as you can.' We've really been taking that to heart and kind of following their taillight.
SW: Talk to me about the new music.
JACK: Our first record, the idea was we wanted something really raw. Over the last year and a half, me and Pete have evolved as friends and co-writers. The first album was a carryover from this one-man band that I had, and they were songs I had already written. These next six songs is the journey we've taken together as friends and writers. It's both of us. The songs are more complex and emotion-filled.
SW: Any song in particular that you're more attached to?
JACK: There's a song called "Break A Man." It started getting written before the event happened, but it was solidified after my sister passed away in January. So it sort of evolved into a ballad for her.
SW: Oh man, that's tough. I'm sorry to hear that.
JACK: I wish I had a penny for every 'sorry' I've gotten. Nothing that has ever come out of me and Pete playing together has been disingenuous. And that's important. SW
Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil
8 pm. Saturday, June 1.
The Horned Hand, 507 NW Colorado Ave. $5.