Chuck Prophet Returns To eTown With 'Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins'

By: Claire Woodcock

Thursday marks California roots rocker Chuck Prophet’s return to eTown Hall. This San Francisco-based artist has been steadily cranking out folk albums since the ’80s, while collaborating with musicians like Cake and Alejandro Escovedo.

 Chuck Prophet. Photo Credit: Karen Doolittle

Chuck Prophet. Photo Credit: Karen Doolittle

In February, Prophet released his latest full length Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins. He recalled writing a cluster of songs with a co-conspirator who was lacking direction.

“I ended up putting on a Bobby Fuller record,” he said, “And I heard the record crackle, the needle skip and jump.”

To which his collaborator shot back, “Bobby Fuller died for your sins!”

 Photo Credit: Karen Doolittle.

Photo Credit: Karen Doolittle.

At first, he didn’t think much of it. But for Prophet, Robert Gaston “Bobby” Fuller was an icon. A greaser-rocker type from Texas, he and his band The Bobby Fuller Four moved from El Paso to Los Angeles in search of the American dream.

“He was an inventive guy and he was completely out of time,” mused Prophet. “By the time Bobby Fuller got to Los Angeles, he had entered a world that worshipped The Beach Boys and The Beatles."

In 1996, the group released I Fought The Law, and within weeks of that record climbing the charts, Fuller was found dead under mysterious circumstances.

“I guess I kind of relate to that… I feel like I’ve always been out of step with the times,” said Prophet. “I’ve been making home records for a while. I mean [Fuller] made records in El Paso in his parents’ living room. And they built a reverb chamber in their parents’ backyard. I’d been making home records for awhile and I got my first big record deal at the height of grunge music.”

Prophet released Brother Aldo, his first full length LP in 1990 and said that at the time, roots rock wasn’t what record labels were looking for. “Later bands took that sound places,” he reflects. But on Bobby Fuller, Prophet recorded in real time to tape.

“I just wanted to slow us down,” he said, “And let the limitations to make us turn in a record with a little more emphasis on the performances and a little less emphasis on making it right.”

Bobby Fuller’s influence let Prophet slow down the process, which makes the album’s complexity play for itself. In Fuller’s fashion, Prophet describes what he calls the “California Noir” thematics at work on his new record.

Listen to Prophet's new record:

“We’re living in kind of a distorted place out here in California,” he said. “The money came to town and the latest tech wave is a little different from the last tech wave… young techies have come and it's like living in a science fiction movie.”

Boulder audiences can relate to the singer-songwriter’s message with songs like “Coming Out in Code,” in lieu of a tech boom that’s brought Microsoft, Uber, Twitterand Google to a city that was once seen as a gathering place for hippies, much like San Francisco.

 Photo Credit: Karen Doolittle

Photo Credit: Karen Doolittle

One song off Prophet’s new record, “Bad Year for Rock and Roll,” is often seen as a tribute to the rock stars the world lost in 2016. While Prophet acknowledged the song was written last year, he added, “it’s about losing our heroes and losing our faith.”

“We live in a time of cultural exhaustion and people are exhausted. They’re overstimulated. I don't care what you believe in or who you believe in. I think everybody's faith was put to the test and I think the election year itself is really in the DNA of the whole album, if I think about it. A lot of the stuff on the record is about death and celebrity and dissolution of the California dream…”

Catch Chuck’s return to eTown Hall May 4th for a live radio show taping with rapper and activist Brother Ali at 7PM. For more information and tickets, visit etown.org.

-Claire

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.