Cranston’s Ian Lacombe has a talent for songwriting and he fuels it in two bands. He sings and plays guitar in the jazz and blues based rock act Route .44, and he also plays bass in the gypsy blues band Consuelo’s Revenge while taking the lead on vocals every once in a while.
Both bands have solid local followings around Providence and both of their interesting sounds compliment each other very well.
It’s rare around these parts that an artist is part of the creative nucleus for two talented acts, but that’s the case when it comes to Lacombe’s musical endeavors. It’s a testament to his keen sense of inventiveness and sonic style that maintains his musical output.
We recently had a talk about inheriting his stepfather’s records, a certain musician’s influence on him, fulfilling artistic needs, and consistently writing new songs.
ROB DUGUAY: What would you say first drew you to music?
IAN LACOMBE: I inherited a very large vinyl collection from my stepfather, who was not a musician, but he was a very big appreciator of music. In my early adolescence I sort of buried myself in these albums, which was basically stuff from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Anything from The Beatles to Pink Floyd and then there was some Latin jazz and some other kinds of stuff. That was the catalyst for me jumping into music, although it wasn’t the appreciative part, but I also hung out with a lot of kids who got into music themselves. Through that, I transitioned from being an appreciator of music to the musician side.
RD: You’ve mentioned before how Mark Sandman from the Boston alternative rock band Morphine had a big influence on you and changed the way you looked at music. How did you stumble across his stuff and what would you say impressed you the most about his work?
IC: It’s interesting, my introduction to Morphine was through a girl I knew who had a dorm room at the Rhode Island School of Design. I don’t remember her name, but she had this tape. She put it on and I remember asking, “What is this?” While I was listening to all of this ’60s and ’70s stuff, that was the first piece of modern music at the time that grew me out of the classic rock upbringing, if that makes sense. Hearing that low sax and everything sort of in the baritone range was just mind blowing to me. That was my introduction to Morphine. I still remember hearing “Candy” for the first time and this very unique sound. It was definitely the turnaround for me.
RD: When it comes to filling a certain artistic need, how does being part of Route .44 accomplish that and how does being part of Consuelo’s Revenge accomplish that?
IC: To explain it in the best way, I have to say that in my lifetime I went from being someone who really appreciated music to a songwriter. The way I see the world is that there are appreciators of music, there are musicians, there are songwriters and there’s a plethora of variables within musicality. The way I got into it was through writing songs. I’m not a very good musician and I never have been. My forte has always been with writing songs, so when I started out I was a bass player in bands but I was always writing. Eventually I started to really embrace the songwriting aspect and I was able to form a band in Route .44 with a bunch of really talented musicians, far more talented than myself.
It was great and very helpful and as life has gone on, I continue to write and you write what you write. I was writing songs that didn’t fit with what Route .44 was doing, that band kind of started organically and it developed its own sound. Even though they were my songs, they were my songs that fit that sound and I was still writing songs that didn’t. Consuelo’s Revenge was started because I had a whole bunch of songs that never fit what the other band was doing and I wanted to do something with those. That’s when I met Nicholas Smyth, who is also part of a big band out of Canada called The Dreadnaughts, while he was in Providence going to school, and he also had a bunch of songs that were folky that he didn’t have a place for.
We started meeting up to put Consuelo’s Revenge together and initially it was going to be a folk band. Both of us had been lead singers in our previous bands and neither of us wanted to be the lead singer in this, which is how Amanda Salemi came in. Then the band sort of moved into its own sound and it’s kind of funny because I’m now writing a bunch of songs that won’t fit with Consuelo’s Revenge which means that there will be another project down the line. That’s sort of how my world of putting bands together has morphed, and now when I write new songs sometimes I figure it would be a Route .44 song and I’ll put it in that shelf for now. Whenever we get together we’ll do something with this new stuff, and similarly with Consuelo’s Revenge, the guy who replaced Nicholas in the band is a great songwriter himself so we’re doing a lot of his stuff and Amanda is writing her own songs as well.
When I write something that doesn’t fit with either band, I’ll put it on a shelf and maybe down the line I’ll do some other project. Then it starts all over again.
RD: Outside of music, you’re also a nurse. What made you want to get into the profession and how has it been being a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic?
IC: I started in human services when I was 18. It’s always been my day job, working in group homes and day programs with people who have developmental disabilities. My mother started in that career before I was born and she’s still doing it. As I was growing up she had clients that didn’t have families, so they would come over to eat Thanksgiving dinner with me and my family. There was always sort of a natural transition, and I work at the same hospital that I’ve worked at for the last 20 years, and seven years ago I started nursing school.
I started it because they would give me new tools to use in helping people with their mental illness basically. That’s what got me into the nursing profession and COVID-19 has been very, very challenging. It’s just working in a psychiatric hospital where everything ranging from treatment to therapy is based upon interaction. All of sudden you have this virus that makes the interaction possibly deadly so trying to figure out how to provide therapeutic interventions and still keep everyone safe has been a very delicate balancing act. The hospital has done very well and I think the staff has done a great job of transitioning these ideas of how to be therapeutic while keeping your distance.
RD: That’s great that they’ve been able to adapt. The weather has been getting warmer and spring is transitioning into summer so what are your plans for the next few months?
IC: We actually have booked a Consuelo’s Revenge rehearsal for June. A few of us have been getting together online and rehearsing via video conferencing and we’ve been writing throughout the pandemic. The long-term goal is to get into the studio and make a new album, we were going to do it last year but the pandemic put a big damper on that. So in June we’ll have our first rehearsal and moving forward we can’t wait to get back on stage. We’ve been missing it, and I think psychologically society as a whole has been traumatized.
Both my wife and I work in health care and we’re in this place where we’re vaccinated but we don’t know what it exactly means pertaining to wearing a mask. With the new CDC regulations, it’s such a weird place to be as a human being.
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