Now and then a supergroup seems to spontaneously rise from the musical landscape. There was Cream, Blind Faith, Plastic Ono Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the late 1960s; Emerson, Lake and Palmer in the ’70s; the Highwaymen and the Traveling Wilburys in the ’80s; and more recent examples Velvet Revolver, Broken Social Scene and the New Pornographers.
Diamond Rugs, which released its self-titled debut album in April, features John McCauley and Robbie Crowell from Deer Tick, Ian Saint Pé from the Black Lips, Hardy Morris from Dead Confederate, Bryan Dufresne of Six Finger Satellite and Steve Berlin from Los Lobos.
So far Diamond Rugs has performed just a few shows. The group also made a June appearance on Late Show with David Letterman. But the band begins its first tour Saturday, Oct. 27. The weeklong trek includes New York, Nashville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Austin and New Orleans.
Given the many successful bands the group’s members already belong to, corralling them all for a Diamond Rugs tour is a near miracle.
“It’s really challenging,” Berlin said from Chicago, where Los Lobos was on tour with Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
“Deer Tick’s career is flying,” the saxophonist said. “Black Lips’ career is smoking. Ian has a Dead Confederate record and a solo record that he’s hustling. Everybody is busy, so it’s hard to get more than a week at a time.”
Despite the scheduling difficulties, Diamond Rugs is a priority for everyone in the band, Berlin added.
“We’re always conversing amongst ourselves, like, ‘When can we do it again? When do you have time off?’ We’re all committed to other bands but everybody in this band is madly in love with Diamond Rugs.”
The making of Diamond Rugs’ album debut in Nashville was one of those rare, special creative experiences, Berlin said.
“Everybody bonded in such an extraordinary way,” he said. “The excitement factor, from song to song, grew and grew and grew. As we put each brick in place, everybody was like, ‘Wow. Is this is actually happening?’ It was like a magical moment.”
Berlin has participated in a few such projects before, one of them being Los Lobos’ 1992 album, Kiko. Shout! Factory Records recently re-released the original album as well as an in-concert version of it on CD and DVD.
A creative peak for Los Lobos, Kiko was named album of the year by the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune and an essential recording of the ’90s by Rolling Stone. It won an MTV video award, too.
Neither Kiko nor the Diamond Rugs debut began in a premeditated way.
“It’s like the mystery reveals itself as you go along,” Berlin said. “It’s like you’re just executing a thing that’s supposed to be, something happening while you’re there.”
Before being recruited by McCauley for the band that became Diamond Rugs, Berlin was a McCauley fan via Deer Tick. Nonetheless, the saxophonist didn’t recognize the Deer Tick principal when he approached him after a Los Lobos show in Providence, R.I.
“This lunatic comes up to me,” Berlin remembered, “and goes, ‘Dude, we’re gonna make a record together!’ I say, ‘OK. You bet, buddy.’ And he goes, ‘No, man. We’re gonna make a record together! I’m John McCauley.’
“And I went, ‘Whoa. You’re John McCauley of Deer Tick?’ He said, ‘Yep.’ Three weeks later we’re in the studio. I did not know John at all. I didn’t know Ian or any of the guys. But minutes into this project we’re making an interesting record. It’s a zen-something quality. I’m not sure what it is, but not many people in my experience have what John has. He draws the best people around him.”