Bay Area-based Camper Van Beethoven bassist Victor Krummenacher is eager to discuss “Hard to See Trouble Coming,” his latest solo effort on his own Veritas imprint, which he’ll be celebrating with a record-release party in Berkeley this weekend. But first, he says – apologizing for a rescheduled interview – he has to take a morning meeting with designers at Wired Magazine, where he works as managing art director. The gig dovetails nicely with forlorn, windswept new folk-rock originals like “Chemtrails,” “All of This is Mine” and “The Kildalton Cross,” he says, “because having a straight job has let me do the art I want to do, so for 20, 25 years, I haven’t had to worry about what somebody says about it.”
How did you first get into graphic design?
Well, I needed to support myself in the mid-’90s, when things were pretty dry. So I went back to city college and wound up working for the Bay Guardian. Then I worked for a few Conde Nast properties, and now I do freelance design all the time – I just did the soundtrack cover for the film “Pelican Dreams,” by the people who did “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” I’ll do film posters, book design, whatever.
And in your spare time, you can crank out solo albums.
That’s how this record, my ninth, came about. I hadn’t made one for so long, but that’s just how I function. This is not a rational pursuit. I’ll go home one day and write a song, then I’ll get up in the morning and I’m writing another. Then suddenly you have a bunch of songs, so I’ll call up some musicians and say, “Let’s do it.”
Is there a Camper Van Beethoven batphone at your house, so bandleader David Lowery can reach you whenever?
Yeah. It’s called g-mail. And it is literally like a batphone in the way David uses it. So I just keep my head down, doing stuff on my own in the batcave until Alfred brings me the glowing-red device. But the Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven fan base – the Crumbs, as we call them — is very unified, and they kind of keep us alive. And they really make my ability to play as a solo artist in the Bay Area possible.
I spent a lot of time in San Francisco in the late ’80s, early ’90s. And as a gay man, a lot of friends were doing sex work, a lot of friends were hustlers. So I’d like to have a Rodney-Crowell-styled record of the heartbreak that this town was, how dark this town was. I think I’ve got an album’s worth of that kind of stuff.
IF YOU GO
Where: Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
When: 9 p.m. Jan. 31
Tickets: $8 to $12
Contact: (510) 841-0188, www.thestarryplough.com