“Why Not Us?” Train Approaching 30 Years of Pop Rock (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from Part One

While the band’s lineup has gone through some changes over the years, more often than not, Train has featured six or more members. What are the advantages of that?

There are times where we do shows without [Nikita and Sakai] in the band, but they add such a good vibe, and we’re like family. I like to have them around, because they’re great at what they do, and they bring such a beautiful energy to what Train is.

And the lineup through the years has changed due to reasons that are not really in people’s control. Some people leave because they need to, and some people had to leave because if they hadn’t, Train would stop existing. So, you try to figure out how to navigate through time, and you hope that your fans will understand. And they have; they obviously miss people for a short amount of time, but they realize that I am doing the best that I can to take care of everyone: bandmates and Train fans. And when they know that, I think they respond positively to it.

Train has had so many hit singles to its credit that you could easily populate an entire concert setlist with nothing but hit singles. What’s your favorite overlooked or deep-cut Train song, and do you ever play it live?

There’s a song called “Give It All” that was on [2017’s] A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat, and we hadn’t played that one in a long time. When we tour this summer, I definitely want to play songs that people have not ever heard live.

I was talking to a woman who has been to many many Train shows, and she asked, “Do you ever get tired of playing the hits?” And the answer is no, because people respond so positively to them.

There’s a song called “Running Back” on AM Gold and that’s one of my favorite songs ever written. So we’re going to start playing songs in these sets that we love, and hopefully people will respond the same way as [they do to] “Hey, Soul Sister.”

When you play some of the band’s earliest material, do you recognize the guy who wrote those songs?

There were times in the early days when I was really sad, and there are fans of Train that are like, “I kind of like the sad Pat.” You like the music of sad Pat, but I don’t want to be that guy any more; I don’t want to live like that. But I think there were moments that I needed to be that guy so that I could write those songs. And those songs were part of the process of getting out of that [emotional place]. What a gift to be given to be able to work through things through music!

How do you think Bay Area roots show up in the band’s character?

San Francisco during the time of us coming up was the perfect city to be able to create not just music but a fan base, because there were so many venues to play. You didn’t have pay-to-play like in Los Angeles. At times you were paid, and at times you weren’t. But it was okay; it was a good trade [even when you didn’t get paid], because you were creating [a fan base] that cared.

And there’s no other place we could have done that but San Francisco. The beauty and the culture and difficulty of living there: all of those things played a role in the music that was written.

What are you most looking forward to about this upcoming tour?

We were only going to do ten shows this summer, and then I was going to write an album; we were going to tour amphitheaters next year. But we put the ten shows up, and they sold out. Then we put ten more up, and they’re selling out. So we just figured, “Let’s do a run of all the places that we don’t go to very often.” I don’t remember the last time we were in Wyoming, but we’re going to go. And we’re going to play to a sold-out amphitheater; that’s pretty cool!

So what I’m looking forward to is seeing all of these places that I haven’t seen in so many years, because those are my people. I was raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, and to think of my favorite band coming there when I was a kid, that sounds like a lot of fun. You get a whole different energy.

You mentioned that you predicted long ago that Train would outlast other bands. When you started the band nearly 30 years ago, did you ever imagine that you’d still be doing it in 2023?

Yeah! I mean, look at Tony Bennett*. So why not me?

When I golf and somebody’s trying to make a 30-foot putt, that’s something we say: “Why not you?” And this is similar; it’s a simplified version of it: “Why not us? Why can’t we keep going like Tony Bennett?” It’s a different era, but it’s the same concept.

# # #

(NOTE: Sadly, Tony Bennett passed away about eight weeks after my interview with Monahan took place.)