Lawrence Gowan of Styx has just finished a session of yoga in Oklahoma City, the 22nd of 100 tour stops this year for the Chicago band known for melding progressive rock with hard-rock guitar, strong ballads and more than a bit of theatrical flair. The tour takes Styx to the Sturgis rally on Sunday, Aug. 7.
“We’re on a tremendous run at the moment with Styx,” Gowan said by phone. “Last month, we played in England with Journey and played at Wembley Arena, and after that we went to Sweden and played with Ozzy Osbourne. But there’s nothing like 10,000 motorcycles to put all that to shame.”
Gowan said the band has a “great affiliation” with the rally and the enthusiasm that surrounds it.
“I see those T-shirts all over the country,” he said. “I’m the token Canadian in the band and I’ll even see them up there. … It’s a bit of a secret code.”
Gowan joined Styx — the band responsible for such hits as “Lady,” “Fooling Yourself,” “Renegade,” “Babe,” “The Best of Times,” “Too Much Time on My Hands” and “Come Sail Away” — in 1999, so you might think he’d be one of the family by now.
“I will forever be the new guy,” he said, despite being in the band “for double the length of the Beatles’ career.”
Gowan had his own band and a strong solo career in Canada before Tommy Shaw heard his songs and thought they fit well with the Styx catalog.
“I felt compelled that somehow I was going to get across that border,” Gowan said.
His first studio album with the band was 2003’s “Cyclorama,” followed by the 2005 album, “Big Bang Theory.” Since 1999, Gowan, Shaw, James “JY” Young, Todd Sucherman and Ricky Phillips have performed more live concerts than in all of the band’s previous years combined.
“Now, there’s an insatiable demand for this band to play around the world. There just aren’t enough days, but we don’t want to lose the opportunities. The band is so vital right now and still at an energetic level,” he said.
As to the band’s continuing popularity, “We really don’t want to have to overly diagnose it,” he said. “We just know that it is.”
A continuing stream of cultural references — from Styx songs being played on “South Park,” “Sex and the City” and a car ad featuring “Mr. Roboto” — has helped.
“People are just curious about these classic rock bands. We’re from an era when bands did the live concerts. And did it really well,” he said. “There’s a tremendous epic proportion to a Styx show; once people see it, they want to see more. That’s an experience they can’t download.”
With so much material to choose from — including songs from the band’s beginnings in the early ’70s — coming up with a concert lineup can be difficult.
“We’ll choose ‘Renegade’ and ‘Come Sail Away’ and ‘Miss America’ – those are absolute necessities to play in a situation like that,” he said. Other tracks, such as “Man in the Wilderness,” “The Grand Illusion” album and “Sweet Madam Blue” (“when we dust it off”) have resonated with concert-goers, too.
Among his tour highlights have been playing in Glasgow, Scotland, in front of all his relatives, along with concerts in Japan and London and two appearances at the Super Bowl.
“It’s great when a band can play such a variety of venues and get such a great response in all of them.
We happen to be a band that embraced all the different ways a concert can be put on,” he said.
Styx has been on tour with bands such as Foreigner, Journey and Def Leppard — all bands that have had similar experiences and proven longevity on the road.
“If you can make this last for one or two years of life, you’re pretty lucky. But if you can do it over a chunk of your lifetime, that’s pretty rare,” he said. “We’ve lived the lives that each other has lived. We can both commiserate and commend. We benefit by the fact that others are doing well.”
As for yoga, Gowan makes sure he does it every day when there’s a show.
“We’re in pretty good shape. The rigors of touring, you have to keep yourself kind of sharp,” he said. “We have devoted ourselves to that or we wouldn’t be around.”