Jon Bartel Interview

 How’d you get hooked up with Twang N’ Bang Records? They’ve got a hell of a roster.

Twang N Bang is run by a local musician / promoter named Patrick Hayes. I met Pat about 10 years ago when we were both playing in very different bands- I was mangling a fiddle in a string band and Pat was fronting a  group called Pennyjar (motto: “we’ve never heard of you either.”) We played a few incredibly drunken, disaster-ridden shows together and became friends.  In 2011 or so, Pat started organizing a twice-yearly festival that featured a mashup of local country and punk bands. It was called Twang N Bang Fest and I think the label idea was born when he started putting out compilation albums comprised of songs by the bands playing. Eventually I joined an alt/country/rock band called American Dirt and we asked Pat if he would record our first EP at his studio at the time, called “Cocks Lodge,” which is still the best studio name ever. We put out that EP and 2 full length records on Twang N Bang. When I started The Creston Line a couple years ago, Pat played bass for a bit and agreed to put out our first couple recordings. The TNB family is pretty incestous, actually- I’ve filled in here and there on lead guitar in Pat’s latest dystopian country band, The Dead Volts, and Brenneth is a pretty integral non-official member of the Turkey Buzzards. My buddies Dave and Brian from the American Dirt days have a cool thing going called The 40 Hour Work Week… it’s a fun group of depressed songwriters to be a part of.

 I saw that you are already recording some new tunes. When can we expect those to drop?

Probably sometime in the next 6 months to 2 years. Ha Ha. The material for the next record is mostly written at this point, and right now I’m busy demoing it, trying to figure out arrangements, etc. before we start recording. I record all our music in my studio, for better or worse, so sometimes I get stuck in the “I have infinite time” quagmire. All the new stuff pretty much deals with this huge battle with anxiety and booze that I’ve been fighting over the past year or so… I’m not sure if it’s a battle I’m winning or losing, but writing about it seems to help. It’s going to be a little weirder sonically than the last couple records, I think, a little more lyrically dense. I’m shooting for something between “A Man Needs a Maid” and “Grave Dancer’s Union.” Overall my goal is to put out a new full length record by the summer. We’ll see.

What’s an artist / band from your neck of the woods that folks in the midwest should be checking out?

Two come to mind immediately. The first is The Mutineers. They actually just bailed out for rural Washington state, but they’ve been good friends and a staple of the Central California music scene for a while. Killer husband/wife duo who do a sort of Pogues by way of White Stripes thing mixed with a healthy dose of late-era Vegas Elvis.

On the stranger end of things, I’m a huge fan of this band called Arthur Watership– and not just because Taylor and Adam (our drummer and guitar player) front the band! They are just great… really different. I watched them suck all the oxygen out of Hotel Cafe in LA one night and it was awesome. Audiences have no idea what to do with them… medieval style Viola DiGamba mixed with jazz/noise guitars, upright bass, skittery drums and some downright terrifying harmony work. It’s like watching Tori Amos tenderly hatefuck Nick Drake. I’m probably not doing a very good job of selling it… they are making a new record right now but they have some stuff on Bandcamp that was recorded in a bathtub.

I saw you and Brenneth grew up with one another. How’d the rest of the band come together?

Originally Bren and I were just doing a duo thing that we called The Shots, with him on pedal steel and me on guitar. We decided to put together a full band and cycled through a bunch of buddies who sort of stepped in to jam here and there, but by the time we recorded our EP in early 2016 we had a solid lineup that included Kirk, our current bass player, who I met a while back when I used to sit in on fiddle with his country band. Kirk cut his teeth working as a tape op and engineer in some old analog LA studios back in the day, and we became friends when he started helping me put together a studio at my place, primarily with the goal of recording my own music. At the time on drums we had a guy named Alex from a band called Goodnight Texas who I met when I was booking shows at a local venue. Alex’s twin brother Adam moved to the area around the time we were finishing up mixing the EP, and he started sitting in at some shows on guitar. He became an integral part of the band pretty quickly- he and Brenneth have pretty different lead styles, and both can shred tastefully, which is rare in my experience. It took about 10 seconds the first time he jammed with us for me to realize that it was going to be one of the great privileges of my life to have those guys on stage together playing my songs. After we put out the EP, Alex the drummer left to become a Triple A umpire (which is rad) and Taylor Belmore, our current drummer, took over the throne. She is, as the old joke goes, both a drummer AND a musician which makes her perfect for the band… she’s got a really nice sense of how the song should flow and adapt to the stage / crowd / alcohol level, which is something we’re far more interested in than playing stuff the same way every night. I met Taylor when she was recording some backing vocals at my studio with a band from San Francisco who later started a BB gun fight in my control room.

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You walk into a gas station for a beverage and a snack. What do you walk out with?

La Croix and a granola bar. I’m boringly healthy these days. Plus ramen noodles make my anxiety worse for some unknown reason. Brenneth is a chemist and tried to explain it to me scientifically once but I was lost and driving us through Portland and I don’t remember what he said.

Seems like your a man who appreciates a sad song. What songwriter(s) hit ya square in the chest when you listen to them?

Number one has to be John Moreland- that guy is just a master of the sad song. I got to open for him a few times, which was amazing, and the first night I found out that my best friend from childhood (and the subject of 1992 and Blood Brothers on our new record) had just shot himself to death. John opened with Blacklist about 4 minutes after I got the call and I just lost it. Then he played Cherokee.

Ryan Adams is a close second- I know I’m probably in the minority with this opinion but I think that both Demolition and 29 are fantastic records and both those are sad as shit. Also, The Eels make me feel lonely in the right way. I guess this list wouldn’t be complete without Jeff Buckley, though I can never tell if his songs are actually sad or if I’m just nostalgic for the time in my life when I was listening to Grace on repeat.

 When can we expect that Twang Pollution to hit the great state of Wisconsin?

Oh man. I’d love to make it out there this summer… We’ll see. Is there a way to do this without having to drive through Nebraska?

Listen to The Creston Line’s Latest LP “Vagabonds” here: 

 



 

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