I read you were living a transient life when you recorded “When We Were Animals.” How did that affect how you creatively approached this album? 

In some ways, this was a nightmare record to make. I was on the road or in Atlanta, the producer James Sparber was in NYC, the drummer was in Nashville, the vibes/ marimba player was in Vermont, the guitar player was in Valdosta, GA… and, of course, we wanted to make a record that sounded like it was the band all hanging out in one room together. I had to force myself to have faith in the songs as I had written them, I had to believe that the songs had enough structural integrity, that even if the organ parts weren’t a real Hammond B-3 distorting through a real Leslie recorded to a two inch tape machine that the songs would still sound good, that they would still sound authentic and true to themselves. I had to have faith in the musicians I’d chosen to play on the record that they would understand what I was shooting for and that they would deliver for me. I really had to trust James that he understood what I wanted, that he would do his best to give me what I wanted even when it wasn’t necessarily what he heard in the song, and I had to trust him to make quick decisions that were going to work. When you’re a kid, you’re insecure and that manifests as you being a control freak. The guitar has to sound this way and the bass has to sound this way and my voice needs to be louder and so on. When you get older, well, you both become more comfortable with who you are and you become lazier so it’s like “nah, fuck it, you can play that part if you want.” It’s also easy to become so enamored with the art of recording that it becomes an impediment to actually finishing a record. You learn about the guitars and the amps and the effects and then the mics and the pre-amps and the outboard gear and on and on. That shit’s really fun to read about and think about… but we live in an imperfect world and we had to make a record in imperfect circumstances with a small budget and a tight schedule and the gear we had available. So instead of trying to make a perfect record, we set out to make a good record. The end result is the best record I’ve ever made. A lot of credit is due to the musicians who played on it and the hard work James Sparber did pulling it all together.

It seems there is a lot of focus on past relationships on this record. Does performing these new tunes serve as a bandage over old wounds or feel like you are ripping a bandage off? 

It’s never the lady or the tiger, it’s always the lady AND the tiger. It’s a funny thing, writing songs as a means of processing grief or anger or sadness or regret. Because it works, it absolutely works, writing songs has been more therapeutic than anything else in my life, including therapy. And sometimes you really nail an emotional moment and get a great song out of some exquisitely painful moment… and then that song is successful enough that people want to hear it every night and you strum those chords and sing the first line and it throws you right back down the well you were in when you wrote the song. Allison Langerak sang on much of 2007’s “How To Make a Bad Situation Worse,” a record we made while our relationship was falling apart, and a couple of songs on that record are about losing her. “Coward’s Path” is about the grim aftermath of that relationship. More than ten years after we broke up, we’ve repaired our friendship to the point that she felt comfortable coming in to sing on a bunch of songs on “When We Were Animals.” That felt incredibly positive and redemptive… and yeah, still emotionally loaded. It’s weird listening back to the record and hearing that voice I know so well, it’s almost too intense. But that’s how I like it.

Who are you listening to these days? 

The predictable lonesome cowboy old man shit: Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Jeff Walker, old Neil Young, Fred Eaglesmith. I’m a huge Mark Lanegan fan, loved the last Nicole Atkins record, can’t stop listening to this band HEELS from Memphis. I’ve discovered some great bands out on the road like Stan Anna, Michael Dean Damron, Creston Line, Dead Volts.

You’ve got these lines in your songs that make the listener smirk and stay in their head.  Do you ever notice individuals in the crowd getting hit with sentiments?

Ha. Yeah, I live for that. I love seeing people wince or laugh even just watching their eyes widen. The UK crowds in particular are really rewarding. They’re polite and reserved but open, you know, really listening to what you’re saying. I remember seeing one guy blink, put two fingers to his closed mouth and just shake his head. It made my night. More than once after a show, I’ll have someone come up to me, put a hand on my shoulder, look in my eyes… and then just turn and walk away. That means a lot to me– means I moved something inside of them, something that hurt.

You spend a lot of time on the road. What’s your favorite way to kill time between the road and the stage? 

This question is phrased in a way that implies that I enjoy doing things while on the road. Sadly, it’s mostly just taking shelter. My back is a near constant source of pain so I spend a lot of time laying on a lacrosse ball nestled into a huge knot in my back, my eyes watering. Okay, okay, it’s not all pain and drudgery. People will drag me out running sometimes and that’s fun. I love house shows in the summer and swimming pools and homecooking and playing with dogs. And I’ve been known to scour Craig’s List in out of the way places for cool, hard-to-find old guitars.

You laid down tracks with quite a few special guests including: Cait O’Riordan, Adrian Grenier, Bill Whitten and Star Anna. How’d this all come about?

Eh, I’ve just been at it forever. And I’ve been lucky. Adrian Grenier is a bro from way back. When I first met him in ’98, he was a drummer who was fooling around with acting, you know? He recognizes that he’s been fortunate and does everything he can to help shine a light on the work of his friends, and for that we’re totally grateful. I was a fan of Grand Mal before I even moved to NYC. I met Bill Whitten in 2002 when I was booking a club in Brooklyn and he’s become one of my better friends. Star Anna and I met through a friend and quickly became fans of each other’s work. Then we did a couple of kamikaze tours together and now we have matching tattoos and we’ll be best frenemies till we die. Cait O’Riordan was the biggest, best story. I’ve been a fan of the Pogues since I was a drunken teenager. She read some of the writing I’d published about sobriety for Amazon and we got to be friends via Twitter. She’s amazing, as a musician and a person, and I hope this is just the first of many collaborations with her.


Preview “Animals” below before the LP drops May 1st
| be a supportive listener |
Mishka Shubaly


 

 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: 

 



 

Your recent release Visionland was recorded at Plum Creek Sound Studios.  How was the experience working with Israel Nash and Ted Young?

It was amazing. We spent a little over two weeks out in Dripping Springs, TX fully submersed in the album. We meshed really well with Israel and Ted and I think it shows.

I read that the album title came from an old amusement park that some of you grew up near.  I have a serious love for all things theme park.  What are some of your best memories of that park before it shut down?

Yeah, Visionland was a theme park in Bessemer, AL. Despite its many, many faults there were some good times had there. The Rampage (their wooden coaster) was pretty cool when it worked.

Visionland seems likes its gone down more of a psychedelic vein than your last LP.  If you all had to pick one person in the band as your spirit guide, who would it be and why?

Haha. I think we’d probably outsource that job.

Word on the street is you’ve done around 600 shows in the last three years.  What effect does all that time on the road have on you personally and on the music you create?

I’d say more than that. It’s hard to say how effected I am by it. Too far in it to know, I guess. It gives you a lot of material to write about, though.

Finally, what are you all listening to in the tour van lately and who gets to control the dial?

We’ve been listening to a lot of Gerry Rafferty, Faces, Kendrick Lamar, Wu Tang, Mel Tillis, and Blaze Foley. Typically whoever is riding shotgun also DJ’s. Keeps it fresh.


“Fine, Fine, Day” off their new LP Visionland

1.) We see you’re recording with the good people at Dial Back Sound. What’s that experience been like?

Bronson of Dial Back Sound is the most professional sound engineer we have ever worked with. He knew just how to set us up when we started to record our second album “The Dial Back Boogie.” He took us in straight from the road when we got in late at night and said, “Alright you boys are used to playing late sets on the road so let’s get ya tracking now”… and that first night we tracked 4 songs and 3 were keepers. It was also super humbling to have Dial Back regulars like Jimbo Mathis sit in on our original song, “Major Minor Rip Off” and dig our style. Lastly Matt Patton is a really stand up guy and made sure we were set up for the experience and he even got us backstage at a Drive By Truckers show back in our home state of CA before we even set foot in Dial Back just so we can meet him and have a good time! We already recorded our next EP at Dial Back on this tour and pretty much plan to exclusively record there.

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2.) When can we expect the next EP to drop?
When it comes to our next EP it’s already in the mixing and mastering phase in the hands of Bronson at Dial Back. Our second album is only a few months old so we might take a little time to release this next EP but we feel like we’ve stepped up our game even more returning to Dial Back for the second time.

 


3.) How’s the tour going?
This Manifest Destiny Tour 2017 has been a blast! It has been pretty unreal to have returning and new fans come out to our shows and actually request our original songs! We don’t get that much in CA. This is our fourth official tour and also our longest at six weeks and we could not be happier with all the turn outs. Usually we just love touring the South but adding the East Coast has been way worth it!

4.) What’s everybody’s go to gas station food?

When it comes to gas we just hit whatever is cheapest and we love our late night Waffle House trips.

 

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The food that fuels Pope Paul & The Illegals

5.)  What’s been spinning in the van this summer?

Music in the Pope-Mobile is always on random from the phone of whoever is driving… but I’d say we play a lot of Road Kings, Legendary Shack Shakers, Hank III, and Reverend Horton Heat… and the occasional Unknown Hinson singalong!

 

Catch these guys tearing up Franks Power Plant on Thursday, July 20th

Interview: Extension Cord | Live photos: Frank Martinelli

1.) You just played a gig at Club Garibaldi in Milwaukee. How’d you like the city?
Honestly, it was our favorite city on the Midwest run we just finished. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a cool neighborhood bar, which is convenient because beer is the base layer of our food pyramid on the road. Everyone we encountered was incredibly friendly – especially the fans that brought us our first-ever taste of fried cheese curds. And it’s hard to imagine a better spot to unwind post-show than on the banks of one of the Great Lakes.

Word on the street is, you’re heading out with the Old 97’s on tour. How’d that come about?

We are, and we couldn’t be more excited. Coming from North Texas and making the type of music we do, the 97’s are pretty much our biggest heroes and influences. We sought them out for guidance early on, and have gotten to know a few of them a little bit since then. Earlier this spring, we were one of the openers for their second annual Old 97’s County Fair festival in downtown Dallas, which is where I think we really won them over.

What’s the band playing in the van on the road these days?  Is there a timeshare going on with the radio?

Fortunately we’re all pretty easygoing and have pretty diverse tastes. We call our trumpet player DJ Round-Up because he takes control of the radio most of the time. What’s on at any given time depends on our mood, from studying up on classics like Marty Stuart and Dwight Yoakam, reliving our youth with NOFX and Offspring, letting out some aggression with Metallica and Pantera, breaking the monotony of a long drive with some comic relief from Creed or Limp Bizkit. We have a big collection of cassettes, but there are a handful that never leave the van, among them Social Distortion’s “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell,” Blink-182’s “The Mark, Tom and Travis Show,” Green Day’s “Dookie” and a George Strait box set.

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DJ Round Up

4.) Describe your live show in 5 words or less.

You’ll get drunk and laid.

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1.) You just played a gig at Club Garibaldi in Milwaukee. How’d you like the city?
Honestly, it was our favorite city on the Midwest run we just finished. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a cool neighborhood bar, which is convenient because beer is the base layer of our food pyramid on the road. Everyone we encountered was incredibly friendly – especially the fans that brought us our first-ever taste of fried cheese curds. And it’s hard to imagine a better spot to unwind post-show than on the banks of one of the Great Lakes.

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Word on the street is, you’re heading out with the Old 97’s on tour. How’d that come about?
We are, and we couldn’t be more excited. Coming from North Texas and making the type of music we do, the 97’s are pretty much our biggest heroes and influences. We sought them out for guidance early on, and have gotten to know a few of them a little bit since then. Earlier this spring, we were one of the openers for their second annual Old 97’s County Fair festival in downtown Dallas, which is where I think we really won them over.

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What’s the band playing in the van on the road these days?  Is there a timeshare going on with the radio?
Fortunately we’re all pretty easygoing and have pretty diverse tastes. We call our trumpet player DJ Round-Up because he takes control of the radio most of the time. What’s on at any given time depends on our mood, from studying up on classics like Marty Stuart and Dwight Yoakam, reliving our youth with NOFX and Offspring, letting out some aggression with Metallica and Pantera, breaking the monotony of a long drive with some comic relief from Creed or Limp Bizkit. We have a big collection of cassettes, but there are a handful that never leave the van, among them Social Distortion’s “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell,” Blink-182’s “The Mark, Tom and Travis Show,” Green Day’s “Dookie” and a George Strait box set.

IMG_7820.jpg
DJ Round Up

4.) Describe your live show in 5 words or less.
You’ll get drunk and laid.

P1033527
You’ll get drunk and laid.” -Vandoliers-