Ryan Davis (State Champion, Sophomore Lounge Records) Interview – 5/15/15

State Champion don’t just take up space, they fill it. I listen to State Champion and think Oh, right, music is supposed to sound this good. What fuckery are other bands wasting time with?

A lot of that fullness is due to songwriter Ryan Davis’ eye/ear/nose/fingers/toes for story. Davis’ lyrics lead double-lives as coffee-soaked short stories and violently howled hymns. There’s a heritage that pinballs between song-haunted fictioneers David Berman, Barry Hannah, and maybe most of all, zinester and writer Hunter Kennedy. From about 1992 to 2012, Kennedy wrote and edited The Minus Times, a zine/journal of modern fiction, illustration, poetry, pre-Florida Man absurdist news stories, and interviews. There’s one David Berman story in The Minus Times about a guy going to a bonfire after arguing with his girlfriend; he chops at a log in the fire with another log and says “You see, the log is trying to hold itself together. The log doesn’t want to burn. It’s freaking out. This is a bad night for this log.” In the first issue, Kennedy printed a newspaper clip that read “An Eastover man drowned Tuesday afternoon when he stepped into a Lower Richland County pond to rinse mud from his clothing.” When I listen to Davis’ songs, I hear a lot these type of lines; lines you can see in print, lines that explain themselves until they’re stark naked and yet, still, remain mysterious.

From Deep Shit, 2011: Bottom of the Bleak

So, in celebration of State Champion’s forthcoming album, Fantasy Error, Ryan was kind enough to give Ninebullets some time for an interview. I thought it fitting to do the interview Minus Times style. These are the five questions Hunter Kennedy asked all of his subjects over the years–from Stephen Malkmus to Stephen Colbert to Chan Marshall to Vic Chesnutt. Thank you, Ryan, for your kind answers!

1) A family trip that made an early impression:

My parents took me to England when I was seven. In retrospect, I think I was a little too young for it. I remember complaining a lot about how much walking we had to do and generally just wanted to swim at the hotel pool and eat McDonald’s, but we took a day trip one afternoon to visit some extended family in the English countryside. I would perform “shows” for them in exchange for a few quid, which I would collect over the course of our stay and spend exclusively on chocolate candy bars. Fast forward 20 years and I’m basically doing the same exact thing except that now it’s in exchange for our standard pay of “two free PBRs per member”

I also remember my dad taking me to the Tate Modern and being enthralled, primarily, by their collection of Francis Bacon paintings. He bought me a postcard from the gift shop, I believe it was one of the Pope images (I should check, I still have it), and apparently I studied that for hours, trying to copy it by scribbling my own distorted Bacon-like portraits of people on the flight home.

2) A dream you can’t shake:

It’s only ever so often that I’m struck by a dream I can even remember. They tend to escape me pretty quickly, if I retain them at all. I can recall a few from over the years though. I dreamt once that Jennifer Aniston and I were climbing this ladder up a couple stories tall so that we could jump into a gigantic bowl of Caesar salad. Still think about that one sometimes.

From Stale Champagne, 2010: Keeping Time

3) An awkward moment with a neighbor/ stranger/ lover:

We were on the start of a tour back in Spring of 2013. Our first night was at some little fest in the suburbs of Chicago on the night that U of L squeaked past Wichita State in the Final Four. I’m a huge fan of college basketball, specifically the Louisville Cardinals, so we all had a blast watching it and this win meant a great deal to me. Two nights later, we were booked to play a house show in Bloomington, IN. When setting this show up a few months prior, I hadn’t even considered that if we made it to the championship, we’d be just an hour away from home (in Bloomington) on the night of the game. We were playing with excellent psychedelic homeys Thee Open Sex, so I hated to cancel, but I also hated the idea of missing out on such a culturally seismic celebration if we were to win. I’ve watched these games with my friends and family for my entire life and it’s always an important part of our year.

Anyway, we decided it was ultimately in our best interest not to cancel the show, so we made sure the game was on upstairs while the bands played in the basement. We were the jocks of the party, screaming and high-fiving and standing on things and drinking heavily in pursuit of a comeback that would soon result in our third national title. It was nothing short of glorious, and the celebrations continued through the night. To be honest, I couldn’t even tell you where we went after the show. Probably some bars on campus, I don’t know. But by some path of action, we ended up in a graveyard across the street from the house where we had played. We continued to finish off whatever beverages we had as we wound ourselves down from the intoxicating elation of victory and called it a night.

The next morning, I awoke to the sound of spraying. I was under a tree, alone, surrounded by empty bottles and cans and trash. Doug (Douglas Ryan, of Animal City) and Sabrina had apparently been unable to sleep as soon as the sun rose and had walked back to the house, hours earlier. It was 10:30 am at this point. I look to my right, and witness the source of the spray — a middle-age man pissing on the front of a tombstone. He meets eyes with me, penis in hand, and says “Hi! I’m Tom. What’s your name?” “Ryan,” I said. “Are you ok?” he asked me. I told him I was fine. He asked if I was going…somewhere. I didn’t understand what he said, but I was starting to gain cognizance at that point and realized that he must have been under the impression that I was homeless, using the shade of the cemetery as temporary refuge. I think he was homeless as well and, in retrospect, that he was probably asking if I wanted to go with him to a shelter of some sort. I said “No, thank you. I’m going to go find my friends.” at which point he shook the rest of the pee out of himself, zipped up, and told me to have a good day as he walked off across the graveyard.

I cleaned up the beer cans, dusted myself off, buttoned my own pants, and emerged from the tree in search of our van.

4) A missed opportunity (or second chance):

I was invited to participate in the on-stage theatrics of a Flaming Lips performance at a festival in Poland once, but I opted to take a cab back to the hotel and check my e-mail instead. No regrets.

5) Two artists you respect & a movie you’d pay to see but they’ll never make:

Michael Andrew Turner and R Clint Colburn. Stroszek II: The Search for Bruno’s Gold.

From the Horse Paint Cassette, 2008: Bite the Dus


Fantasy Error comes out on 5/26. Pre-order the LP now from Sophomore Lounge Records. Look for our review of the album and part two of our interview with Ryan Davis in the coming weeks. In the meantime, GO SEE State Champion on Tour:















Lexington, KY’s Doc Feldman is a busy man these days. He has his solo work with LD 50 and recently played one of Lexington’s most popular venues, Willie’s Locally Known, along with Matt Woods and Egon Danielson. Feldman has his own video company, too, called Shaker Steps, and another band called The Infernal Method, who just played at Natasha’s Bisto & Bar in Lexington. He recently participated in a giveaway with Dear Ben Nichols, showcasing the debut of the Well Crafted Festival he played a pivotal role in organizing. Despite being this busy, he graciously accepted my invitation (okay, pleas) to interview him.

I figure some people might not know the history of all things Doc Feldman, so I thought I’d start there. When were The LD 50 and The Infernal Method formed?

First of all, I just want to say thanks for asking me to do this, and, yes, I’m definitely busy. It can be pretty stressful at times, but I’m having a blast, honestly. I also don’t miss the irony in playing total sad bastard bummer music and actually acknowledging I’m having fun doing it. Anyway, when I play solo performances, I just bill myself as “Doc Feldman.” I released an album via This is American Music last year called Sundowning at the Station as “Doc Feldman & the LD50.” The LD50 was my way of acknowledging the work of David Chapman (drums), Jeremiah Floyd (guitar), and, of course, James Toth (co-writer, guitar, backup vocals, friend, and general guru) who performs under his own moniker Wooden Wand. David and James were both members of my previous band, Good Saints, from which much (but not all) of the material on Sundowning sprung. It was a very natural process to include them in the studio when I was ready to record. James’ work and friendship and encouragement being essential to all of my songwriting, honestly. Now the Infernal Method is my collaboration with an already formed local band called Everyone Lives, Everyone Wins. They are a drone metal band who do all sorts of other collaborations as well. I have wanted to expand into a heavier and more electric sound for a while, so I reached out to these guys and asked if they’d be interested. They were interested, and we’ve been working on honing our sound and direction ever since. We’ve only done this for a few months now, but it’s been an inspiring process. It’s Doc Feldman stuff but on Performance Enhancing Drugs. Luckily, we don’t have to take a piss test before performances.


Haha, right on. Well, do you have any new projects coming up or records coming out with either or both of them? Or solo?

Well, the Infernal Method is my current direction. Eventually, we’ll create enough material and be ready to record it. Then, we’ll release a full album or something like that. I do actually have something I’m hoping will be released soon, though. I went to St. Louis a month or so ago and recorded with my old friends Brothers Lazaroff. We recorded a cover of Jason Molina’s “Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go” for a project that April Wolfe was doing through Common Folk Music, but while we were recording that, we also recorded an original song of mine. It doesn’t really fit with my current heavier direction, but it seemed right up their alley with a bit more of a country infused jazz sort of feel. Things are in the works to maybe release that as one side of a 7″ vinyl split with another artist. So keep an eye out for that in the near future.

Oh, wow, for sure. I can’t wait! Well, hey, tell us about Shaker Steps. 

You mean besides lose sleep? Shaker Steps is a photography and videography production company I created with my friend Mark Rush (former bassist for Good Saints, by the way). We’re best known probably for our Shaker Steps live music sessions, where we film artists performing in interesting or unexpected locations primarily in and around the Lexington, KY area. Our sessions release on YouTube and our website, but eventually, they get compiled into 30 minute episodes and air on our show on KET (Kentucky Public Television) called Music Anywhere. That’s led us to other opportunities working with local businesses, organizations, and just people in our community to do photography and other video work. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely fun, too. We’re available for weddings, by the way!

Oooo! haha I’m curious: What were your favorite videos to work on? Who were your favorite musicians to work with?

I love all my kids exactly the same of course. But if I had to choose… there are a few that stick out in my mind. Doing an early session with Tyler Childers was really fantastic. I think it was the first time I really had a light bulb moment like “oh, okay, we can really help give some exposure to artists that deserve to be famous.”  His talent is undeniable. Tyler’s already pretty well known amongst people in the know I suppose, but I think all us in the know, know that sooner or later the dude’s going to be big. At least I think he deserves to be.

He’s a helluva talent, especially considering his youth. He definitely deserves it in my book, too. Anyone else come to mind?

Doing an early session with St. Paul and the Broken Bones was another one of those really cool experiences. Watching them blow up in front of our eyes and seeing people from all over the world comment on their session. Some of my personal favorites are the really “rare” sessions. We were extremely lucky to get to do sessions with a few artists that rarely do these types of things. Paul K, for example, is a living legend of sorts around here, and meeting him and filming him was a real treat. We got to do a session with Peter Walker, a master guitar player and legend as well, really. We also got to do an incredible session with Mark Olson (of The Jayhawks), which we actually haven’t released yet. There’s another session where we filmed Arthur Hancock performing a song he wrote called “Run That By Me One More Time,” which was actually covered by Willie Nelson and Ray Price. It was so cool to film Arthur and his son perform that song in its original form by the songwriter himself. But, yeah, those sorts of special rare opportunities are the ones I live for. I can honestly say, though, that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every session we’ve filmed. Getting to interact and document these amazing artists just being themselves and performing their craft is a pretty awesome experience. I’m definitely grateful for it.


Before you go, tell us all about Well Crafted Festival: How’d it come about? How long have you been involved? What is your role there? How did you score such an amazing lineup and Ben Nichols?

Well, we filmed a session with Egon Danielson in The Meeting House (the Shakers’ place of worship) at Shaker Village, which also happens to be one of the most amazing acoustical spaces I’ve ever been in. After that session, we were asked if we would be interested in curating a lineup for a craft beer and music festival, and, of course, we jumped at the chance. I guess it’s been nearly a year since we first discussed it. My job was to focus on getting the best lineup we could by filling it with local, regional, and nationally touring artists. This is an inaugural festival put on by a non-profit organization and national historic landmark, so we had a limited budget to work with and really needed to be smart and creative. I know some of the artists personally, and I wasn’t above asking people for “friendly favors.” My very good friend and sometimes collaborator James Toth (Wooden Wand) helped reach out to a few artists for me. I also enlisted the help of Delight Hanover (Alias Records and Pistolier) to reach out to a few artists she’s promoted shows for in the past as well as reach out to a few possible headliners. There were a few possibilities that we were in talks with, but when Ben Nichols became an actual real possibility, we focused our attention on that and pursued hard until we got the “yes” we wanted. It was one of those fist pump moments. I’m lucky enough to have met so many amazing artists through Shaker Steps and through being an artist myself, that there’s just a huge pool of talent for me to pick from. I’m also an avid music blog reader, and I’m always looking for new artists that interest me. There were plenty of spectacular artists out there that I would love to have included in our lineup but due to budget constraints and time availability, we couldn’t get everyone, of course, but I am definitely really proud of the lineup we actually did solidify for our first year of Well Crafted. And if it’s successful, we’ll do it again!

Like Doc Feldman on Facebook for the latest news and tour dates. Buy his music here. Watch the Shaker Steps video series here.

Let Me Go



Both Bryan Minks and the band he fronts, Those Crosstown Rivals, are very active in the Lexington, KY music scene and super-busy in general. They tour regularly, put together a local singer-songwriter night every month at Buster’s, and organize an annual festival called Squallfest. (Part of this year’s proceeds go to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.) They are also performing in the Shaker Steps Well Crafted Festival this year, along with the coordinating ticket and merch giveaway for it at the Dear Ben Nichols Facebook Page.  Since I’m still pretty new to Lexington, I asked Minks to take some time out of his genuinely crazy schedule to enlighten me and elaborate on what they’ve got goin’ on these days. I not only learned a lot about that, but also about the band’s background and founding.

Tell us about your “baby,” Squallfest.

This all started with my passion to do two things: Do something good to help those in need, and do my part in the growth and development of music and arts in Kentucky.  Not to go into too much detail, but my family has been affected by medical tragedy by incurable disease, and I know the feeling of hopelessness all too well.  This is my effort to help other people who share these same tragedies.  Many people in the world are dealing with the same misfortunes, and if we can all combine our efforts and make what contribution we can, then perhaps a difference can be made, disease can be cured, and, more importantly, life quality can be restored.  What better avenue to convey these ideas than through music?  Music is the one thing that provides hope and happiness to everyone, no matter how bad the hand we’ve been dealt may feel.

Not to mention, the lineup this year is going to be fantastic! It really is going to be a great representation of what is going on here. Eyes are beginning to focus on the music coming out of this area, and if people want to get a feel of the community we are building here as musicians, I urge you to come to this event. You won’t be disappointed.


 And how about the singer-songwriter night at Buster’s?

The singer-Songwriter night at Buster’s is something I’ve felt needed to be done in Lexington for a long time.  There is a wealth of talented musicians throughout the commonwealth, and we need an avenue to come together, build a community, and show everyone the talent and soul that is flourishing here.  My dream for this event is for everyone to leave their reservations at home, break down the genre walls/social cliques that surround them, and come together as a thriving music scene that loves and supports each other.  I want this event to be something that we all go to once a month to talk about music, upcoming shows, good spots on the road, and, most importantly, listen to and support great artists!  Just from booking and promoting this event, I’ve already uncovered multiple artists in our own city I wasn’t aware of.  If everyone gets on board, it becomes easy to support each other and find new artists and bands to book with.  Combine your efforts with others, build a family in music, and watch our scene grow and flourish!

Tell us about Well Crafted Festival.

We’re really excited to be part of Well Crafted this year.  The lineup that those guys have put together is incredible, and the venue is amazing.  It truly is a wonderful place and is a great representation of the natural beauty the commonwealth has to offer. Derek (Doc) Feldman is who we’ve worked with for the festival, and he is a fantastic artist who shares the same beliefs as myself.  He believes in music, and, more importantly, he believes in our music scene here in Kentucky. 


I’d like to switch gears a little bit and get more into the background and formation of Those Crosstown Rivals. On that note, what did you do before Those Crosstown Rivals? Had you made music before, solo or with bands?

Well, I’ve been playing music since I was 12 years old. Started out on a Sears acoustic given to me from my Papaw.  I played the shit out of that thing but always had a burning desire to play loud rock and roll, so I took my Nintendo, all the games, a broken-ass TV, and whatever else I could scrounge from my bedroom (I was still 12) to the pawn shop and traded it in for a beautiful, cheap-ass Les Paul knockoff and a peavey bandit 112. That was it. My path was set, whether I knew it or not.  In my teen years, I went through a mish-mash of shitty bands, just playing music I enjoyed with friends.  After that, I took a break for a few years to get some things taken care of, and then came TCR.  I feel like maybe I lost hope in music for a bit there, but luckily I have a wonderful wife at home who pushed my ass back in the right direction. Fuck what society tells you that you should aspire for. Aspire for what’s in your soul.  The feeling playing music gives me is almost indescribable, so I always knew I’d find a path back to it.  It still makes me feel like a kid, uncontrollable happiness and fun.  Even though a lot of the songs I’m singing are dark or about bad times, it just feels good. I use music and emotion as self-therapy do deal with all the shit going on in my head driving me crazy.  I believe most people fall into the mold, get old, get a job, get a bunch of shit you don’t need, and then forget how to have fun. They forget what it felt like to be a kid and just let go. Not me, though. This is the core of my existence.  Writing, playing music and feeling what we all use to feel as kids: genuine happiness.

Shit, man, that’s awesome. Well, tell me, how did you meet your band mates, Cory Hanks and J Tyler? What made y’all decide to form a band?

Cory and I met through work, and we’ve been like brothers since the beginning.  J Tyler was a friend of a friend. There’s a pretty good story with that, but I’m not sure I’m at liberty to tell it.  Either way, I’m glad whatever happened, happened.  I’m really happy to have J Tyler in TCR.

TCR started with Nick Walters, Cory, and myself.  Nick’s no longer with us, but he’ll always be part of TCR’s core. It was really loose, just musicians who had been absent from playing for a bit with the desire to get back into the mix. We started out just jamming and drinking beer to see where/how things would go. Within a few months we were tracking a demo and booking everywhere we could.  And well – here we are now, nearly five years, four records, and hundreds of shows later, and I feel like we’re still just getting started.

What are your loves outside of music?

Fishing and Cars. Well, Volkswagens and baseball. I grew up in southeastern Kentucky with a dad who was an avid hunter/fisher, as well as one hell of a baseball player, and a papaw who was a VW mechanic.  Those things have always been in my blood.

When I get downtime at home, I usually try to get out to the creek for some fishing.  Just wading in the water with the summer canopy over my head is healing.  It always sets me back to where I need to be. Or me and my wife Erica will hop in the bug with Hank (my bulldog) in the backseat and just go for a ride.  And who the hell doesn’t enjoy a cold beer and a baseball game? It’s the simple things in life that really bring me the most joy.

TCR’s been pretty busy this year touring behind your latest release, Hell and Back. What’s in store for y’all the rest of this year into 2015?

We’re going to finish the year strong, hit as many spots as we can on the road, and try to keep spreading the music.  I know we’ve got shows in Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio already on the books, and we’re still adding more.

Beyond that, my main goal is to get this next record written and recorded. We’ve picked up a lot of traction with Hell and Back, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and I want everyone to hear that!  Everyone should come to a live show, then they’ll know what I mean.

Like Those Crosstown Rivals on Facebook for the latest news and tour updates. Follow them on Twitter. Buy from them on Bandcamp.

Hell And Back
Blood Sweat & Tears01




Caleb Caudle just released his new album, Paint Another Layer On My Heart, this Tuesday, and I caught up with him briefly over email – we’re both busy folks, so I’ll take it! – to chat about that, the influence Nola has on his music, and the all-around fantastic crew of musicians in which he surrounds himself. On top of a new record and a new video premier for his track “Trade All the Lights,” he’s participating in a giveaway over at the Lucero fan-run site, Dear Ben Nichols, where you can win a copy of his new album, along with some Lucero merch.

You’re originally from Winston, NC, and now you’re based out of New Orleans. What prompted that move?

I gave up my job and started touring full time and started dating someone who lived in Nola. It just seemed like a good point in my life to make a change.

How has the move to New Orleans influenced your music, if at all?

New Orleans has brought some new imagery to my lyrics. It’s nice having a lot of music around, even if it isn’t quite what I do.

How did North Carolina influence your music?

North Carolina will always have my soul. So much great Country and Americana music that is goin’ on there. I love it.

New Orleans seems to be quite the hub for musicians right now, though. I’ve known of some other musicians who have relocated there. Tell me further about the appeal.

I think there is just a lot of culture here. I don’t think I will end up here, but it’s nice for the time being.

You tour pretty hard, most recently with John Moreland, and I’ve seen you perform shows with Matt Woods and Chris Porter. You’ve got a run with Pete Stein coming up too. What’s it like being a part of such a talented musical family? What do you believe you bring to it? What do you get out of touring with such fellow talents?

It’s a great scene with a lot of good writers who challenge me to keep pushing myself. It’s nice to just have friends who tour as much as I do. At least if it all starts to feel crazy it just means we all are. Strength in numbers! I love how much recognition some of my friends are getting because it is so deserved. We work so hard and it’s good to see it pay off.

Last but not least, tell me about your new album, specifically the details as to how it came about.

I wrote all the songs last year while I was touring, so a lot of it deals with love and distance. I really wanted the production to feel like Strangers Almanac by Whiskeytown. That’s one of my favorite records, and it touches on a lot of musical styles that I love. It came out just like I wanted it to. We recorded at ECHO Mountain in Asheville, NC. I had the guys from Roseland back me up, and Whit Wright [of American Aquarium] played steel. Lydia Loveless sang the harmonies. I’m really proud of everyone. They really treated the songs perfectly.



Everything is connected and improbable, right? If I didn’t live in a small apartment and run out of room to keep LPs, I wouldn’t have become a seeker of interesting 7″s, I wouldn’t have bothered asking record store clerks to drag out long unwieldy boxes of singles, I wouldn’t have found the stunningly packaged Country EP by Anais Mitchell and Rachel Ries, I wouldn’t have brought it home and loved it and followed the trail to Ries’ bandcamp where a few free albums awaited me, I wouldn’t have been looking forward so excitedly to the release of her latest album Ghost of a Gardener this past February. I certainly wouldn’t have reviewed it and gotten the chance to interview the artist! Last week, Rachel Ries was generous enough to take some time out of touring Europe to call us and discuss some of the improbable connections fundamental to her life in music.

Learning too Slow

NineBullets: So you guys are in Europe?

Rachel Ries: I’m in London right now. I’ve been driving through the insane city for an hour and pulled over to give you a call.

Are you there with a band or is it just you?

I have a player over here I’m working with. I didn’t bring my band from the States over. Keeping things interesting.

How many times have you been to Europe before?

It’s been about four times in Europe. I toured over here ages ago, another life ago, with another band. And then I came here with my friend Anais Mitchell. And last year I came on my own–this is my second year coming over as Me.

What’s been your experience touring in Europe compared to America?

There’s a respect for the arts that’s greater in Europe, especially in mainland Europe, arguably. It seems like even the most modest pub gig would never dream of not feeding you and giving you a place to stay. Just like basic decency treatment–I don’t think that necessarily happens at a club in the States all the time.

Maybe in the Ireland and the UK, because of their history of ballads and storytelling…my theory is that that kind history of lends the people here a kind of attention span that works with my songs. I write songs where language matters and stories matter, you kind of have to listen or it will mean nothing to you. They seem to listen over here.

That approach to your songs–being dependent on language–what led you to that kind of writing? Do you have a history with British folk music or Irish ballads?

I’ve never really had a history with the ballads–I’ll probably dig into them in my future. But I guess I was always just a nerdy bookworm. So, from then on, words and storytelling always mattered. Lyrically, and maybe it’s cliche, but Joni Mitchell–she’s kinda awesome. I’m a sucker for specificity. I want to hear stories that could only come out of that person’s experiences. I don’t like vague metaphors and washy songs that I can’t bite into. Christine Fellows, she’s amazing, too.

What books were you into growing up?

Anything I could find. For a minute in junior high I was super precocious and picking up Sartre and Plato and thinking that I could understand them all, and I didn’t. I probably still wouldn’t. Anything from Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jane Eyre and all of Jane Austen’s stuff. I kinda want to re-read all of her books, seems like a good summertime project.

Especially if you’re over in England.

I’ve been on tour for four months now, and I’ll be home June 4, so home sounds pretty good right now.

Where’s home for you?

As of recently, Vermont. I was in New York City for a while and Chicago a long time before that. I come from a quiet rural place, so that’s always in my skin, and I just wanted to be someplace kind of chill and a bit more affordable before heading out on tour more. Vermont it was.

Where did you grow up?

South Dakota. My uncle still farms the family land up there and we all go to help.

What does he farm?

Very standard and boring for that part of the country–corns and soy beans, hogs and cattle, sometimes chickens. That’s what’s subsidized right now, so that’s how that falls into place.

Is that where you grew up, on the farm itself?

Initially, my family lived in Zaire for ten years and then came back to the states to live on the farm for a year. Then we moved into “town.” Town is a thousand people, it’s a square mile, one of those prairie towns that only exists to support the farming infrastructure. My dad is a family physician, so we moved into town to be closer to the hospital. So, we were city kids. Tiny, tiny city kids. There’s still not even a single stoplight in my town.

Wow. Did you grow up with Joni Mitchell in your house, what would your parents listen to?

Growing up, there was a lot of church music, hymns. We weren’t singing hymns at home, but at church they were pretty formative. That’s how I learned to sing and to harmonize and interact with people. In the house, there was quite a bit of Classical. As a kid I had a lot of classical training. I remember one album after we came back from Africa, Graceland by Paul Simon came out and that got heavy play at home. It was sort of familiar and helped bridge the gap of us coming back from Africa and eased the culture shock, in a way. Being back in a totally white world was kind of weird for everybody.

How old were you when you came back from Africa?

I’m the baby of the family, so I was only there until I was four. My brother and sister were a little older. I got the short-end of the stick memory-wise. I think when a family spends ten years in an extremely different culture–it’s definitely part of my family’s story, very shaping of who we are. Definitely some cultural gaps growing up. When you’re in a tiny village in Africa, you’re not up on all the American trends, so when we got back we kind of awkward misfits in that way. But we survived. Look at us now. My brother is also a family physician and my sister does a number of things, but she mostly gets shit done.

Did you go from South Dakota to Chicago, yourself?

No, I took a very meandering path. After South Dakota, I lived in an intentional community, I lived in Denver, went to college, dropped out, went back to the community. I lived in Scotland. I wandered around for quite a while, until a friend in Chicago was being pushy and she needed a roommate–she’s one of my best friends, so I said yes. That lasted eight years, in Chicago.

What were some of your first experiences being part of a musical community or trying out your own music–was it when you got to Chicago, were you working on it as you traveled around?

I had started writing and being intensive about songwriting before I went to the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville Texas. I went when I was twenty-two or twenty-three. I moved to Chicago right after that. Kerrville was where I found people who cared about a lot of the same things that I cared about in songs, and it was one of the first times I found a real community, or one of my communities. In a way I come from the folk school of things, because of my care of craft, but I also, instrumentally and personally, come from a rock background. I play electric guitar and drums are the most important thing for me. So it was that moment of going to Kerrville and then moving to Chicago and hanging out with indie rock, country, weird glam pop bands.

What brought you to Kerrville?

A boy. But I was also into John Prine and John Hartford.

Chicago and New York are big theater towns, and your music seems kind of theatrical to me, at least your last album is very lush and the storytelling is so vivid–did you find yourself involved in those scenes at all while you were there?

Thank you. I did find my way into a little bit of theater in Chicago. I’m terrified of acting and being on stage in that capacity. But I ended up being involved with a company called the House Theater, they do really great, weird work. Another interesting thing I did, was playing in an orchestra pit of sorts for Wagner’s Ring Cycle. It was a condensed, six-hour-long presentation of the Ring Cycle, so all four operas were given an hour-and-a-half each, and the music done by a four-piece rock band. I played guitar. It was nuts, a lot of fun.

You played guitar for six hours?

Well, yes. But the performance was done more like a play than an opera, so the actors weren’t singing the whole time and we weren’t playing the whole time. But we were playing a lot of riffs, transitional, and background music. I didn’t know quite what I was getting into when I said Yes, but I’m glad I did it.

You played every instrument on your Laurel Lake EP, but your new LP Ghost of a Gardener is very collaborative. How were those experiences different for you and what was it like expanding the songs with your band?

It was always the intention of the Laurel Lake stuff to make it with a band eventually. I had stopped playing music for a while, then I went on this retreat to the lake in Tennessee, alone, and tried to force myself to retrain myself to write songs again. It’s a part of the brain that atrophies, you get out of the habit of thinking in those ways and hearing in those ways. So I went there to write and gather material to put into a record. I did that right before I went on tour in Anais Mitchell’s band for a year, which was amazing. I decided it would be healthy to go on this retreat before my gig as a sidewoman to sort of remind myself that I am my own musician, to gather up songs that I could pick up after that touring was done and turn it into a new record. And that is exactly what I did.

I played every instrument on the EP because I was alone and that was the most important part, to sequester myself. But I never envisioned those songs being that way on the full album. There are amazing people in the world, I want to play with them. My dear friends have skills that I want to utilize.

I think you can tell that the record is very welcoming of everybody’s voices and skills.

It was so much fun making that record. I went back to Chicago to make it, so it was like coming home. And also I was just a lot braver than I had been in the past. I knew what I wanted to make and I trusted myself to make the right decision and if I didn’t know the right answer, I asked. It took forever, though. By the time that year of touring was over, I felt totally ready to jump out into my own album. Taking that break from music also helped me change in ways that served the music.

What was the reasoning behind taking that break and what did you do in the meantime?

I quit because I was really unhappy. Playing and touring can be a really awesome blessing, an incredible way to live your life, but it can also be really emotionally draining and utterly exhausting. Especially if you feel like things aren’t moving forward and things aren’t working. I was getting run down in all manner of ways and I didn’t love it anymore. It’s an awful feeling to be doing something every day that you don’t love. All my identity had ever been was through playing music, that’s all I had ever been, so I didn’t know who I was without the music. That struck me as a rather unsustainable, unsafe ground–where your identity is solely what you do. So I needed figure out who I was without that, deeper than that.

So, what I did? I was really sad most of the time. I really missed it. I missed my community. In doing that, I had estranged myself. Since I was quitting, I was giving up, it didn’t feel awesome to be around my musician friends. During that time, I looked after kids, I made really nice espresso drinks with latte art and stuff like that. I got by. Also, I spent more time with my family, had a relationship, that kind of stuff.

How does your family feel about your career and how did they respond to your break from music?

They’ve always been really supportive. And, I wonder, I never really asked them directly what they thought when I stopped. I think I was really hiding myself away at that time and they might not have realized what I was going through. They’re definitely supportive of whatever I choose to do.

It’s hard to be that honest with yourself and step away when you admit you’re not happy.

It was brutal. My partner said it was like being with a woman in mourning. It was really drastic. I hope I don’t have to do other drastic things like that.

In your ideal vision, how would music fit into the rest of your life?

I think I’m trying to figure that out right now. Touring is awesome and I’m glad to be doing it, but I’m sort of sick of looking incredulously at the music industry and wondering how it actually works. I know I want to keep on making music, it matters so dearly to me. I hope I can find a balance that allows me to be an actual human who has a home and people around her, but also still makes music. I don’t think I should have to give up one for the other. I just want to be happy, right? Done and done.

Who would you tour with on a dream tour?

I’m so smitten by John Grant.

John Grant? I’ve never heard of him.

You should…I’m not going to tell you what you should do…but have you ever heard of the band The Czars?


Well, he’s amazing. Right now I’d tour with him over anybody. I want to be PJ Harvey’s friend, I think that could happen.

PJ Harvey. How do you think you found your way from hymns and folk music to your rock and roll influences?

I was obsessed with R.E.M. from age twelve onwards. When I was a teenager it was all about R.E.M. and Blind Melon and Weezer. Counting Crows–that era of stuff. I never really had a problem stretching myself between genres. There’s room for everything.

Who did the artwork for Ghost of a Gardener? It’s beautiful.

Her name is Erica Williams. She lives in Minneapolis and she is amazing.


Did you give her any instructions or did she hear the album before she made it?

Yes, actually, I knew very clearly what I wanted for the cover and it was a matter of finding an artist who could do it. I think I definitely found the right person, but it was tough. Needle in a haystack.

What does that image mean to you?

Because it’s a very strange album and it’s about what I’ve been going through, I wanted to it to be a picture of me, or a version of me, laying down in a lush bed of something, flowers, but have it be ambiguous whether I was asleep or dead. And I wanted there to be bones and bugs and dark matter in addition to the flowers. It was just a powerful image to me and it carries tones of potential resurrection. That kind of stuff is all throughout the album.

How has the reception been on the road?

It’s been great. Playing is so much fun and rewarding. It’s a weird trick getting people out and getting media attention when not a lot of people know who you are. A lot of people just assume–Girl with a guitar? Oh she’s sensitive, singing about boys, we’ve heard that before. Next. But that’s not what this record is and that’s not who I am so it can be frustrating. But I love it once you can grab people. I feel a lot more grown up this time around than I was touring the last album. I’m here because I want to be, not because I don’t know what else to do.

What are you most proud of about the album? Or what is a choice you made or something you figured out while making the album that impressed you?

There’s like all these little moments. I kept on having these moments of–not to sound to ego-y–but where I just trusted myself and my instincts and it came out so right. I couldn’t have said why or how, but it just worked. On the song “Ghost,” the third track: I had the guitar part, and I came in early one day in the studio to find a piano or something to go over it. I don’t know where it came from, but I came up with that weird disjointed countermelody. And I put tape on the strings to make this funky sound. It’s a weird part and it came out of nowhere, but it worked. I was like, well, I don’t understand why this works or what it means to be a musician, but this is what’s coming out and this is what is right. Going with those moments was a lot of fun.


Where do you feel more at home, on stage or in the studio? Do you feel like you’re the same performer in both places?

Yeah, it’s like a totally different part of my brain, my heart. But they’re related. So much of performing live is communing with the people sharing the stage with you, but the studio is more like a laboratory. “Laboratory” sounds cold, but it’s not, it’s more like a playground. But there’s nothing like that rush of being on stage.

Rachel Ries will be on stage in the UK for the rest of May:

19 Mon – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham – Guest to The Young Folk
20 Tue – The Maze – Nottingham – Guest to Amanda Shires
24 Sat – Old Cinema Launderette, Durham
27 Tue – The Greystones, Sheffield
28 Wed – Fox Lane Sports and Social Club, Leyland, Guest to Aoife O’Donovan
30 Fri –   The Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh, Guest to Aoife O’Donovan

Check out her website to find out what she’ll do after that.

Read our original review of Ghost of a Gardener.

Find all of Rachel’s music on her bandcamp.

Thanks to Rachel for her time!

Michelle Evans Interviews Lance Howell of Big Shoals


Big Shoals is an Americana band based out of Gainesville, FL, combining elements of straight up rock ‘n’ roll, 60s/70s folk, and country – a little bit of everything, really. Personally, I hear a lot of Tom Petty in them, though lead singer and songwriter, Lance Howell, doesn’t cite him as one of his major influences. Their debut album, Still Go On, is on sale now at their Bandcamp, digitally, and physical copies will be sold at their CD release shows on April 25th at Loosey’s in Gainesville with Snakehealers and Pseudo Kids, and on May 16th at their hometown CD release show at Ashley Street Station in Valdosta, GA with Jen Anders. You can also try to win it (along with some Lucero merch) over at the Dear Ben Nichols Facebook giveaway going on till 5 p.m. tonight, EST.

I’ve been a super-busy gal lately and had to succumb to the ol’ email interview – y’all know how I prefer to talk – but these dudes are too good not to get to know. Forgive the format this time ’round, and read on for an introduction to a band I seriously can’t stop listening to.

What was the writing process like for Still Go On?

Haha. It took a long time. These songs were written over a span of about three years. Half of it was written while I lived in Tulsa, OK,  and the other half after I moved back home to Valdosta for a bit. Then I came down to Gainesville. I had been in Tulsa for about 3 and a half years, in a band with a cousin of mine out there as her lead guitarist. I was writing my own stuff the whole time but really only singing them to the walls in my room and occasionally playing one for my roommate and a couple friends. Eventually I just really missed home, and my family, girlfriend and friends. I was flat broke too, because the guy I was working construction for at the time basically just stopped paying me. I got home to Georgia from Tulsa on a $500 check he gave me that later bounced. He still owes me $2400. I can’t get a hold of him. haha. I had a lot of fun in Tulsa, and learned a lot, but it also drained me. “Skipping Stones” is probably the best example of that, and I think it was the last one I wrote while I was there. It’s probably the most personal song on the album. After I got home, I had all these songs that I was really proud of, all I needed was a band. Luckily me and Jake drunkenly stumbled into one another one night at Loosey’s, and started playing together a few months later. Now we’ve been playing together for about 2 years. I got my younger brother on board for a bit as our drummer. We started playing shows, then started recording the album last May.

You have a FL/GA/southeast tour happening now. Can you tell us more about that?

Yeah. We’re excited to be playing out of town more. We’ve played here and there occasionally since we started, but we’re getting to the point that booking is getting a little easier. We’ve got shows being thrown at us now which is nice. We’re playing some shows with our pals the Snakehealers, Pseudo Kids, Six Time Losers. We’re playing a show with the David Mayfield Parade again. We played a show with them a little while back. He’s a cool guy, and they put on a hell of a show. Also, doing a show with American Aquarium here in Gainesville, I believe, in June. We’re looking forward to that one. We saw those guys play in JAX at Jack Rabbits last year. They’re such a tight band. I’m interested to see what the new added guitar player is going to bring to the mix. I’m sure it’ll be great.

What shows do you have coming up?

Well, the CD Release this Friday the 25th at Loosey’s. We love that place. It’s home. May 1st we’re playing Rock The Park in Tampa. That David Mayfield show is May 9th here in Gainesville at High Dive. We’re doing another CD release show May 16th in Valdosta, GA. It’s my hometown, and even though I don’t necessarily want to live there, there’s a part of it I still love. Plus my friends and family have been waiting on me to get an album out for years. They heard all my shitty songs growing up and loved them. Hopefully they’ll like these too. haha. We’ve got a lot more booked and some still in the works.

Tell me about the style of your music. It certainly falls under the umbrella of Americana, but I think some songs are grittier than others – heavier on the guitar than others – while others are sweeter and softer.

It’s definitely not what you hear on the radio. haha. It’s rock and roll. It’s a little bit of country. Blues, bluegrass. Maybe some folk in the mix I guess. Americana I guess is what most people call it, if they even know what that is. My goal is just “good”. To me there’s 2 kinds of music. Good and Bad. I’ve got a lot of influences, so what you said makes sense. Basically, the three main writers that are/have been in the Drive-By Truckers: Patterson Hood, Cooley, Isbell. I love all those guys. They’re the band that I listened to that made me say, “That’s what I want to do, and I think I can do it.” That’s the direction I want to go, and they’re all such great songwriters. Also, Neil Young, Dylan of course, Leonard Cohen influenced one song on the album, “Tumbleweed Towns”. That’s my “Leonard Song.” As close as I could get anyways. haha. There’s a lot more, but we’d be here for days.

Did you start playing music at an early age? Because you’re only 26 now.

Yeah. I started playing bass when I was 11-ish. Maybe 12 I think. My older brother played guitar, but he wouldn’t tell me what chords he was playing sometimes, so I could follow him. After a while of watching him and figuring out what was what so I could follow and play with him, I just picked up my grandad’s guitar one day and started playing. I already knew all the chords. I was playing songs within a few weeks. I mostly played around the house. In church a lot when I was younger. I was a bass player in a southern gospel band for a bit. Haha I started playing bars when I was 15 and I had a regular gig on Wednesdays and Sunday nights all through school. I got $75 plus tips, and that was my high school job. But my whole family played. A lot of country and gospel, maybe a little CCR occasionally.

Finally, what’s in your record collection? I always like knowing that, and a lot of 9b readers are avid record collectors. I think they’ll appreciate knowing, too.

The ones I tend to listen to the most are probably my Springsteen records. I’ve got “Born To Run” and “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”. The Truckers or Isbell’s solo albums. I recently got Drag The Rivers latest album. That’s great. John Moreland’s “In The Throes” has probably been under my needle the most this year. That album is just perfect.


John Moreland Loaded

If you don’t know who John Moreland is, it’s safe to stay you stumbled onto this site trying to find small amounts of ammunition for sale. Hello, friend! Put aside your worldly troubles and let’s talk about songs.

I saw John Moreland for the first time this past weekend, and matched my expectations. There was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in Los Angeles while he played “Break My Heart Sweetly” and I didn’t notice. I think that sums everything up.

John was kind enough to take a few minutes and answer some questions outside the bar before his second show on a Saturday night. Here are the questions I asked him and the answers he gave.

9B: How do you feel about the expectation of access to the musicians that fans in our genre of music have? The hanging out before and after shows, the buying shots? 

JM: Usually it’s fine. I’m down to hang out with people, it’s all good stuff. Maybe a couple times it’s been sort of weird, because I’m kind of a quiet dude naturally. I think there have been times when people have thought I was an asshole when I didn’t mean to be, but I just wasn’t as talkative as they would like me to be. Usually it’s okay. Sometimes on tour, you don’t always want to hang out…but most of the time it’s fine. People don’t usually buy me as many shots as they buy Ben Nichols, so that hasn’t been a problem.

9B: A lot of your songs have religious themes or references, but you don’t strike me as a very religious person. Where does that come from?

JM: I grew up religious, in a religious family, so I think it’s just a language that’s natural to me. It’s stuck with me, even though I’m not really in that world any more. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I feel about that stuff now that I’m not an impressionable kid anymore.

9B: Do you ever do research into these stories? Some of your references, like to David and Uriah in “Cataclysm Blues No. 4”, are very specific.

JM: I had to do a lot of research on that one, because I vaguely remembered the characters but didn’t remember what happened. Actually, that one came from Ryan Johnson from American Aquarium. He had an idea to write a whole song based on David and Uriah from Uriah’s point of view. I was going to help him write that song…and then I kind of just stole the idea and used it in my song instead. He had to bring me up to speed on that one. I sort of vaguely remember my bible stories. I used to always be embarrassed in Sunday school because I was like the Sunday school slacker who wasn’t up on all the stories and stuff…but that’s been enough to drop some references in songs and get away with it.

9B: A lot of your songs on In The Throes are love songs…do those come from situations or emotions that are still present in your life?

JM: They’re recurring. It’s stuff that’s always going to come back up. I wrote that stuff, and some of it was written, and I thought that it was over…and I find myself back in the middle of it, maybe with a different person.

9B: Do you keep the same set list for every show? 

JM: Usually I’ve been playing ten or twelve songs. Last night I think I played around twenty, so I just played In The Throes as the first set and about half new songs and half old songs for the second set. I don’t have an exact setlist, but I have a general one in my head. It’s kind of broken into thirds. Certain songs go in the first third, or the middle, or the end. “3:59 AM” I’ve been playing last, I feel like it would be weird to play it third or something. Stuff gets moved around within its section, and certain songs come and go depending on what I feel like doing that night.

9B: Yeah, you played “Smoke and Cigarettes” last night, which was great to hear.

JM: I hadn’t played that one in a while until last night. Brought it back out to kill time, but I kinda dug it. I might start working that one back in.

9B: Talk to me about your ‘No Heroes’ tattoo.

JM: Well, it’s the title of a Converge album that I really like. There are people that I admire, of course, but it’s a reminder to be realistic with that stuff. I go through times where I kind of get caught up with hero worship bullshit. It’s not healthy, and it’s sort of demeaning to yourself. You forget that the people you’re putting on these pedestals are just like you, and you can do whatever you want to do.

9B: Have you played any shows recently with bands that took you by surprise?

JM: The first time I saw Adam Faucett, I’d never heard him before. I’d heard people talking about him, I knew he was from Arkansas. I saw him open for Ben [Nichols], and I ended up playing a couple songs that show even though I wasn’t on the bill. That fucking blew me away. I’ve been addicted to his records ever since. I played with Mark Utley in Cincinatti, he was really great. He had a line that said, “I started smoking again so I could spend more time with you.” I thought that was badass. I remember that. A couple weeks ago in Salt Lake City I played a show with this dude named Sammy Brue. He’s twelve, and he can play finger-style guitar better than me. He’s already really good, it’s just gonna be ridiculous to see how good he is in a few years. That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head.

9b: What have you been listening to on the road?

JM: This tour I’ve been listening to a lot of my friends. A lot of Adam Faucett’s new record, and Lilly Hiatt’s records. Aaron Lee Tasjan, his new EP that just came out…his old band, the Madison Square Gardeners? I’ve known him for a while, but I didn’t know that band until a few weeks ago at South By. I was staying with Chris Porter and Bonnie Whitmore and they showed me that stuff, I was just like, “Holy shit!” I’ve been listening to a lot of Madison Square Gardeners, and George Strait. Driving around Hollywood with the windows down blastic George Strait. That’s probably about it.

9b: What have you been reading on the road?

JM: I just read Willy Vlautin’s new book, called ‘The Free’. I heard about it, but I didn’t remember I heard about it; there’s a Drive-By Truckers song about one of the characters. Somebody in Alabama recommended I check him out. He’s from Portland, he’s in a band called Richmond Fontaine, and when I was going to Portland the other day it crossed my mind. I found it at the fanciest Barnes and Noble I’ve ever been to. So I read that last week, and it was great. Now I’m trying to find more of his books but they’re all out of stock at all the bookstores I can google, so I’m probably just gonna order them when I get home.

Check out John’s website for tour dates, merch, on facebook, and on twitter.


Overview is a series of reviews of short, done bodies of work that are probably out of print–complete discographies that are over. Some people say I should call this an oeuvre-view, some people don’t care about french puns, but everybody should spend an hour trying to track down these albums because they’re worth it. I mean, I found them somewhere and I’m better off now.
It makes sense to introduce Chad Rex’s story as an ancillary to Drag the River’s–he and Jon Snodgrass have been playing music together since middle school, Rex (known to some as Little Chad to distinguish him from Chad Price) played bass on the original Drag the River sessions. Likewise, the two records we’re talking about here were released by Jon’s label Mars Motors. But to limit the two albums Chad Rex made with his own band, the Victorstands, to that kind of discussion would be a major underestimation of two of the best Midwestern rock records I’ve ever heard.
Songs to Fix Angels came out in 2001, the same year as Pneumonia, Love and Theft, and Time (The Revelator). Gravity Works Fire Burns followed in 2006, coinciding with It’s Crazy. and Rebels, Rogues, & Sworn Brothers. These albums belong in those sentences. Part of what sets them apart from other country-rock albums we talk about here–and from Rex’s well-served influences Jay Farrar, The Replacements, Steve Earle–is the choice of flourishes. The Victorstands don’t call upon a pedal steel to ground their songs, they’re more likely to spray some piano flurries throughout; honing a similar groove as “Don’t Go Back to Rockville”-type R.E.M. stuff. Again, to limit this band to their influences is a short-sell. The “country & midwestern” template is there but it’s also wide open. Chad’s songs feel like they can go anywhere–like they might throttle the familiar at any moment–or connect two disparate wires and jumpstart the thing–and they do–they follow those esoteric flourishes–pursuing Husker Du or Big Star or Uncle Tupelo with the same veracity–in terms of power trio rigor and songwriting transcendence. 
Back to the Breakdown
Rex is playing bass with Drag the River as they tour behind their new self-titled LP. He and Jon were kind enough to talk about these releases with me when they came through Boston with Cory Branan in December. I got to the bar after DTR’s soundcheck–Neil Young’s On the Beach album was playing. “This is such a good album,” I said to Cory as  I waited for Chad to finish putting his gear away. “Neil’s the man,” he said. “No,” I said, “this album specifically is the best.” Then he told me about the good time they’d all had in New York the night before and how he’d gotten sick on the bus. I felt like I should’ve asked to get on the guest list; they guy at the door didn’t let me in before paying even though it was an hour before doors even opened. 
Chad: I kinda mumble.
9B: Yeah me too. I just wanted to talk about the two Victorstands albums and a little about you and Jon’s relationship. You’ve known each other a long time, right?
Chad: We were in sixth grade, so ’84,’85. We were both raised in St. Joseph, Missouri.

9B: Did you get along right away?

Chad: I don’t know if we got along right away. I met him just hanging around in the neighborhood because he was in a different sixth grade class than me. We were friends through middle school and toward the end of eighth grade we became better friends then we were inseparable through high school.

9B: Is that when you started in bands together?

Chad: I played music–I started playing drums when I was five, guitar when i was eight. Jon didn’t play anything until he was fourteen, fifteen. I talked his dad into buying him a drum set because we needed a drummer. Our friend Steve played bass and I played guitar.

9B: What was the name of that band?

Chad: The Screaming Fetuses. That Steve was Steve Garcia, the first bass player for Armchair Martian.

9B: A lot of people had gone from Missouri to Colorado then? Was ALL in Missouri while y’all were there?

Chad: ALL was in Brookfield, which was about an hour and half east of St. Joseph, around Kansas City. And I think Jon and I were in Kansas City at that time, we were just out of high school and moved from St. Joe to Kansas City when ALL came to Brookfield.

9B: Was Chad [Price] with them then?

Chad: No, Chad hooked up with them in Kansas City. I didn’t know Chad then.

9B: Ok, we’ll hook back up with that later. What kind of music did Screaming Fetuses play?

Chad: I don’t know, it wasn’t really punk, maybe just juvenile rock. The attitude was punk–a song called “I found my moms head in the toilet,” asinine stuff, fourteen year-old kid stuff.

9B: Were you all writing in that band?

Chad: Yeah. We wouldn’t even write lyrics, it was just off the cuff and ridiculous.

9B: What bands were you guys listening to?

Chad: Husker Du a lot. All the SST bands. Dino Jr. Sonic Youth. Jon was really into Sonic Youth. I love them now, but I wasn’t into them as much at the time. The Minutemen. The stuff we’d find at Music Land, the local record store. Pixies. The Cure. The Replacements.

Song for Paul Westerberg to Sing

9B: How easy was it to find that music at the time? Was it the kind of stuff kids at high school would talk about?

Chad: Yeah some of it. The Dead Milkmen, stuff like that. We had two record stores in St. Joseph. Record Warehouse–classic rock and pop music. And Music Land was in the mall–similar to Sam Goody–and you could order from them anything you wanted. So you’d look through their catalogue and if you knew what you were looking for, they’d have it for you the next week.

There was a radio station in the college town of Marionville Missouri that we got in St. Joe and a show called Static & Stereo–that’s pretty much where everyone heard that stuff for the first time. When Sister by Sonic Youth came out, they played that one front to back. College rock. Husker Du. Smithereens. Some people had older brothers who knew about music. A friend of my brother’s, Michael Buck, had a great record collection, and he would turn my brother onto things and my brother would pass it on to me. Everybody bought cassettes back then and we’d burn them for each other. You’d always look for something no one else had and then you’d be the cool guy. Something outrageous like the Butthole Surfers.

[At this point Whiskey Gentry starts to soundcheck. We grab our coats and continue conversation in sub-freezing temps. Fuck Boston. Thanks for sticking it out, Chad.]

9B: What’s there to do in St. Joseph? Jesse James got killed there, right?

Chad: Well, that’s up for… it was probably on the outside of city limits, but they moved the house into town. It’s where the Pony Express started and they’re proud of that, but the telegraph came pretty immediately after the Pony Express was founded and made mail-by-horse pretty useless.

9B: Is it pretty much a suburban kind of place?

Chad: It’s not super small, 80,000 people, 4 high schools, large enough where everyone doesn’t know each other. Segregated parts. Affluent parts. It’s on the Missouri River so they built it from the river out and all the newer nicer parts are away from the river. I still have a lot of friends there and I live in Kansas City now. My parents still live in St. Joe. It’s a conservative Midwestern city.

9B: Did you go into Kansas City or St. Louis a lot growing up?

Chad: Kansas City all the time. St. Louis was farther away. But as soon as Jon got his license we were in Kansas City all the time.

9B: Better shows?

Chad: Better record stores. Where we wouldn’t have to order them. That was a big deal. It was nice to sneak off.

9B: After high school what did you guys do? Did you want to go to college? Keep bands going?

Chad: We didn’t want to go to college, actually, and neither of us did. Jon and I lived in Kansas City for a year and then he moved to Fort Collins. I stayed in Kansas City about 3 or 4 years and then I moved to Fort Collins in ’95 to play bass for Armchair Martian. During those years in Kansas City, I played bass in my brother’s band called Go-Kart when I was 19. I had my own band called Odd Face with friends of mine and we played for a couple years. That was three-piece Husker Du stuff that I wrote lyrics for. I did a lot of solo stuff, I’ve always done that.

9B: Are there any Odd Face records?

Chad: Nope. There’s an infamous 4-track record that floats around and people like it. I recently found a copy of it and I think it’s just awful. I thought I’d look back on it more fondly, but it was just.. .there must be some redeeming quality about it, people love it. I couldn’t sing, some of the writing’s alright. It sounds like a demo recorded in a basement. Our bass player had a fretless bass, our drummer was into Neil Pert. Nothing kinda fit. But the songs were alright. There’s a couple songs I still play acoustic every once in a while.

9B: Did you like playing bass better or would you do whatever your band needed?

Chad: For Armchair, Jon called and said Steve Garcia was leaving. I had my band but we were just playing locally and not really getting anywhere. The scene in Kansas City at that time–we were the only band that sounded like that. It was an early-mid 90’s…

9B: Bottle Rockets were sort-of nearby?

Chad: Bottle Rockets had been around, yeah, but there wasn’t a country rock scene there. Son Volt was what changed all that for everybody. Uncle Tupelo was there, but not many people were influenced. Kansas City was more of a heavy rock and Jesus Lizard type rock. And we sounded like Husker Du. So it didn’t really fit.

So I moved up to Fort Collins to play with Jon and we did 2 or three tours and that’s right around the time the first Armchair Record came out. I didn’t play on the first record, but I played on Monsters Always Scream which we made at that time.

Then I moved back to Kansas City. Not sure why. I don’t remember. I think I was just homesick.

Edgar Bergan’s Ghost

9B: Is it colder in Colorado than Kansas City or is it the same Midwestern cold?

Chad: It’s colder in Fort Collins. People pretend it’s not, say it’s a “drier” cold or something.

But we had lost our house in Fort Collins. And nobody had a place to live. I was sleeping on couches. I would sleep in The Blasting Room, on the couch in the reception area. It wasn’t pleasant for anyone. Descendents were on tour, so Steve and Bill weren’t there.

9B: Did you ever record anything overnight?

Chad: No. We did the first Drag the River record there, though, just engineering it mostly on our own. So we would go over there after being at the bar somewhere in Fort Collins and Jason Livermore would set everything up for us so that whenever we came in all we had to do was press record and press stop. That’s as recording savvy as I am in a big recording studio. That was Hobos Demos stuff, that was fun.

9B: Husker Du is a hard band to get a hold of–because everybody says that they like them or whatever but there aren’t a lot of bands that actually have anything going for them that sounds anything like what Husker Du had. A lot of lip service. I think Jon has always been good at somehow getting some of that hard-to-redo sound in there and I hear a lot of it in the Victorstands stuff too.


Chad: Definitely that guitar tone. I learned how to play chords from listening to Bob Mould. The ringing, the G with the drone, the high-note drone. And any time I tried to veer from that, either from just being bored or being tired of comparisons, it just not the same–it just seems like that’s the way I play. Sometime I sit down and try to write a folk song in C Major and use all the bar chords and I end up just going back to the usual chord changes. Armchair definitely more than what I’ve done. But the first Victorstands record too. I had to cover a lot of ground on guitar in that band, a lot like Jon in Armchair. So I tried to make us into a four piece with two guitars so that in the live show I could play a singer-songwriter role on acoustic guitar with the full band behind me. But it was hard to pull off, so we cut it back to three. We are actually a four-piece again at the moment–but with a keyboard player instead of a second guitarist.

Build a Rocket

9B: Is it the same group of guys?

Chad: Jason is still playing bass. But we rarely play. We went a long time without playing any shows at all. In the last two or three years we’ve played two or three shows, though. We did a Replacements tribute show in Kansas City.

9B: What songs did you guys do?

Chad: Valentine, Aching to Be, Kids Don’t Follow, Skyway, and one more, I think. We were invited to that and then we played the night before my wedding about a year and a half ago. We’re playing January in Kansas City. People keep asking us to play.

9B: What goes into your decision to do a show if you’re not such an active band? What makes you say yes or seek out something?

Chad: Everyone has different projects and families. I had to talk myself into the fact that the Victorstands would just have to be a hobby, where we would be able to practice and play a good show in town or open up for somebody good, play with good bands, have it be fun. No one really wants to go on tour. I still have other ideas, that I would put another band together. I’m writing stuff all the time and I’m writing right now. If I do make another Victorstands record i should probably do it soon. Maybe I’ll do one more with them and then do solo stuff. The second Victorstands record was basically just me playing drums, bass, and guitars. People came in and helped. Those sessions were all done in my friend Garret’s house. He’d set up a home studio and we were testing it out. We spent 9 months on it, working on the weekends and testing all the machines. It was a great learning experience and I wasn’t charged to make a record. There was no way I could’ve made that record in a recording studio. I would’ve had to have done it in a week or two. And we spent a lot of time on it. All done in Pro-Tools. I think it came out sounding really well because we went to Austin Texas and had it mixed by Eldrige Goings. He did an amazing job, made it sound 10,000 times better. It’s a really dry record. We tried not to overuse the effects plug-ins and stuff.

Blind the Moon

9B: Both those records came out on Mars Motors? Jon’s label?

Chad: Yeah, Jon and Eric Flash. I talked to Flash a little about doing a download-only record–because I can record stuff at home and send it to him. It’s easier for me not to think about record labels, though. I’d love to have a hard copy, but we’ll see.


9B: Ok, so you’re moving back to Kansas City and how long until the Victorstands came together?

Chad: I had it put together before I even got back. I called Jason and Matt, who was the first drummer, and… No, wait I’m completely lying. They called me because they needed a guitar player. They were playing under the name Drag the River.

9B: Really?

Chad: Yes, because Jason is Chad Price’s good friend, they used to play together. So I think the name was up in the air. Jason found the name from another band named Drag the River. Jason saw the name somewhere. So in a weird way Drag the River is actually named after another band. So I went and played for them with Jason singing and playing guitar, then we switched it around. I played guitar and he played bass. I had songs from over the years. We played for a couple years, put out the first record. In the meantime, my brother came in to play drums. So there’s actually two drummers on the first record. Matt on the softer stuff and my brother on the heavier songs. My brother’s still the drummer, Jason’s still on bass.

9B: You seem to still be writing all the time–what goes into your decision to record stuff or not? Since you moved back to Kansas City, what’s been the relationship between music and the rest of your life?

Chad: I do have a full time job in the kitchen at a bar & grill and the only reason I’m out with Drag the River now is that I have enough good will that when I told them I was going to go out on four or five tours that they didn’t fire me, which is good because I would’ve left no matter what. I wanted to come out again and they needed somebody on bass. Otherwise I have a very loose schedule. I spent some years not recording, just writing. Now I record stuff at home. I just got married, concentrating on that. I haven’t drank for a year and a half.

9B: Was that getting in the way?

Chad: Yeah, looking back it did. Kept me lazy and lethargic. It was nice to get out of that kind of rut. As far as decisions to play shows–I swore off playing acoustic shows a year ago because there are just too many people in Kansas City doing it. It’s hard because it’s ingrained in me to never turn down a show, but i’m just concentrating on my life and I don’t want to force myself to play songs.

9B: Was staying away from shows a decision that had to do with keeping yourself away from situations where you would drink?

Chad: No, it had do with just easing out of that part of my life in general, letting a hobby be a hobby. I wanted that weight off my shoulders for a little bit. I can’t go to a show without wanting to play in a show, so just trying to unlearn that was a challenge. I had to be able to learn how to be an observer. And it’s really weird still.

9B: When did you first start to notice that–like in high school?

Chad: Yeah, oh yeah. And I still enjoy seeing bands, but maybe there’s some sort of A.D.D. thing going on where I can only concentrate on what the guitar player is doing and not the song as a whole.

9B: Do you write only on guitar or?

Chad: I write on acoustic guitar and an electric piano that I don’t know how to use very well. I know some chords so if I can tap out a melody on the high keys it’s always a cool way that it works out. I have a drum machine on the piano which is probably the best part. Because if I’m writing on guitar and I turn the drum machine on, I can write something a little jaunty or different. If I’m left to sit on the couch and write, it’s gonna be a slow song. And I have a lot of those, and a lot of those recorded. But I don’t want a mellow record right now. I said if I make another, I’m gonna have to make some sort of summer pop record. Hard-driving driving around music. Way too much mellow music coming out. The slow ones are the easiest–well not easy, but it’s what I go to. And it all comes out sounding like a Jay Farrar solo record.

Cigarette Hand

9B: Did you listen to the new Son Volt from this year?

Chad: Yeah, I listened two or three times and I liked it. And the one before was good, too. But I think that sometimes when a band has such a good first release, it’s impossible not to level everything else against that.

9B: Yeah, and there’s nothing like “Windfall.”

Chad: Yeah, and it’s not even like he’s in a slump or anything because the new ones are good. But Trace, that record changed everything in the midwest, that was a music-changing record. Every band immediately hooked onto that, anybody who had been a fan of midwestern bar rock or Tom Petty or anything. There were bands that had that jangly southern stuff in the 80’s, but Son Volt just put it all together and everybody caught on for better or worse. It influenced my sound a lot.

9B: Were you guys into Uncle Tupelo much or not until they were done-ish?

Chad: Oh we heard of Uncle Tupelo because they were playing Kansas City before we were even old enough to get into bars. I remember them playing and my brother worked the door, so we got to hang outside during soundcheck. Jon was a much bigger fan of Uncle Tupelo right out of the gate. I liked them, but I never freaked out about them. I could talk about Son Volt all day, though. I think he’s a masterful lyricist.

9B: Have you ever met him? [Jon walks outside and joins in.]

Jon: Frozen brosefs.

Chad: He just asked me if I ever met Jay Farrar, but you’ve met him right?

Jon: Yeah we had the same shoes.

9B: Do you write anything besides songs?

Chad: I write lyrics by themselves often, but not anything else like books.

9B: What do you like to read?

Chad: Strictly biographies. Reading one on Harry Truman, the Brooklyn Bridge. I can’t concentrate on novels anymore.

Jon: I’ve been reading lately…we used to say I love the short story because I like a long nap…but I’ve been so hooked on those David Sedaris books because they’re short, and the Flannery O’connor short stories too. And Elmore Leonard.

Chad: Any rock biography, I’ve read em all.

9B: Do you have a favorite?

Chad: There’s a really good Aerosmith one.

Jon: Have you read Warren Zevon’s?

Chad: The one his wife wrote? It was ok.

9B: Did you read Bob Mould’s?

Chad and Jon: Yeah it was alright.

Chad: Sometime I have a problem with autobiographies. I really want to know more techie stuff, stuff that publishers wouldn’t want in the book. Like the Pete Townsend autobiography–I just want to hear why he started playing the A-chord like that.

Jon: Send him a tweet!

9B: What made you guys book a tour in Canada and New England in December? I guess it’s cold in Colorado, too.

Chad: Because it was warm when we were thinking about it. We were like “ah, we’ll be fine.”

Jon: To be honest, there’s less competition so you can get a pretty good shake.

[Soundcheck is over, so we go inside to avoid freezing further. Chad graciously exits and I finish up the interview with Jon.]

9B: What did you and Chad do around town when you were kids?

Jon: We rode skateboards and played Nintendo. We met each other at the Convenient Food Mart. Drank Mountain Dew and listened to Husker Du.

9B: Were you guys competitive as songwriters at all?

Jon: Maybe when we were kids, but definitely not now.

9B: Who’s a better drummer?

Jon: … me. Nah, he’s a good drummer. He taught me how to play guitar, taught me the chords. I learned how to play music with him.

9B: What’s it like still playing with him?

Jon: Oh it’s great. I would play with him for the rest of my life. We keep talking about putting out the stuff from this old rock band we used to do.

9B: Do you remember what they were called?

Jon: Yeah, it was called Hotsy. [Jon does jazz hands.]

Parting Dress

Chad writes awesome songs and sings them real good. Let’s hope his discography isn’t actually over. I would love a hard-driving summer record.

Find the two Victorstands records at iTunes and Amazon and emusic.

Read the first installment of Overview: Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance




Have Gun, Will Travel is an Americana band based out of Bradenton, FL that combines folk, pop, rock, and classic country influences. They’re new album, Fiction, Fact or Folktale?, is out now, and they’re performing at Crowbar in Tampa TONIGHT, Thursday, February 27th. I talked to Matt Burke about their current tour, their Daytrotter session, and his writing process.

Can you tell me abut the making of the album cover?

Yeah. My sister, Alex, is a local artist. She makes handmade, original art from salvaged materials. She made the piece and photographed it for the album cover. And her partner, Riley, helped us with the layout and design. We’re all stoked with how it turned out. And now I have the actual piece displayed proudly in my living room.

What was the writing process like for Fiction, Fact or Folktale?

The writing process for this record really wasn’t any different from our other records. I usually bring songs to the band one at a time. Then, we hash them out together and work on the arrangements, and when we have a batch of songs piled up, we start recording. Most of the writing happens at home. I don’t do a lot of writing on the road. There are too many distractions. I need to be in a quiet, comfortable environment, where I can focus and concentrate on what I’m doing.

What was your motivation as you were writing the songs?

Every song has its own story. For example, I wrote the song “Finer Things” as a surprise for my fiance, since I was going to be out of town on Valentine’s Day. So, I recorded a demo version of it at home before I left and left it hidden in the house, then sent her a text on Valentine’s Day telling her where to look for it. Some songs, like “Standing at the End of the World” or “Silver and the Age of Opulence,” are observational. Other songs, like “Trouble” or “High Road,” are born out of feelings of frustration or desperation. Then, some songs are just narrative fiction, like “The Show Must Go On,” “Another Fine Mess,” and “Take Me Home, Alice.” Straight-up storytelling.

Well, it’s working. I think y’all are definitely garnering some more attention with this album, like from Daytrotter, for instance. How did that come together?

I was definitely stoked when we scheduled a Daytrotter session. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while. We knew we were gonna be touring through that part of the country, and our booking agent submitted us. They were able to fit us in on a day that worked into our tour schedule.

That day was pretty rough, though. The temperature outside was, like, 7 below. Once we got all of our gear loaded into the building and up the three flights of stairs, it took a while for our instruments to warm up. But once we got going, it was awesome. We had a good time.

It turned out well. Sounds like it was worth it. You’re on a Big Ass Tour right now. Is this the biggest one you’ve ever been on?

Yeah, the shows on this tour have been bigger than most of the stuff we’ve done up ’til now. It’s been awesome. Aside from the snow storms that have been chasing us around, it’s been great.

That couldn’t have been fun.

No, but we opened up for Shooter Jennings in Marietta, GA which was a blast. Then we headed out toward the midwest and hooked up with Railroad Earth for a bunch of shows. Those guys are amazing musicians, and they run a pretty tight ship. It’s really impressive to watch. So, we’ve had to step up our game and act like we been there before. Playing the role of professional musicians and shit.

[laughs] What’s it been like to play some of these places and with some of these people?

We’ve been lucky to play some beautiful, historic theaters and ballrooms on this tour. We’ve had the fortune of performing on stages that a lot of our heroes have performed on. That has definitely been a highlight for me.

I would think so.

Yeah, and the shenanigans have been relatively minimal this time out, mostly due to the weather. It’s been too damn cold to really get into trouble. It’s been a lot of sipping hot, green tea and bundling up like little old ladies.

[laughs] That ain’t too bad, though.

You can catch Have Gun, Will Travel at
Crowbar TONIGHT, Thursday, February 27th in Tampa, FL, online at www.hgwtmusic.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.




Those Crosstown Rivals are a high-energy, high-emotion, straight-up ballsy band out of one of my favorite towns, Lexington, KY. I was stoked for a chance to talk to Bryan Minks about the making of their new album, Hell and Back (on pre-order now), and what it means to them to share their music with fans and friends. Be sure to check back tomorrow, too, for a Ninebullets review.

What is the story behind Hell and Back?

It was painful. The lyrics were written by my wife, Erica, and I during a year where I feel like we’d literally been drug to hell and managed to crawl back out.  Erica was suffering from unbearable pain due to a rare neurological condition.  She’d spent weeks in the hospital, been through three brain surgeries, and too many nights in the ER.  We really didn’t know what tomorrow held, and it felt like there was no light waiting at the end of the tunnel.  So we just started putting those feelings into the songs. The first four tracks of the record really deal with the feelings felt during these dark times (hell) and the idea of uncertainty.  Not knowing what tomorrow holds, not knowing if there will be a tomorrow, and learning how to deal with that. The second half of the record focuses more on the idea of acceptance and hope.  I developed an understanding that even though some paths within life may be forced on you, it doesn’t dictate your destination.  You may just have to take the long way, or you may have to put up a fight, and I’m ok with that. I guess we all have to be. But, those ideas drive the second half of the record.  Living the moment, appreciating the uncertainty, and finding hope and content in whatever path you take.

Wow, thank you for sharing that, and thank you for making a record out of it. I’m sorry y’all went through that, and I’m glad you were able to keep hope. 

Thank you.

Sure. Well, I’d like to know some background on the band. How and when did y’all form?

Back in 2010, we were just a group friends who’d get together to drink and play music.  We all came from musical backgrounds but hadn’t been in bands for years. We’d get together as often as possible, and stay in the basement for hours writing/playing music.  We were really raw, and, at the time, there wasn’t really a vision for TCR. It was just a mish-mash of influences.  We started playing live in the fall of 2010, and shortly after that, put out our first recording.  In 2011, when we started writing Kentucky Gentlemen, we started to fall into our style.  Energy and emotion is something we always put a lot of emphasis on with our live shows. But it is difficult to translate to record, and we’ve admittedly failed at this before.  I finally believe with Hell and Back, the energy and the emotion has translated through, and we’ve fallen into who we are.

I would say I have to agree with you. It’s definitely an energetic and emotional record, which I personally appreciate. Well, hey, tell us what’s going on right now, and what’s coming up?

We finished out 2013 with a tour through the midwest to Colorado, then came back home and played a show with Lucero and Titus Andronicus.  Since then, we’ve been on break for the winter, but get going again here in a few weeks.  I’m pretty excited about the show’s coming up. We’re doing most of March with either Ned Van Go (Nashville) or Jeremy Porter and the Tucos (Detroit).  Both bands are good friends of ours, and we always have a blast with them. Our record release show is going to be on 3/15 in Lexington, KY with good friends Ned Van Go, Doc Feldman, and the Vibrolas.

Any highlights or anecdotes?

All of tour is really a highlight, even the shitty nights.  Most people don’t understand what its like to tour, or they think its just a good time.  Tour is tough. You’re crammed in a van with everyone for hours on end, you play more shit shows than you’d like to admit, you have fights, you get robbed, but it’s all worth it, because, at the end of the day, you get to play your music for new fans and old friends.  And that’s a damn good feeling, and it’s the only feeling that matters.

I’ve been privileged (or crazy) enough to spend a lot of time going on road trips, and I’ve spent time with musicians on tour on some of those, and you’re right. It’s hard, and I’m only with them, like, a few days at a time. [laughs]

Anyway, I was told I should ask you what “like men do” means?

It’s really just a play on pop culture and the diminishing idea of male masculinity. Or maybe its more about us not giving a shit and just being a bunch of self proclaimed bad asses. Boys used to be taught that its okay to be masculine, tough, and aggressive when appropriate. Now you rarely see that portrayed in our culture. Everyone’s too worried about offending someone or setting the wrong example. We really just don’t give a shit. We’re men, we’re southern, and we do manly things. Whether it be playing so hard you throw-up, drinking too much whiskey, wearing leather, 4:00 a.m. party in a cheap hotel’s hot tub, or just being a miserable hungover mess in the back of a van, we do shit like men do.

Wellllll, being a woman and someone who does all of those things, I can’t say I agree with a single thing you just said, but, since y’all don’t give a shit, we’ll just leave it at that. 


You can find Those Crosstown Rivals and purchase Hell and Back here. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.