Check out April's installment of the I-Rock Box featuring Texas Hippie Coalition, Rival Sons, Surrender The Fall, and Heaven's Basement.
Big Dad Ritch (Vocals) * John Exall (Bass) *Wes Wallace (Guitar) * Timmy Braun (Drums)
There are two paths you can take in life. You can choose to fall in line and be a follower, always fifth or sixth back, lagging behind others. Or you can make your own line and live as you choose, with everyone else landing behind you, while you create your own thing. Want to guess which line Texas Hippie Coalition have chosen?
That's right. The purveyors of their own patented Red Dirt Metal sound are designing their own line in life and in music. For them, there is no other way.
Texas Hippie Coalition are committed to crafting a unique, original and thoroughly raucous brand of music that's born of both life experience and a respect for rock 'n' roll's forefathers. What exactly is Red Dirt Metal? Take outlaw country, toss in a dash of Southern-fried classic rock and mix it with some potent Texas power grooves and you've got a combustible sonic cocktail on your hands. Texas Hippie Coalition's third album Peacemaker is a textbook example of Red Dirt Metal, which is the sound the band has been honing and cultivating for its entire existence.
THC's frontman Big Dad Ritch, known as the "Godfather" of the RDM sound and an individual with a laser-like focus and vision when it comes to his music, believes that the band has hit its stride on Peacemaker, capturing the spirit of rock 'n' roll outlaws like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. He declares, "The outlaw spirit is still alive today. That is our goal: Bring it back."
THC, who were the first band signed to their label Carved Records back in 2009, want fans of classic rock bands to know that they are carrying the torch and that they want to be the keepers of the genre's keys. There will be no extinction of this beloved genre if THC have anything to say about it. "We want the people that love Molly Hatchet, ZZ Top, .38 Special, the Van Zandts and those bands that are growing older to know that somebody else out there is already waving the flag high," he declared. The band, in essence, is ensuring that the style continues to have new and noteworthy additions, such as itself.
But Texas Hippie Coalition aren't simply about making sure the outlaw rock style that they pretty much worship stays alive. They want it to evolve, infusing it with a modern edge and energy, thanks to the new tools (or is that weapons?) of the trade. Having also been surrounded and influenced by the likes of Black Label Society and Pantera –with Ritch proudly proclaiming to having seen the latter between 50 and 75 times live- Texas Hippie Coalition are turning in something fresh and fierce with Peacemaker. They aren't just paying homage to Southern rock's cultural milemarkers. They are proceeding with the intent to add to its canon.
The process of making the album was at first bolstered by levels of familiarity and comfort. "Me and [bassist] John Exall have been together a long time, and we're soldiers always ready to go into battle no matter what," Ritch said about his bandmates. The lineup is now rounded out by [drummer] Timmy Braun and [guitarist] Wes Wallace, who shared a lot of the album's writing duties with Ritch.
But there were also some changes and shifts, which also add to the album's heft and helped the band to expand. Texas Hippie Coalition recruited producer Bob Marlette (Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper) to work his magic and to help the band to further explore what it was capable of with an already established, branded sound. "We have a new producer and we already know who we are and what our brand is, so with this album, we decided that the boundaries we set for ourselves [are] in the past. We would cut that barbed wire and explore beyond those fences" Ritch said.
Exploring beyond those fences and cutting that barbed wire meant creating what the band calls "heart songs." Rather than saddle them with a generic term like "ballad," Texas Hippie Coalition chose to call 'em "heart songs" because they touch the listener's ticker. "They take you even deeper into the heart and soul, and into the deeper darkness," Ritch admitted. He even referenced his biggest musical hero's ability to vacillate between the dark and the light. "Johnny Cash could still let you inside and see the darkness of the man," Ritch pointed out. "Johnny Cash was not just wearing black on the outside. There are parts of him that are black, and that same idea comes across on this album for us."
Even with "heart songs," Ritch issues a Surgeon General's warning of sorts. "This album here takes you on a harder, longer drive, right into a brick wall. Strap yourself in." Isn't that the best type of rock 'n' roll there is?
Speaking about specific songs on Peacemaker, he said that the visceral "'Damn You to Hell' is maybe the heaviest song we've written. It has such drive and intensity that it's like a mixed martial arts event, like UFC pay per view, like someone being grounded and pounded on." You may emerge feeling like you've been administered a beating, but as evidenced in Fight Club, you can come out the other side cleansed and stronger from the catharsis.
"Think Of Me" is admittedly "the closest thing to a love song that this band would ever do. It is a great song. It goes beyond those boundaries." Other songs that typify Red Dirt Metal include "8 Seconds" and "You Ain't Seen Me," which Ritch admits is "as southern-fried as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet."
The title song is a brilliantly written tune, told from the perspective of a gun. Ritch said, "I thought, 'What would that gun say to people?'" That's not something you come across every day in rock music, and it's further evidence of how Texas Hippie Coalition are rewriting the rule book. The song boasts the lyrics, "I just whooped the devil's ass / And you ain't seen nothing if Jesus asks / It wasn't nothing for him to see / This is all between God and me." See what we mean about the outlaw spirit? It's wholly present in every note, riff and lyric of Peacemaker.
Essentially, Peacemaker, which follows the previous albums The Pride of Texas and Rollin', is like one of those out-of-control parties that will find you without a girlfriend and with pissed off family members the very next day, but you'll be gawking over your killer new tattoo while nursing an awful hangover. It's the stuff of life, the good time ingredient that you can't manufacture or fake. It comes from a very real place, thanks to Texas Hippie Coalition's ability to understand their influences and mine them into something wholly unique.
Jay Buchanan (vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar), Robin Everhart (bass), Michael Miley (drums)
Pitched somewhere between the loose revivalism of Jack White and the groove of Alabama Shakes, Rival Sons possess a chimera-like character: a jazz -trained rhythm section that met at Isaac Hayes’ house, a garage-rock fuzzadelic guitar maestro, and a Blues rooted street singer with the powerful raw delivery of rock and the sensitivity of a Laurel Canyon trip.
Though rooted in the past Rival Sons play with awareness and modernity like they’re calling on inspiration through their roots anew, filtering out more of rock’s overblown past and bringing in call-and-response testaments to truth - In their own words, they “want to give the people the rock and roll they deserve by keeping it honest, visceral, and dangerous”.
Rival Sons’ 2012 3rd album Head Down scuzzy “blues-rock invades Motown’s backbeat to startling effect”, displaying a range of skill from the eerily insightful Jordan to the breathy summer pop stylings of Until The Sun Comes or Wild Animal, and setting the whole thing aflame with the sprawling psychedelic guitar freakout Manifest Destiny Pt.1. All of this emphasizing how American roots music is now grounded in the 60’s notion of blues and soul.
That’s not to say Rival Sons ignore the straight stuff, drummer Miley “channels John Bonham's brute force &Tommy Lee's restless energy” much of Head Down is anchored in fuzzy guitars and soul groove spliced from The Small Faces and The Animals - Rival Sons don’t mess about, but they’re not purists, they’re modern – they splice familiar sounds and forms together but mix them up with the secret ingredient of song-writing skill, that balances story-telling with Scott Holiday’s pugnacious guitar and the beauty of Jay Buchanan’s voice in an explosive reminder that “soul is the key”.
Fizzing with freshness, Head Down honours half a century of classic rock with reverence, respect and the realisation that this music’s still happening, right now. – BBC
Introducing the band in the words of singer Jay Buchanan:
"[Bassist] Robin is an accomplished jazz player, and the guy loves Motown and listens to rap a little too much for my liking. [Drummer] Miley also has deep roots in jazz and Latin percussion as well as rock, and he shares the same birthday as Keith Moon. He'll be the first to tell you that he listens to Steely Dan a little too much for my liking. [Guitarist] Scott is highly influenced by Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards, and he talks about ninjas and muscle cars a little too much for my liking. I whine and complain into a microphone for a living, and I talk to myself a little too much for my liking."
Like Jack White or The Black Keys, Rival Sons see the creative process as a snapshot, only spending less than a month in the studio for each album; writing and recording all live under one roof to keep the process raw. The band bear no special allegiance to the didactic needs of retro-rock, their roots are just that, grounding from which they launch using the creative chemistry and the schooling they all possess to create in the moment, capturing a live feel that thrills and delights in often quite unexpected and exciting ways. Witnessing what a band in tune with each other is really like and knowing that what you hear on record as a 1st or 2nd take still comes second to the electric performance you will see on stage.
Jared Cole - VOX
Devin Hightower - BASS
Anthony Pitts - GUITAR
Eddie Tyre - GUITAR
Since Memphis hard rockers Surrender the Fall formed in 2005, they’ve been propelled by a savage urgency. Apart from the ubiquitous band troubles, like paying dues in an ultra-competitive scene and coping with fluctuating personnel and sound, they’ve experienced devastating tragedies. Guitarist Eddie Tyre, a lifelong resident of New Orleans, lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. Co-guitarist Anthony Pitts was a promising football prospect until his knee exploded. Even worse, “People got sick, passed away – we couldn’t be there for them,” says singer/songwriter Jared Cole. He pauses to consider it all. “It was a lot of struggle and sacrifice, man. But that’s what ‘Surrender the Fall’ means: Giving up the option to fail.”
A gnawing hunger to succeed drove the band as they pressed on. Before even attempting to gig, Surrender the Fall strove to ensure the songs, stage production, merchandise – everything – was perfect before they met their public. “We wanted everything to be professional,” Cole says, “so we took our time.” When they finally booked a show, STF hit the bricks and “promoted the hell out of it, and we got a huge turnout.”
But Surrender the Fall still hadn’t found cohesion in their sound. Cole’s writing shifted toward catchier, more focused songs that didn’t fit the band at the time. Ultimately he decided what came out organically was what he wanted to play. “The songs were 100% real, no fabrication… and we knew that people would relate to them.”
It was the creative resolve Surrender the Fall needed. “It put us in a much better headspace,” Cole says, “and our live shows got even better.” STF continued their DIY work ethic, pounding the pavement to book shows and hitting social networks to promote them. “We built a lot of momentum in the local scene,” Cole says. Soon they landed prime gigs, including coveted New Year’s Eve shows, and were offered guarantees instead of a percentage of the door.
“We always got a great response in New Orleans, especially in a metal-oriented scene,” Cole says. “We weren’t metal, but we kept getting put on those bills.” He figures Surrender the Fall’s “straightforward, dirty, intense rock ‘n’ roll wreckage” won over the notoriously fickle metalheads. “We were worried they’d throw rotten tomatoes,” Cole laughs, “but by the first or second song, everybody was into it. And afterward we’d get compliments from the fans.”
All of this led to signing with Rum Bum Records. “When we met with them, it was a family vibe from the get-go,” Cole says. Rum Bum sent the band to Sonic Ranch (Devildriver, Taking Back Sunday, ZZ Top, Madonna) in El Paso, TX to record with artist/producer Lennon Murphy (Lennon, Devil’s Gift). Over a 5-1/2 week period, Surrender the Fall tracked dozens of songs while, just miles across the border, Mexican drug cartels were executing each other. Cole says it was nerve-wracking, but that the tension – which also included a ghost in bass player Devin Hightower’s room and a bullet hole appearing overnight in one of the windows – fortified the band’s already intense sound.
They emerged with Burn in the Spotlight, 12 stinging, guitar-driven hard rock songs “about love, hate, pain and everything in between.” Raw emotion and experience propel tracks like the anthemic opener “Everything You Want Me To Be,” ethereal ballad “Undesigned” and first single “Love/Hate Masquerade.” Surrender the Fall, Cole says, “has been through the ringer, and it shows in our music.”
“It’s about being honest,” he continues. “We’re not afraid to say what everyone thinks but won’t say. When you just cut the crap, people get that. Comin’ from Memphis, we know how tough crowds can be. But now people pay attention and sing along. We’re on the radio in our hometown, and have done really well here.
And as he predicted, the songs’ lack of affectation is proving relatable; “Love/Hate Masquerade” hit radio a couple of months ago, hitting Billboard’s Top 50 Active Rock chart. Since then, the video was picked up by MusicChoice and Comcast/Xfinity OnDemand while it continues to rack up views on YouTube. Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx even posted the clip to SixxSense.com, where it received more comments than any other song. This, while Surrender the Fall tours the U.S. with Nonpoint and All That Remains, and prepares for a Fall jaunt with My Darkest Days.
Surrender the Fall couldn’t be more pleased. After adversity and struggle, they’re living the rock ‘n’ roll dream on their own terms. All that’s left to do now, Cole says, is “raise your middle fingers and crank the amps up to 11!”
Aaron Buchanan - Vocals
Sid Glover - Guitar
Rob Ellershaw - Bass
Chris Rivers - Drums
Heaven's Basement are about evolution, growth and reaching new heights. Defiance, risk taking, and self-challenge are the bands hallmark.
"2012 will see us bust open the doors and unleash everything that Heaven's Basement holds to stages across the UK and beyond"
Having toured across Europe playing hundreds upon hundreds of shows alongside bands such as Papa Roach, Shinedown, Buckcherry, Black Stone Cherry and appearing at festivals such as Sonisphere and Download; Heaven's Basement are a band who've built their reputation on a setting Britain's underground alight and then taking that energy to bigger stages across Europe.
"We've experienced so much in the relatively short and explosive time Heaven's Basement has been around, we're all from different backgrounds but there's a potent chemistry hat is created when we come together"
Their desire to leave an everlasting impression on rock music is fueled by one sole ambition between them; to reach the summit of their potential and to be regarded alongside the bands that inspired them.
"We're proud to come from the country that has without doubt produced some of the greatest rock n roll bands of all time. There's now a void that needs filling. Everything we do revolves around filling that void"