Vandoliers at Fortress Festival 2018 | Photos: Adrian Gandara
By Forrest Cook
Vandoliers are the band on the tip of everyone’s tongues these days. 10+(?) times featured in Rolling Stone Magazine, the genre-blending group I’ve dubbed “a ten-gallon TX fever” has been shaking off their tail-feathers and burning down barns and barbecue stands across the United States. They’ve recently signed with an internationally renowned label, Bloodshot Records, and an international booking agency, Sedate Booking – “double-clichéing South by Southwest,” as lead singer and songwriter Josh Fleming puts it. Vandoliers are a band with small and grunge-y mid-cities roots and big-time alt-country aspirations. They are taking their Texas-seeded message and instrumentation onto the big stage and gearing up to cross borders and oceans.
“I feel like you do your best writing after tours.” Travis “McFiddlesticks” Curry relates to Josh, whose cool but dreamy eyes radiate the sentiment. I met up with the two of them and Cory “Round Up” Graves on the patio of Deep Ellum Art Company on Commerce St. in Deep Ellum, where the trio were appearing in a Fleming-produced (with John Pedigo) music video as the backing band for up-and-coming teenage singer/songwriter, Remy Reilly. It was a comfortable afternoon and the obstreperous Texas skies decided to hold back the vinegar and display only blue skies, sunshine and cool breezes.
“I do.” Fleming replies, “Wanderlust is like my biggest sin. I never liked being at home. I love being at home after being gone for a long time, but about a month later, I’m ready to get the fuck out again.”
“I like being home only because my lady is there.” Says McFiddlesticks, who plays the fiddle. “Yeah, that’s exactly why. My lady and my dog,” replies Josh, who’s “currently not smoking, drinking or eating meat,“ he says, “to better myself,” or maybe it’s an attempt to bring these big moments into focus. “If you haven’t noticed, we haven’t really caught up with everything,” he elaborates, which may prove to be a fool’s endeavor. Thing’s are moving pretty fast for DFW’s “little baby band” Vandoliers.
“We’re walking. We’re talking. We’re not shitting our pants anymore.” Josh laughs as Travis corrects, “Well maybe Cory sometimes.”
Graves, who plays piano and the very-Tejano inspired trumpets comments, “Everything’s still exciting… We’re very aware and super appreciative…” He details the account of his brass education through sips of a 16 oz. Miller Light. “I just found one [a trumpet] at a pawn shop and started farting into it.” Through resounding laughter, though somehow, I felt this description was less than accurate.
“Nah, I mean, just middle school, and then I kept going through marching band and put it down for a long time and then I picked it back up because I actually started playing in a church orchestra for a little while.”
Forever, is the band’s newest album which has been sitting steady on the Americana charts for 10+ weeks.
“It’s 2019, there shouldn’t even be a genre,” Josh recounts of his punk rock origins and rise through the ranks of Americana music. “It’s all the same now. It shouldn’t even matter… which is why Americana is so interesting. If you play an instrument and you have a hat on, you’re Americana.”
“Americana is as much soul and R&B as it is country and rock,” explains resident violinist Travis Curry who studied violin classically at UNT, and claims that though he recorded on Vandoliers’ other albums, Forever is the first to feature a “true fiddle part”. He jumps in enthusiastically to discuss musical influences and tendencies. “You’ve got Yola that just came out and debuted at number 7 or something and that’s R&B, or Tedeschi Trucks Band who’s essentially Allman Brothers, and then you’ve got Blackfoot Gypsies are Americana… You wear denim all the time, huh? You must be Americana.”
He shows that same exuberance anytime “eating-out” is brought up, and I should mention that the others were equally excited at the prospect of allowing this interview to steer towards more of a local-to-DFW food chain motif. “There’s a reason I’ve got a belly.” Curry laughs.
Josh calls him “Park Ranger Travis” as he not only guides the band towards the most appetizing dining experience while on tour but he’s made it his personal initiative to visit any and every national park along the way.
Vandoliers recorded Forever in Memphis, leaving behind Audio Dallas where The Native was recorded for Ardent Studios, where they relied on an impressive roster of technicians who were at their beck and call. “So, I think the whole thing for us was just like, we finally got the chance where people were answering our phone calls. We got to interview producers instead of begging producers. We talked to like twelve different people before we decided to stay in Memphis. It was a no-brainer on the financial side, but at the same time the vibe of the city really matched where we were going as a band, and the coolest thing about Memphis is there’s still ghosts. Every place has a story. Every place is kind of haunted. There’s a weird vibe to everything and it just seeps through everything… but I just wanted to go to a place I’d never been to.” Their assistant worked with Against Me! And Evanescence. They recorded in the same studio as Modest Mouse and The White Stripes.
“We met Bill and Kate from The Music Mansion which is an Air BnB essentially, but only for musicians, and it’s this giant mansion from the 60’s (?)…” Josh says. “Probably older,” The band interjects. “It’s old as shit.”
”So, with us being like trash from Texas we find this 1940’s mansion to be like the most bougie thing we’ve ever done,” and all the props to this home-grown Texas band out living their dreams, tip-toeing stardom and enjoying the slow-cooked Memphis barbecued band-perks that go along with it. This Dallas writer isn’t mad at you.
Vandoliers have upped the ante, even playing shows with pre-sales, to which Cory relates, “Yeah, we’re not used to that,” maintaining his humility in a $6 (American Apparel) denim vest.
A true affirmation of Vandoliers’ popular success, veneration and subtle apprehension at the band’s rising celebrity, though, is probably best expressed by McFiddlesticks’ account of, “Oh yeah, I felt real fancy…”
Read the rest of that conversation below.
Interview with Vandoliers (Josh, Travis and Cory) for En La Calle
Conducted by: Forrest Cook
ELC: Are the Vandoliers all from Arlington? Or that area?
Cory: Travis lives in Arlington.
Travis: I’m not. I live there.
Josh: I would say we started in Fort Worth, because Travis and I were in Fort Worth. Well I guess Cory, Guyton, and I started it in Dallas and then Mark and Dustin are from… I don’t know. It’s Dallas/Fort Worth and Denton. We’ve got two in every city. It’s kind of like a chain restaurant, but only for the area, like Thundercloud Subs in Austin. It’s good, but it’s only there.
Travis: Or P Terry’s.
Cory: Like Lisa’s Fried Chicken.
Josh: Is that also a Fort Worth staple?
Travis: Yeah, there’s one in Arlington.
ELC: There’s one in Grand Prairie, too.
Josh: Do we just want to make this entire article about small chains and…
Travis: Yeah small chains!
Josh: Keller’s! We’re a Keller’s! There’s only two Keller’s.
ELC: We’re gonna’ get to the barbecue.
Josh: Risky’s, I guess is a local chain.
Travis: Yuk! Too bad it sucks.
Josh: Except for the all-you-can-eat beef rib day on Mondays.
Travis: And they do 99¢ beef sandwiches too.
Josh: That’s fucking awesome.
ELC: Ya’ll kind of leveled-up last year, you know what I mean? It seems like the band is very excited about all your goals and your successes and that you are really picking up some steam. Have there been any big changes? And how do you feel about everything that is going on?
Josh: Well, I started getting hair in funny places, and I started thinking about girls a little bit more. I don’t know. I mean, Bloodshot (Records), for sure. Right? I think that’s the threshold difference – going from a local label to a national one… or a world-wide label that’s been around for twenty-five years. I think that’s a big point. It’s kind of like an institution. I always thought that I was in “band college” before, but I think I was in like community band college, and now I’m getting my Masters. It’s like an institution that’s been around forever. They’ve put out Ben Kweller, Old 97’s…
Travis: Whitey Morgan.
Josh: Alejandro Escovedo… tons of great, great, great, great music, and it’s been happening for two decades, going on three – so just to be a part of it is pretty rad. The team changed. I feel like last year we got hired and fired like four times, and then everything is just kind of in the right spot for it to work as well as a country band with a horn section can work.
Cory: We’ve got a new good manager, and a new good booking agent. New label, and between the three of them, they all know how to promote really well, so we really started noticing on this last run we did where it normally takes you five or six times in a new city to start getting a crowd but then in some of these places we had a small crowd our first time through which is not as much of a testament to us as to those people, I would say. That’s part of the levelling up, I would say.
Josh: Yeah, people bought tickets.
Cory: There were pre-sales. It was insane.
Travis: Yeah, I think we were all very surprised at this last one.
Josh: It was like what the fuck.
Cory: Yeah, we’re not used to that.
Travis: And selling out Chicago…
Josh: Yeah, we sold out Chicago when last time we played to, what? Like twelve people paid?
Travis: Like three?
Josh: Three people paid. I’m sorry, I was counting… and the time before there was literally zero people.
Travis: That was Cobra Lounge.
Cory: One was on the guest list.
Travis: You’re right. So, like fifteen people last time, and that was probably because we were playing with Four on the Floor.
Josh: Four on the Floor, who had the whopping pull of fifteen people in Chicago.
Travis: Who are from an hour down the street.
Josh: Exactly. So, yeah. It’s fucking weird.
ELC: Is bloodshot Records taking care of you?
Josh: Absolutely. They know what they’re doing.
ELC: Were you saying something, Cory?
Cory: We’re very aware and super appreciative.
Travis: They’re very supportive and they are good people, too.
ELC: Do they take care of the vinyl?
Josh: Absolutely. They take care of everything. They’re a label.
ELC: People back home see you working hard, we want to make sure you’re getting your dues.
Josh: Absolutely. We’re two months in and I just feel like it’s a completely different job now.
Travis: It is.
ELC: On Forever, on the cover there’s subtle movement, yet reliance on the structural aspect of the rails and the ties that make up the tracks. Is that an expression of the fundamental ethos of the band?
Josh: …Deep… A little deeper than we are.
Travis: We’re dumb.
Josh: We put a train track upside down, and it made a “V”.
Travis: It makes a “V”, so that’s pretty cool.
Josh: So, we’ve got that going for us. Sure, yes. Absolutely.
Cory: I think we applied meaning to it after the fact. We had a guy at the label make the cover for us.
Travis: Out of our friends…
Cory: Based on, like, some photos that we sent him, and he chose that one and like whatever. It was his idea to flip it upside down and to do all that stuff. Then, after the fact, like, “Oh, it’s the old trope of a train track on an alt-country record”, but we flipped it on its head because we were flipping alt-country on its head. It’s like this whole thing that we just made up after the fact to just go like, “Oh, we just like this cover.”
Travis: I feel like it also had a lot to do with Old 97’s Graveyard Whistling. It’s almost the same.
Josh: It’s the exact same cover. We just flipped it upside down. So… we put a train track upside down.
Travis: And we had a good graphic (M. Greiner) designer to fix it.
Josh: He was The Old 97’s graphic designer from Wreck Your Life which was an honor, and hanging out with him was really cool and he’s done a lot of our favorite records. So, I think the whole thing for us was just like, we finally got the chance where people were answering our phone calls. We got to interview producers instead of begging producers. We talked to like twelve different people before we decided to stay in Memphis.
Cory: we got to tour studios instead of them saying, “This is where you’re going.”
Josh: the whole thing was a lot different this time around. We took way more time on things, other than studio time, because budgets are budgets, but we measured twice so we could cut once the moment we got there. We wrote five-times as many songs as we were going to record. We looked at ten-times as many producers as we were going to pick, and we looked at twelve-times as many studios as we were going to record at. We found the right one in each one of those things, so when we did finally get to work it was super easy, no problem. Everybody was prepared and it felt good. Low stress.
ELC: What kind of radio play are you guys getting right now?
Josh: We’ve been in top-40 of Americana for the past ten weeks, which is also fucking crazy because our last record we were on top-40 for one week.
Josh: Three weeks.
Josh: Non-consecutive, but we’ve been on for ten straight weeks of top-40. Right now, we’re sitting at number 27. We were at 25 two weeks ago.
Travis: And our single is actually on the top charts too which never happened with the last one either.
Josh: Radio’s been going good, I would say.
Travis: We also made it into Texas radio, which has never happened. It’s nice.
ELC: Josh, this one’s for you. Can you explain the singer/songwriter attraction to a genre like punk where often songs are quick and lyrics brief and conversely the singer/songwriter attraction to country and perhaps anywhere where those two attractions might commingle or conflict?
Josh: Well, first of all, it only takes three chords to write either one of those genres. My guitar playing ability is perfectly suited for that, and at the end of the day, you know? There’s twelve notes. The job of a songwriter is to go out and live life, absorb it, think about it, and then report back. So regardless of genre, a great songwriter should probably focus on doing that. Then the musicality or what instrument you use, or the tones or any of those things – that all depends on taste, and with Vandoliers I get to write my kind of songs, which are typically punk songs. It’s just now I play on an acoustic guitar, and then I have a fiddle player, and then I have train beats which is the exact same thing as a punk beat except played on a snare instead of a high hat. Music’s all the same now. It shouldn’t even matter. It’s 2019, there shouldn’t even be a genre, which is why Americana is so interesting. If you play an instrument and you have a hat on, you’re Americana. If you play an instrument and you don’t have a hat on, you’re pop.
Travis: Americana is as much soul and R&B as it is country and rock. You’ve got Yola that just came out and debuted at number 7 or something and that’s R&B, or Tedeschi Trucks Band who’s essentially Allman Brothers, and then you’ve got Blackfoot Gypsies are Americana.
Josh: And then you’ve got Marcus King Band who is straight blues.
Travis: Or Robert Ellis, who’s doing piano rock at this point. He was country and now he’s doing essentially Billy Joel songs. Americana is just this…
Josh: Do you play an instrument? Do ya’ got a hat? Americana! And it’s really great because that’s all we’ve got left now. Everything’s on a computer and iPod.
Cory: Country’s on an iPod now. Drum machines and snap tracks.
Travis: Listen to any Florida Georgia Line track ever.
Josh: And you might get a digital fucking banjo solo, I don’t know. But it’s cool to have as a home, even if it’s a broad ass home, but that gives me the freedom to write the kind of songs I want to write, and to be in a band that I want to be in, and we get to play the kind of music that we want to play regardless of if it’s popular or if somebody else is doing it or not.
Travis: Nobody’s doing it.
Josh: Yeah, we get to do our own thing and people are like, “You got a hat? You play an instrument? Must be Americana.”
Travis: You wear denim all the time, huh? You must be Americana.
Josh: “Great job! Very Americana of you.”
ELC: Your newest album tells of you guys starting to stretch your legs and enjoy the ride. It debuted at 25 on the Americana charts and it was recorded in Memphis. What was the experience like, and you kind of already got into this, but what prompted you to make the decision to record at that studio?
Josh: We met Bill and Kate from The Music Mansion which is an Air BnB essentially, but only for musicians, and it’s this giant mansion from the 60’s (?)…
Travis: Probably older…
Cory: It’s old as shit.
Josh: And so, with us being like trash from Texas we find this 1940’s mansion to be like the most bougie thing we’ve ever done.
Travis: Yeah, I felt real fancy.
Josh: And it was cheap, and that’s another good thing about Memphis. It’s just super affordable, and you’re never going to have a bad meal. Beer is cheap. Their recording studios are world-class recording studios with world-class engineers and producers and all that stuff. You don’t get the ego of Nashville or the closed-off hierarchy of L.A. It’s just wide open and then you’re like, “Oh!” Like, where we recorded is where Wilco recorded AM, their first record.
Travis: Where The Bar-Kays recorded. It was built for Elvis.
Josh: White Stripes’ White Blood Cells was recorded there. Good News for People who Hate Bad News by Modest Mouse was recorded there, and it’s like $600 a day vs. like a $100,000 deposit for the same studio in Nashville.
Travis: It’s three-times as expensive to record in Dallas as it is to record in Memphis.
Cory: Even when you factor in all the gas and hotels.
Josh: It was a no-brainer on the financial side, but at the same time the vibe of the city really matched where we were going as a band, and the coolest thing about Memphis is there’s still ghosts. Every place has a story. Every place is kind of haunted. There’s a weird vibe to everything and it just seeps through everything.
Travis: There’s some sort of heritage everywhere you go. Every restaurant you go to is 50, 60 or 100 years old.
Cory: It’s the birthplace of rock and roll, man.
Travis: Every studio you go to is 50, 60, 100 years old. You know? Everything you do, you know? It’s not a new town.
Josh: Yeah, it’s stuck in the past and that’s like… I don’t know, and then Adam Hill, our producer is like more or less is the main reason we wanted to go there because; A: because just the skins on the wall are fucking insane. He’s done Deer Tick. He’s done Low Cut Connie.
Travis: By the way, Low Cut Connie is like our favorite band. We fucking love those guys.
Josh: Easily our favorite band right now. All of his records sound cool, you know? He’s done stuff with Jack White. He’s done a lot of great things, but at the same time, back to that ego side of it, he doesn’t really have an ego. He doesn’t look down on you. He doesn’t talk down to you. Really, he just laughs the whole time.
Travis: Even our engineer at Ardent was like, “You know? I worked on the Evanescence record and I’m still getting royalty checks on that shit!”
Josh: You talking about Toby?
Travis: Yeah, you know? That’s crazy.
Josh: I was all like, “Yeah, Adam worked on As the Eternal Cowboy by Against Me!,” and he was like, “No he didn’t. That’s my record.” And I was like, “But his name’s on there,” and he was like, “my name’s above that.” You know? And that’s our assistant. I love Dallas. I love Dallas music; I love our friends in Dallas. I love the whole industry in DFW. Fort Worth has great studios. Don’t get me wrong. You’ve got Niles, and Fort Worth Sound over there. Denton has some great studios with Reeltime Audio and Panhandle House. Then in Dallas, you’ve got Modern Electric and Audio Dallas where we did our last record. They’re all great but I just wanted to go to a place I’d never been to.
Cory: Free of distractions.
Josh: Finally get to just focus on the record and stay at a place that’s not my house, and just escape everything and just focus on the record.
Travis: No wives. No anything to have to go home to.
Josh: No friends.
Travis: Just the band together every single day all day, which is just like tour but we didn’t have to play any shows.
Josh: And we didn’t have to go anywhere. We just went to the mansion and then we went back to the studio. It was great.
ELC: How does it feel to be constantly written about in Rolling Stone?
Cory: Surreal? Is there another word than surreal?
Josh: I remember begging… I just remember being like, “ahh man, it would be so cool if that would happen,” and then now it’s like…
Cory: Ten times or something.
Travis: I remember the first time it happened. I was freaking out. I remember the second time, we were out on the road somewhere and they agreed to like run our music video for “Endless Summer”, and I remember waking up like, “Fuck dudes!”
Cory: Can’t even believe it.
Travis: “Rolling Stone is premiering our second ever music video, you know?
Cory: Late in the day, we were just refreshing the page waiting for it to happen because we were so excited knowing it was going to happen, but then by like the sixth or seventh time you’re like, “Hey Travis, did you read the new Rolling Stone article.” “Oh, yeah, not yet… Is it good?”
Josh: I think the thing that happened to me was at South By where their editor ran into me at Guero’s which is like a great Mexican food restaurant. I say “great” loosely, the margaritas are awesome.
Travis: I’ve been going there since I was a kid.
Josh: It’s like a Joe T Garcia’s.
Travis: It’s an institution.
Josh: Is the food the best. No. Is it amazing? Yes. So, we’re at Guero’s and we’re walking out and we’re about to leave and like that day at the Bloodshot party, Rolling Stone… the photographer was there and took pictures of us and then like made us go and sit in front of a brick wall or something and do band photos. That was really weird, but when I ran into the editor of Rolling Stone, I bumped into him on accident and he recognized me and he was like, “Dude! I’m a big fan of your band.” That’s the weirdest thing.
Travis: It was pretty weird after Bloodshot, to be taken away right after a show and then a Rolling Stone photographer be like, “Hey, we need to take some pictures of you.”
Josh: Yeah, that was weird. If you haven’t noticed, we haven’t really caught up with everything.
Cory: Everything’s still exciting.
Josh: It’s great, but we’re still just a little baby band. You know? We’re four-years-old in two days, Travis.
Travis: I know it buddy.
Josh: We’re walking. We’re talking. We’re not shitting our pants anymore.
Travis: Well maybe Cory sometimes.
Josh: We’re not exactly in school yet. We don’t have a driver’s license or anything. We can’t drink, but by God, we can say when we’re hungry.
Travis: We’re doing it at this point.
ELC: When’s the cover feature coming?
Josh: Ah shit. Do they even print?
Travis: Yeah, they are still in print, what? Monthly, now. It used to be bi-weekly.
Josh: They’ll go to quarterly before we get a cover.
Travis: If we got a cover on anything, I’d be pretty stoked.
Josh: Yeah, I’d be pretty fucking stoked.
Travis: We did Fort Worth Weekly, but that was years ago.
Josh: It’s hard to catch up, because everything is moving so fast.
Travis: A lot of time you also don’t know what’s going on, because it’s all going on behind the scenes and not associated with you. People are working on shit for you all the time, and you don’t hear about it until it’s already happening.
Josh: Yeah, we don’t get our tour dates until they announce, really. Then we’re like, “Ok, I guess we’re going there. Sweet.”
Travis: And then I find out all the places we can eat.
Josh: And then we eat there.
Travis: All the parks we can go to and shit.
Josh: Park Ranger Travis.
ELC: Thanks for bringing that up actually. I missed a question earlier. How do you go about travelling now? How much of this is still a DIY venture?
Cory: We still crash at houses when we can. We drive ourselves in the van. We don’t take a tour manager or anything. We sell our own merch and set up our own instruments. We book our own hotel if we’re going to stay at a hotel.
Travis: Sometimes at 2 in the morning.
Cory: One of us will be back there looking it up, researching and calling.
Josh: I would say it’s still pretty DIY.
Travis: Except for we have a great team that does everything other than that.
Josh: Well, we DIY hired them.
Cory: As far as the day-to-day stuff we’re doing down the road…
Josh: It’s just us, and I don’t know. I feel like we did move into another level.
Travis: And we always have money to stay in hotels if we need to.
Cory: Almost always.
Travis: But we’d also rather stay with somebody just to save some money.
Josh: Well not even that, it’s just more interesting too. You get to meet people. You get to hang out.
Travis: Those people will come out to your shows which is great.
Cory: Those people have booze after the bar closes.
Travis: And then they cook for you, you know, and then you throw up all over the place, but whatever.
Cory: Nah, it’s really cool meeting the locals for sure.
Josh: Yeah, and grabbing the culture as much as you can, because usually like, we’re in the van.
We get to the venue. We stay in the venue. Then we leave and find the hotel. Basically. So, whenever you can break that up and like go walk around the city, or you get to stay with a local, or you get to go eat somewhere that Travis found, you know? That he dug into like fifteen different Wikipedia pages to find.
Travis: There’s a reason I’ve got a belly.
ELC: What was that? “Tour Guide Travis?”
Josh: Park Ranger Travis.
Travis: I also take us to all the national parks that are in the area. I try and go see them.
Josh: We invested in a park card but we gave it to Travis.
Travis: I’ve used it like five times since I got it.
Josh: Exactly, because Travis is always at a national park. I call him Park Ranger Travis because it sounds better than just Travis.
Travis: Yeah, it does.
Josh: It has a ring to it. It rolls off your tongue.
ELC: The next question was for Dustin, but I guess he’s not here right now.
Travis: Ew yeah, ask it!
Josh: Let’s answer it and we’ll quote it as Dustin.
ELC: So, what are some of your biggest influences on lead… Dustin?
Josh: Who’s that guy?
Cory: Brent Mason. That’s his dude.
Josh: Brent Mason is probably his biggest influence. Chet Atkins, I would say. Jerry Reed.
Travis: Billy Gibbons.
Cory: Little Joe from Sturgill. He loves Little Joe.
Josh: Yeah, but he’s also a jazz guy from UNT. That guy does stuff that I didn’t even know guitars were allowed to do, or physically able to do, so I have no idea.
Travis: That guy is a beast.
Cory: He’s got a Jimmy Page tattoo so you’ve gotta’ throw that in there.
Travis: Yeah, he loves that for sure.
Josh: Is he the one that always bitches about The Who or is that Mark?
ELC: Bitches about The Who?
Travis: I think Mark and him really don’t like The Who.
Cory: I think he likes The Who.
Josh: I’m not sure.
Travis: Don’t put that part in there.
Josh: We don’t know.
ELC: What about you, Josh? What are some of your biggest musical influences that you are listening to right now? More so for future songwriting that you are planning on doing and beyond that, what inspires you to write.
Josh: You know, I used to listen to stuff to get inspired but I really don’t anymore. I listen to stuff to, I don’t know… I really like the Pup record that just came out. That’s just a punk record. It will have nothing to do or any bearing on Vandoliers at all. I just fucking love it. It’s really great. I think it’s really brilliant, the same with Low-Cut Connie. I really love that stuff, but again, we’re not a piano rock band… Pride has nothing to do with it. Also, I’m avoiding writing as much as possible right now because I have so much touring to do, and again, my job is to go live my life, and absorb all the memories and good things about it, and the bad things, and try to figure out where I’m at. Right now, I’m trying to better myself so I’m not smoking or drinking or eating meat. We’ll see how long all this shit lasts but it’s been really great.
Cory: The next record’s a straight-edge record.
Josh: The next record is probably my sobriety record, where I come in like, “I found Jesus!” “I put down the smokes.” (singing now) “Somedays you gotta’ put down the bottle. “
Travis: I feel like you do probably your best writing after tours.
Josh: I do. It’s probably because I like writing travelling songs, because that’s the thing that attracted me to country music in the first place was the road. Wanderlust is like my biggest sin. I never liked being at home. I love being at home after being gone for a long time, but about a month later, I’m ready to get the fuck out again.
Travis: I like being home only because my lady is there.
Josh: Yeah, that’s exactly why. My lady and my dog.
Travis: But if my lady was also on the road, I wouldn’t need to be at home ever.
Josh: Yeah, lady and dogs. That’s about it. I mean, family, but I’ll see them.
Travis: You’ll see them even if you’re on the road, you know? They’ll come see you.
Josh: Yeah. They’ll find you.
ELC: Cory, where’d you learn to play trumpet?
Cory: Middle school. Marching band. All the usual places.
Josh: Just picked it up at a bar one day…
Cory: Yeah, I just found one at a pawn shop and started farting into it. Nah, I mean, just middle school, and then I kept going through marching band and put it down for a long time and then I picked it back up because I actually started playing in a church orchestra for a little while, and they were like, “Do you have a trumpet?” “Yeah, buried somewhere in a closet.” And I was like, “I’ll find it, and pull it out.” That was the first like getting back into trumpet after not even playing one for like five years.
Josh: Well you played in Mount Righteous.
Cory: That was after the church orchestra though.
Josh: Chronologically: church orchestra, Mount Righteous, then he did Whiskey Folk.
Cory: From there it was like one thing after another.
Josh: That was your shtick.
Travis: Yeah, it was like, “Oh, you’re the one guy I know who plays trumpet and has a tattoo.” Or whatever.
Josh: Killer. You wanna be in my band that needs a guy who plays trumpet and has a tattoo? You look like a degenerate and you play brass?
Cory: Ya’ don’t wanna do all that jazzy stuff mostly cause your not good enough to? You know?
ELC: Travis, same question. What got you into picking up the fiddle?
Travis: Man, I also started in elementary school, played all the way through college, and went to UNT for violin. It kind of made me hate music for a minute, and I probably stopped for about a year and a half, and then somebody hit me up and said they were trying to do this project and then it kind of went from there. Then, I guess four or five years later I met up with you guys. I went through fifteen fucking bands or something.
Josh: Yeah but Travis was a really weird thing because we started the band without a fiddle. Then we played a show in the parking lot of The Door for Big Folkin’ Fest and his bluegrass band was playing.
Travis: They were all barefoot. I’m wearin’ boots.
Josh: We were playing outside. Did you see the show?
Travis: Yeah, I like ran out because I was like, “I gotta’ see this new band!” Because I know Jack, and I had seen Whiskey Folk so many times.
Josh: And then we played Fort Worth the next show and his band was opening again and I saw Travis play for the first time, and I just told him, “Hey, you’re in the wrong band.”
Travis: I attacked him. Let me be in your band. Let me be in your band. Let me be in your band. It finally worked out. Influences are broad. I’m classically trained and then I started improvising after all the classical training was done. Brian Duckworth. Bob Wills. Johnny Gimball.
Cory: Itzhak Pearlman.
Travis: Itzhak Pearlman, yeah, fuck. Joshua Bell. I’m not nearly as good as those people but I would consider them influences.
Cory: One time you told me Paganini.
Travis: I never said Paganini you fucking asshole! But yeah, I mean everything. Anything Fiddle or classical is… or fucking Jean-Luc Ponty, or Stefane Grappelli and jazz shit too, you know?
Cory: What’s that dude you like who plays… down here. (around his waist)
Travis: Kershaw! Doug Kershaw, of course. The Louisiana man.
Josh: yeah, you do that a lot. You play over your head too.
Cory: He does all that shit. That’s all Doug Kershaw.
Travis: That guy’s a god. He’s amazing.
Josh: And, like, we do the thing with the trumpet and the fiddle like a mariachi group which I feel like is something neither of ya’ll had ever done because you were in gypsy with Whiskey Folk and then Mount Righteous was polka, so that’s more German and Russian.
Cory: Well Mexico has German influence. That’s where Tejano is from.
ELC: Tejano is from Germany?
Cory: It’s the German equivalent, when the sailors came to Mexico… Tejano is polka.
Josh: Tejano and Polka both have accordion because its so German influenced, but like, when Travis came in he was even saying, “I don’t really play fiddle in this band. I really play violin in this band.”
Cory: And you really play a stringed trumpet in this band.
Travis: I feel like only maybe in this record have I really gotten to play anything that was like a fiddle part.
Cory: Yeah, like “Troublemaker” and “Miles and Miles”.
Josh: Pretty much anything without a trumpet.
Travis: Yeah, there’s more fiddle. I feel like this is the first record that’s been a fiddle record. I should also say Kyle Nix from Turnpike Troubadours would also be a big influence on me because I love the way he plays, and that’s pretty much what “Miles and Miles” is.
ELC: Sedate Booking. Whatsup? You guys are going international?
Josh: We just got it. We’ve double-cliched South By now. Last year we got our big record deal at South By, cliché style. We played a showcase and they were like, “Yeah, here’s your contract.” And then this year we got our European agent leaving our last show and our manager came up and was like, “You’re going to Europe.” Sweet.
Travis: Oh, really after the Mojo Nixon show or whatever?
Josh: No, I don’t count that as our last show. My voice was gone. I count the bloodshot show as our last real show because I kind of sang. My voice was gone.
Travis: My voice was gone for the next week after the Mojo Nixon show. It was nuts.
Josh: But yeah, no, Sedate Booking got ahold of us and they do Turnpike, Charlie Crockett, Sarah Shook and The Disarmers, Cactus Blossoms… all of our favorite bands, so we’re really excited. We’ll update you when we know more. Probably 2020.
ELC: 16 years. That was my favorite song on the album. Do you guys have any advice for any youngsters out there that are looking to follow in your footsteps or in just chasing their own dreams?
Josh: Just love where you’re going.
Cory: Music fucking sucks for a real long time. You don’t get paid a lot of money.
Josh: Are we talking about musicians, because if we’re talking about musicians don’t do it unless you’re on this planet to do that. If you have no other thing.
Cory: You’re not gonna’ make it sixteen years if it’s not the thing you have to do.
Josh: If it’s not the thing you have to do to survive and be on this planet and be a part of society, by God, be patient.
Travis: I’ve had no interest in doing anything else.
Josh: I was miserable doing everything else, but this.
Travis: This is the only thing I’ve ever done where it’s like, even when I’m miserable its way better than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I feel like if you’re not willing to make a big sacrifice on you, your family, your loved-ones, your body… you’re not gonna’ be able to do it. Not even saying that we have done it.
Josh: Well, we haven’t done shit, and we’re still like, “Oh my God!”
Cory: It’s so much farther than we ever thought we would go.
Josh: Yeah, and it’s still a long, long arduous journey. I don’t know… If you’re a creative of any kind, it’s hard, and it hurts. I don’t know like most creation comes from heartbreak anyway, so… I don’t know, try to keep your mental health as a number 1 priority. Try to keep your body safe. Take care of yourself and be patient and try to know what you want before you complain about not having it.
Travis: Drink lots of water. It’s important. It’s fucking important.
Josh: It is important. Stay hydrated kids.
Travis: Also, don’t get involved in hard drugs.
Josh: Don’t do that either.
Cory: Stay in school.
Josh: Nah, I don’t know. You don’t need a diploma to be a musician. So, if debt’s a problem…
ELC: Is that a knock on Travis?
Josh: no! He’s fine.
Cory: I’ve got my Masters. Still living below the poverty line.
Josh: But I don’t. Same job. Didn’t go to college.
Travis: I just did my taxes. It was real sad.
Josh: So, I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard and like, don’t do it for chicks. Don’t do it for fame. Don’t do it to be popular.
Travis: Don’t do it for drugs and don’t do it for booze. Have fun with all that shit, but don’t do it for those reasons.
Cory: That’s the perks.
Josh: Yeah don’t do it for the perks, because those are few and far between.
Travis: You do have to work hard as hell.
Josh: And no one gives a fuck for sixteen years.
ELC: We mentioned the international booking, so you’re planning on Europe for 2020. What else do you guys have planned?
Josh: Nothing we can announce yet, but we are booked through November. We will be on the road indefinitely. And Europe is going to be either in December or January. I mean, I would expect us to just be touring as long as possible and then we’ll get into record probably at the end of next year.
Josh: I’m already ready to record again, honestly.
ELC: When are those B sides coming out?
Josh: I like recording in the fall, but we didn’t record any.
Travis: We might have a Christmas song. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see.
Josh: It’s all up in the air. Really, it’s just playing shows now and selling records.
Travis: Play shows, sell records, make some kind of money to take home to your wife.
Josh: Make rent if ya’ can. That’s my big goal of the year.
Travis: My big goal is to hang out with you motherfuckers and let’s go see the country.
(At which point, Josh leaves.)
ELC: Levi’s or Wrangler’s?
Travis: Hard question. I’m a Levi Jeans man for sure. I was a Levi’s jacket and vest person. I’m wearing a Levi’s vest right now.
Cory: We just got some new Wrangler’s jackets and they are pretty fucking excellent.
Travis: They are great and they’re like half the price of Levi’s, and their nicer and they make you look more like a cowboy, for sure.
Cory: Anything you can get second hand is obviously ideal.
Travis: If you can go buy a Levi’s jacket or a Wrangler’s jacket for $2 instead of 80 that’s always the way to go. This [jacket] was free. You probably paid $6 for that jacket.
Cory: This was $6. It’s also, like, American Apparel.
Travis: Isn’t it funny how I remembered it was $6?
Cory: And these jeans, they aren’t actually jean. They are jeggings.
Travis: I will say, wearing that Wrangler’s jacket and having that big “W” on the side of my jacket I feel pretty cool.
ELC: Garth Brooks or Chris Gaines?
Travis: Gotta’ go Garth.
Cory: Gotta’ go Garth.
ELC: Yeah. Mexican or Barbecue?
Cory: I like Mexican. I might be the minority on this.
Travis: I don’t know. It depends on where you are.
Cory: Some states do one good. Some states do the other good.
Travis: If I’m in Tennessee, or Kansas or North Carolina barbecue. No doubt. If I’m in Texas, that’s a hard call.
ELC: I forgot to say, these are supposed to be one-word answers. Pick one.
Travis: Tacos. What do you think? (addressed to Josh as he re-enters.) Mexican or barbecue?
ELC: New Madonna album or new Tool album?
Josh: Neither. I’m just gonna’ go with neither of those.
Travis: the new Orville Peck record.
Cory: Me and Dustin are super into Tool.
Josh: Everything I’ve ever done musically is anti-Tool. I’m gonna go with the most simple thing as possible. I’m not going to repeat the word “fuck” over and over again.
Cory: But as a one-word answer: Tool.
ELC: Pecan smoked or mesquite smoked?
Josh: I don’t know. Mesquite, for sure, but that’s Texas.
Travis: I gotta go mesquite too.
ELC: Hmm… I thought mesquite was a Memphis thing and Texas is Pecan.
Travis: That makes sense because Pecan is the state tree.
Josh: There’s mesquite trees in Texas. There’s no mesquite trees in Memphis.
Travis: I think it’s either or.
Josh: Is the mesquite tree even a tree?
Travis: It’s a really angry tree with spikes all over it.
Josh: Yeah, I know.
ELC: They look really cool.
Josh: They do look great.
Travis: I’m gonna go with Mesquite. How about any barbecue that is good?
Josh: Shit… Stanley’s the other day, those pork ribs. No sauce, and one bite, like, literally slid that fucker off. I get like, one meat-cheat day. That was my meat-cheat day. It was great. That was fucking awesome.