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Stand By This Man: A Talk with Andy Hamilton & the Rocky Mountain Contraband

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It’s no secret to anyone listening that country music, once a proud American traditional style made up of Appalachian roots, blues, and European folk traditions, just ain’t the same. Gone are the homespun recordings and the cowboy tales. In its wake, a new version oft dubbed pop or “crossover” country has taken its place and taken over the charts, largel…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

It’s no secret to anyone listening that country music, once a proud American traditional style made up of Appalachian roots, blues, and European folk traditions, just ain’t the same. Gone are the homespun recordings and the cowboy tales. In its wake, a new version oft dubbed pop or “crossover” country has taken its place and taken over the charts, largely while eliminating many of the tenets and traditions that made this uniquely American art form what it was.
But there are still plenty of artists interested in country music as a continuation of tradition. While not technically or sonically as rudimentary as early country acts sounded, (his music has the twang and production of late 60’s and 70’s legends Merle, Waylon and Willie) Denver based Andy Hamilton and his Rocky Mountain Contraband have serious chops and a back-to-basics approach all their own. Taking sounds and cues from those AM radio crooners and American outlaws and bringing them into our modern conscience with an updated sense of humor is more than enough for me. The superb songs on their newest self-titled offering bear that out, but Andy Hamilton and Co. have something even more important. Something that’s absent in the modern era of auto-tuned artists and hick-hop charlatans masquerading as country music: real soul, undeniable musicality, and songs made with honesty and heart.


How did you get your start in country music? Was the genre something you always enjoyed, or did you come to it later in life?
Andy Hamilton (guitar/vocals): I grew up hearing country and southern gospel from my granddad; he was a southern Baptist preacher and used to have a radio show in Knoxville, TN. It always gave me some kind of sentimental feeling hearing that music, but it wasn’t ‘til I was in my 20s that I really discovered an appreciation for it. Over the years I had written a handful of country songs, never expecting to do anything with them. But then maybe five years back a good buddy of mine got cancer and when I was asked to contribute a tune for a benefit compilation, I recorded this sorta gunfighter ballad I used to play. After the comp came out I got a slew of emails from venues wanting to book us, so I figured alright, maybe it’s time to put together a country band.
Have you played any other styles before country? Do you think they’ve informed your music now?
Oh yeah, I played in rock-n-roll bands since I was a teenager. I studied classical piano and jazz guitar ‘til I was maybe 16, then I hit that point in my life when I needed the exact opposite. I found myself totally enamored by all the classic rock riffs and just couldn’t get enough. Still to this day when I hear a Zeppelin tune or some Creedence I can’t help but crank it up. Just the other day The Rolling Stones came on in my truck; that opening riff in “Brown Sugar” and I got thinking how many hundreds of times have I listened to this tune and it’s still so damn good!
I hear old country greats like Gram Parsons, Waylon Jennings, and the Flying Burrito Brothers in your sound; but are there any modern practitioners and musicians you take from, country or not?
There are some really amazing singers and musicians doing it right: Zephaniah Ohora is a country singer out of Brooklyn, of all places. He just released one of the best country records, hands down. My buddy turned me on to John Moreland a few years ago. John writes some of the most heartbreakingly honest songs and delivers them in such a way that you gotta have a heart of stone not to feel something.
Your music seems to take a lot from older country and western acts rather than modern ones. Do you feel you have any relationship to the modern country aesthetic or scene?
Classic country resonates with me more than anything. We like to draw from the old greats, then make it our own. I’m a huge fan of Faron Young, Roger Miller, Moe Bandy, Willie and Merle, of course. There are a handful of newer country artists who are keeping it honest; Zephaniah, as I mentioned, Amber Digby, Casey James Prestwood. I know a handful of players in the modern country scene; they’re all really great people.
How do you feel about the sound and style of modern country music?
Man, drum machines and autotune have no business in country music. I have to say this, there is a lot of music that’s churned out and mislabeled as “country”…it’s being marketed by the powers-that-be as something it’s really not. I’m not gonna name names, but I think it’s pretty apparent when some pop artist …
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Music

Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz

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John Statz by Veronica Holyfield

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking. His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record. Like heartbrea…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.
His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.
Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.
It was the aftermath of a breakup.
“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.
In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.

So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?

Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.

In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?

You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.

The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.

It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.

Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?

I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.

How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?

It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.

Had you recorded like that before?

It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived i…
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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

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Soul mates: An interview with Colorado’s in/Planes

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I feel the need to take a quick second to clear something up—I watched the band in/PLANES get married. Not for this article, mind you; the ceremony was years ago. I have been friends with musical and otherwise soulmates Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia for over a decade at this point (due in no small part I’m sure to ou…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

I feel the need to take a quick second to clear something up—I watched the band in/PLANES get married. Not for this article, mind you; the ceremony was years ago. I have been friends with musical and otherwise soulmates Inaiah Lujan and Desirae Garcia for over a decade at this point (due in no small part I’m sure to our mutual enthusiasm and passion for local music). As a result, I have had the opportunity to bear witness as not only their music but also relationship has burst and bloomed into multiple amazing endeavors. Whether it was their passionate and spirited take on Dustbowl-era Americana as members of folk revivalists the Haunted Windchimes or the wonderfully intimate lo-fi solo albums the both of them have released over the years, these two have a continually impressive musical output and a charm that I have always been excited to delve into. Hell, they even played in my basement once upon a time.
But none of them have struck me quite the same way as in/PLANES has. “Radio Wave,” their first full-length offering via Denver indie record label GROUPHUG, is something altogether different; something wondrously unique. It could be their voices. THOSE voices—honeyed and harmonious—especially whilst entwined in the duets that frequent the songs of in/PLANES. It could be the melodies they create—a riding-high blend of 50’s sha-la-la doo-wop, 60’s sunshine pop and indie-birthed soul—that feels distinctly pop without the trappings of sounding glossy or over-produced. Where tons of modern indie acts are ready to make a loud racket, in/PLANES instead opts to let the grooves play out sparsely and intimately, with inviting musicianship and vocal performances that envelop the space surrounding them. Whether live in concert or in the car, the music of in/PLANES holds on tightly and never lets go.
PULP: It’s weird trying to formally interview you guys; being friends makes it weird to ask you questions in a regular way.
Inaiah Lujan (guitar/vocals): That’s okay.
Desirae Garcia (bass guitar/vocals): We’ll be semi-formal.
IL: Business casual. (laughs)
I did do some research though, and I realized that in/PLANES has been around for longer than I remembered. But this new album is your first full length?
IL: Yeah. This is our first formal release that isn’t an EP. And also first physical release. There is some intention with that. You know that we are champions of analog stuff; Cassette tapes are my first love; I grew up making mixtapes. And CD’s have always felt pointless to me, but for so long we played the game because you used to HAVE to have CD’s on the merch table. But this band has been pretty vocal about our disdain for CD’s; “Radio Wave” is only going to be available on cassette. You’ll get a digital download with purchase of the tape.
Speaking of which, what does the name “Radio Wave” mean in regard to the band?
DG: It’s a line from the song “Why Didn’t You,” a song that is actually not on the record. (laughs). But it’s the very first in/PLANES song we ever wrote. We wrote that song, and it felt like it was part of a totally different project; it felt different than anything we were doing. So maybe it’s a nod to the beginning of the project. We like to think of the song as kind of a breadcrumb to where we are at now.
IL: The benefit of this band is getting to take our time with things; to be more intentional. So now we have been releasing stuff retroactively. The EP we released just last month is stuff we had recorded from our apartment; “Radio Wave” is stuff we put together with Adam Hawkins from Right Heel Music and our drummer Carl Sorensen, and we already have another album in the works.
For me, it also has dual meaning; in/PLANES seems to always create this kind of duality. “Radio Wave” also musically reminds me of when people were only listening to the radio. It kind of plays to idea of this vintage-pop genre we’re kind of going with.
DG: That’s also the music that this record is really inspired by.
IL: The EP feels like kind of a sampler or mixtape for what we’re all about, but this full length is more focused; a little more of that classic pop sound. It’s a fitting title for sure.
DG: Also it’s 1,000,000% love songs; which is bad and good. (laughs)
When you wrote “Why Didn’t You,” did it feel like a song intentionally fo…
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Music

CO Springs emcee Che Bong goes outer limits on new psychedelic full length

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Electro-Soul Hip Hop | Che Bong – From the dusty ‘Amen break’ heavy loop-gone-psychedelic of album opener Telescope to the lo-fi space rockin’ of album ender The Paradox of Time, CS emcee Che Bong (of Bullhead*ded) has really outdone himself and the genre itself on Telescope to the Heavens. With an album full of immersive and challenging-yet-chill hip ho…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —


Electro-Soul Hip Hop | Che Bong – From the dusty ‘Amen break’ heavy loop-gone-psychedelic of album opener Telescope to the lo-fi space rockin’ of album ender The Paradox of Time, CS emcee Che Bong (of Bullhead*ded) has really outdone himself and the genre itself on Telescope to the Heavens. With an album full of immersive and challenging-yet-chill hip hop musicality that owes just as much to free jazz and psychedelic rock as it does to hip hop and neo-soul, Che is on some next level stuff.  Get. On. It.



90’s inspired Alt-Punk | Hooper – “No Monument” from Denver Rock City punkers Hooper does a couple things very well; it provides stellar songwriting and momentum building, gives a healthy shot in the arm of indie-slathered 90s era punk rock, and in doing both provides a direct line to the sonic and perhaps more importantly workhorse aesthetic of the nascent indie punk heyday of the 90s. Trip out on that, holmes!



Blackened Sludge-Punks | Worry – The newest EP from Colorado Springs hea…
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CO Springs emcee Che Bong goes outer limits on new psychedelic full length
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One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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