Hogjaw on Guns, The South/Southwest, and Europe
The band covers the lyrical basics you may expect of their chosen milieu -- the Civil War, drinking booze, smoking cigarettes, and shooting guns -- but Ironwood, the record the band self-released last year and issued on vinyl earlier this year, is hardly as simple as the "Sweet Home Alabama" connotations may describe.
The band plays The Blooze Bar on Friday, May 3 with The Screamin' Yeehaws, The Earps, and Splithoof, and took some time out of their Memorial Day weekend to chat with Up on the Sun about their music, touring Europe, and all that gun-related imagery.
Up On The Sun: Hey guys how are you?
Jonboat Jones (guitarist/vocalist): Pretty good, pretty good. We just poured up a round of drinks, so that's how we got started.
UOTS: That sounds all right.
JBJ: It's a 3 day weekend. Figured we might as well take advantage. UOTS: The first track I heard of you guys was "Rolling Thunder." It's heavy, but has a great melody. Listening to Ironwood, I realize that's not an uncommon thing with your music.
Kreg Self (lead guitar): Yeah, yeah, it's a little bit different than some of the bands in town.
UOTS: What bands around town are you into?
KS: A couple of us have been in the scene for a good long time. But with what we're doing, it's been really interesting for us, because we've had the honor to go play shows with, say, Pelvic Meatloaf, which is a metal band, to Dames, which is like punk rock.
Before we started this band I played in the North Side Kings, which is completely opposite of what we're doing now. But we've been able to play alongside bands, and now, we're kind of trying to create our own scene -- not really, but -- there's been bands in the Americana scene like Adam Lee Cogswell and rock bands like Izzy Edible, who are willing to partner up with us.
JBJ: Dagg Nabitt Stubbs are pretty good. We like them.
UOTS: That's an interesting thing about your music. It's Southern rock, but there are a lot of elements that put it in the league of other types of music, as well. It's not traditional -- there are metal and punk elements -- and a straight rock 'n' roll vibe.
KS: We grew up with Southern rock, with our parents playing some of the great Southern rock bands, and we listened to metal as well, and all those things lead to sound like what we do now.
UOTS: It sounds like a natural thing.
KS: It's interesting. In the Southern rock community -- not just here, but worldwide -- a lot of people say that the thing we're doing now is closer to what Southern rock was in the seventies, as opposed to what Southern rock bands sound like today.
It's an evolution of rock 'n' roll, which is kind of neat. I know we don't sound like the bands of the '70s, but people can listen to what we're doing and attach themselves to what was. It gives us a fresh outlook on Southern rock.
UOTS: Are any of you from the South? Or are you all from Arizona?
JBJ: I lived in the South. I was born in North Carolina. I was a military brat, so we lived in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia... I moved it Arizona in 1988 and I've been here ever since. I grew up around the South, I guess you could say.
UOTS: So how do you feel the South and Southwest overlap? What are the things that make them different and what makes them similar?
JBJ: Here in the desert, the only thing that's different from back home is the landscape, the way it looks. I think a lot of the people out here, there's a lot of the same -- there's a lot of "good 'ol boys" out here. There's a lot you can do, there's a lot of outdoors things, everything is a little more available and open out here.
I think it's easy for someone to show up from the South and immediately like it out here. It happened to me [laughs]. I miss the trees and the bugs and shit. Well, not the bugs, but the fishing and the watering holes...but there's plenty to do out here.
Plus, we left a lot of the bad stuff, or some of the bad stuff...it stayed back there.
UOTS: There are a lot of Southwestern elements on the record. There's a very strong country influence in Arizona, and a lot of kind of hillbilly things going on out here. In a good way, and bad way, I guess.
KS: We all grew up here, essentially, at least as teenagers, most of our adult lives and whatnot. But being in a community that is heavy driven, a lot of punk rock bands and metal bands. But a lot of dudes I know [who used to play that stuff] are playing in Americana bands, or country bands, you know, they went back and found roots music. And that's really good for our community, I would say.
UOTS: What do you think inspired that? What has caused punk and metal players to investigate that stuff?
KS: I think it can be summed up very simply. We all grew up wanting to play music, and wanting to play music on our terms, [and play it ] well. When you're younger you don't want to cling yourself to country music, if you didn't grow up with it.
But as you get inspired by different flavors, country music is something you look back to, like bluegrass, and it's just phenomenal. There's so much history, you just want to explore it, and develop a feel for it and a passion.
JBJ: Or, we're just getting older, and our ears get adjusted. We start wanting some pretty music.
UOTS: You guys have toured in America, but you recently went to Europe.
KS: We got back two weeks ago.
UOTS: So how does playing Southern rock in Europe differ from here?
JBJ: They want it over there.
KS: It was overwhelming for us. We've traveled through the states, but the Europeon thing was on a whole different level. In Europe, people are just so much more intuitive to the music scene. They really want to go out.
JBJ: They come from hundreds of kilometers away.
KS: We had people coming out who were our folks' age. Our parents come see and support us now and then, and they support us, but these folks never stopped listening to rock 'n' roll and going out.
JBJ: There was a son, and his dad, and grandfather [at one show]. It's neat to see people from halfway around the world want to meet us and support us, just four guys from Peoria, Arizona.
These people hunt you down, they are looking on the web and doing their thing, and active about finding music they want to hear. They don't have it spoonfed down their throat by the radio.
UOTS: You guys use a lot of gun related imagery. Are you all hunters/fans of firearms?
KS: Shooters more than hunters [laughs].
JBJ: I was a professional gunsmith for 15 years. Guess that's what ruined me. I'm a big supporter of Second Amendment rights and all that good stuff. But there was a little weirdness in Europe about all that.
UOTS: Here in Arizona, probably no one raises and eyebrow, but over there, people probably didn't know what to make of it?
KS: They can go hunting, but it's --
JBJ: It's just not the way over there. The gun culture doesn't exist over there at all.
UOTS: Do you run into American fans who feel weird about it?
JBJ: Not really. The gun thing is weird; we never intended to put it out there. There's a video -- ("Gitsum") -- it's probably what did all this. We didn't realize the repercussions. It's one of our most popular videos. But we like all that -- but not to back out-- we're not that crazy [about it].
UOTS: Well, there are plenty of gun references on the album. It's easy to see how people could wonder about it.
JBJ: Yeah, we're pretty far down in the hole. But we'll live with it. We love shooting, and it's all good.