| Q&A |

Moonshine Bandits on Outlaw Lifestyles, and Bringing Country and Hip-Hop Closer Together

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Bird and Tex are perhaps the only individuals who can offer a firsthand comparison between sharing the stage with both Insane Clown Posse and Toby Keith in the same year. Together, the California-based outlaw musicians make up the hybrid country/hip-hop duo Moonshine Bandits, and in the land of the 'Shiners, such odd pairings are not unfamiliar.

After performing with an array of artists over the years, from the aforementioned to Tech N9ne, David Allan Coe, and Luke Bryan, the Moonshine Bandits are ready to headline their own tour, which kicks off at Rockbar in Scottsdale on Thursday night.

In early February, the Moonshine Bandits released their latest record, Calicountry. The album has the old-time rebellious country feeling of Merle Haggard laced with modern-day hip-hop effects and has since made its way into the Billboard and country charts.

The Moonshine Bandits try to see music differently, and they work to channel the energy of their eclectic fans (dubbed the Shiner Nation) that stem from all walks of life.

"They are helping us write our songs," says Bird. "They don't even know it, but they are the inspiration and the creation of the music that we make."

Stretching beyond the realm of music, the duo also has its own brand of jerky as well as a line of 99 proof un-aged whiskeys called Outlaw Moonshine featuring a clear whiskey, a peach flavor and an apple pie flavor. So, prior to their tour kick-off in Arizona, Up on the Sun spoke with Bird to learn about their blend of influences, their new record, and why their merchandise manager strolls out on stage during their performances in his underwear and moons the crowd.

You're kicking off your Country Gone Wild Tour here in Arizona, correct?

Yeah, we're starting off in Scottsdale, and then the second stop will be Flagstaff. Both of those towns are wonderful towns. We love playing Arizona, and the 'Shiner support has always been very good for us. We've had opportunities to play all around the Phoenix area.

What can the audience here expect from your live show?

Oh man, they're going to get a hell of a good show. We're going to have a good time with a lot of good dancing music, party music, and raise-a-little-hell type of music. I think the energy overall of the show is something that people will walk away from with a good positive feeling. They can forget about the cares of the world and the bills they gotta pay. We're going to go in there and have some drinks and cocktails, and it'll be badass.

The album Calicountry has been out for a few months now. How do you feel about the reception so far?

I think the fans have given us an overwhelming positive response. And the critics, hey what can I say, we're still Top 100 on Billboard and it's the fourth week. I think they can be silenced with just that. It's the biggest accomplishment we've had so far to date.

Speaking of the charts, not many people can say they've been placed on a Hip-Hop chart and a Country chart with the same album. How do you combine the two genres?

It's pretty organic with the way we've been able to make our music. Where we grew up in central California is very farm orientated, but we're still Cali and have that Cali swag. We were really influenced by West Coast rap, but also country music like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, George Strait and guys like that. It never was a plan for us to make music the way we do -- it just felt natural to us.

There really isn't a genre for this. That's for the record labels -- they need genres to place you in stores. For us, it's just the way that we've always been able to make music, and it comes out sounding like this. It's pretty cool because it gives us the opportunity to transcend different genres. That goes into doing live shows as well. Last year, we went on a big national tour with Insane Clown Posse, and then as soon as we got off of the tour with them, we go and do shows with Toby Keith and Luke Bryan. That's just where we're at with Moonshine Bandits music.

Do you have a favorite track on Calicountry?

Well, to be honest with you, we put so much into every song, that we both like the entire record. They're all unique and different, so it's hard to pick a favorite. They're all our kids, so you can't really play favorites with it. [laughs] We really are happy with the way it turned out, and really excited to see where our progression will take us for the next record. It seems like each record we are growing in the studio, working with different producers, and our writing is getting better. This record is a testament that we've grown positively.

We covered the ICP concert in Flagstaff last year when you guys opened, and we gotta know the story behind the guy that wanders out on stage in his tighty-wighties during your set. Who is he? [Laughs] Well, that's Chucky Baby. Chucky Baby runs our merchandising and he's kind of become a hit among the fans. The first time he ever came out on stage we were all pissed off. We were like, "What the hell are you doing' man? Get off the stage."

He comes out in his underwear and he moons the crowd, flips them off, and smokes a joint. I can't even tell you how many places he's been banned from, but there are a lot of spots he can't go back to [laughs]. He's living his life the way we portray it in our music. People want to have a good time, and he grew up in the '80s era where it was cool if you got mooned by the singer from a band.

Some fans get off on it and some fans don't like it, but it is what it is. When we go out and play a show and there's a bunch of big bikers around, it's kind of funny because when he moons them they get all crazy [laughs], and then by the end of the night they're all sitting around him at the merchandise and they're all in their whity-tighties taking pictures together.

Other than the differences in their actual music, can you contrast what it is like touring with bands such as ICP and Tech N9ne compared to say David Allan Coe?/strong>

Oh, yeah. Well, I think there are some similarities with bands nowadays. If you're going out and touring with guys like ICP, Tech N9ne, David Allan Coe, or Rehab you're going out with a professional touring staff.

We love what we do, and we love making music and partying and hanging with fans, but at the end of the day it's still a business and we're trying to make a buck. So, everybody that we've had the opportunity and been blessed with going out on the road with them, we always learn something new from them.

The key thing for us is they're very professional, and you get treated with respect. They will teach you a lot of things, and we've learned from the best by being able to get out on the road with Insane Clown Posse, and Rehab and Kottonmouth Kings.

With Tech N9ne, when we first saw his live show we were amazed. He took what a normal rapper would do on stage and just blew it out of the water. Most guys just stand up there and rap. When we saw that, luckily we were so young in our career, we were able to take that concept and really put forth all of our energy into our show sets.

Describe your fans to me, and the 'Shiner Nation.

I think 'Shiner Nation is a lot of blue collar, hard-working 9 to 5ers. They really just want to bust their ass to have a good time on the weekend. [They're] God fearing people, good people-- salt of the Earth, you know?

I honestly believe that you see good people in every fan base, and we are blessed to have such a dedicated, loyal and respectful fan base. They are so passionate about what we do, that they are infectious to people around them. We're very blessed to have 'Shiners coming out. They are rowdy individuals, but they respect each other.

At our shows, you rarely see any fights ever. That's one thing we learned from the Juggalos--they're family, and that's what you want. You want to have family at your shows, and we're proud that 'Shiners are very similar, and follow the same kind of rules.

Tex has said that his great-grandfather was a bootlegger, and you both have said that you carry on that outlaw tradition. Can you tell me about that outlaw mindset?

I just think that you don't have to break the law to be an outlaw, you just gotta be a trendsetter. You gotta be the person that's on the forefront and says, "I don't have to agree with your outline for life and living." I think it's [about] being able to live free--as free as you possibly can.

We've learned so many good things from good people, and people who are considered outlaws. I mean, being able to play with David Allen Coe -- that's an amazing feat in itself. It's amazing that he's still alive after the life he's lived.

I think, just being able to stay as free as possible when you write, and you take that into all aspects of the music. Don't limit yourself. If the record label says you need to do it like this, you know what--fuck you. We make music the way that we want to make music. We butt heads with the label all the time, and that's what you gotta do. You gotta give and take. They're looking out for you and your best interests as well, but you gotta always make sure you're on top of your game.

How do you and Tex interact to create the Moonshine Bandits sound? Well for this last record, Calicountry, we took a slightly different approach. Before, we would write and bounce ideas off of each other, and maybe we would get the beats from the producers or whatever. Then, we would write our own separate things and come up with a concept and individually follow that down the rabbit hole.

This time around, we were able to get into the studio and create the music from scratch with the producers and bounce our lyrics off of each other. It was very, very organic. I think the music speaks for itself, and I think in the future we will probably do it a little bit more of the same like we did Calicountry.

It seems that there is a divide between musicians, where some write music for their fans and others write music for themselves. Where do the Moonshine Bandits fall in that?

Honestly, I think that we have probably learned from our fans about what they like. We have learned a lot more from our fans just by meeting so many faces all over the nation. I think you learn little stories and insights into people's lives, and that will touch you as a writer and an artist. It gives us more ammunition when we write. Based on our experiences on the road, and hanging out with fans after shows, it's influenced the way that we write our music now.

I would say that they are helping us write our songs. They don't even know it, and we probably don't even know it, but they are the inspiration and the creation of the music that we make. I've never even thought about that until I just answered you.

Moonshine Bandits are scheduled to perform on Thursday, March 20, with The Lacs at Rockbar in Scottsdale. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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