The fact that Austin was already loaded with aspiring bands didn't seem to have presented much of an obstacle as they made friends, music and albums. Their most recent CD, Jumpin Jolie, makes five discs in six years.
Most of the band members grew up together in Eureka, California. Darren Hoff sings and plays rhythm guitar, Cary Ozanian taps the snare, Brian Salvi is the fiddler, Darren Sluyter is the bass player, and Mario Matteoli sings and plays lead guitar. Folks called them punky bluegrassers and such, mostly because they had energy and a kind of anything-goes attitude, but really they're traditionalists, tossing in a bit of whatever catches their eyes and stirring it up. They tour quite a bit and have even played for inmates of Louisiana's Angola Prison, which Hoff and Matteoli talked about in a recent interview with New Times.
New Times: Did you suffer much culture shock moving from Humboldt to Austin?
Darren Hoff: Not so much. Both places are a weird balance of redneck and hippie. Humboldt is rural -- fishermen, loggers, dairy farmers -- so there is that redneck element, and then there's the straight-up hippies.
NT: On what side of the line do you fall?
DF: We do wear cowboy boots, but we have long hair and beards going on, so . . .
NT: Did you leave Eureka fully formed, or have you changed much?
DF: We had the core influences down, and the core idea for the band, back in Eureka: Hank Williams and Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe. Of course, when we got to Austin, we were bombarded with new stuff, and when we went to Louisiana we started hearing Cajun and swamp pop and zydeco music, which crept in and influenced us a lot.
NT: What about Texas music?
DF: We like to toss in some Doug Sahm.
Mario Matteoli: I got into the Texas Tornados, Waylon, and a lot of Willie Nelson. I'd heard that stuff before, but not as much of it before I got here.
NT: What's it like playing in a Louisiana prison?
MM: Playing prison was fun, a really responsive group -- they don't get much entertainment and they're happy to see you, which is cool. And we played a lot of jail songs: "My Main Trial Is Yet To Come," and "Stone Walls and Steel Bars" by the Stanleys, a few others.
NT: Plan on going back?
MM: We probably won't go there again 'cause it was really weird going through all the security. They said we smelled like pot and strip-searched us all. They said the dogs smelled drugs on us, but none of us had drugs. I really think it's because our fiddle player was up front and he looks like a hippie, you know? Other than that, it was a really good time.