Music News

Tucson’s Golden Boots Are Betting Your Alt-Country Isn’t Alt Enough

Most-often-heard gripe in the digital age? That there's no regionalism in music anymore, that once upon a time, you heard a record and could tell in a second if it was from Philly or Detroit or New Orleans. Often, a record label could even reproduce a map indicating the exact street address the music came from.

Golden Boots' Dimitri Manos and Ryan Eggleston make music not limited by technology or location. State of the art is not a concern, considering they record on two eight-track machines and use whatever old drum machine, overdriven synthesizer, or reverb pot seems like a good idea at the time, in either Eggleston's living room or his kitchen.

Mostly, it sounds like the freedom of making whim-driven music with the back door open, but you also hear an insistent bit of tension threatening to screw up the country feel. Take the Morse code one-note of "Love Is in the Air" that turns a happy outdoors tune into a stirred hornets' nest of sounds. Or the heavy slapback drums and claps of "Easily Lie" that add a militant march to an easy loping groove that dissolves into chaos in the song's final 20 seconds.

Maybe you're hearing Tucson prominently in the mix of Winter of Our Discotheque (Golden Boots' second release for Park the Van Records), particularly an abandoned bus terminal on East Broadway, where many of the basic tracks were laid down.

"For this record, we were given an abandoned bus station that, for a while, became a punk rock venue, and then it got closed down," says Manos. "The guys who managed and owned it expressed some interest in the band, and for four months, we had this big dance hall with holes in the floor and the ceiling falling down and all this punk rock spray-paint everywhere."

"The other weird thing was that it was us a few days and then a kids' karate class," adds Eggleston. "It had one little flag on the wall, the only indication that the space had been a karate class."

"It was this insane, surreal experience and we has to stash our equipment there, with an easily breakable padlock securing it," says Manos. "If someone wanted to get in there, it'd be the easiest thing in the world. The only thing we had going for us security-wise is that it was so absurd that anyone was even using the space to record."

Didn't the sound of music, being made any time of day, clue people in that they were making music there?

"Initially, people started coming in off the street and checking us out," says Eggleston. "Then we moved to a different, more remote part of the building."

Amazingly, they never encountered squatters. "It's so cavernous. I always expected to see a sleeping bag or someone sleeping there," says Manos. "I was constantly checking."

The random method of recording, which the band prefers over premeditating songs, mirrors how Golden Boots came together. The music of Tucson lo-fi blues duo Doo-Rag became a source of attraction for both musicians.

"I didn't know at the time they were from (Tucson), but I was a big fan of Doo-Rag," says Manos. "I saw them open up for a band in Philly in '97 and those two guys became an obsession [for] me."

"Right before we moved here, I was living in New Mexico with a guy who's in the band now," nods Eggleston. "We just decided to move to Tucson because it was close to where we were and we saw an article about Bob Log and we said, 'Wow, this guy's from Tucson.'"

Oddly enough, Manos and Eggleston served as rhythm sections for other bands, with Golden Boots as the "do-whatever-music-you-want" side project since 2001.

"Those bands just fell apart — the usual messy stuff that happens in bands. It wasn't our band to direct. There are other writers, and you were working hard to make other people's songs work, arranging them," says Eggleston. "It just worked out that we'd been doing this longer than all those other bands."

What's really uplifting about Manos and Eggleston's partnership is that each is constantly turning the other on to different music, the way your friends in high school used to put a CD in your hand and say, "You have to listen to this."

"I usually throw a lot of stuff for Ryan to listen to, but he actually takes the time to make me a cassette and tell me I have to listen to something five minutes before a show," says Manos.

What's not so common is the pair's penchant for finding something that they don't like in other peoples' records and applying it to one of their own.

"We use the recording process to work out why we don't like something. Like I had a problem with slap bass. Or the clav sound on a Stevie Wonder record. We also use it for an excuse make each other laugh," notes Manos. "What can you do that's the most inappropriate thing that you can play, how much you can trip the other guy up with your new idea?

"Like, I can say I am a Steely Dan fan but hate the majority of their production," he continues. "So we'd written a song called 'Ugly' that was the quintessential what-I- don't-like-about-Steely-Dan song. Something about Donald Fagen's voice obsessed me. It was always on in my house when I was growing up. My dad loves Steely Dan. There's something to it that I like, but I can't wrap my mind around it. Certainly, it's not the production."

According to Eggleston, Winter of Our Discotheque is Golden Boots' 10th or 12th release, if you count the eight- and four-track home releases they'd toured with in the merch booth. "This is the first international release and the first one that goes over 1,000 copies; normally it's been 500 max," says Manos.

"Wait, we did have a Southwest three-way split, with Andrew Jackson Jihad from Phoenix and a band from Vegas," Eggleston says. "We did 10 songs, AJJ did six, and the band from Vegas did three. No one ever indicated what the split parameters were."

This year, with an augmented lineup and a label firmly behind them, Golden Boots seem eager and more prepared to make their mark, with an upcoming jaunt that includes a South by Southwest showcase. Last year, when they were approached by Park the Van Records, an indie label based in New Orleans, there wasn't time to press a CD.

"We were ready to go on this big tour last year with Magnolia Electric Company last summer, and Park the Van did a digital release of ours called Burning Bran," says Eggleston.

"It was very awkward," laughs Manos. "We brought some old CDs that sold out. So we made buttons to direct people to buy the downloads. And I felt like a snake-oil salesman 'cause all our merch was just T-shirts and no music."

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic