Headed to town this Friday, I chatted via email earlier this week with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nino Cooper about the art of performing live, breaking out of the West Texas music scene and a tour that brings his band The Dirty River Boys to Joe's Bar as the opening act for Reckless Kelly.
The state of Texas offers one of the more diverse music histories in the United States. Featuring a live music mecca in Austin and an array of artists spanning everyone from Buddy Holly to Pantera, Stevie Ray Vaughan to Willie Nelson and Kelly Clarkson to the Old 97's, the lonestar state has always managed to produce unique but talented artists with two things in common: a desire to hit the road and the resulting ability to kill it live.
The Dirty River Boys, like Holly and rebellious spirits like Natalie Maines and Bobby Fuller, hail from West Texas. "We grew up in El Paso which is a border city on the western tip of Texas. It is also about a nine hour drive to the central Texas area. Because of it's location, El Paso is kind of in its own bubble outside of the whole 'Texas music scene.' I think this definitely helped us develop a unique sound and has a constant influence on our writing" says vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Nino Cooper.
Touring in support of the September release of their debut full length Science of Flight, live performance is something Dirty River Boys have obviously placed great importance on. "It has always been a goal for us to keep hitting new markets and not only tour nationally, but eventually internationally. The main difference playing further away from Texas is that we are gone for longer periods of time. As opposed to our regional weekly runs, we end up being on the road for say three weeks at a time" says Cooper as the band finds itself in the midst of a tour hitting newer, larger markets as the opening act for alt-country outfit Reckless Kelly.
Today's artistic landscape features more music more readily, easily and inexpensively accessible than ever before. And while that's great... it also makes it harder than ever to stand out. Which is why moreso now than at any time before, it is critical for a band to develop not just a strong live show but an unforgettable one. For some bands, it can be difficult to transfer the energy of the live show from the unpredictability of the stage to the monotonous and often repetitive atmosphere of the recording studio or laptop.
"In the studio, you are not only isolated for sonic clarity, but you don't have the energy from the audience to feed off of and engage in. You are also using headphones most of the time when tracking and overdubbing. This makes it difficult for us to capture what we do live, which is a very organic high energy performance. It is also difficult to capture the thunderous lows of the cajon that we can achieve on a typical live venue sound system."
Which is just another in a long list of reasons why developing a strong stage presence that carries over as almost second nature in the studio is imperative. "Being on the road a lot does have an impact on the songwriting process. There are always experiences, feelings, and stories on the road that can inspire song ideas, but it is hard to find the quiet time needed to just sit down and write" continues Cooper.
Science of Flight has drawn the band comparisons to artists like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers... though a more spirited take on their music (more closely resembling that of The Pogues but also a result of the band's West Texas/Tex-Mex roots) comes out on the album and even moreso live.
And that spirit will be on full display Friday night during Cooper's opening set at Joe's. "[Fellow Dirty River Boys multi-instrumentalist] Marco Gutierrez and I are performing this show as a duo, and we'll be switching off instruments, playing everything from guitar and mandolin to keyboards and a kick drum to capture the energy of the songs on our album."
Starting this week, The Dirty River Boys duo will log 5,300 miles on an acoustic tour spanning from Austin, Texas to Buffalo, New York and everywhere in between. "Reckless Kelly has been very helpful by allowing us to open shows in new markets that we haven't played before. This allows us to play in front of their fans and build a following much quicker than if we were on our own ticketed show. The tour has been great."
*** Interview conducted via email by Jim Ryan
(Details on Friday's Reckless Kelly/Dirty River Boys show at Joe's after the jump)
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The Dirty River Boys
(Opening for Reckless Kelly)
Live at Joe's Bar
940 West Weed Street
Chicago, IL 60622
Friday, May, 31, 2013
Doors open at 7PM
Show starts at 8:30PM
Also performing: Reckless Kelly
Click HERE to purchase tickets