Drag the River ain't your grandpappy's country -- unless your grandpappy used to stitch Op Ivy patches to his hoodies and rock out in prominent local punk bands. Then, yeah, this is that old-timer's kind of groove. The Fort Collins-based outfit boasts a lineup of luminaries that reads like an Interpunk.com news blog -- with former members of Armchair Martian (Jon Snodgrass), ALL (Chad Price), the Nobodies (J.J. Nobody), Hot Rod Circuit (Casey Prestwood) and Pinhead Circus (Dave Barker) all at the helm of Drag the River's cowboy-hat-tipping dirty alterna-rock. But despite the latching background stories, the band sheds any former three-chord silliness and instead punches it up with the kind of grit and soul that's more derivative of Johnny Cash than Johnny Rotten. Recently signed to local imprint Suburban Home Records, which is slated to release Drag's latest, It's Crazy, the former misfits have sure turned themselves into some good ol' country boys.
Westword: You all seem to come from punk-rock backgrounds. So why play country music?
Jon Snodgrass: The gear, like the amps and everything, is a lot lighter. It's a lot less stuff to carry.
So it's a practical thing?
Seriously, though, it just happened when we were messing around. Every song that we have ever written was written on the acoustic guitar. It's honest. I like punk rock, too, but I never really wrote a song on the electric guitar. Between punk and country, I don't really think that the songs have changed much. I can only speak for myself, but the songs that I write for this band are just about the same that I wrote for Armchair Martian. Obviously, they evolve, and you learn new tricks and you grow. Really, every Armchair Martian song could be a Drag the River song. It's just not as loud. But it still rocks.
Are you caught up in the alt-country title? Does it not seem appropriate for the band?
I don't really know what kind of band we are anymore. I was really glad whenever I read a review that said, "This is not an alt-country band." I was like, "Finally! Thank God!" People get desensitized to words, like with the word "emo." You get pigeonholed into a sound. I don't even really know what alt-country is anymore -- it's all just rock and roll, anyway. Sometimes the coolest thing is when there's a kid that's like a punk-rocker or whatever, and they bring their dad to our shows. And sometimes it happens vice versa. It's nice that our music is so broad. We don't fit into any titles -- but then again, people always say that kind of stuff about their band.
For a band that started off as a side project, when did things start to get serious?
We got more serious at the turn of the millennium, when we started playing more and going on tour. We were booking more and more shows, and more and more people were liking it. The next thing we knew, we were playing one hundred shows a year, and then even more after that. We were on the road for two-thirds of the year. We never practice -- ever. We just make records and go on tour, and that's it. I think we practiced twice last year. Basically, it's like we learn how to play the songs during soundcheck in Chicago, and hopefully by the time we get to Boston, it sounds okay.
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