With a new drummer and new music, the Cutthroat Drifters have a newfound zest

After playing in a few bands in Michigan, bassist Jeremy "Squirmz" Robins and singer Nick Kjolhede moved to Denver in 2006. Five years later, the pair formed the Cutthroat Drifters with guitarist Dave Myers through Craigslist. After going through a number of drummers since then, the band recruited scene veteran Zeth Pedulla, who's played with King Rat and Boldtype, about five months ago. We spoke with Squirmz and Pedulla about the band's new EP, which is slated for release this Saturday, December 28, at the Bluebird Theater.

Westword: When you put the band together, did you have an idea in mind of what you wanted to go for?

Jeremy "Squirmz" Robins: We just knew the kind of people we wanted in the group. When we met Dave -- he seriously was the first guy we called. I got three numbers off Craigslist, and we called him up and went down and met him. It clicked right off the bat. It was like, "Yep, that's the guy." He's into the same shit that we're into. It's all about that that old rock and roll. Man, we all grew up listening to classic rock straight out of the '70s and all that early '90s stuff, as well. That's what I would describe our sound as now: a blend of those two eras.

I can definitely hear that. Some of the '70s stuff mixed with the '90s stuff. Is this your first EP?

JR: We actually recorded a demo a while back, and then, we did a full-length CD with a different drummer. He was a buddy of mine from back in Michigan, too. We actually flew him out to be on those because we didn't have anybody to record with. Over two and half years, Zeth is our tenth drummer.

Sounds like a Spinal Tap situation.

JR: Yeah, totally. We joke about that all the time. Drummers with drug problems, drummers that just don't want to play, bad attitudes -- it runs the gamut.

Zeth Pedulla: I'll give you a little history of how I got with these guys. I was in King Rat. I was in a lot of bands. I've been playing in town since '91. I used to book 7 South and those other clubs. Did NIPP for a little bit. Then I eventually hooked up with King Rat, and I was with those guys for about ten years, from mid to late '90s to the early 2000s, and then I joined I joined this other band called Boldtype. I was with those guys for about five years.

Then I had some demons I had to face -- some drug and alcohol problems. I actually took off from the scene for about four years. I took the time off to get my shit together and basically, Luke, the lead singer of King Rat and the old owner of Bender's, called me up and said, "Hey dude, I see you're doing pretty well these days, and we'd love to have you back in the scene, and there's these cats that I know called the Cutthroat Drifters, and you should give them a call." And that's how it all started.

How long have you been in the group?

ZP: I've been in it about five months. Actually the CD release of that last album that Squirmz was talking about, I actually played that show. I did three practices. I had a week's notice. They were like, "Okay, dude you've got to play this." That was kind of trial by fire. I got through the set and learned an hour's worth of music. After the show, they asked me if I wanted to join, and I was really happy to.

I'd been doing to the punk thing for a really long time, and I really enjoyed listened to their songs on their LP. I thought some rock and roll would be a good thing for me. I've been loving it ever since. We're been writing a bunch of new stuff. We've got the new EP out. We just got done pressing it, and that's something we'll be giving out at our show on the 28th at the Bluebird.

What's the EP called?

JR: We don't really have a name for it. It's kind of self-titled.

ZP: Basically, I joined the band and there were some songs that weren't recorded yet that I had a little more play with in terms of... I was kind of playing pretty close to the recordings. And these weren't recorded yet, so I had a little more of my input in it, I guess. I was like, "Hey, man, lets get something down." And the guys were all for it. So we went to Module Overload Studios to record it, and my friend Bart [McCrorey], who's actually playing with Throttlebomb on the 28th, as well, he runs Motaland Studios, and we ended up mixing it there, and it came out pretty goddamn awesome.

How would say the new EP differs from the full-length?

JR: I tell you, right off the bat, it almost seems like it's better songwriting. Every song that we've written is better than the last song we've written. We've even got some stuff now that's after the EP that's fucking phenomenal. It's definitely more of that '90s feel on the EP than on the CD. With the CD, we stuck more to... It was a lot of stuff that Dave had written previously that he had lying around that we took and made it into songs. But the new stuff is pretty much stuff that we've sat down and written together.

It's been a different way for us. When we first started... we've been under the gun from the start. I think we did our first two or three weeks deep after we started the band. We've been rushing the whole time. It's like, "What's the next thing? We did that, all right. What's next?" That's how we've been rolling.

ZP: I think the EP is definitely a little bit tighter than the LP. I'm not saying the LP is not tight, but I think just the production is a little bit better. For me, being a drummer, I think there's a little more power that's thrown down on the tracks. Just a little more kind of Bonham-y pounding it out a little bit. With our new stuff, even beyond the EP, it's crazy. I've only been with these guys five months, but even after that EP, like, I'm throwing down, "Hey, I've got this beat," and within thirty seconds, there's a riff already getting written. An hour later, it's almost like we have a full song. It's been pretty crazy with the songwriting. There's so much energy and...

JR: Originality in the new stuff.

ZP: we're pulling stuff out of everywhere. I think all these musicians I play with are awesome and top-notch. It's been pretty crazy where I've actually been with a crew like that, where I can throw something out as a beat, and it comes to fruition in an hour or two. It's pretty awesome.

Are you going to do another recording in the near future?

ZP: Oh yeah. we've already been talking about it. We have probably about an hour and a half worth of originals, and we've figured out some covers, too. We'll do Herb's for a whole night and get a nice little paycheck or whatever, but the cover scene, they're both different animals. I've done both where.... I've talked to Ameristar, and they pay a huge amount to do cover songs, but we still have our integrity in keeping with the originals, as well. The stuff that we're writing is coming out of us so fast and so awesome, it's like, Jesus! I wish I would have hooked up with these guys a couple of years ago. We would have been probably three full-lengths deep now.

JR: Just having switched drummers so much has mostly held us back for sure.

ZP: But I got to say what he's saying here... Just being a drummer, I'm sure of having to show the same songs over and over... because you got to do that. You have to retrain everybody. I mean, I can see how that can kind of get stagnant. You're not moving forward because it's like, "Here's the next ten songs we need to show you."

I've learned the songs somewhat quickly. I think we started to really jell. We got a main frame done early on, but even the songs I learned months ago, there are still nuances that we change up a little bit and throw in little things, and those still expand as well. It's been a pretty good journey so far.

What else is in store for the near future?

JR: There's going to be more recording, more shows. Next summer is probably a West Coast tour.

ZP: There's a lot of things on the horizon. I've been on the scene for twenty-something years now in Denver, and I got to say I have a lot of great connections and a lot of great people that I've worked with over the years. Just with all the bar owners and promoters... I took those four years off, but they're still around, and they still showed a lot of support when I came back into the scene. It's been great.

With the Bluebird show, I wasn't hounding them. AEG actually got a hold of me.... For me, on my side of things I've been a promoter for twenty-something years, at 7 South back in the day and Cricket on the Hill. I did the Blue Mule for a long time. There are several different venues I did. Then I also did the Bluebird and Ogden every now and again with NIPP. I was more of an independent contractor, but I worked with those guys a lot.

So for this bill at the Bluebird, AEG kind of approached me, and asked me if I wanted to do a show, so this bill is actually one that I put together. The other bands I know pretty well, and they bring it. They kill it. It's going to be a really great show. Not everyone sounds exactly the same, so it's going to be an eclectic show, but it's all in the rock vibe. It's going to be a great show.

Is there any story behind the name of the group?

JR: Our original drummer, this cat that we started playing with, he wanted to call it... Big Tundra was one of his ideas. That was horrible. He came up with a number of names, and Cutthroat Kill was that he came up with. And we were like, "That's a bit harsh, don't you think? If we're a metal band that would work, but we're not. It doesn't really get the point across." We're all from different states. We've all moved around a lot, so we came up with the Cutthroat Drifters. It just rolls off the tongue well, and it really kind of describes it.

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