Denver Band the Schofields Is "The Loudest 'Country' Band That You're Going to See" | Westword
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The Schofields Are "The Loudest 'Country' Band That You're Going to See"

The Denver band will release its debut album, Centennial State Blues, with a concert at Bar 404.
The Schofields are ready to release debut album on Friday, December 1.
The Schofields are ready to release debut album on Friday, December 1. Courtesy the Schofields
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Geoff Orwiler, one of the songwriters behind Denver alt-country group the Schofields, is quick to note that the murder ballads he writes do not carry any shred of truth. The disclaimer comes ahead of the band’s upcoming debut album, Centennial State Blues.

“Geoff is very creative in writing in-depth, storytelling songs,” says vocalist and guitarist Joel Rossi, adding that the two latest singles — “Centennial State Blues” and “One Day” — are good examples of Orwiler’s imagination.

“One’s about a quarrel with yourself and your wife and then killing your wife. Then the second song is about burying her,” he continues.

“Just for the record, my wife is not dead,” Orwiler chimes in.

The five members laugh and agree that “One Day” is their favorite track on Centennial State Blues, which is set to be released on Friday, December 1, in tandem with a concert at Bar 404. Guests Jon Snodgrass and Scooter James are also playing.

“If somebody just wants to two-step all the way through the song, they can,” Rossi explains.

But "One Day" isn’t necessarily a standard two-stepper, even though it starts out as a traditional Western ditty. About midway through, the tempo picks up and the guitars of Orwiler and Rossi take over. It’s that cowpunk edge “that separates us from being a country band,” as Rossi sees it. “That song just has a nice sound to it and a nice feel,” he adds.

“It feels genuine, but obviously, there’s no truth behind [the lyrics],” Orwiler doubles down.

The Schofields, whose name is taken from an Old West firearm company, comprises a hodgepodge of personalities and musical backgrounds, but it works. It’s a strain of alt-country that stand-up bassist Dave Simpkins likes to call “Ameri-kinda.”

“We’re probably about the loudest ‘country’ band that you’re going to see,” he explains. “It gets pretty rowdy. Most of our other songs are about drinking.”

The Schofields formed in 2015; Rossi comes from the punk world, having previously played in local band Dead Ringer, while drummer James Romine is more of a prog-rock fan. He’s even wearing a Mastodon T-shirt during our chat, Rossi points out. “We’re trying to be a country band, but we got a drummer wearing a Mastodon shirt,” Rossi jabs. Meanwhile, Romine and Simpkins also play in horns-heavy funk band Muchly Suchwise.

Before rounding out the Schofields, which also includes pedal steel player Vince Pelini, Rossi and Orwiler were just a two-man project. Unlike Orwiler, however, Rossi says he writes “more serious songs that are true to me,” and has reworked some old punk tunes into a more Western way that aligns with the Schofields' agenda. Simpkins also contributes to songwriting and singing.

“Generally, I’d be considered a frontman, but if you want to write it and you want to sing it, you sing it,” Rossi says. “It’s nice being in a band where we can all write.”

The different perspectives make for an eclectic track list. Other than Orwiler’s fictional confessionals, songs on Centennial State Blues deal with everything from heartache to hell-raising. One tune, “Same Mistakes,” was even inspired by Simpkins’s teenage son and the follies of youth.

“One of the most authentic songs that we all collaboratively wrote was ‘Same Mistakes,’” Rossi says. “It’s a song about, ‘I fucked up. It’s okay if you fuck up, too.’

“[Simpkins] took it to the band, and we all put in our two cents each and changed it completely,” he continues.

“I write fast food,” Simpkins jokes. “Geoff writes home-cooked meals.”

The quip arouses another round of laughs. Rossi takes a sip from his Budweiser bottle. The band’s dynamic and camaraderie are evident. After the conversation turns to the music and how having a pedal steel player makes the group a more legit Western outfit, Pelini maintains the food analogy: “Those guys are the meat and potatoes of the band, and I just try to be a little rosemary,” he says.

Without a previous formal release, the Schofields have already been playing the seven songs that comprise Centennial State Blues during regular sets. A heavy dose of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams covers helps fill out a show, too.

“Coming into this style of music, it comes with the territory that you’re going to play the old traditional songs,” Rossi says. “If we want to go the traditional country route, we need to learn that old stuff, and I think people like hearing the old stuff, especially with the steel pedal.”

The Schofields also “do a lot of original Christmas tunes,” Simpkins adds, noting the band’s annual holiday show. This year’s is Saturday, December 23, at the Skylark Lounge.

The plan is to release more and more originals moving forward, especially after getting the first record out there.

“We just chipped away at it. It’s been in the works for quite a while,” Orwiler says. “Those are our older songs now. Most bands try to evolve as they’re moving along, and I like to think that we’re doing that. We’re more used to where each of us are going with what we’re doing, so [the album] is a step in the right direction.”

The Schofields, 7 p.m. Friday, December 1, Bar 404, 404 Broadway. Tickets are $10 at the door.
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