“Can we talk about how in ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,' that the Devil has a better fiddle solo than Charlie Daniels?" Hang Rounders guitarist Curt Wallach says while discussing the finer points of country music. "There's no way Charlie Daniels should have won!”
While the other members of his band, drummer Daniel Feely, bassist Matthew Lilley, pedal steel player Tyler Breuer and singer and banjo player, Johno Roberts, are musicians with backgrounds in several different styles, their common knowledge and passion for country music is sincere and deep.
Their debut album, Bring Your Sister, which will be released this Saturday, November 21 at Globe Hall, was recorded at Nashville’s Bomb Shelter studios by renowned engineer Billy Bennet (MGMT, Drive By Truckers). The album is a throwback to the Nashville artists of yesterday, and tells stories of personal pains and triumphs over a country two-step rhythm suitable for any sawdust floor.
We recently caught up with Hang Rounders and asked them how Colorado band arrived at such a sound and how it fits into their current environment.
Andy Thomas: Why was it important to record this album at Bomb Shelter studios?
Roberts: Andrija (Tokic) who owns the studio is an old friend of mine. We really wanted an authentic sounding record, so we wanted to do it all analog. That is one of the few places that still do that.
Feely: When you record to 2-inch tape, it gives this hiss of white noise across the whole thing. This type of music, based on where it originated from, has always had that sound. To do it digitally, and add those sounds later, wouldn't have done it justice.
Wallach: I had no preference at all until we got down there because I had never done anything except for digital before. As soon as I heard it I knew that it inherently sounded classic
How important was it that the studio was in Nashville?
Roberts: I’m originally from Nashville and a lot the stuff I write is about home. Recording a country album in the home of country music was important. Nashville is so saturated with shitty country music right now so we wanted record an album in an underground studio that sticks to the ethics of original music and the artform of recording.
Is that a country music approach or is that a punk approach?
Feely: I think it was just our own personal desire to do it that way.
Wallach: I think the desire to do something authentic should be a regular human desire.
There seems to be a resurgence of country music in Denver. Is that a new trend or has that always been here?
Roberts: I’ve noticed that listening to and playing old country music has become more popular recently, but I grew up with country music. I had an old record player when I was a kid and would listen to people like Jimmy Roberts and Little Jimmy Dickens. It’s never been a resurgence for me. I was there when Little Jimmy Dickens died — he was a close family friend. I’ve never not been around country music.
For people who didn’t have that experience and still play country, does that lack authenticity?
Roberts: As long as it's authentic in your life, it doesn't have to be Southern. That’s what country music is — the story of real life. A lot of country music these days is part of the machine to sell records and not someone telling the story of their life, that’s a huge disconnect.
Wallach: I think country music is a great vehicle to display emotion It’s an easy musical way to get your lyrical point across. I don’t think it has to do with where your from, but what I do think what we’re doing feels very American and, to quote the Violent Femmes, “It reminds me of me.” I love that about country music.
With that being said, was this band formed with the decision to start a country band or to just play authentic music with genre being an afterthought?
Feely: It was a decision to start a country band. Originally it was Curt and I and three other guys. It didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to.
Wallach: Yeah, we had a couple practices and it didn’t feel right, it felt like we were faking it. When Johno came in we turned it into a vehicle to get his ideas across, he's been playing some of these songs for years.
Roberts: Originally my songs had some more folk undertones to it, but when they came to me with the idea of playing country I was enthusiastic about it being danceable country music. A lot of the new country music you can’t two-step to.
Is the country music being played in Denver right now an extension of the often talked about “Denver Sound?”
Roberts: I feel like all the country bands in Denver sound very different, everybody’s style is different.
Wallach: If anything, I would say we’re all trying to sound like we’re not from Denver.