by: Ryan Heape
There’s a song on Stephenville-based quartet Six Market Blvd’s new record, “Shake It Down,” called “Mailbox,” and it is as much of a stylistic mosaic as the band itself. It opens with jarring, distorted chords reminiscent of their debut, “Runnin’ On Seven.” The chorus hits us with both urgency and grace. The lyrics capture that falling sensation of losing control in the aftermath of a hopeless relationship. “No, there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it,” frontman Clayton Landua almost screams at the outset of the chorus. But this cathartic moment only happens after the song buoys itself back from an interlude of delightfully weird blues-funk jam. “Shake It Down” is a lot like this: a confident, diverse conglomerate of blues-rock, Texan style, and memorable pop choruses.
That kind of energy has gotten them far in Texas. They’re four guys with many instrumental talents—Landua isn’t the only one who sings on the record, and they have the balls to bring in a saxophone on “In The Name Of Us.” If you’re confused, it’s OK. But yes, let’s not get lost on the fact that these guys are just plain catchy. Their live set is wonderfully loud and raw, and they will be playing once again at the Blue Light Saturday night in support of Shake It Down, out May 22nd.
New Slang: Before we talk about “Shake It Down,” if such a thing as a Texas “festival circuit” exists, you guys are on one. This is one hell of a tour you’ve had.
Clayton Landua: Oh man. It’s been surreal. It’s been an eye-opener, a beautiful surprise…just a blessing. Some hard work is almost paying off. I mean, it’s paying off. When you get into that festival circuit and start playing with all these big names, being as green to it as we are, it’s such an experience trying to learn on your feet and prove yourself at the same time. You meet guys like Stoney Larue and Reckless Kelly, guys we’ve looked up to, at these places who are just so cool and are always quick to help us out.
NS: And Larry Joe Taylor himself has been involved with you guys personally too, if I’m not mistaken.
CL: Yeah, I mean there’s that little festival he puts on. But he’s become a really good friend of ours. He really believes in what we’re doing–he’s helped us out tremendously the past year-and-a-half with getting our name out there. He’s pushed us, taken us under his wing I guess.
NS: So how did you guys find the time to record a new record?
CL: All I can say is, we just did it. It was like “OK, it’s time to record an album. Somehow.” So we just started recording on weekdays. Maybe instead of five shows a week, we’d cut it down to two—trying to fit in as much as we could. It was…well, it always seems like a full-time job. But looking back at that, it was a serious, long-hours, no-sleep, full-time job.
NS: On your debut, there was this euphoric lyric about the “blacktop racin’ through my veins.” Would you say that this time around, y’all aren’t as keen on the concept of the road?
CL: Man. The road’s got everything to do with music though, doesn’t it? But when we wrote those first songs, we were all fired up about getting on the road and fightin’, singin’, and playin’. That part of it all has kind of slowed down, I suppose. We definitely found so many more influences and different things to write about this time around. But [the road] never loses its spot. Our single that’s out right now, “Say It,” and it goes, “I’ve been spinnin’ my wheels, wonderin’ how I can do things right/And I’ve been out here on this highway for some time.” It’s still about being out there trying to do your thing, but I’m also trying to figure out what everyone else wants me to do, too.
NS: Oh yeah. Though, when I heard “Say It” for the first time, I have to admit I was taken aback by Josh Serrato’s lead guitar on that. Can you confirm for us that he was listening to ZZ Top heavily during the recording process?
CL: [Laughs] Right? I don’t know where that kid gets his licks. He’s got a lot of old school cats he’s trained himself on. Yeah I mean he’s got influences from Billy Gibbons, some Eric Clapton, even ‘80s hair metal. Guns n’ Roses.
NS: “14 Miles From Home” slowly became my favorite track on the new record. Do you feel particularly connected with that song?
CL: I’m pretty attached to that song. More than the other songs on the album, and I didn’t even write it. I wish me or Ben had written it. A close friend of ours named Red Shahan wrote it—you’re from Lubbock, you should know Red & The Vityls! We’re all about writing our own stuff, but when he pitched it to us, there was no way we could say no. And when you say that’s your favorite song on the album, you’re right. I agree.
NS: Listening to your records, you get the sense that Six Market Blvd is very much a collaboration between friends. How much of a role do you play in the creative process? How do all those pieces fit together?
CL: Songwriting usually comes from myself and from co-writing with Ben [Hussey, bass player]. He’s just an intelligent songwriter. He’s very crafty; he’s very wise. But it’s a lot of brainstorming between the four of us—all for one, one for all-type deal. It’s a long process and we all play a part in creativity. Like how Dallas [Neal, drums] will come to us with a beat and Josh, being himself a drummer, will collaborate with him. We all play a lot of instruments, too.
NS: Like saxophone on ‘In The Name Of Us’?
CL: You know, there was a lot of push-and-pull over whether that song was gonna make it on “Shake It Down,” but we decided that if it was, we were gonna slip in something sneaky. [Laughs] But yeah, we did it, we brought in somebody who’d been playing sax for forty years. He laid it down and we all thought it was the perfect piece to that puzzle. We could’ve put a guitar solo in there, yeah, but that’s normal.
NS: Tell me the story behind you guys coming out on stage in shirts and ties at Larry Joe Taylor Fest.
CL: We were paying our respects to Mark McCoy [the late bassist for Micky & The Motorcars, who will be playing sans Mark at Wild West Saturday night], who passed away in a rafting accident. They were asking all the bands, if they could, to wear a shirt and tie because that was Mark’s thing, you know? On very short notice, our manager went and got us ties and it all worked out well. The best part was it still turned out to be a very fun show.
NS: And you guys have gotten a lot more confident on stage.
CL: Last year at LJT, it was the first time we’d seen that many people in front of us at once, so it was very scary, very nerve-wracking. But about half-way through that show, we kind of settled down and then it became like, “wow, this is awesome.” Well this year, we showed up and we knew what we had to do–we went out there and laid it all out. People were singing back to us and it was incredible.
NS: Going back to the days when you might not have been so comfortable. What went through your head when, maybe, you saw that first group of girls at one of your gigs sing back the words to “Silence In Me”?
CL: That was an unreal moment. Four years ago, I would have never imagined that, personally. That first time you pull back from the microphone and let the crowd sing it for you is really something. That particular time, it was unplanned; like an explosion of a jam session with this cool harmony. It was surreal.