by: Thomas D. Mooney
Quick, you’re getting your ass kicked by Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy. What band do you want playing in the background?
Solid choice if you chose some Quaker City Night Hawks. The groove laid out by QCNH are like punches themselves. You may actually enjoy it–I mean, if you’re into getting your ass kicked and good music.
Take a song like “Some of Adam’s Blues.” The laid back swamp groove is straight out of the Vietnam era. It’s big drums. It’s infectious guitar. The vocals sound like they’re coming through your dad’s old record player. It feels like it could be the filthier, dirtier, and darker vibe big brother of “When The Lights Go Out” by The Black Keys. The sound is fatter.
QCNH’s brand of rock is unfiltered and pure. No tricks. No fluff. No nonsense. Go ahead and grab the bottle of whiskey; you’re going to be here all night.
We caught up with Sam Anderson of the Ft. Worth-based Quaker City Night Hawks earlier this week. They’ll be playing with Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights tonight (Feb. 16) at The Blue Light.
New Slang: Let’s start off talking about the debut record. You guys recorded that really quickly after forming–about five months after–as well as recording it in a pretty short amount of time. How do you think that effected the record?
Sam Anderson: It was definitely a growing experience for the band. The priority list gets shaved down. You have to look really at what’s really important and want on this record. And that’s what we focused on. We didn’t really have time to get super detail oriented or stress over tiny little things. I guess that’s kind of the theme of our band; we just roll with the punches.
NS: Yeah. Obviously you guys have a real classic, vintage rock n’ roll sound and vibe. Lots of old ’60s and ’70s rock bands would record albums in a short amount of time and get records out quickly. I think you guys doing that in a way is real rock n’ roll. Some of the best things come out of a pressure cooker situation.
SA: Absolutely. Pressure definitely breeds creativity for sure. That’s kind of the atmosphere of the band. At that time, we really wanted to get those songs down and wanted it to be a representation of how we sounded if you came to a show. We didn’t want to put a lot of tricks on it, any studio magic. We just wanted to get an accurate representation of what we were at that point. You know?
SA: I think we captured that–or at least I hope we did [laughs].
NS: You guys have your sophomore record coming out soon (This past week actually). I was reading on your site or Facebook you saying that with this record, you guys were wanting to cover more ground, in sound, influences, etc. What do you think are the major differences are between the two records–not just sound wise, but even tone and vibe. What did you guys do differently this time around?
SA: Basically, I feel like we’ve come into our own a lot more. It’s been two and a half years, so I think playing together a lot comes through on this record. A lot like the old one, we did it in five days. One of the guys who we wanted to engineer it, he was moving out to California. It was kind of a last-minute move. He found another job. So we were kind of in the pressure cooker again, but I think the difference is this time around, is we were much more confident going into the studio. I think we had already felt out what we wanted our sound to be. We grabbed a hold of that and it was a lot easier.
NS: I’ve heard one song on the record that I found on Soundcloud called “Lavanderia.” That has a real Tex-Mex sound with some Texas boogie in there. Where’d that song come from?
SA: Oh we’re right in the thick of it (that sound). We live on the south side of Ft. Worth. It came from, Dave [Matsler] and I– the other lead singer and lead guitar player, Dave wrote that one. But, Dave and I, we literally wash all our clothes at lavanderias and laundry mats. It’s kind of a picture what it’s like at one of those places.
NS: Songwriting for you guys, how does that work? Is it mostly guys writing individually and bringing it to the band or do you guys do writing together?
SA: A lot of times Dave will have a song or I’ll have a song we’ve written and we’ll bring it to the band. A lot of times Dave and I will write together. But it’s where we have the core idea of the song. It’ll have the lyrics and the melody pinned down. They don’t sound anything like they did at the beginning once we let the band get a hold of them. It’s Pat [Adams] and Matt [Mabe], our bass and drummer, they’re both smart at what they do and smart at songwriting. They help everything sound like a song rather than some weird ass idea Dave or I have come up with [laughs].
NS: I want to talk a little about Texas blues. It’s my opinion–or really, it’s not just opinion, it’s really just a fact–that Texas has always had this rich history of blues music. I think there for a while though, people have kind of forgot the rich history of Texas bluesmen, but I think there’s really a revival going on the last half decade or so. Talk a little about what you think Texas blues is now compared to what it used to be.
SA: Yeah. That’s a good question. Dave and I, we grew up together with blues music. And you know, they say that the blues started in Texas. You know it’s all folklore. It’s kind of like who invented the cheeseburger type thing. But the first ever recorded blues line was “The blues came to Texas loping like a mule.” It’s something that Texas has forever. I guess there for a while, it got twisted and contorted–which that’s what we’re doing. We’re not doing purist blues by any stretch. I think it’s the attitude of those songs, for me being a Texan, that I’m really proud of. Something that we can call our own. The blues are fun because now it’s kind of got this thing where it’s the same canvas where everybody can paint on. You can paint whatever you want on it, but it’s still the blues. I think a lot of young cats have gotten hold of that recently. There’s a bunch of younger guys who I think have that spitfire attitude.
NS: Yeah. I’ve talked with a few other guys and bands about the blues before. And one of the things that I think I can conclude is that the blues more than anything else, is a state of mind. It’s an attitude and state of mind above all else. It’s that over any particular sound.
SA: Yeah. Definitely.
NS: Now you guys are influenced by a lot of “old” sounds. Classic ’70s rock. Southern rock. The blues. But, at the same time, I can’t imagine you not being influenced by something that’s happened the last decade or so. What’s something in this modern era that’s influenced y’alls sound or songwriting?
SA: Dave and I saw a band, not sure if you’ve heard of them, they’re called The Dexateens. They were from Alabama. We saw them either before or after South By Southwest as they were routing in or out. We saw them at The Moon Bar in Ft. Worth about four years ago I guess. Dave and I, we were playing acoustic stuff at that time. And we saw them and they were the loudest thing we had ever heard live ever. It was just rowdy blues. They were respectful. They got done, tipped the bartender. Just the whole aura of that was just incredible. That something like that could still go one. It was like “Man, we’ve got to forget all these sad acoustic songs. We need to be louder.” So that’s a band that’s had a big influence on Dave and I starting Quaker City Night Hawks.
NS: So have you guys been out to Lubbock?
SA: Yeah. Actually, I went to Texas Tech and Dave went to South Plains bluegrass college. He was a mandolin major. That’s where we met, out there. Dave’s from Amarillo and I’m from Ft. Worth and met out there going to school.
NS: Yeah. SPC is one of the best bluegrass programs in the nation easily. Have you guys been out here as a band or do any playing while here?
SA: When we played out there, we played acoustic shows at like J&B Coffee, Sugarbrowns. I think I played a show with someone at Bleacher’s one time [laughs]. Yeah, it was weird. From there, Dave moved to Austin and I moved back to Ft. Worth and kind of lived in our cars for a little bit. Traveling around Texas playing shows for brocoli and cheese soup [laughs]. So we got sick of doing that and moved back north of Ft. Worth to Roanoke.
NS: Yeah. Just listening to you guys currently, it’s hard to imagine you guys doing acoustic shows.
SA: Yeah. We all wanted to be folk singers. We all wanted to change the world with our witty songs and enlighten people’s minds. We were all starry-eyed back then. After living in our cars for a while, all that flew out the window [laughs].