“When the lord made me, he made a ramblin’ man.”
Or was it Sean Lewis? Or Zach Davis? Maybe Andrew Chavez. Brad Ivy?
Hell, it could have been any of them; they’re all ramblin’ down the road, tearing through songs about traveling down from New Orleans to California; the apparent Promised Land where they’ll be washed clean of their sins and songs. They’ll just be left with their whiskey, reverb, and guitar licks.
Lewis and company are in many ways, polar opposites at times. Walking contradictions. They’re constant fixtures in the Lubbock scene, yet are like ghosts. A band you see, then they disappear for months. Emerge in another band with a different sound and a different bunch of songs. It can be at times harder than hell to find physical copies of their music, yet everyone knows of them. An anomaly. An enigma. A perplexing mystery.
For example, take their Facebook page. It’s only 124 Likes strong and probably has more posts from New Slang and Middle Child Records than posts from Rattlesnake Milk itself. As you’ll learn from the interview, they’re releasing their debut, “Snake, Rattle, & Roll” exclusively on cassette. On cassette. It’s one of those things you’ll possibly find on Ebay one of these days going for more money than what was probably originally used to record. Cult status.
Really, their image, is much like their songs. Their songs feel like dusty ballads sang by migrating bluesmen coming through the South and into Texas up to Chicago and New York. Or family folk songs traveling from the Dust bowl out to California. Of course, there’s this modern approach to them. But, more than anything, it’s this feeling and approach of now. This is now. This is when you’ll see us, when we’re playing, and we’ll become this memory that we’ll share forever. The tangible product though, that’ll be for the few and for the lucky.
They are their songs. Their here, then (possibly) gone becoming only a ghostly memory. A fading photograph in your mind. Who knows what they’ll eventually become. And I think that’s how they ultimately like it.
We caught up with Rattlesnake Milk minutes after they had recorded their session with Live & Breathing during their Lubbock Sessions during the first week of January. Their song “Highway Home” from those sessions was released earlier this week. In addition, we named it the number 18 in our Top 40 Lubbock Songs of 2012 list late last year. Rattlesnake Milk will be playing the Depot Obar tonight (Feb. 22) along with OBN III’s, Go to Hell, Naked Pictures, Black Lantern, and Voice de Harp. For more details, click here.
New Slang: First off, when do you guys think you’ll get an official release out?
Sean Lewis: Well, definitely within 31 days. I’d say hopefully.
Brad Ivy: We’re really close.
SL: Yeah. We’re just one mix down.
NS: Is it going to be a full album, an EP, or what?
SL: Yeah, it’s going to be a full album. 10 tracks. It’s going to be on cassette tape and going to be called “Snake, Rattle, & Roll.” Which, Zach came up on the spot. I asked him what we should name the album and he didn’t even think about it and just said “Snake, Rattle, & Roll.”
Zach Davis: That’s what I do.
NS: Yeah. It’s just a perfect name. Where did you guys record everything at?
Andrew Chavez: Sean’s house basically. Almost all of it was there, right?
SL: Yeah. At mine and Andrew’s house mainly. I have a little 16 track mixer that goes into the Avid 10 on my Mac. We did it all at the house with the help of Corey Alvarez’ drum mics.
NS: Y’alls sound, I think it really has this bridging ability between the two primary scenes here in Lubbock: garage punk and country. What do you think about; where you’re kind of a mixture of both elements.
BI: Yeah. We’re all fans of both types of music. It’s just natural.
SL: It’s probably from going to shows on the country side and going to shows on the indie side or the DIY side. That’s probably how it started turning into what it is now.
AC: We all started out playing punk. I never thought I would, but I did start getting into country just like all these guys did.
SL: Yeah. I’m pretty sure we all started out as Blink-182 fans [laughs]. And now we all love Hank Williams Sr. Thanks kind of mix.
NS: Yeah. Over time, talking with a lot of bands, something almost all of the alt. country band guys talk about is starting in a punk band and moving towards country. And how really, punk and country aren’t that far apart. You’re singing about that same things–and how you can’t really play punk rock forever. Least most can’t. Anyways, y’alls songs, the lyric aspect, I think there’s a lot of Depression era feeling in there. They kind of have this traveling vibe. What’s really been an inspiration when it comes to songwriting on that side of things?
SL: Well, I wrote the majority of the songs while farming or being out on the road. I guess being out in nature. And when you’re on a tractor, you get that rhythm going. But also, I downloaded a bunch of songs three or four years ago from the Dust bowl era. I listened to those all the time. They definitely stuck in my head and took my songwriting that direction.
NS: Yeah. There’s a few songs I’ve heard that certainly has this Tom Joad going from Oklahoma out to California feel.
SL: Definitely. For sure. I think growing up where Andrew and I did, Plainview, I think it has a big part to do with that. It’s flatter than the ocean and it’s just cotton fields around. It feels like the 1800s. Besides the car you’re in, you don’t see anything that feels like 2000. It has that vibe of being back in the day.
NS: Another big part of the sound comes from the guitar. It’s got a real surf rock or early rock & roll feel. Like a Dick Dale or The Ventures vibe going. Where’s that inspiration come?
AC: I guess we like a real atmospheric sound and feel. I believe it really get to you. It really cuts through and gives the song, I don’t know, a body, a message. I think it overlays and gives density to the song. I just feel like the songs are all individually powerful and I think that just compliments them. Sean and I, we love reverb. We love these sounds that are thick.
SL: You can never get enough reverb. If you can’t understand what I say, I don’t care [laughs].
AC: Yeah [laughs].
SL: And that guitar playing, it’s definitely a product of Quentin Tarantino movies and Thee Oh Sees a lot.
NS: Yeah. I was actually going to bring that up. The Tarantino thing.
BI: And Thrift Store. They’ve kind of got that sound too.
NS: Yeah. They do as well. There’s this film score quality with the music. Not in a John Williams or Hans Zimmer way–like a composer–but more in a modern film score way. Like where you can picture it in a Robert Rodriguez film or a Tarantino scene.
SL: Yeah. Thank you for saying that.
AC: Yeah. Sean and I, we love movies. I think we all love cinema. We’ve always made music. I’ve been making music and playing since I was seven. We’ve always thought of movies and music as being the same. It’s not just about the music; it’s about feeling and seeing something. It’s about taking you somewhere just as a movie would. I think that’s where it comes from. We love things like that.
NS: Yeah. Now you guys are obviously in other bands and projects. How has those other things helped with this Rattlesnake Milk sound?
SL: Well, with Zach and Brad being in Go To Hell together, they’ve been together for so long. That’s your bass and your drums. They’ve already have this connection. And the punk they’re playing in Go To hell, it’s really similar to Rattlesnake Milk. It’s really fast. And as far as me and Andrew go, reverb. LaPanza is super reverb now.