Bastard Winos is a four-piece rock and roll band with one foot it classic country and the blues. At the Blue Cafe in Huntington Beach, the band discussed wire hangers, developing their sound, and what it means to be a bastard wino.
Iâ€™m going to direct this first question at you, Harlis. I want you to tell me about your previous bands Barrelhouse and Thrill Deluxe. And I have been instructed by Odessa (P. Coaltrain, formerly of Barrelhouse) not to let you downplay either of those.
(HS) Oh shit! Odessa! Barrelhouse was a straight soul band. I molded it after Otis Redding. Heâ€™s my all-time favorite singer. I molded the band after his style, his singing, and that old Stax/Volt sound. We had a lot of great shows, a lot of good times. It lasted I think eight years. Played some killer shows, had some good parties and it really stuck to the soul music for the first four years. Then it gradually got into a little more rock. But it was straight soul/R&B stuff. Killer band, really tight. The chemistry is what really was the best for me. It got to the point that we practiced so much and we were around each other so much that if I wanted to go longer on a song, or I wanted them to hit on a song, we just had that connection. I could just make some kind of movement or eye contact and they would know. One of the most important things of the band was that chemistry. Thatâ€™s what I had with them.
Thrill Deluxe is still going. Actually, Barrelhouse phased into Thrill Deluxe after all the members in Barrelhouse phased out. The sax player, the trumpet player, the guitar player. There was just three of us: myself, the bass player, and the drummer. So we started Thrill Deluxe, which was supposed to be more mainstream rock. Those guys dropped out, other guys came in. Now we have what we have. Itâ€™s still a little bit bluesy, but more geared toward mainstream rock.
You didnâ€™t downplay it at all.
(HS) Let him know. Tell him I didnâ€™t.
How did you come up with the name Bastard Winos?
(HS) I was driving in the car with my lady. I forget how I came up with it. [Greg enters] There he is. Youâ€™re justâ€¦not on time. Just come down off the mountain? I was like, itâ€™d be cool to name a band The Bastards, or The Winos. I just came up with it and I didnâ€™t know if it was going to be silly or if it was going to be way cool. It turned out to be way cool. People seem to always laugh and say, â€œThatâ€™s cool! Bastard Winos.â€ Whatâ€™s really cool about the name is that it conjures up these images. It makes what we do a lot easier, with promoting, with our sound.
(CG) Itâ€™s not like weâ€™re boxed into anything. Itâ€™s pretty wide open. We can do whatever we want to do.
(HS) Itâ€™s almost like Sergeant Pepperâ€™s, where they made album as Sergeant Pepperâ€™s. Weâ€™re making the band as though we are bastard winos, almost like a character. The Thrill Deluxe thingâ€¦I wasnâ€™t doing the blues and the soul music that I love. Thatâ€™s my main bag. Bastard Winos came about because I wanted to get back to the roots of what I like to do. Then these guys are all my buddies. My brother-in-law (Chile), Iâ€™ve known this guy (Greg) for twenty years, this guy (Chris) too. The name Bastard Winos just conjures up all these images and ideas of music.
(CT) Itâ€™s gritty. Itâ€™s not pretentious. Itâ€™s raw, which is exactly what we want to be. We donâ€™t want to be a squeaky-clean, polished Orange County band. We want to be bastard winos. We want to be dirty.
If youâ€™re writing the copy for the label that goes in the corner of your jewel case, what would you write?
(CT) Weâ€™ve had arguments about this.
(HS) To describe our sound, I would just call it dirty rock and roll. My motto for the band when we started was â€œWomen, booze and damnation.â€ Itâ€™s got that AC/DC and Hank Williams vibe.
(CT) Cash meets Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
(HS) Itâ€™s gritty down-home rock and roll. I mean rock and roll: Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters. We all like that kind of music. [The band at the Blue CafÃ© starts to warm up with the keyboard player playing bits of â€œWhen the Saints Go Marching Inâ€ followed by â€œSilent Night.â€] Weâ€™re more comfortable in a dirty old bar than a big stadium. That fits our style. I would just say dirty rock and roll.
How did you come to your sound?
(HS) You can hear in the background the sound weâ€™re really going for. Itâ€™s Christmas-y. (laughter)
(GG) The original ideas come from these two (Harlis and Chile). Whatâ€™s cool about it is they just come with the ideas. Itâ€™s not like, â€œHereâ€™s my song.â€ The music, it becomes its own. It has its own little life, character and attitude. The sound comes from however we feel that day when we start putting the songs together. It might have a direction itâ€™s going, then it might take a turn and we like that. And then it grows there. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s really cool. Itâ€™s an open palette.
(CT) We allow the song to become what it should be.
(GG) They bring the paint, but they let us throw the paint. Itâ€™s cool.
(CT) Oftentimes weâ€™ll take a song down several different avenues to see which way it jells best. I think all of us have different backgrounds musically and we all have different approaches to how we want a song to sound. Like Gregâ€™s saying, maybe weâ€™ll try it down more of a punk rock/blues angle. Weâ€™ll all kind of look at each other, â€œI donâ€™t know.â€ Itâ€™s really fun and interesting actually. Itâ€™s never set in stone.
(HS) Itâ€™s almost like taking a wire coat hanger, you lock your car, and you just shove it down and blindly go like this. And then you hit the lock and it opens the door and you get back in the car. Youâ€™re trying shit. The song tells us what it wants to sound like. We donâ€™t tell the song. Weâ€™ll play it and itâ€™s like, â€œNah, thatâ€™s not right.â€ Keep trying. â€œThatâ€™s the one. Next.â€
(GG) Thatâ€™s a good metaphor because sometimes you shoot that wire thing and you hit it on the first try.
(HS) If it doesnâ€™t work, we might let it sit and then come back to it with a different attitude or something in the chemistry thatâ€™s different and all of a sudden it hits. And thatâ€™s the Bastard Winos. Other bands use slim jims, call locksmiths, Triple-A. We use wire coat hangers.
Thatâ€™s what should go on the cover of your CD. The wire hanger approach.
(CT) Empty bottles and wire hangers.
What would you be doing if you werenâ€™t making music?
(HS) Iâ€™d be making wire hangers.
(CT) I would be painting. Thatâ€™s pretty much what I do the rest of the time.
(HS) I would be his subject. (laughter)
Are we talking nudes here?
(CG) Iâ€™d probably be helping Greg do more photography stuff.
(GG) Iâ€™d be doing photography of Harlis nude. (laughter) [Chris is called to the stage. The band starts playing and the interview comes to a close.]
For more information about Bastard winos, visit http://www.myspace.com/bastardwinos
WORLD - CULTURE
Copyright © 2010 Gary Schwind
Women, Booze and Damnation
An interview with "dirty rock and roll" band Bastard Winos (Harlis Sweetwater, Chile Thomas, Greg Garcia, Chris Garcia)
Copyright © 2010 Gary Schwind
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