Six Metalheads and Punks Who Went Folk

Conor Oberst performing with Bright Eyes
Conor Oberst performing with Bright Eyes
Photo by Jim Bricker

Hey everyone, here's a thing I've noticed: lots of guys seem to "mature" and quit metal and punk to do other stuff. Yeah, yeah, I've pointed out many times that these are genres for youngsters, and once you reach a certain age maybe it is time to find a different career.

On the other hand, what's so attractive about an acoustic guitar? Maybe it's because their own music typically sounds awesome on it, and they just go from there and start writing in the softer style. Who knows? As a trend, however, I can't fault with it because it's produced some seriously awesome deviations, like these six.

Dax Riggs Dax Riggs started his career as the vocalist for New Orleans sludge-metal outfit Acid Bath. As you can guess by everything in that sentence, Acid Bath featured a lot of screaming, heavily distorted guitars, and a lot of what you'd typically associate with extreme metal in the early '90s.

Of course, they also had their share of acoustic passages to break up their records, Riggs sang, and they were moving towards more mainstream grunge styles on some songs before they broke up. So maybe it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise that Riggs has devoted himself for much of the past decade to dark folk music, fashioning himself as a brooding troubadour reminiscent of Nick Cave.

City and Colour Dallas Green's early years as a member of Alexisonfire were spent mostly tethering the band to poppier rock styles, using his beautiful singing voice to perform choruses and writing ballads around all the hardcore punk and screaming that went on in their songs. By the end of the band, he was incorporating old spirituals and acoustic guitars into their music.

Hence it was a pretty logical progression that Green's solo project, City and Colour, was an acoustic folk/Americana band that eventually became his sole focus. These days it's hard to believe that Green ever even performed hardcore music, as he's really developed his folk-rock bona fides.

Delta Spirit Delta Spirit is a fairly well-regarded indie/Americana band these days, but some of their members have a history together. Jon Jameson and Brandon Young were the former rhythm section for largely forgotten pop-punk band Noise Ratchet.

Elvis Costello It might be easy to forget nowadays, but Elvis Costello was at one time considered a punk rocker. His earliest recordings had a good deal in common with the Clash and his thrift-store suits, mocking sneer, and politically charged lyrics made him right at home with them.

His first deviation was really towards R&B, but when it really became noticeable that Costello was done with punk was when he recorded a country record with 1981's Almost Blue. It was a hell of a way to kick off the decade, and despite how much we all might like My Aim is True, he's continued to dabble far more in country, Americana, and folk styles than rock ever since.

List continues on the next page.


Iggy Pop It sure took Iggy Pop a long while to settle down. While most on this list gave up on punk and metal by their thirties, Iggy has never even stopped recording in those styles. Just this year he released the new record Ready to Die with the Stooges, kicking out the garage-rock/proto-punk jams.

That being said, that Stooges record reflected a little bit more of where Iggy's head has been at lately with some of its softer, acoustic-driven songs. That's because since 2009, Iggy has been recording albums of French-language covers and acoustic ballads in a blend of jazz fusion, blues, and folk styles that's a far cry from his roots as the "Godfather of Punk."

Bright Eyes Everyone knows Bright Eyes front man Conor Oberst and Cursive front man Tim Kasher have a long history. The two Omaha musicians first came together for an emo band called Commander Venus back in the day, playing from 1995 to 1997. After the break-up, Kasher stuck with emo and continued on with his other band Cursive.

Oberst, however, picked up an acoustic guitar and formed Bright Eyes to play indie-rock and folk music. He still couldn't stray totally from his punk roots, though, revisiting them for his band Desaparecidos, who first played from 2001 to 2002 and reformed last year for a second run.


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