Texas-born Nate Cook of Denver trio the Yawpers brings his band to Rudyard’s Thursday night in support of their hard-rocking second album, American Man. While the band’s debut, 2012’s Capon Crusade, was a self-release, the latest effort has been picked up by Chicago-based alt-country label Bloodshot Records. The album was co-produced by Cracker guitarist and fellow Colorado resident Johnny Hickman.
“It was just some lucky breaks, really,” says Cook. “The Bloodshot people saw us at South By Southwest in 2015 and liked us enough to offer us a deal. And Johnny had seen us play around Denver and he became a friend, so it was a logical thing to have him produce the album with us because we’re all huge fans of Cracker. So far everything seems to fit real well.”
No doubt Bloodshot was also impressed by Capon Crusade, which debuted at No. 1 on the Colorado Music Chart and is now in its third pressing. The ensemble is an odd duck of sorts, with only two acoustic guitars and drums, but Cook, fellow guitarist Jesse Parmet, and drummer Noah Shomberg have serious muscular crash-and-bang in their approach. To our ears, 'punk-folk' was a good description of the band’s sound, but Cook only laughed at the suggestion.
“Folk punk, that’s funny. Yeah, I guess that could work,” says Cook. “I’ll bet I’ve seen twenty different descriptions of our sound and most of them are hard to argue with, but to us it’s just rock and roll, honestly. We don’t really think of a label or some kind of musical pigeonhole. The quieter acoustic parts are folky, I guess, but we usually blast out of that at some point and rock it out.”
While the set-up looks folky, the music is certainly not; it's got more in common with a metal band than Peter, Paul, and Mary. And as Jon Solomon wrote in our sister publication Westword in his review of Capon Crusade, “The Yawpers clearly have a thinking problem.”
“Well, that was a nice thing to say,” says Cook. “We try to have some depth in our lyrics, but in all honesty what comes out is mostly what we actually are thinking or real stuff that happens to us or people we know. I don’t think we can write little airy pop confections or that kind of stuff. Hopefully enough people relate to what we’re saying.”
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So far the music press certainly does, throwing around comparisons like Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle. Cook is actually a native Texan, having grown up in Boerne near San Antonio, but admits the only way his old hometown fits his music is “songs about getting the hell out of there. I really didn’t like it there and I left as soon as I could,” says Cook. “I didn’t really fit with the rich redneck kids and all that. But it has made some good fodder for a song or two.”
Several tracks feature huge measures of Pogues-like stomp and abandon. “Deacon Brodie” in particular seems like it’s going to fly apart or hit something head-on.
“Yeah, the acoustic guitars actually give us some range that we wouldn’t necessarily have if we were both playing electrics,” Cook observes. “That seems to be one particular element in our makeup that separates us from a lot of other bands. And then the fact that we beat on those things pretty hard.
“I think Johnny really did a masterful job of arranging and pacing the songs. He’s a rock and roller, but he’s a twanger too. His musical vision is exceptional.”
As for why there has been no tour opening for Hickman’s band Cracker, Cook says the biggest problem is that it’s “not a great fit.”
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“We’ve talked about maybe doing a European tour later this year, but all that is very iffy at this point," he notes.
Meanwhile, Cook says the band is happy to be touring with the raucous psychobilly band Legendary Shack Shakers.
“Yeah, we’ve done gigs with them in the past and that’s been a great fit for both bands, I think," he says. "We want to build a good following in Houston, but honestly we don’t really understand Houston yet or have much of a true picture of what the town is about, what the audience is like. So far every time we come in it’s just soundcheck, show, hotel, and go.”
The Yawpers, Legendary Shack Shakers and Houston's Flamin' Hellcats perform an all-ages show Thursday night at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh. Doors open at 9 p.m.