“We’ve been out there gaining one fan at a time and grinding it out,” says Brent McLennan, vocalist and guitarist for the band who describes being told often that they are “the best band you’ve never heard of.”
“It’s a way to say thank you to the people here in Houston that we cut our teeth with, the hometown crowd, the people that have come out on the rough nights,” says McLennan of their upcoming show. “Let's have a good night and say thank you to all the people that have slowly but surely stuck it out with us.”
McLennan and his band are feeling great about the release and the well deserved warm reception that Where I Went Wrong has received so far and are looking forward to returning to one of the city’s venues that has welcomed them from the start.
“It’s a way to say thank you to the people here in Houston that we cut our teeth with, the hometown crowd, the people that have come out on the rough nights.”
“That’s been such a great venue for us,” he says of The Armadillo Palace. “Good sound, good dancefloor and they've been very good to us there. Being a local band and having an opportunity to have a real solid venue to play in, it fits what we do and it fits our crowd.”
The Broken Spokes have definitely been a magnet for classic country fans focusing their energy on their live shows. Where I Went Wrong, recorded at band member Kevin Skrla’s Wolfe Island Studios, manages to capture their on stage energy and tight musical connections as a band.
“A lot of these songs we had been doing live for a while so I think the songs are pretty settled for the most part and that lended to the smoothness of the process and it coming out as well as it came out.”
Performing live has always been the main goal and thrill for The Broken Spokes and where they have focused their collective energy throughout the years.
“We always wanted to hone our live show and be the best live band we could possibly be,” says McLennan describing how the band began thinking about making their next recording during the downtime of the pandemic knowing they were due for a new record since their self-titled 2016 release.
“This band is relatively green for the studio,” says McLennan, who co-founded the band along with pianist, guitarist and vocalist Josh Artall. “We are a totally different band than we were four or five years ago, different members, set up, experience, everything.”
Where I Went Wrong definitely reflects the bands evolution, hard work and roadside musical education while showing off not only their own songwriting skills but also their ability to select quality songs to cover.
“Let’s do the best songs we can do,” says McLennan describing the band's approach to selecting the tracks for the album. “We’ve always been good about saying, hey we can take a song from one of our peers and do it. It's a win win.”
Fellow Houstonian Honky Tonker Jason James gets some love on the album with their take on his lovesick song “Bigger Fool” a perfect addition to Where I Went Wrong’s quality track list where the band did not go wrong with any of the songs or the beautiful cover art designed by the mega talented and Houston based Carlos Hernandez.
McLennan and Artall’s partnership goes back to their punk rock high school days and their songwriting connection to one another shines bright on the title track that easily lends itself to a fast paced, spinny two step to the narrator's lament of his partners wandering eye.
“Neither of us were super familiar with this music,” says McLennan of himself and Artall. “Musically we didn't come from this so we decided we were going to learn the formula and do it exactly the way it is, understand the instruments they used, how they did it learn it inside and out.”
Shifting from the punk rock format of 30 minute sets and four band lineups to gigs where they are expected to play for hours required them to learn a huge repertoire of songs to have at their disposal, something they dedicated time and energy to right away when forming The Broken Spokes.
“It’s funny, these old songs they're not that long,” says McLennan who long ago calculated a needed 63 country songs to play a four hour set.
Despite the obvious difference between the genres of punk rock and classic country, both styles share a connection. “It’s roots music,” describes McLennan. “If you're a fan of punk one of the things that make you a fan of it is the roots aspect of it. The fact that you can be a part of it.”
McLennan describes how once the band really understood the inner workings of performing classic country songs, they were able to find their own voice and come into their own at one point making a conscious decision to veer away from the rockabilly sound they were heading toward and stay the country route, a sound Skrla helped the band nail down.
“We are taking that original recipe and we’re trying to use that and put out music in a modern way,” says McLennan describing the band's effort to take the music from “niche” to an easier to appreciate sound.
Throughout the years The Broken Spokes have experienced their share of changes in the lineup of the band but have continued to push forward. Most recently, bassist Lawrence Cevallos went on hiatus to tour with Dale Watson, a great opportunity which none of his bandmates could have him refuse.
Cevallos played bass on the album and William vonReichbauer will be joining the band for the live performance. “If and when we can add someone new to the mix, we've done it and we've been lucky. The band is unbelievable top to bottom and everybody understands the live show. We worked so hard and I’m super proud of it but we finally got the right pieces in place. Everybody knows where they fit in and man, this product is humming.”
Where I Went Wrong is available for purchase and streaming now. The Broken Spokes will perform on Friday, August 19 at The Armadillo Palace, 5015 Kirby. Doors at 8 p.m. $10.