Intense rhymes spin through parts of Blacked Out, the latest and greatest album to date from Moonshine Bandits, a.k.a. Bird and Tex, two good ol’ boys from California’s Central Valley. But there’s a lot more than that in their 100-proof grooves. Crunchy guitar, Southern rock swagger – hell, there’s even some vocal harmony in the mix.
Blacked Out is grounded in the real lives of Bird and Tex. Raised on hard agricultural and construction work in their teens, they met as members of their high school basketball team. Their friendship was forged in all-night keg parties deep in the country; their music grew from what they’d experienced together as restless young men who refuse to apologize for their patriotism, who value family and freedom and above all who feel the calling to celebrate those many Americans who share their beliefs.
Long before people figured out that country and rap had a lot in common, Bird and Tex were blending these styles and pouring other influences into the mix. The result was a highly flammable combination, so daring that most of those who heard it couldn’t figure out how to react. Their music is as different as ever from everything else being laid down onstage, in studios and in venues across America.
We had a few minutes to catch up with Big Tex to find out how Blacked Out came together and how Moonshine Bandits may have finally perfected their signature sound.
Check out this exclusive, never-before-seen Moonshine Bandits footage!
Blacked Out is a fun, All-American, party album – and a nice follow-up to the excellent CaliCountry. How did you approach this album differently?
We did a lot of things differently; first we went out to Nashville and wrote a few songs with some writers out there. That was a totally different experience then what we are used to. It’s way out of our comfort zone, but we learned a lot. We didn’t know what Nashville writers were going to think of a guy with a mohawk and a dude full of tattoos from California. We’ve always been ourselves and it seems to work, we had some great sessions, but only two of the writing session songs made our album. They were the two we wrote together with Ira Dean. We had much more resources for this album and we were able to fly out to a studio, turn our cell phones off, and sleep, breathe, and write music with our production team Burn County. We brought in guitarists and had a blast creating an album that has Moonshine Bandits signature sound and is the best project we’ve ever been part of.
You holed up in a studio in Oregon for the recording of Blacked Out. How did this impact your attitude and what was a typical day like during this time?
Typical day was waking up and starting off with coffee around Noon. Late nights equal late sleep-ins. We didn’t want to force anything or have any set schedules. We knew we had to knock out as many songs as we could in a short amount of time, but we still didn’t rush anything. We didn’t have any outside label business or shows to worry about so it made the recording sessions fun and more creative. Our nights ended with whiskey and cigarettes on the back porch celebrating each song we knocked out. In five days, we recorded 12 songs. Ultimately, we are damn proud of this album and can’t wait to share it with the world.
“Progression” is a good word to describe the new tunes. Has writing with other artists influenced how you may write songs in the future?
We feel the progression of our music has always been consistent as we evolved as artists. However, we agree that the most progression was really noticeable on this Blacked Out album. That can be attributed to us having more resources and us actually having a plan before even going to the studio. We wanted to create a soundtrack that can be celebrated by the hard-working blue collar Americans. Writing with writers, hearing Ira Dean’s stories, and us touring more then ever all factored in as well. A lot of our song writing is inspired by the road and the fans we’ve met and hearing their stories.
I’ve seen Ira Dean live on stage and even in the crowd at rock concerts. Wild and crazy pretty much sums that dude up. What was it like writing with him?
We met Ira for the first time at our manager’s office. The minute we heard Ira start talking, we knew we were going to get along perfect. Ira’s storytelling is like he’s talking in song lyrics. Hes a super funny guy. He has a story about everyone who’s somebody in the business. Our favorite story he told us was when he was living at Johnny Cash’s house and he said Cash gave him a guitar. Later, Ira found Cash’s unfinished song lyrics left in the guitar. He immediately called Johnny and told him he left some lyrics behind, and Cash replied with “Are the lyrics worth a shit?” Ira of course said yes, and Johnny responded with “Finish writing the song then Ira”. Ira just framed the lyrics by his guitar. We later were invited out to Ira’s ranch to write again, and we wrote “I Earned It” there. That was inspired by Ira seeing something on our Facebook about our fans and how hard we worked. We hung out at Ira’s ranch and heard a few songs he was writing for some superstars. His ranch is like a museum and has all kinds of bad ass memorabilia and awards that he’s won. Amazing songwriter and a good dude, we can’t thank him enough.
I hear a lot more guitar on Blacked Out. Was that a conscious decision or just how things came together?
Yes, we wanted some badass licks on this album. We wanted to have a southern rock influence on some of our tracks. We wanted to create some biker anthems for all of the motorcycle clubs we are friends with across the US. We wanted that energy that guitars can bring to a song. This time around we were able to bring guitarists in and guide them on what we are looking for. Our Burn County Production team knows our sound more than anyone so they know what we wanted on this album. It’s crazy because we’ve created so many songs in the past, but we feel Blacked Out is by far the closest to our signature sound.
You recently released a video for “Lady Luck.” Without a doubt you guys had a blast with several “Lady Lucks” in the video – is that song a tribute to the ladies of the Shiner Nation?
Hell ya, Lady Lucks are always at our shows. Lady Lucks are those wild country girls that have tattoos, scuff up their boots, slam some Fireball shots, crank the touch tunes juke up, and have a hell raisin’ good time! All the awesome lady lucks in the video weren’t actors. Many of them have been to our shows or a part of our show.
Your music is the perfect escape from all the craziness in the world, but I have to ask about the rebel flag controversy. A new track, “Lasso,” embraces waving the rebel flag and has absolutely nothing to do with race. It’s more about being a renegade and an outlaw – an attitude. The Dukes Of Hazard was just pulled from TV.. What the hell is going on?
Last time I checked America was the land of the free regardless of what flag you wave. Bird grew up in Mississippi and the rebel flag was always a symbol of heritage to him. Sad to hear Dukes Of Hazzard will be leaving our TVs, but at least we had the General Lee in our “Throwdown” music video and they can’t take that from us, ever!
What’s next for you guys? Are you planning a tour for Blacked Out?
We have the Blacked Out America Tour already in place and over 40 Cities/States Booked! The first half of the tour is a West Coast run with our buddies Jelly Roll, Crucifix and Pruno who is our artist that we signed. The second half of the Blacked Out Tour will hit different markets and we are bringing Pruno and Angel’s Cut who is an up & coming Northern California rock band that has a badass chick lead singer! After that we plan to tour outside of the United States, maybe Canada or Australia or Germany! Shiner Nation world wide!