Backwoods bravado, patriot’s pride, country soul, keg-thumping beats — these are the qualities that Moonshine Bandits have championed since they began burning up the California club circuit back in 2003.
Their new album, Baptized In Bourbon, forges a new depth that encourages reflection, even hints of doubt. None of this compromises the defiant pride that’s always threaded through the songs of Bird and Tex, aka Moonshine Bandits.
This is the music that Moonshine Bandits will take on the road later this year. A confirmed list of new tour dates follows below. Maybe it’s a bit of a risk to mix the sacred and profane, the rowdy and the introspective, on record and then onstage. But the payoff here is twofold: Their music demands attention from first note to last. And because they enjoy a strong mutual trust with their fans, honesty is essential to that bond.
Rock Confidential caught up with Moonshine Bandits to talk about the new songs and how personal transitions and responsibilities have influenced the next chapter in their musical history. Boasting a killer lineup of guest artists, Baptized In Bourbon will be out March 3 via Average Joes Entertainment.
You’ve previously described your music as “hell raising music,” but on Baptized In Bourbon you mix the rowdy with the righteous. It’s not necessarily a change in direction, but more depth to Moonshine Bandits than we’ve heard before. Can you elaborate on the themes that make up the new album?
The title, Baptized In Bourbon started as a vivid dream in the middle of the night that Tex had. When we stepped in the studio and started writing, some of the song topics seemed to follow along the theme of that title. We’ve always believed in God and thanked Him for the life he has blessed us with, but is our lifestyle and our way of living acceptable to God? I feel this album is where we became true artists and not just doing songs about “bonfires and moonshine” over and over.
How has the ongoing battle between good and bad influenced your songwriting?
It has helped us become better songwriters. Our song topics are real life situations that we’ve experienced or stories that inspire us. God put us in the driver’s seat, but are we driving too fast? God has blessed us with a successful career that only a small percentage of musicians get to do what we do. We have been in every state in America. We are always thankful, but often wonder if our life on the road acceptable. It’s a fast life, it’s a lot of time spent away from family and friends, and sometimes it’s hard to come back from 30 days on the road and jump back into a normal everyday life. This is probably our most creative album. It’s definitely a concept album that has a start to finish, or maybe it doesn’t finish, maybe the ending hasn’t played out yet.
To write Baptized In Bourbon you traveled to a cabin studio in a forest in Washington. Why was that the ideal situation for writing new music?
With our road schedule, it’s very hard to focus on songwriting in a bus or sprinter or airplane. However, we always find things on the road that inspire us or might lead to a song, so we will write it down in our cell phone for later use. It might just be a word or two that will lead to a title, maybe a chorus, or maybe an entire song. You never know, we are firm believers that everything happens for a reason. We like to shut off the outside world for our songwriting and recording phase. The Farm Studio is located in the middle of nowhere, GPS doesn’t even work. It’s surrounded by old farm equipment, tall pine trees, coyotes, and beautiful sunsets. We bought some blowup mattresses from Walmart, then stocked up on Jack Daniels, tobacco, food, beer, and locked the doors and camped out in the Studio. We literally slept 20 feet from the recording booth. Phones were rarely checked and the reception was spotty due to our location. We did take breaks in the evening to bbq and listen to what we were creating. It was an incredible setting. We like to do the songwriting and recording simultaneously to catch a better studio vibe. We really wanted to nail the Moonshine Bandits signature sound. We are from the West Coast, and we wanted the world to hear a sound that originated in the Wild West on this record. Our production team, Burn County, are also West Coast based. They have been with us from the early stages of our career. We have all grown together. This album is the signature Moonshine Bandits sound. It’s not country rap, it’s not hick-hop, it’s the Moonshine Bandits sound. We labeled it as “Blu-core” Music. It’s a West Coast sound for blue collar people that have a rebel spirit.
How has the balance of being entertainers vs. being songwriters changed over the years?
We have always been born entertainers, stage performing has always come natural to us. We have performed in front of 10 people and we have performed in front of 10,000 people. Doesn’t matter the crowd size, we will still leave it all on the stage. We feel that if you are going to spend your hard earned cash to come see us, you deserve a damn good “show” that has energy. Creativity and our sound has evolved over the years. Finding our true sound was always a challenge to us, but it also became a time period of evolving into what we wanted our sound to be. Baptized In Bourbon is the project we feel our songwriting has caught up to our performing skill level and we are not just entertainers anymore. We are true artists.
As customary with any Moonshine Bandits release, you have a killer lineup of special guests. Tell me about working with David Allan Coe and shooting the video for “Take This Job And Shove It” at Shawshank.
The thought of working with Coe started as just a dream for us. He’s one of our idols. We didn’t know what to think or expect when we put together the concept of the song to pitch to him. Coe originally wrote the tune so we didn’t know if he was going to tell us to go to hell or if he was gonna be pissed or what. When we learned he and his wife both loved the concept, we were honored. There was nothing better than getting the blessing of a true country legend. We wrapped the song up with him and then proceeded to scheduling the filming of the music video. Our manager Ken Madson, came up with the idea of filming the video at the penitentiary aka Shawshank where DAC served time. The song “Take This Job” has a theme of being empowered and liberated. Taking Coe as a free man, back to a place where he was incarcerated, and capturing it all on film is pretty incredible. We sat in Coe’s hotel room the night before filming the video and shared many stories of the road and recording. Coe told us about his days touring with BB King and how every time he was told he couldn’t do something, he still did it. We shared similarities in our career when we were criticized for crossing music genres, some venues that wouldn’t let us play, and how our middle finger was always held high when we came across these obstacles and we still did it our way. Coe told us about how he used to rap in his prison cell, but he was so young that nobody knew to call it rapping. We also performed “Take This Job” live with DAC on stage to a wild crowd in Ohio. After the show, Coe told us how much he enjoyed our live set. The next day he called both of us and thanked us for everything.
How has the addition of a live drummer changed your shows?
Our live shows are very fast paced, high energy and full throttle. We pride ourselves with giving the crowd a solid show that demands crowd participation. Adding a drummer to our set added even more energy. We are a four-piece band and it has allowed us to create DJ and drummer interactions on stage that are unique and entertaining. With over 1,000 live shows, we have never had one band practice. Part of that is because we don’t want to give a rehearsed performance and look like a bunch of robots on stage. We want things to be organic, interact with the crowd. Plus, we play so many damn shows that we don’t have time to hold rehearsals. What you see is what you get. Shot slamming, beer drinking, hell raisers that will fly a middle finger salute at you as a gesture of love.
You guys have started a new non-profit company called OPC. What can you tell me about it?
We noticed our military was attending our shows early in our career and really relating to our music. We wanted to repay them for defending our freedom, but also for supporting our music. We started mailing jerky, Copenhagen, and other random stuff to soldiers that were stationed overseas. As our band grew, we really wanted to make a a bigger difference and repay them at a greater scale. With a group of dedicated fans, we formed a legal non-profit organization called Operation Packing Company, Inc. OPC was a vision that became a reality. We send everything from hygiene products to letters written by students in school. We are sending boxes of love to or heroes. We are fortunate to have a solid group of Shiners that are just as passionate as us and willing to donate their time to help OPC send over 400 boxes of supplies annually to our Armed Forces Overseas. OPC is growing rapidly and everyone is welcome to be a part of it, just visit www.operationpackingcompany.org for more info!
The Shiner lifestyle and all that’s involved – what do you hope people take away from your music?
The Shiner lifestyle is all about God-loving blue collar workers that work their asses off to support their families, but enjoy their time off and celebrate life. It’s a lifestyle for all people that believe in their country, and believe in family helping each other out in times of need. Ultimately, it’s about living life full throttle and living for the moment. It’s also a lifestyle that says you can overcome all obstacles. Underdogs can become heroes. Hard work pays off and don’t let anyone stand in your way. It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to create your own lane. We hope we convey this message through our songs and that others relate to the way we live and what we’ve overcome.
As your audience grows do you feel an added responsibility when it comes to the direction of Moonshine Bandits and the Shiner Nation?
Our responsibility is to give the Shiner Nation the highest quality product with our music and our live performance each and every day. Our Shiner Family is the reason we have made it so far, so we can’t let them down and there are thousands of Shiners joining the family daily from all over the world. We have to give it our all and we have to step it up with every thing we put out.
Moonshine Bandits 2017 Tour Dates:
2/17 – Jackson, MS – The Hideaway Club
2/18 – Perkinston, MS @ Red Creek Off Road
3/02 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Westerner
3/04 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Cowboys
3/07 – Ceres, CA @ Walmart
3/08 – Sacramento, CA @ Dimple Records
3/11 – Tyler, TX @ Oil Palace
3/12 – Daytona Beach, FL @ Main Street Station
3/13 – Daytona Beach, FL @ Main Street Station
3/24 – Dover, DE @ Cowboy up Saloon
3/25 – Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa
3/29 – Greenville, SC @ Harley Davidson
3/30 – Louisville, KY @ Trixie’s
3/31 – Roanoke, VA @ The Q
4/01 – Semora, NC @ Bar 119
4/07 – Charlotte, NC @ Uptown Live
4/08 – Laurinburg, NC @ Outback ATV/MX Park
4/14 – Las Vegas, NV @ Adrenaline
4/15 – Scottsdale, AZ @ Livewire
4/16 – Golden Valley, AZ @ Castle Rock Events Center
5/19 – Wapakoneta, OH @ Auglaize County Fair
6/10 – Merced, CA @ Merced County Fair
7/15 – Dugspur, VA @ Kanawaha Valley Arena Resort
7/22 – Trinidad, CA @ Highway 101 Run and Camp Out
8/05 – Eureka, CA @ Shinerfest Revival
8/12 – Brownfield, TX @ 4B Bike And Music Fest
9/02 – Litchfield, MN @ ABATE Of Minnesota State Rally
9/15 – Hurricane Mills, TN @ Nashville Bike Week