Dirty River Boys Photo by Marshall Foster
Last summer, during my stint booking concerts around Austin, my company booked the Dirty River Boys to one of our Wednesday night series. They put on an energetic and enjoyable live show that stuck with me, and when I got word that they had moved from El Paso to Austin, I jumped at the chance to talk to them about it. Via e-mail, multi-instrumentalist Marco Gutierrez responded to my inquiries, and the results are reproduced below. You can catch this exciting group live at the Scoot Inn on Friday with other OVRLD favorites Hello Wheels.
OVRLD: Tell me about El Paso. What was it like starting a band there? Was the community supportive? Are there a lot of independent musicians? What kinds of locally made music are popular?
MG: We had very specific goals when we really got serious about playing in El Paso. We wanted to make a living off of our music, so we typically played places that would pay. We did a few local venues – typical 60-minute set shows that didn’t pay once in a while – but primarily we played in lounges, hotels, and restaurants for three to four hours a set. At times, we were playing seven days a week, with doubleheaders on the weekends. We were maybe over-saturating El Paso playing that much, but the venues and restaurants could count on us to bring people in every time. There is a ton of great music coming out of El Paso. A couple of bands that I grew up watching are getting bigger and bigger and are going places. The Lusitania (we often cover their ‘Til My Heart Gives Out in our set) are making amazing records. The Royalty just put out a record with Victory Records and is constantly touring nationwide.
OVRLD: Are you all from El Paso? I feel like it sometimes gets a bad rap – how would you defend it to those who may hold uninformed views about it?
MG: Nino [Cooper], Travis [Stearns] and I are from El Paso. Unfortunately due to all of the drug-related violence that has been going on across the border in Juarez, it gets a bad rap. It seems like most border towns are ill-perceived these days. Although I think there will always inevitably be forms of spill-over violence, El Paso has had the lowest crime rate ranking of cities of 500,000 or more in the past, according to CQ Press. According to FBI statistics it has been ranked with some of the lowest violent crime, murder and burglary rates in comparison with cities of similar size. [Ed. Note: Gutierrez did his homework. Here is what PolitiFact says about the veracity of the CQ Press report. Basically, though, all of what Gutierrez says is true.] On top of all of that, I have walked around in what might be considered shady neighborhoods of El Paso at night and have felt less in threat of danger than I have felt walking around venues or some neighborhoods across the country far from the border.
OVRLD: You’ve said that El Paso influenced a lot of the songs on Science of Flight. How so? What are some examples of lyrics that reflect El Paso? Are there ways it influenced the record musically?
MG: I think El Paso and the Chihuahuan desert show up musically in the arrangements and the feel of some of the songs on the record. I think I wanted the arrangements of songs like “Six Riders” and “Letter To Whoever” to sound like what the once-wild west may have sounded like, but modernized through amps and acoustics and definitely on speed or something. Lyrically, the Rio Grande shows up in Nino’s “Riverbed Wildflowers” and “Lookin’ for the Heart.” Since I have lived away from El Paso for the past two years, I have really grown to miss it. Especially with a town as unique as it is, the saying, ‘There is no place like home,’ holds true, so I find myself writing more and more about it in the newer songs that are being made.
OVRLD: What prompted your move to Austin? When did you get here? Was it hard to get all four members on board with a move? How has the music community here been different from El Paso?
MG: We met our current manager at a show in El Paso. He took a chance on us and booked a few gigs for us to play in central Texas. We were told we could make a living playing music out here, so we moved and continued to have the full calendar we had in El Paso. The difference was that we were playing in a different city every night. By the time we had made the move we were tired of making the 8+ hour drive to El Paso from what ever city we were in. The move happened at the right time. In the scene we play in now, fans are loyal and hardcore to an unbelievable extent. We don’t have the following to where we can sell out 1,000 capacity venues every night, but as in El Paso we have the diehard fans that come to every show we play that is within 4 hours of their hometown. I’d rather have 200 of those people on our side than 1,000 who halfway care.
OVRLD: I’m also curious about your sound. You’ve classified yourselves as “Americana,” and I see that comparison, but you’ve also garnered a lot of fans in the Texas country movement. As rock n’ rollers, how do you feel about making country music? What other Americana and country artists would you recommend for rock fans that may not be as familiar with those genres?
MG: I feel like most of the music we make is more in the Americana vein. A small amount of our songs are actually country songs. Our instrumentation probably has a lot to do with the blurred genre lines. We have songs that range sonically from folk, to celtic, to punk, to country, to Spanish, to downright rock and roll. It’s a melting pot of all different kinds of music. That’s why I think before anything, we truly play American music. As far as other artists, I always shove Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown down everyone’s throats. He does such a great job of blurring genres, putting out a folk-sounding song, then a rock and roll album (titled Rock N Roll), making songs that will make you depressed for days, then putting out a feel good jam. And lyrically he is undeniably solid.