Capital Times – Waco Brothers Feature
Country-punk band The Waco Brothers return to town with a spring in their step
JOSHUA M. MILLER | Special to the Capital Times Feb 24, 2016
Chicago’s The Waco Brothers are no strangers to Madison’s many venues.
“The Frequency, to me, is the quintessential dingy little punk rock room,” says bass player Alan Doughty. “It’s also conveniently located next door to the greatest Old Fashioned in the world at The Tornado Room.”
Singer-songwriter Jon Langford has also played the Madison area many times with his other band The Mekons. However, this Sunday they will be coming through town for two afternoon shows at Kiki’s House of Righteous Music with some extra pep in their step: both shows are sold out, and on Friday, the band is releasing “Going Down in History,” their first full album of original material since 2005’s “Freedom and Weep.”
They previously had released a live album, 2008’s “The Waco Brothers Live and Kickin’ at Schuba’s Tavern,” and a collaborative album, 2012’s “Great Chicago Fire with Paul Burch.” When asked why it took so long to record a proper full-length, Doughty said various factors like the challenge of everyone getting together with their busy schedules and their fairly casual planning style contributed. But ultimately it came down to them getting bored with their current set list.
“That’s why the live album made sense, as it’s the one time you can guarantee we’ll all be there, usually,” he says. “We’d already recorded a bunch of songs with Paul Burch the day after we dso we were able to buy a bit more time by releasing that. With nothing left in the cupboard, it was time.”
Langford suggested they get back in the studio and, in Doughty’s words, “get a quick angry album out there.” They chose to record at Chicago’s Kingsize Sound Labs, since the environment fit with the dirty, raw and immediate sounding album they were going for.
“The thing different with this album was that it was all done at one time unlike some of our other records,” says Doughty. “Something about Kingsize is a little more dirty and real. The studio exudes a need for a harder rock album.
“The idea for this record was always to get in the studio and thrash something out quickly without over thinking it,” he continues. “In the past we worked with demos that we’d had for while and maybe even rehearsed them a bit, even though that’s not really our kind of thing. This time we used our time constriction to add a bit of a desperate air to the songs and avoid the use of too many overdubs. Once you start pulling it apart and putting too many Band-Aids on it then it loses that [live] feel almost immediately.”
Theme-wise, the album is an “appropriate acceleration” in many of their “relatively strong socialist beliefs,” says Doughty. “The tide of political progress has been steadily going out since 1968 and the rampant consumerism that is replacing it is gaining frightening momentum.”
The band’s mesh-up of Johnny Cash-flavored country and The Clash-fused punk works because of the two genre’s similarities.
“They are both quite basic and seem to follow the same patterns,” says Doughty. “I love their desperate nature. There’s an honest sparseness about them that provides the perfect platform to get your message out, whether it be love, booze or politics gone wrong.”
Doughty says he didn’t listen to country until he moved from England to the United States for his band Jesus Jones and joined this band. He says there wasn’t a lot of country in England when he was growing up. So he’s pretty much had to play catch up with the other members of the band.
“I had to finally move to America to finally grasp and appreciate it,” he says. “On the new record there are songs than lean more toward the country and a little more twang in them and there are songs that are almost pure Clash. And yet when you weave them together on a record they don’t sound out of place next to one another.”