Fri 1/5 @ 7:30 PM
For more than a decade, vocalist Greg Miller has been busy with alt-country iconoclast act the Whiskey Daredevils. However, last year he reunited with guitarist Bobby Latina (The Jack Fords) to possibly restart popular garage/Americana act The Cowslingers, which spent the ’90s touring the globe and opening for the likes of Southern Culture on the Skids, the White Stripes, Reverend Horton Heat, Whiskeytown and Drive-By Truckers.
The next thing Miller and Latina knew they were in the Motor City with former bandmates drummer Leo Walsh (Whiskey Daredevils) and bassist Ken Miller (formerly of the Whiskey Daredevils) recording Real Big Rooster, a follow-up to the group’s 2005 effort Bullseye. The Cowslingers are scheduled to play a CD release show Fri 1/5 at the Beachland Ballroom.
CoolCleveland talked to Miller about the reunited Cowslingers, the recording of the new album and why he’s an imposter.
CoolCleveland: After more than a decade apart, what led to The Cowslingers reuniting?
Greg Miller: Bobby and I got together and wrote some songs to see what would happen. The songs fit the band, so we went from there. We decided to make a record. We recorded it in two days and just basically knocked them all down live. Then we’re like, if we’re going to do a record, we have to pay for a record, so we might as well do a few shows. It’s just been sort of a creeping-ahead thing. My fear was that it was going to be some kind of like lame-ass vanity project, but I think the record sounds good. It sounds like a Cowslingers record.
CC: In your mind, what is that Cowslingers sound?
GM: There’s a certain feel to the Cowslingers stuff that always feels like it might suddenly fall apart and then it doesn’t. I think there’s always been sort of a walking-a-high-wire aspect to the band. And we all have a pretty shared sensibility of what we think sounds good. We’re all kind of on the same page. It falls together really easily.
CC: Sounds like it has an Exile on Main St. vibe.
GM: Yeah, Exile on Main St. without a bunch of European models hooked on heroin hanging out. We recorded in Detroit, so I guess we could have gotten some heroin addicts, but I don’t know if they would have been southern French models. And we were only there for two days. We didn’t get to hang out in a mansion. We were on a budget. We couldn’t afford any of that. It was more like six-packs from the gas station and falafel.
CC: What are a few of the new songs that define Real Big Rooster?
GM: There’s a song called “Waiting There for Me,” which is a one-take wonder. It’s kind of a twisted, fast rockabilly country thing that sounds like kind of stereotypical of what we do. And then you do a song like “Hurricane Comin’,” which kind of has a little bit more of a roots feel to it.
CC: Do you think sonically or stylistically the band has evolved with the new album?
GM: On the one hand, I guess if we’re doing a Cowslingers record, I don’t want it to be different. There’s nothing worse than hearing a band that you like make a record and then it doesn’t sound like why you like the band in the first place. But on the other hand, I guess there’s no way you can keep the last 10 years of music that you’ve been doing from seeping into what you’re doing now. I think there are much less concerns about some of the constraints. Like when the Cowslingers toured a lot, we got a lot of, there’s a rockabilly rule book and then a garage-rock rule book. Like all of these really tiny micro-scenes always want to keep you hemmed into what you’re allowed to do. We’re older and crankier now, we don’t really care about that stuff anymore.
CC: What does the future hold for the Cowslingers?
GM: I don’t know what we’re going to do. I guess it’s been step by step. Nobody is that concerned about expectations. I was surprised about how many people cared we were doing to do a record and put on a show.
CC: Are the memories bittersweet when you look back at the Cowslingers’ success?
GM: We always knew we were in this weird subgenre of a subgenre, and by virtue of that, because we weren’t musically defined, we never really had any illusions of getting on the charts. We were trying to figure out how the record business worked. It really enabled us to just be completely do-it-yourself guys, which is what we became really good at. Once you stop caring about getting some sort of mass-media validation, it’s so much better for the art, for lack of a better term. Like you’re not writing for someone. You’re writing for yourself. We always wrote songs and made music that we liked. It was stuff we felt was cool and we were lucky enough to find enough people who thought it was good too. It enabled us to travel the world. We toured Europe five times and played in 38 states. We got to see all kinds of things, meet some of our huge influences and become friends with a lot of them. It couldn’t have worked out any better. I always felt like I was a complete fraud the whole time.
CC: And what do you feel like now?
GM: (laughs) A more clever imposter.