We’ve been spreading the word about the Chubby Knuckle Choir for a while now, so we’re really excited to present them in this month’s Artist Spotlight. They’ve quickly become one our favorite live shows to see and are made up of a super group of musicians. They’re fun, entertaining, and posses a diverse group of talent that’s hard to match. CKC released their debut album, “Reveille”, earlier this week and has already received a fantastic reception! We had the opportunity to chat with this great group of guys, and here’s what they had to say:
Texas Music Pickers: Tell us about the Chubby Knuckle Choir.
Chubby Knuckle Choir: We all met in Bastrop in and around 2008. I hosted a “jam” night at a local venue where I’d invited friends to come out and play acoustic sets. Perry Lowe and Rory Smith played a few shows with me during a CD release tour in 2008 and became regulars on jam night. Curtis Farley was playing bass in my band and he eventually joined us on Thursdays. Curtis came up with the name, referring to Perry and Rory, and we just stole it away from them. Sometime in 2008, Bob “Slim Bawb” Pearce dropped by the venue and introduced himself during a break. We had one more set and asked him to join us on mandolin. Bob and I started playing shows as a duo for another year or so and kept the Thursday night thing going. After a while, we all learned each other’s songs and CKC was born. Dave Gould joined the band in 2010 and Howard Yeargan Jr, Josh Droegemueller, and Luke Adair are all considered choir members. We ran Dave through the set when he joined the band and that was our one and only rehearsal. Told him to take copious notes, use them until he learned the material, and…your first show is tomorrow. We love to play.
TMP: You guys come from a variety of backgrounds and your music spans across so many genres, but if you had to pick just a few musical influences, who would they be?
CKC: Dr. John, Eagles, Whiskeytown, Wilco, Otis Redding, John Hiatt, and KISS?
TMP: Describe Chubby Knuckle’s style of music.
TMP: Tell us about the new album “Reveille”
CKC: – 7 of 9 studio tracks were cut on a Sunday afternoon…live. No click tracks, no drum set, no electric instruments…just the choir in a big room. What allowed us to do that was familiarity with the material, Glenn Fukunaga on upright keeping time and Andre Moran dialing in the 20+ microphones spread around the room. Several of the tracks only took one take. Undone and Soul on Fire (Reveille) were cut later and then Storytime was captured at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands. When we were awarded the Bugle Boy Talent Trust, we figured now was as good a time as any to take the music business seriously. It was a wake-up call for us as a band. We wanted the CD in time for the “announcement” show at Bugle Boy in February, thus the reason behind knocking out most of it in one day. Originally, those seven songs were the record. We added a few late on the advice or our PR firm and others who said EP’s were hard to work. We had a number of notables approach us about producing the CD, but when we met and worked with Andre that first Sunday, we knew we were in good hands. Overall, it’s a good view at CKC from the listener’s perspective. We’re a live band and we recorded the record “live” or “old school” to try and capture the energy we get during a show. We like to say “Reveille” is who we are today, but the next project will be more of an indication of where we’re going.
TMP: We love, love, love, “Soul on Fire”, can you give us some background on the song?
CKC: I wrote the original version about a year ago and liked it, but it didn’t have a “choir” feel to it. While in Nashville last summer, I was writing with Kylie Ray Harris and Kimberly Kelly and I played it for them. Within five minutes they’d written the entire bridge (breakdown at the end of the song). On the CD, Haley Cole sang their parts and David Beck (Sons of Fathers) added the bass track. The song is about having passion for something 24/7/365. Too often we join a cause on our time, push hard for a few days and then return to normal. It’s not that we forget, but we seem to delegate time in lieu of emersion. There are references to MLK, politics, etc in the song. I don’t care which side you land on, what causes you support, find a passion…wake up every morning and live it.
TMP: Tell us what you have lined up for the CD release tour and where can people find the album?
CKC: We’ll be at Lone Star Music, KOKE-FM, and Roots n Branches with RWH on release day, then head over to Main Street Crossing on April 29th. We’re playing the Conroe Thursday Concert in the Park series on May 7th with Haley Cole before returning to Dosey Doe Music Café on June 5th, Luna (San Antonio) June 6th, and Kerrville Folk Festival on June 7th. CD will be on iTunes, etc on May 28th as well as retail outlets like Hastings, Best Buy, Buccees, Cavendars, Lone Star Music, and others.
TMP: So far, what has been the highlight of CKC’s career?
CKC: Steamboat 2015…while at MusicFest we were selected to record a radio show for Real Life Real Music with Michael Martin Murphey, Haley Cole, Paul Thorn, and Radney Foster. It was an incredible night and what made it even cooler was the only other person in the room beside the crew was Jack Ingram sitting in the corner listening. Later that night, Michael Martin Murphey joined us on stage and played a couple of songs before announcing to the crowd that he plans to invite CKC to help him record his next project. I’d say that was a good day…followed closely by The Bugle Boy Talent Trust show.
TMP: For someone who has never been to a Chubby Knuckle Choir concert, what should they expect?
CKC: We try and give everyone something. People tell us it’s a complete family experience…from kids to grandparents we try and entertain them all. That’s why Gruene Hall is the perfect venue for us…all ages, tastes, etc. We describe our show as a journey…you can dance to our original songs and then sing along with the covers we do.
CKC: Whenever possible, we eat a lot of free stuff. Whataburger’s not free, but always open…so, you’ll see us there between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on our way home.
TMP: Can you share a funny story with us about something that has happened while out on the road or performing?
CKC: We’ve played Radio Free Texas Rowdy Float trip off and on for years. A few years back we decided to stay the night, hang out with friends, and so on. Dave had a big tent so Perry and I decided to camp with him. I brought a fan (July Festival), pillow, and sleeping bag. While setting up our campsite, Dave loaded in a full size window A/C unit…stuck it in the corner of the tent, covered the tent in tarps and blankets (insulation), and turned it on before our set that night. People camping around us had lots of questions. It looked like a “trappers” campsite with pelts hanging about. Long story longer, we played our set, sang songs with friends around the campfire, and eventually made it back to the campsite around 2 a.m. The outside of the tent was dripping with condensation. I unzipped the flap and COLD air gushed out. If I had to guess, I’d say it was in the high 40’s inside. I climbed in my sleeping bag while Perry slept under a sheet and Dave on top of his bag. At 3 a.m. I turned the box fan off (not the A/C). By 4 a.m. I got up, grabbed my pillow and went to my truck to thaw out. At 4:30 a.m. Perry crawled out of the tent and got in his car. Perry and I left when the sun came up. Pulling out I noticed puddles of condensation around the tent….mud. Dave slept right through our departure. He didn’t know we left the tent or the grounds. Pretty sure he still has my sleeping bag and Perry’s sheet.
TMP: What’s on the horizon for CKC?
CKC: We’re meeting with several booking agencies, our radio promotion starts April 21st (Americana format), we’re mixing our “live” record out early summer, and we’re committed to writing and learning some new music this quarter…so, prepare yourselves for an entire set of new CKC tunes.
TMP: Is there anything else you’d like your fans to know?
CKC:Always come introduce yourself to us at a show. Our favorite part of any show is meeting people who appreciate what we do. That’s all…well, Slim Bawb does not wear square-pants like the cartoon suggests. He doesn’t wear underpants, ever.
Check out our *PICK * of the album, “Soul on Fire” (Reveille), below!
Some bands are content to remain within the rigid confines of their musical comfort zones. The Chubby Knuckle Choir is not one of those bands. Nobody gleefully shatters genre boundaries like this frenetic foursome, who play everything from bongos to banjos onstage.
The Chubby Knuckle Choir officially formed in 2009 in Bastrop, Texas, a town which each band member has called home at one time or another. The band is made up of Slim Bawb, Perry Lowe, Tres Womack, and Rory Smith, singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists who all come from varying musical and geographical backgrounds; the result is a freewheeling live sound which blends country, bluegrass, R&B, and swamp blues. “It’s a marriage of all genres,” explains Lowe, who plays guitar, drums and keys, and contributes vocals, while Smith describes it as “folk music from a country that isn’t around … but should be.”
In the past five years, this creative group has earned comparisons to acts like The Gourds, the Wood Brothers, and Asylum Street Spankers, and has steadily built a dedicated fan base that’s drawn to the Choir’s joyful noise. In 2014, the band was awarded the Bugle Boy Talent Trust, which assists promising, up-and-coming artists (previous recipients include Grammy-nominated Americana singer-songwriter John Fullbright). They also appeared on syndicated radio show “Real Life, Real Music” and television program “Songwriters Across Texas,” bringing their eclectic sound to a whole new audience.
Although their live shows are an exhilarating, sweat-drenched blast, The Chubby Knuckles’ songwriting cannot be overlooked. The members prove their writing chops on standout tracks “Black Motel” and “Trouble,” which is reminiscent of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s music. Songs like “Undone” take introspective looks at political, religious, and social frustration, while “Gone,” written by Womack and sung by Lowe, is a heartbreaking true story about a young husband and father who loses his wife to cancer.
While other musicians stay beholden to genre and specific song arrangements, The Chubby Knuckle Choir’s music changes with every performance. It’s this spontaneity and constant willingness to experiment musically that makes them one of the most unique and compelling bands in Texas today.
First Thursday Concert Series
KHYI Concert Series @ Love and War
Gruene Hall – CD RELEASE PARTY
New Braunfels, TX
Texas Music & Food Festival
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.