This scorching month will fittingly see the release of In the Shadow of the Mountain, the latest album from hot coal-juggling hillbilly punks Red Neckromancer. Blending heavy metal, punk and comedy with earnest country vibes, Rev. Kevin Sharp (guitar/drums/vocals) and Malachi McElroy (banjo playing vocalist with a showbiz name if ever there was one) and Jim DeGrassi (bass), mean certain business. Saturday, Aug. 18 at The Anchor the band will celebrate their sophomore release with New Orleans singer Lauren Jean from Dirty Rotten Snake in the Grass opening the night up. I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul that you will not find a better excuse to drink whiskey, howl and dance this month. To correctly advertise, the band is way more on the country side musically and the “metal” is more of an aesthetic that lives in their firewater blood.
Morgan Y. Evans: Hey Kevin! Was there a specific moment in your life when you realized country and punk could be compatible? I mean, bigoted redneck morons aside (and not to say there aren’t problematic punks as well), both genres at their best represent working-class aspiration against the world.
Kevin Sharp: I think there are definitely a lot of crossover themes in punk and country. Bands like 9 Pound Hammer, The Supersuckers and Social Distortion have been mixing aspects of both for decades. I spent 20 years playing drums for bands that wrote songs around riffs so I have a lot of experience arranging those kind of songs.
When I picked up an acoustic guitar and started trying to learn some songs I gravitated toward stuff that was based around chord progressions. I learned a bunch of Hank and Johnny Cash songs. When I started writing the first Red Neckromancer songs I ended up using some basic country or folk chord progressions but arranging the songs the way I would with a punk or hard rock song.
MYE: Your first album Tickle the Pitchfork was great but this new one is even more memorable, dare I say even kind of introspective? “Devil On My Shoulder” really stood out. We all have times in our life when we wonder if we are on the right path. How was it making In the Shadow of the Mountain? The vocals sound a bit more plaintively sung versus rowdy, but it works with the songs and actually kind of pulls you in more to the great instrumental work this time.
KS: With Tickle the Pitchfork I think I was still a little bit of a coward as far as putting myself out there lyrically. So I ended up saying a lot of things that were personal in the context of a song that was funny. I’ve become a lot more comfortable as a songwriter so on the second album there are spots where I’m a little more honest and out front. Also, Mal only had one song on the first album. This album is pretty evenly split. He came in with a bunch of great rowdy songs. I think that gave me some room to be a little more out there with some of my songs. I fell in love with writing in three or six for a few months last year and a bunch of songs from that ended up on the album. “Devil on my Shoulder,” “Election Year Blues,” and “Blood of My Blood” are all from that period.
MYE: What is it like working with Malachi and Jim in this band? On a personal level it must be cool to break new artistic ground with friends. And you and Jim DeGrassi have been doing shows together for decades now. Hot damn! Also, why did you have local percussionist Dave Tetrault play drums on here instead of doing it yourself? I love it and that is not a criticism. Just curious?
KS: Me, Jim and Mal had been working on those songs for a few months but I wasn’t really sold on them. We decided to ask Dave Tetrault to come in and see what he could do behind them. Even though I’m definitely a drummer at heart I really never had a clear idea of how those songs should be played. I was ready to scrap “Blood of My Blood” but Jim kept bringing it up. We had three or four practices with Dave before we went into Nada Studios. By the second practice he was crushing it and everything really came together.
MYE: You have done Heavy Rebel Weekender, an amazing three-week tour of Alaska and even the locally historic Rosendale Street Festival. What is on your plate next that is exciting you, or are you concentrating on one milestone at a time and just glad the album is done?
KS: This time last year we were in Alaska for three weeks and it was amazing. We’ll probably do a month-or-so tour of the south and southern Midwest in January but I think our main focus for the next year is to start building up a bunch of spots around two to six hours away. It’s awesome to play in Fairbanks or Austin or New Orleans but realistically we can’t hit those spots often enough to really build anything. We’re starting to find some place in Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire where we play in the spring and then come back in the fall. I’m looking forward to hitting a bunch of these spots again once the new album is out.