Earlier this month, Denver rootsy, folksy, Tom Waits-inspired punk rockers Tin Horn Prayer released their latest album "Grapple The Rails." Recorded at Denver's Black in Bluhm by local music superhero Chris Fogal (The Gamits, TaunTaun), "Grapple The Rails" delivers on the promise of "Get Busy Dying" and then some.
Andy Thomas (guitar, vocals) and Dan Gilbert (drums) recently chatted with The Huffington Post about the making of thew new album.
Who are Tin Horn Prayer?
Andy Thomas: Tin Horn Prayer is Mike Hererra who most people know from the Blackout Pact and Sleeper Horse, Scooter James who most people know from Pinhead Circus and Love Me Destroyer, Andy Thomas who some people know from Only Thunder and Ghost Buffalo, Eric Epling, who some people know from Throwaway Sunshine and Bar Bar. Dan Gilbert who most people know from The Clusterfux and No High Fives to Bullshit, and Ethan Steenson who most people know from the time he got drunk and almost stepped on a baby at Scooter's wedding.
How long have you guys been playing as Tin Horn Prayer?
AT: Three-and-a-half years.
How did Tin Horn get its start?
AT: The band started as an acoustic project by Mike and his friend Dan Beachy -- they wrote the first few Tin Horn songs together. Shortly after that, Eric, Cory Trendler and myself joined and we all sat down and played acoustic guitars for a handful of shows. We slowly added more and more instruments, replaced some members and now are veritable force to be reckoned with! Seriously, reckon with us.
There's so much in a band name, how did you guys come up with "Tin Horn Prayer"?
AT: It's from the Tom Waits song “Sins of my Father.” The line is, “God said 'don't give me your tin horn prayers...'” My conclusion was always that it was a metaphor for a fragile plea, a half-assed prayer for redemption –- that's largely what we sing about.
I recently read that that song is about George W. Bush, who we can all agree, totally sucks.
Tell us about the songwriting process for you guys.
AT: This album was a very collaborative process and has lyrics written by everyone in the band. It's amazing how these rinky dink songs I write in my apartment can become these vast and lush anthems when the rest of the guys get ahold of them. I suspect that they really know what they're doing after all.
Dan Gilbert: I feel that everyone always has something to bring to the table, but Andy, Scooter and Mike are the main lyric writers and riff merchants. But we all sit around drinking beers and bouncing ideas off of each other and before you know it, we've got another platinum selling single in the bag.
When you put albums together do you have a theme or a particular sound in mind or do they just come together piece by piece?
AT: I don't think we set out for a theme on either record but we seem to keep going back to similar subject matter. We write a lot about regret, forgiveness, substance abuse, going to jail, abandonment... you know, all the feel good stuff!
AT: A couple of the songs -- "Call a Priest" and "Dying to Dry" -- are about fictional characters. The character in "Call a Priest" is awaiting death by hanging wondering when God is going to show up and the character in "Dying to Dry" rides a horse into the dessert so he can slowly die rather than continuing to drink -- like I said, feel good stuff!
DG: I think the general theme would be fucking up. Whether it be addiction, crime, crippling alcoholism, depression or dying young, I think fucking up sums it up. And that goes for both records.
It's been two years since your last record, tell us about this new album, how have you guys changed as musicians, what did you want to accomplish with this new album, any new sounds, styles?
AT: I don't think we completely reinvented the wheel with this record but the songs came out more layered and deeper than anything on our last one. We were definitely still experimenting with our sound when we recorded "Get Busy Dying" and now I feel like we really have it dialed in.
I know that personally I've become a much better guitar player since we started the band and my voice has changed significantly. This may be attributed to some sort of delayed, post-30 puberty, or something that just came naturally.
DG: I think that the new record explores more of the huge selection of genres and sub-genres that influence and make up Tin Horn Prayer. There also aren't any covers on the new record. Oh, and there are guest players on the new one, that's pretty cool and adds a lot to the sound. I'm also a member of the band now, so the big thing that I was able to do on this record that I wasn't able to do on "Get Busy Dying" was to be on it.
Who would you guys cite as your main inspirations as musicians?
AT: I've finally come to terms with the fact that I just really like playing music. You hear interviews with people all the time when they say it's something they have to do and “it's all they know” and I think that's bullshit. Writing and performing music is one of the most fun and most rewarding things I do and that alone inspires me to keep doing it. That is, until I get a book published -- then I will never pick up a fucking guitar again.
DG: Everything I find pathetic and disgusting with our world paired with everything I love about it has been a big inspirations for me. It's nice to be able to use music as release, for both positive and negative emotions. I'd also say that Bob Dylan got my gears turning at a young age. Also, I used to sit outside of a garage when I was a kid in Montana to listen to a band called Not For Sale practice, and I credit those dudes with getting me into punk music. They didn't know it, but it meant a lot.
What's it like being a musician in Denver? And what's it like being a musician now in what seems like a rapidly changing/evolving music business?
AT: Denver is great for musicians. You have the opportunity to play big clubs, with touring bands to attentive and interested audiences.
To a fault, we've never been a band that has kept up with trends in the “business.” I know there are opportunities that we miss all of the time because of the simple things we ignore –- we don't even have a website for Christ's sake.
Because it moves so fast, I think we've always just focused on playing and writing. If any legitimate manger type people read this and want to help us out with the other side of things, we'd be more than receptive. I must stress “legitimate.” Three-piece suits, alligator shoes and Corvette are a must.
DG: I have a good time playing music in Denver even though at times our music community seems too divided. I think Denver should act more like small town and less like a big city. Let's have more shows where the line up doesn't make sense and have some fun outside of the small circles we've created. I don't know much about music business, other than the higher up you go the more evil it can become. I see the business side of music as somewhat of a trap, and in a way, an oxymoron.
How did you arrive at your sound with its very unique blend of Americana, folk, punk, country, and like probably a half-dozen other sounds too?
AT: We always tell people that we're a punk band with weird instruments. Adding instruments like banjo, mandolin and accordion have freed us up to write in the format we're comfortable with and have them sound new and engaging.
How did you guys hook up with record label Paper + Plastik and how has the partnership worked out?
AT: I can't really remember how the conversation started in the first place, but I remember Vinnie Fiorello expressing interest in us while we were on tour, I believe we were in Las Vegas. Speaking of Vegas, check out Holding Onto Sound!
I had a surreal conversation with him a few weeks ago when he told me he was sorry he was out of breath because he had just gotten out of Less than Jake practice. I loved that band growing up and it has been a great experience having him like and work with our band. Opening for Less than Jake at the Summit was a nice benchmark for us as well.
When you're not touring, what are your must-eat, must-drink Denver spots?
AT: My favorite Denver restaurant is Watercourse –- there's really no place like it. As a collective, we all enjoy chicken wings and pretty much the only time we hang out outside of practice involves eating them at Giggling Grizzly or Fire on the Mountain. I warn everyone against watching us do this... it gets messier than our video for Crime Scene Cleanup Team.
DG: The must eat spots and El Taco de Mexico on Sante Fe and Carbones Italian Deli in the Highlands. The must drink spot is next to the tracks in the 38th St. Yard with an ice cold can of Red Dog and some friends while the sun goes down.
What's next for Tin Horn Prayer?
AT: Probably more song writing, chicken wings and, if there is a God, a tour with Tom Waits.
DG: Six month tour through the Milky Way and surrounding galaxyies by means of true collective consciousness and coin operated space craft. We will also eat way too many hot wings and if we have time, possibly write another song.
See Tin Horn Prayer live at their "Grapple The Rails" release show with The Gamits, The Photo Atlas and Anchor Point Friday, Nov. 30 at The Bluebird Theater. For more information about the show, visit The Bluebird's event page.
Listen To "Grapple The Rails:"