In terms of modern southern rock, Whiskey Myers have been among the most exhilarating and eclectic bands out there since forming in 2007. Now the Texan sextet have upped the ante on sixth album Tornillo.
Named after the remote border town where it was recorded, at the state-of-the-art Sonic Ranch studio complex, it’s punctuated with fat horns and heaps of gospel soul. Lead guitarist and co-songwriter John Jeffers attempts to explain all.
Did the remote location play into the overall sound of the album?
Sonic Ranch is probably about an hour south east of El Paso, Texas. It’s like a 2,300-acre ranch, a pecan orchard, and you can literally throw a rock and hit the border of Mexico. You’re out in the middle of the desert, so it meant we could just get away from all the commotion and craziness of life and really focus on what we were trying to achieve. You can’t do anything but eat, sleep and breathe music while you’re out there. It’s the ultimate getaway.
As with 2019’s Whiskey Myers album, you produced it yourselves. How was that experience?
A lot of indians and no chiefs! We were concerned that maybe we’d come into some head-butting situations, but we worked phenomenally together. We stood by the idea that no idea is the wrong one. And as soon as it starts to work, you get that twinkle in your eye and everybody starts smiling. You can feel the energy.
The southern soul element of the band’s music has been accentuated here. What prompted that?
We’d always wanted to use brass for years, but we’d never had time. When we came to do the first song, which is called Tornillo and is full of horns, we learned that this really cool mariachi band was in town, recording at the studio across the way. So we were like: “We gotta team up!” And that kinda set the tone for the album.
Mission To Mars has a real Muscle Shoals swagger. Was that music on your radar very early on?
Yeah, because we were raised on that music, as well as the Skynyrds and the Zeppelins. The thing about our band, there’s so many different influences between the six of us, but we all have the same tendency to come back towards southern music. It just seeps out, it’s natural. It’s where we’re from. Country, rock’n’roll, gospel, blues, church music, it all compiles into that sound, whatever it is. It’s got its own signature.
So would you say the band are in healthy place at the moment?
I think we’re in the best spot we’ve ever been in. Everybody’s happy, everybody’s got families, we’re excited to be out playing on the road.
Did Whiskey Myers ever have a plan?
Not at all. We’ve always flown by the seat of our pants, and it keeps working. Just trust the process and go with your gut. That’s what we do. We didn’t have a clue what was in store for us. We certainly didn’t know the height that it would take us to now. We’ve always been climbing. And we’re still punching through. It makes us feel old whenever we say it: fifteen years, man! It’s crazy, because some of our favourite bands didn’t last ten years. So yeah, we’re excited to still be rockin’!
Tornillo is out now via Wiggy Thump Records.