Catch up with Skunkmello's Matt Bartlett and listen to the band's single "Slaughterhouse Blues" off their forthcoming album, Hot Chicken, due out June 10th.
What brought you all together?
Matt Bartlett: Music essentially [laughs] music and bars is where we came together. I met Jono through mutual friends years ago now over several beers and I guess we talked about jamming and he happened to know Ed, who became our bass player at the time - he's now shifted over to the guitar - then, maybe about a year and a half ago, a band that we liked busted and their bass player was hanging around and we decided to incorporate him, move Ed over to guitar and bring in Jay on bass. So, through mutual acquaintances, hanging ,and just general concert going I guess is how we all got together.
Which musicians have you been influenced by, individually or as a band?
Individually and as a band we're very influenced by blues, funk, and roots music and obviously classic rock and roll. Myself, I'm influenced a lot by classic rockers like Hendrix and Zeppelin, as well as Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, and The Grateful Dead, and that's what I grew up on. In the past ten years or so, I've moved more towards North Mississippi blues music, Junior Kimbrough, folk stuff, Mississippi John Hurt, and recently I've been listening to a lot of rockabilly and old school rock and folk; it's a very eclectic mix. There's some hip hop in there, definitely some afro grooves too [laughs]. I'm sure the others would say that too, that they have an eclectic mix in their background, as well.
How would you describe your sound?
As a sonic stew of all of the above. We're certainly a rock and roll band, in terms of our output and our spirit, but we definitely draw on a number of those mentioned influences and try to combine them into our own random guck.
Could you tell us more about your inspirations for your single "Slaughterhouse Blues"?
It's actually funny, the name of our band is from a blues song where the chicken - his name is Skunkmello - tries to, in order to avoid the slaughterhouse, pretends to be all the other animals on the farm, kind of an existential survival tactic, so the reason we call ourselves Skunkmello is because we've adopted the guise of rock and roll to avoid the slaughterhouse as well. So, the "Slaughterhouse Blues" incorporates that ethic or perspective where our slaughterhouse is certainly out there, but we play rock and roll to get around it and it's a gritty determination to avoid the harsh realities and rural plotlines of that industrial grind.
Is that sound indicative of what we can expect to hear on your forthcoming album and can you tell us more about Hot Chicken?
It's definitely more concise and thematically intertwined than previous efforts. We had the luxury of actually doing this and working in a studio; luckily, we had some late night connections and we got to do this over a series of whiskey addled late night recording sessions in a studio rather than our normal method, which is whiskey addled late night sessions in someone's house. From a logistical standpoint, we had this whole studio at our disposal and from a content standpoint, I think it is more thematically defined with that slaughterhouse vibe where we're trying to fight against the tide as much as possible. It's a true rock and roll record too, so it's definitely meant to be played loud at late hours of the night to really get the full effect and it has the elements of blues and folk and rock & roll and that Americana tradition through the heavy amplifiers that we've become known for, at least in our home city.
If you had to sum up Hot Chicken in one sentence, how would you do that?
[Laughs] I don't know. I would say, it's a record intended to be played over loud speakers at indecent hours of the night; a rock and roll record; rowdy data points burning across the interstates of asphalt Americana - we say that sometimes.
Is there one song from the album you're most excited for your fans to hear?
I have a couple favorites. One is a sleeper that we won't put out and we probably won't play live much called "Alligator Coat", on which I could see playing a good amount of slide on an electric dobro - we won't bust those out live all too often. But we will be busting out a couple more of those slide tunes coming up. We have a residency in the village at Bowery Electric over the course of May, so we'll get into the deep cuts a little bit and "Alligator Coat" will be one. The big finale, called "Sweet Delight" - which we extend to about eight minutes - is raw, distorted, amplified, feedback firepower which is a fun song to play live, we do that one.
What do you hope your listeners will be able to take away from your music?
Hopefully ringing ears, that would be ideal [laughs]. And, the need to go out and live rock and roll through any means, as well.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
We're doing a record release show at Rockwood on stage 2 June 10th at 8 PM; we have an acoustic residency - which is not normally our flavor but we've gotten into doing that a little recently to mix it up - every Monday night in May at Bowery Electric; the record's out June 10th.