Posted On 03 Dec 2014
Tag: Colton James, Conor Oberst, Counting Crows, Dirty River Boys, Down By The River, Frenchie, Highway Love, Kickstarter, Loser, Marco Gutierrez, Mumford And Sons, New Mexico, Nino Cooper, Old Crow Medicine Show, Rancid, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rio Grande, Rolling Stones, Ryan Adams, Sailed Away, Science of Flight, Shovels and Rope, Skate and Destroy, The Lumineers, The State Line, Thought I'd Let You Know, Travis Stearns
Meet Nino Cooper, Marco Gutierrez, Travis Stearns and Colton James! Together, they make up the El Paso based rock group, Dirty River Boys.
Their second album, The Dirty River Boys was released in October. They had nearly 50 songs to choose from to make up the 13 tracks on this album.
Their track, “Down by the River,” is a ballad of drug-war violence that opens the album. The foursome also manage to sound Mumford-esque on their folk-anthem “Thought I’d Let You Know,” there’s a Celtic-punk flavor on “Sailed Away” and of course there’s good old fashioned rock ’n’ roll feel on tracks like “Highway Love.”
Learn more about The Dirty River Boys in the following interview with the guys!
Can you guys remember the moment that you wanted to form a band?
It sort of just happened. I was finishing up with a band, looking for something new to do musically. Nino and I met at a local show and asked me to come sit in with them a few times. It became more and more frequent as we got to know each other. Nino and Travis were playing sometimes seven nights a week. I really loved how serious they were about being full time musicians. I slowly stopped playing with my other band and joined them.
How did you come up with your band name?
We had a long list of horrible band names going around and none of them stuck. We would frequently play in New Mexico and have to cross the Rio Grand, so we figured we should incorporate the river that borders our home city of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico in the band name. That’s where the name Dirty River Boys came from.
There are a lot of great musicians and bands in El Paso. Playing and going to local shows with friends was always a blast. When I was younger in middle school and high school, going to local shows was the thing to do when they happened. Everyone went. As I got older, and started a band and played shows, it died down. Being from the desert has an immense influence on us. I like to try and replicate or re-imagine the old spaghetti western style of music in a few of our songs. We constantly reference the Rio Grande in songs we write.
What are some of the feelings you guys had leading up to the release date for your album?
We started recording Down By The River around this time last year and the whole album has been done for at least six months. We are so completely ready to get it out there. We’ve never been more proud of anything we have done musically, so we just want folks to hear it already.
What are some of your favorite songs on the album?
We’re pretty stoked on how all of the songs came out, but “Down By The River” is definitely a favorite among us. It was an honor to write with Ray Wylie Hubbard. “Skate and Destroy” is a really fun song CJ brought to the table. It starts like a song that could have worked on an older album of ours, and ends up in this really cool folk/punk world. “Loser” is personal favorite lyrically and sonically. Our producer Frenchie did an amazing job of bringing these songs to life.
What music are you listening to now? Anything on the radio that you can’t get out of your head right now?
This month has been full of amazing new releases that have been on constant rotation. Ryan Adams’ new album is a killer 80’s sounding rock album. The new Shovels and Rope probably deserves some sort of Americana album of the year award if you ask me. Old Crow Medicine Show and Counting Crows released great albums this month too.
Can you elaborate on how you guys raised over $30K for your self-released album, Science of Flight in 2012?
We did that when everyone was crowd funding with Kickstarter. We wanted to give it a shot so we set the bar at 25K. I honestly didn’t think we would make it. I was blown away when we ended up with the 30K. It was all fan based. There was literally no way we could have done it with out them.
On that album, many people compared you guys to Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers. What did you think of that and will your upcoming album still hold that to be true?
There is a song or two that might fit the Mumford/Lumineers comparison on the new album, but as a whole we have evolved a bit away from just being a strictly acoustic based band. We still have the core acoustic band instrumentation going on; CJ is pounding away on that upright bass, Travis is destroying his cajon (the wooden percussion instrument he sits on, we started the band using that as the core of our percussion) on a nightly basis, and Nino and I are still breaking strings nightly on our acoustic guitars, but CJ will break out the electric bass for a few songs, Travis has added a drum kit around the cajon, and Nino is breaking strings on the electric guitar once in a while for a change. We still switch instruments and go all out bluegrass for a couple of songs, but we will follow it up with a rock song like “Loser” or “Highway Love”.
Living or dead, who is a musician that you guys would love to work with?
Each one of us comes from such a different musical background, so I think we would all answer that differently. We cover the Rolling Stones pretty much nightly. I think that’s a safe answer, but who wouldn’t want to work with those dudes. Personally, Conor Oberst, Ryan Adams, and the guys from Rancid.
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something quirky that’s taken place with the band (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
When you drive out of El Paso in any direction you hit Border Patrol checkpoints. We were headed from El Paso to Lubbock, going through the checkpoint like we always do when we got pulled aside. We were asked to get out and stand next to the van with our hands out of our pockets. The brought the drug dog up and asked us to sit next to the building. We all went, but they an agent held Travis back and started aggressively questioning him. We knew we didn’t have anything illegal in the van, but at that point we were worried. They sent Travis back to sit with us and the guy started tearing through our van. Five minutes later, the officer gets out and says “The ones that are from El Paso, come over here” so Nino, Travis and I walk over to the van. The look in his face goes from hardened Border Patrol officer to the look your Tio Richard gives you when you bring him a beer at your grandmas Sunday cookout. He says “Are you all the Dirty River Boys? I saw you last night at The State Line! I love you guys! You do El Paso proud!” He went on to explain he was only doing his job, nothing personal. We left them with a bunch of CDs and went on our way.
When you guys aren’t performing or writing new material, what do you like to do for fun?
CJ is usually working on his families farm in Seguin, TX, skateboarding, working on his trucks and motorcycle, or playing with his dog Otto. Travis is probably hanging at a bar in Austin, or cooking some great food for people at his place. He’s a hell of a cook. On off time Nino is either working at home, traveling, or enjoying food and wine. When I’m not shut out from the world in my back room attempting to write music, I’m playing with my dogs, cooking with my girlfriend, or sleeping way more than I should be.