When country-pop-rock 4-piece Shallow Side's management contacted the Daily Lobo for concert coverage, I was extremely skeptical. If you literally just read that last sentence, you probably understand why.
This blog was never intended to promote the commercialized self-celebratory Blake Shelton-esque bro-country propaganda that perpetually penetrates our national culture.
Not to say that there's anything wrong with country music; in fact quality songs of the genre aren't particularly hard to find. I swooned over Sturgill Simpson's latest record and have a soft spot in my heart for artists like Son Volt and Jon Prine.
But we're not talking about the emotional, thought-provoking acoustic cuts that pulse amygdalas. This is aggressively run-of-the-mill, color-drained power pop about driving your truck into a lake and drinking beer with a naked woman while it slowly sinks downward into the abyss. Where this corporate genre should stay for good, mind you.
At least that's my disposition. I still hate this kind of music with a vehement passion, but Shallow Side slapped me in the face when I attended their show and interviewed them. Credit where credit is due, they're unsigned and have complete creative control over their music, something I didn't believe until being told up front by the band themselves.
Furthermore, they're putting themselves through hell just to do what they're doing right now. No label support on a nationwide tour playing music in a duct-taped van (they had an RV, but it broke down in St. Louis). No sleep, no comfort, no money, no night in the same town twice.
I earnestly respect that. It made me feel bad, kind of, for my anticipation to hate their music. Their performance at the Launchpad on Tuesday night was attended by a handful of people, but they played energetically and powerfully, as if the whole venue was full.
There's something to be said about this kind of passion because they are explicitly passionate about their music — even if it is absolutely horrible, in my opinion. I respect what they do. I can imagine the process makes them miserable, but they do it anyway, out of love I suppose.
Which makes it all sound like some cheesy Disney movie. I think their lyrics are wearing off on me.
DL: So you're the one that gets the most camera time (in music videos).
Shallow Side frontman Eric Boatright: Yeah, they stick me in the front. Just cause I have red hair and stand out. They thinks it's funny cause I'll get all the flack, pick on the redhead.
DL: I just figured cause of the tattoos.
EB: Yeah, it's the only color I have on my skin. Everything else is just a... white sheen.
DL: When did you guys start?
EB: Six years ago, on November 1, 2010. We started playing music together as Shallow Side. As any other band would, (we) played in garages and sheds and just threw a general racket, but in north Alabama, making as much noise as possible.
It turned into a party sometimes, and we would just play as much as we could. It was our niche out of high school, and we all wanted it to happen, all the time. Cops started getting involved with the parties so we just took the parties to venues, and the venues to cities — Birmingham, Atlanta and now we're all the way out here. Been traveling nationwide for five years.
DL: When did you get signed?
EB: We're unsigned. We have a management company, who work really hard for us. They found us a long time ago, we were outside of this club in a bad part of South Carolina. Just sleeping outside the venue, that's what we did. They found us outside and bought us some Popeyes chicken which fueled our blood, being from Alabama. That's how they found us, and we continued to work with them.
DL: I would've never thought you were unsigned, the music is very... overproduced.
EB: Well, I mean, we strive for quality. We're children of radio, and we grew up with what was on radio. In Alabama the radio is the music scene. Or rather, the music scene there isn't very diverse. There are less bands in Alabama in other states, I feel like.
DL: On that note, considering that, I imagine your demographic — the radio, and listeners of radio. How do you try to differentiate yourselves? If I go to your show what should I expect?
EB: You'll see our world in what we grew up in. You'll see our personality. We grew up listening to radio, but it's not so much of a negative position as most might see it as. We create a radio format for music, but the content is personal and dear.
We created it, we didn't just pick up songs from the '50s and now we're re-doing, though we do have a
cover track, mind you. Although it is a radio-friendly format, you'll hear the walk of our own life.
That's how we spread the market, at least for us.
DL: It's more feeling music than it is thinking music. You're not supposed to spend time on it, you're supposed to feel it.
EB: And that's how I write my poetry. It's not gonna keep you in a deep mindset. I'm not shooting for persuasion, or make someone think more or less about something. I'm just trying to take them out of the element. In the moment, because that's what music's done for me. I found my release.
DL: Where'd you get the name Shallow Side?
EB: We wanted something meaningful. We grew up in a very blue-collar world, and it holds a lot of merit to us, personally, because those people walked the same steps as we did when we grew up. Paycheck to paycheck. We knew walking into this business is not going to be easy, the people that are already here are already millionaires. This world that we live in, it's a huge business full of wealthy people.
We had none of that, we came from the opposite of that. But Shallow Side is about, no matter how far we got, we would always be standing in a shallow version of it, because we'll continue to push forward.
Our heads will never go underwater, in that sense.
DL: Any future plans?
EB: We just released an EP in January, so now we're on our third EP cycle. We'll be in the studio very soon to record our debut album. We have several different producers we're thinking about.
DL: Who produced your earlier stuff?
EB: Evan Coffman produced the first two EPs. Red Thirteen Media produced the third one, we recorded in Massachusetts. Looking to get back into the studio now.
DL: So the music is all written before taken to the producer to tie it all together?
EB: The first two we wrote in the studio, front to back. There's no boundaries without a label or anything. The end game is to pay our bills and do what we love to do.
DL: Especially in your genre, I think it's worth noting how impressive that is. The country rock pop genre is very corporate-controlled.
EB: We try to just be ourselves, do what we do. There's nothing that we won't try. We'll do the hardest music we can do, and turn around and switch styles, if possible.
DL: Is it always gonna be pop-country-rock? Any other genres you would foray into?
EB: I wouldn't say we'd never go there. We're creative people, we start all our music with an acoustic guitar and a melody. Everything with the huge production could be stripped down and the story is just as real. The production fades that into a beat, which is good for us cause we like to dance.
There's nothing to say that we won't go as far left and then drive right on the drop of a hat. Our guitarist just brought in a violin into the van, and (bassist) Cody (Hampton) will grab a mandolin sometimes.
DL: Where you off to after Albuquerque?
EB: Texas. Then slowly going back east to record that debut album, although we're not expecting too much downtime. Life is really just a road at this point, but we wouldn't do this if we didn't want to.
Audrin Baghaie is the music editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AudrinTheOdd.