IT'S A HEARTACHE… Riverboat Gamblers

The Texas power-punks – currently on tour – grow-up
and deal with affairs of the heart.

 

BY TIM STEGALL

 

The Riverboat Gamblers – the Austin-by-way-of-Denton, TX.,
power-punks – have made four proper LPs in their 12-year-existence. With Underneath
The Owl
(Volcom Entertainment), their latest, they managed an Austin
Calling
.

 

In addition to typical MC5-meets-Dictators chaindrive
rockers like opening track “DissDissDissKissKissKiss,” the band – manic
vocalist Mike Wiebe, guitarists Fadi el-Assad (AKA “Freddy Castro”)
and Ian MacDougall, bassist Rob Marchant, and drummer Eric Green – offers a
straight-up pop single (“A Choppy, Yet Sincere Apology”), sugar-coated hooks,
bouncy groove and all; a vibraphone-laced smoothy (“Robots May Break Your
Heart,” with X’s DJ Bonebrake mallet-ing the vibes); and even a pedal
steel-laced weeper called “The Tearjerker.” That the band manages all this
diversification without embarrassing themselves or abandoning their manic,
hyper-Detroit punk ethic is impressive.

 

But looking at some of these songs… um, did somebody undergo
a break-up?

 

MIKE: [sheepishly]
Yeah, I did. Yes, much of that writing was post-break-up.

 

BLURT: Well, songwriting is a really good exorcism.

 

MIKE: Yeah, it really is. By the end of [making] the record, I can remember
thinking, “I don’t care anymore!”

 

BLURT: Your songwriting has definitely evolved.

 

MIKE: There’s a lot of ways of songwriting I get from people
that inspire me and stuff, like from the really strict storytelling kinda stuff
to more abstract kinda stuff. This record is more cohesive storytelling, except
the first song which is more total non-sequiturs. I like experimenting. But
early on, I was kinda nervous to talk about more personal things. Now, it’s
more like, “Whatever. They’re gonna talk shit anyway….” [laughs]

 

Initially, when we started, my musical knowledge and
repertoire was smaller and it was strictly more straight-up punk rock. Then as
you get older and you’re a real music fan and you start hearing stuff, it
becomes wider and wider. You start going back and hearing stuff and start
getting excited about Stax stuff and getting excited about Motown stuff. And
then on the other side, you start getting excited by weirdo garage and
Australian garage and stuff like that. You keep finding out more and searching
stuff out, and it starts affecting you. It trickles down, and even if it’s not
a conscious thing where you’re saying, “I’m gonna write a song that sounds like
The Saints!” If you’re into it and like it, I don’t think you can help but have
it affect you in some kind of way.

 

I’m not getting ready to do a rap record or anything. But I
listen to a lot of hip hop and stuff like that. It’s that weird attitude, maybe,
that’ll infect stuff – word play and stuff like that. It’s all far-reaching. I
think it’s important to keep finding new music and new inspiration.

 

You don’t wanna get bored. And even when it fails, I like it
when bands take chances.

 

 

[The Riverboat
Gamblers are in the middle of a massive North American tour. See full itinerary
at their MySpace page.
]

 

 

[Photo Credit: Sam Holden]

 

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