Updated Wed, Apr 23, 2014 4:45 pm
Bram Riddlebarger is a man with something to say.
Not too surprising, considering the countless songs he's composed over the years, plus a novel, Earplugs, published by Livingston Press in 2013.
This week, the Athens musician was anxious to talk to WOUB about his band, Dead Hand of Man, and their self-titled debut EP, both of which will be found this Saturday night at Casa Cantina.
WOUB: Let's start with some background. When did you start playing and writing music?
Bram Riddlebarger: I started playing guitar when I was about 15 or so, and began playing drums and some other instruments a few years later. I didn't really start writing songs until I was 19 or 20. However, I pretty much only played them in my bedroom. I didn't start performing as a songwriter until my mid-20s, mainly because I was playing drums a lot.
WOUB: What music did you listen to back then?
BR: My parents played a lot of records growing up, so I was exposed to a lot of music, and my dad played in a band in the '60s. My uncle also inspired me to play because he has never given up playing. But I got heavily into Metallica and Guns N' Roses and things like that in high school. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then R.E.M.
Then I started liking Bill Monroe because he played as fast as Metallica and I really liked his style. From there, it was Hank Williams and Dwight Yoakam. I also had this rockabilly cassette in high school that I loved, with things like The Collins Kids. I always liked Chuck Berry, Social Distortion and The Ramones a lot.
WOUB: What were your early bands like?
BR: I had a noise band in high school where we basically just beat on our instruments and made up songs with no direction. But my first band that performed live was The Redtails with my brother Seth, who now plays with Hex Net, and Andrew Weiland. I played drums in The Redtails (and all the other names we used) throughout the '90s and early 2000s. We eventually became The Dragline Brothers and made a few records.
I started The Wailin' Elroys sometime around 2002. It was the first band I fronted and actively wrote songs for, something totally new for me. We did pretty well; got to tour Europe twice and tour the U.S. quite a bit. We were fortunate to get picked up by a German record label, and they put our three of our records.
The Wailin' Elroys
After that, I started playing as a one-man band and did a little touring and made one record. Around that time I started playing drums with The Heartlanders (including Maceo Gabbard, Zach Fuller, Ryan Greenley, Aggie Gabbard). I also toured with Woody Pines for a few years, then I messed around with a few more projects that eventually resulted in Bram Riddlebarger & His Lonesome Band--the same name I used as my one-man band, confusingly. The Lonesome Band also includes John Borchard and Thom Hirbe. Then last summer, Thom and I started Dead Hand of Man.
WOUB: How exactly did that band come about?
BR: Last May, Thom and I had talked a little about playing some electric music as a summer project, just to do something different than the country stuff we play with The Lonesome Band. We had an open night and that's all it took. We both like playing many styles of music, but this was our chance to rock and roll for a while. It's been really fun. We added Charlie Touvell on drums soon after that.
WOUB: Could you tell me a bit about the EP? Where was it recorded?
BR: It started out as a demo session that I decided to carve an EP out of. We recorded it last November at Disjointed Records with Mike Makosky. The lineup is me on guitar and vocals, Thom Hirbe on bass and Charlie Touvell on drums. We recorded it live, and then a few weeks later, I added another guitar track. It was a learning experience. We're preparing to record with Mike again next month, and this time we'll be able to do things a little better because of what we learned from the EP.
WOUB: Will it be another EP or a full-length?
BR: We're looking at the EP as the first step in a two-part process. The next step is to record a full length record and have it ready by this summer. Most of the songs are ready. I've been focusing on writing all-original songs for the next record, although we may throw a cover in there. Mainly we've been trying to come together with songs and a sound that comes just from our time playing together, rather than some of the songs that I had written prior to starting this band.
WOUB: You've got a couple local shows coming up. Are you looking to play out-of-town as well?
BR: We are really looking forward to the shows at Casa this weekend and The Union on May 10. Rather than have an outright EP release show, we decided that we would use these gigs as unofficial release parties since we're playing with a lot of our friends and local bands at both of them.
We'll have the EP for sale ($5) as well as some t-shirts we made ($7) at the shows. We screen-printed both the EP booklets and the shirts ourselves, under Charlie's direction. There will be a bunch of great bands at both shows: DUNE and Unmonumental this Saturday at Casa; and Hex Net, The D-Rays and The Sundresses at The Union on May 10.
We're working on getting out of town to play some shows. Hopefully the recordings will help with that. We'll be up in Cleveland in August for a small festival that will be a lot of fun.
Dead Hand of Man