Twangfest is excited to welcome back the Bottle Rockets for a record fifth (!) appearance this year. The hometown heroes have just completed a new studio album (release date TBA), and they’ll be performing new songs as well as plenty of Brox classics. The band headlines Twangfest 19 on Saturday, June 13 at Off Broadway, with friend and producer Eric Ambel and blues-rocker Jimbo Mathus opening up. Tickets are available via Ticketfly.
Brian Henneman — singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Bottle Rockets — was kind enough to answer a few questions via email about the new album and other sundry topics.
Twangfest: Sometimes albums start out seeming to be one thing; then they turn into something else. What was most surprising about working on this new album?
Brian Henneman: The melody. So much melody. More than I knew I could sing. You can whistle these songs.
Were there things you tried on the new album that you never tried before? Recording techniques, guitar sounds, singing approaches?
More time spent on vocals than ever before. No “assembly line” recording this time. Everything developed as it went along. We finished a song before we moved on to another. There’s everything from songs built up from overdubs on top of an acoustic guitar, to one-take live band things, keeping the live “with the band” vocal.
The Bottle Rockets are somewhat unique in their tradition of “collective/collaborative” songwriting. Was that the case on this new album? How has that collective songwriting process changed?
This one is WAY different on that end. This one is mostly all me. With only a few exceptions.
A few weeks ago you posted this on Facebook: “[The new album’s] got charm. Doesn’t sound a thing like the Faces, but their records had charm. This has it too.” Can you explain the connection or analog to the Faces? Or describe that charm?
No, I can’t. You’ll just have to hear it for yourself. It just makes me happy like a Faces album. And that’s where the similarity ends.
You listen to a fair amount of mainstream country radio. What’s your favorite song right now and why?
It’s slim pickins right now. But it’s getting a LITTLE better. My favorite new country songs all happened about four years ago, and the Henningsens wrote most of them! There’s a new one by Thomas Rhett I like, called “Crash and Burn.” I hate his voice, but I love the song. No real reason, other than I just like it. Sometimes that’s the best reason of all. It’s hard to get “the full package” in new country. I either like the singer, or the song. Rare when the two collide. Ashley Monroe has one I love called “On to Something Good,” but radio ain’t playin’ it. Country radio is pretty much a girl-free zone right now. That’s too bad, ’cause girls always do the good songs.
What’s your least favorite country song right now and why?
Jason Aldean. Pick one. Any one. Doesn’t matter. I like him even less than I like Florida Georgia Line. He just makes music seem miserable to me…
The Bottle Rockets have always been based in the St. Louis area, and many of the songs naturally reflect that. Do you think there’s a way that St. Louis has influenced the sound of the Bottle Rockets?
We’ve always just written about our surroundings. This is where we’re from. It’s that simple. Nothin’ we ever thought much about…
The Bottle Rockets have played Twangfest in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2013. What’s your favorite Twangfest memory?
I liked ’em all. In no particular order, and no particular favorite memory. “Twangfest” is a favorite memory. Always…
Anything special in store for Twangfest 19 at Off Broadway?
New songs! And, Eric Ambel will be there, so who knows?