Brule County Bad Boys: Country’s Bad Seed
Written by Liam Sweeny on September 27, 2020
I personally love ‘outlaw country.’ I was listening to Merle Haggard when I was five and my dad and his friends would babysit me at their favorite bar. Fun times. I think it’s hard these days to call something ‘outlaw country,’ because it’s either that a band calls itself that, or their groove moves you that way. So I love outlaw country, even if the band I’m listening to might not call themselves that.
Brule County Bad Boys is a hard band. Listening to them, you might hear the harp and the dobro, or you might hear the clang of the county jail cell doors. With members from bands such as Girls of Porn, Tex Railer’s Doomtown, and Barbed Wire, they’re ready to run you through some abandoned county roads.
We sit with the Buster Sawdust and Tex Railer of the Bad Boys and talk about absurdism.
RRX: Brule County Bad Bays is pretty kickass name for a band. I had to look up Brule County, of course, and there’s one in South Dakota. Was there something about Brule County that made you pick it as part of the band name? Did someone come from there? Or did you all just come across the name and think it was cool?
BS: Brule County is right along the Missouri river, dead center in South Dakota. The land was taken from the Lakota subtribe Brulé, and named henceforth. The county seat, and where I spent my time was in the “city” of Chamberlain. Desolate as all hell in the winter, during the summer the river breathes some life to the little city. My time there unfortunately was spent in the county jail.
RRX: You guys are country. Or maybe a little bit of bluegrass. It’s an expansive sound that encompasses a range of instruments, like a harp, a piano, a dobro/pedal steel. It’s a very ‘open sky’ kind of sound. Is it hard to manage a number of different players, or is it easier to find harmony? Is there one instrument that usually gets the fire going?
BS: I wrote a lot of the songs we currently play during my stay in Chamberlain. As time went on Tex and I worked together to figure who was going to play on the album/arrangements. Playing in bands forever, we could find the players who would understand what we were doing best. Punk and country is the same. All music is the same. We got players with passion and let them do what they do best.
TR: We can play together with our eyes closed, and we’ve played these songs with every arrangement from a four piece to an eight piece. When our core five guys can all be on the same page, it’s easy adding piano, steel guitar or whatever on top of that.
RRX: Brule County Bad Boys is bleak, and I’m really using your words here. And it’s not bleak in that cliched ‘my woman and my dog left me’ country way. It more on the level of some existential bleakness, bleakness about life itself. It’s unique to take the ‘bad’ so directly. How does Brule County Bad Boys bring that to a country audience?
BS: I write about what I know best, depression, sadness, self-doubt, drugs, sex and chili.
Most people, and I mean most people that I would be willing to spend any time with, struggle with some sort of mental illness. I mean, how are you not on the constant brink of breakdown when you look at the world around us? I haven’t thought so much about bringing it to a country audience, but if you just ignore the lyrics you can certainly have a honky tonkin’ good time.
TR: Especially in a post Toby Keith country universe, country songs are meant to be shallow love songs at best, and quasi-patriotic dribble at worst. Country should be an honest representation of the struggle of the working man, and our oppressors from the corporate class and the law.
RRX: And, I guess, tagging onto the previous question, you all sing about the hard life, and the criminal justice system. Now, you can write about tough subjects, or you can write about what you lived. I’m detecting some hard feelings in the music, make me think some things are lived here. How bad are the Brule County Bad Boys?
BS: Certainly most of us have all found ourselves on the wrong side of the law. I can tell you though, no of us have actually done anything wrong. It’s the legal system which is the enemy of the people and breeds criminals out of the poor and hungry.
RRX: Playing out right now is a dog’s breakfast. Maybe you get an outdoor thing, maybe it’s a private party you can’t tell anyone about. Or maybe you tuck in, hit the home studio, and put out the best stuff you ever did. Do you think music is surviving, such as it is? What do you think the music circuit is going to be like this time next year?
BS: Everything we think about music and the music scene is done. Next year? Hopefully the music we hear is the sound of the bourgeoisie being put up against the wall
TR: It’s almost not worth doing until we can do it normally. Packed room, people dancing, drinking and having fun. At least we have a full album ready to go for when we do get to play out!
RRX: Brule County Bad Boys is a “band of bands.” It maybe even a mega band.
We’ve interviewed a lot of “mega bands” before, and of course, everybody takes the high road and says that putting all that talent together is always all good. But I’ll ask you, are there challenges to having so many top performers in the corral?
BS: I feel all of the players we work with are true musicians in the deepest sense. Having so many different instruments, everyone knows to lay low when they gotta, and when to shred.
TR: Especially when we have killers like Kevin Maul, Graham Tichy, Zack Cohen, Mike Robbins (Chief) and Alex Patrick (dangerbyrd) on call, it really is that easy.
RRX: Here is where you answer the question we didn’t ask. Best kind of engine to have in a getaway? Most common tell in five-card stud? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours.
TR: The blues-mobile, learn to count cards and check out brulecountybadboys.bandcamp.com
BS: Just wanna leave you from some lyrics from our tune “Badlands.”
“Machine guns around the corner
Ensure law and order
If they’re armed then arm yourself
The bourgeoisie they should be frightened
They are aware their time has come
God damn right they’ve used you plenty
The time has come for someone else”