Today’s Feature – August 13-14: Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company

August 14, 2008 at 1:11 am (Today's Feature)

Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company. Sounds like quite the unit, eh? Truth be told, only Adam and his pal Johnny K make up the crew, but boy… do they know how to fill a room with sound. They need to! After all, when you’re trying to bring back the “good old fashioned rock n’ roll” that’s rarely heard today, you got to make sure everyone can hear you. And it may sound like a daunting task to throw roots rock into today’s mainstream mix of pop, pop and more pop, but Lee says he’s already started noticing a trend: “I see more and more of this punk gone country thing happening nowadays… Even kids in hardcore bands are growing beards and wearing western shirts.” The difference between them and the DHSC? Adam puts it best, “I guess what sets us apart is that we’ve really gone overboard. We play country music.”

Personally, I wouldn’t call it pure country music. You can sample the tunes on the album “Ghostly Fires” today if you’d like – it’s a mix of country, Americana, rock n’ roll, hell, even some honky tonk. The variety of instrumentation is undeniable, with some special guest spots that really bring out the spark in the record. If you get the chance, definitely check out the duo live. Adam and Johnny live for the road, and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Check out their MySpace page for a long list of dates. Bring your party shoes out – Lee says that, “We do real well with the drinkers.” Get into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company (Interview with Adam Lee)

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How did you first get started playing/writing music? How did the band first come together? Was it an instant connection?

Adam Lee (AL): I’ve played music since I was a kid. I sang in choir growing up and always plunked around on the piano. I got a guitar and a drum kit when I was 13 and that pretty much sealed the deal. As far as this band goes, we met on craigslist! Johnny and another fella were looking for a songwriter, and I was looking for a band. We played in an electric group for a while, but not everyone was one the same page, goal-wise. I don’t know if I’d call it an instant connection, but it was clear that Johnny and I had the same ambition.

PEV: Calling Kansas City home, what kind of music were you listening to growing up? Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?

AL: I actually just moved up here in February. Johnny is from this area originally, but we both spent the last few years out in Phoenix, AZ. When I was younger we listened to a lot of country: Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Ricky Scaggs. My dad loves the Beatles and the Beach Boys, my mom more the singer/songwriter, Harry Chapin type stuff. I feel like I got a pretty well-rounded exposure. Of course, like a lot of kids, I got into punk rock as a teenager, and it was all downhill from there. I think my first concert was probably some contemporary Christian show in some big hall. The first show that really mattered was a punk rock house show my Aunt took me to in Greensboro, NC, when I was down there visiting. That blew my mind.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a profession rather than just a hobby?

AL: Probably a lot later than most. I played in a lot of bands growing up, but it wasn’t until I was 19 or 20 that I stared taking things seriously. I started playing drums for an indie band that was touring and had some label backing. It sort of gave me a taste of the possibilities. It also showed me how much you can accomplish without management and a huge record deal. That really sold me on the whole DIY ethic.

PEV: What were your first years in the music business like for you? When you were first starting out? Did you ever think you’d be where you are now, then?

AL: Well I was playing drums and not really too involved in the business side of the band. I’d just show up and play my parts. I did work on some of the booking, which definitely taught me a lot about routing and setting up a tour, so that was great.

PEV: What can fans expect from your latest release, “Ghostly Fires” (April 2008 – NOW available)? As well, what kind of reaction did you first have when it was all said and done?

AL: The new record is sort of a mixed bag. A very good mixed bag. Most of the songs fall under the umbrella of roots or Americana, but those are such diverse labels. There are some country songs, some rock n roll, some honky tonk numbers. There’s a definite bluegrass influence with the instrumentation and the harmonies. We were also really lucky to have some great pickers and good friends come play on it.

PEV: How is “Ghostly Fires” different than others out today? Why?

AL: Honestly, I see more and more of this punk gone country thing happening nowadays. Be it Tim Barry, or Ryan Adams, or Dustin Kensrue, or whatever. It’s really great. Even kids in hardcore bands are growing beards and wearing western shirts. I guess what sets us apart is that we’ve really gone overboard. I hear a lot of folk and indie stuff that has obvious tinges of country influence, a little twang, but we make no bones about what we’re doing. We play country music.

PEV: How is “Ghostly Fires”, different from your previous works or collaborations?

AL: Well this record has the most instrumentation of anything we’ve done. As a songwriter, I’ve done plenty of recordings with just vocal and acoustic. Going in to do this record, we wanted to make the songs the best they could be. I don’t think anything is overdone, but if a song needed pedal steel, we put it on. If it needed mandolin, we did that, too.

PEV: What is your take on today’s music scene? As well, how do you think the music industry has changed with the creation of sites like MySpace, Facebook and PensEyeView – online media outlets that help you get your message out?

AL: I think music is great nowadays, you just have to know where to look for it. Like you mentioned, there are a ton of websites that really put the power in the hands of the listener. If you’re motivated enough to look, you’ve got the tools. As a musician, all of those resources are even more beneficial. It’s getting easier every day to operate entirely independent.

PEV: Is there a certain environment you surround yourself in when you sit down to write music? Or is it just a “when it happens – it happens” mentality?

AL: Song ideas usually come at me randomly. Whether it’s a melody, or lyric, or guitar line, it could be anywhere. The tough part is taking that little piece and building a song around it, really cultivating that thought. I usually need to be off alone, somewhere where I can concentrate for that. Lately, we’ve been on the road a ton, and you’re never alone. I’ve had some basic song ideas, but no real time to work things out.

PEV: How have all your friends and family back home reacted to your success?

AL: Our families have been really supportive. We did our whole record in Johnny’s parents’ basement! They’re all really excited for us and happy for us. I think they know how hard we work.

PEV: What is life on the road like for you? Best and worst parts? Was it a hard adjustment?

AL: Touring is great. I first went out when I was 20, and I was sold. Johnny started touring even younger. We love music and travelling, so I think we’re pretty well suited for this lifestyle. The worst part, of course, is the gas prices; that can really make things tough. I think the best parts are getting to see friends and family, meeting new people, and of course playing music every night. Oh, and we get to drink on the job!

PEV: Which city do you think offers the best appreciation for music? Why?

AL: Kansas City actually has a great scene. A lot of good bands, great venues, and people who just genuinely care about music. Asheville, NC is another great town that really appreciates art in general. We’ve had a blast at just about every town we’ve played in Florida too.

PEV: Is there an “up and coming” artist or band right now that you think we should all be listening to?

AL: That’s the great thing about travelling, getting meet killer bands from all over! We love the Anderson Gang (Orlando,FL), Evan Harris & the Driftwood Motion (Lancaster, OH), and John Moreland & the Black Gold Band (Tulsa, OK). They all have myspaces, check ’em out! We’re actually hitting the road with Evan Harris in a week.

PEV: Is there someone you have not had the chance to work or collaborate with, that you would like to?

AL: Honestly, I’m just stoked to collaborate with Johnny! As a songwriter, I’ve always worked pretty independently, but Johnny’s just got an amazing ear. As a producer, he’s tops. He really helps bring full potential out of every song. I think we’d both love to collaborate with any young pedal steel player who could handle months on the road…if that’s you, look us up!

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

AL: Probably travelling and performing! We like to keep ourselves real busy.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Adam Lee?

AL: I used to play in a screamo band and owned a flat iron. Johnny played bass in a Christian metal band, though, so I guess we’re even.

PEV: If we were to walk into your practice studio what would we most likely find?

AL: Being a two piece, we pretty much practice wherever we are, usually on stage! If we’re playing though, we usually surround ourselves with smokes, beer, whiskey when we can afford it, and quarters for pool.

PEV: What is a live Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company performance like?

AL: Pretty raucous. Only having two guys performing, we have to keep things lively. Boot stompin, hand clappin, hoopin and hollerin! This isn’t some acoustic snooze-fest. We really like involving the crowd and just making the show one big party. We do real well with the drinkers.

PEV: In one word, describe Adam Lee.

AL: Rambler

PEV: So, what is next for Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company?

AL: We’re about to hit the road for 10 more days, and then back in KC til September. We’re planning another long tour for Sep/Oct, and then taking the holidays off to spend with family. I’m going to use that time to finish writing the next record, and we’re planning on getting together in January to record it. But yea, we’re always on tour. Check out the myspace (www.myspace.com/adamleeaz) and make sure you come to a show. You won’t regret it!

For more information on Adam Lee & the Dead Horse Sound Company, check out MySpace.

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