Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall
Photos (C) Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
With slots opening for some of the biggest bands on the planet, and a new album that fellow MGM scribe, Francijn Suermondt describes as “A 10 out of 10 for what I have found to be the perfect rock album which manages to present us with the best type of hard classic rock, which combines exceptional musicianship and charismatic choruses. Complex and clever, ‘Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown’ are a force to be reckoned with …. …. Thank you boys!“, Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown came to London with support from Blackwater Conspiracy for a packed show at Dingwalls in Camden. Prior to the show we got a chance to catch up with drummer Caleb Crosby and Noah Denney the band’s bassist.
AH: You’ve managed to with two huge acts in the last couple of years. That’s very impressive. Not everybody gets to tour with Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC after all.
Caleb: Yeah right? Yeah, totally. It feels good to see the fruit of those tours, for us. The only reason we were able to come over here to Europe and the UK was because of AC/DC. You know? That tour gave us an opportunity to do our own shows. You know? From that, here we are, you know, a year and a half later, headlining our own tour, and it’s a good feeling. You know? We’re playing to great crowds every night, and crowds that are really responding to the record, the new album, which is really the best part of it all, you know, to see people respond to the songs and the way that they’re responding. So, I think that’s the best feeling, you know?
AH: I’m not surprised. With the latest album, the look and feel is distinctly different from the way you looked on the debut through to the EP, through to where you are now, three almost distinct styles have gone on with those releases as well. Is what you’ve settled on now where you think you are?
Caleb: Yeah, I think so man. I mean I feel like we’re still growing up to a degree, but now we’re, you know, we’re a little older now, and I would say that we definitely, at least, together, settled in and figured out, kind of, what we’re doing.
AH: I mean, you look at the art work on the debut, well the photos for the debut album for example.
Caleb: We were kids.
Caleb: Well we were. (Laugh)
AH: It’s almost a bunch of guys looking like a modern teen band, and then you come to the Wayside EP, very much that sort of 70’s vibe, you’ve got the crushed velvet, the flares on them, things like that. But, now it’s very much more of a Southern Rock feel going on, look and feel wise, forget the music, just purely the visuals. Is it something you’ve worked on, or has it been a natural progression?
Caleb: No, I think it’s just natural. I don’t think we think about it too much, I think we wear what we like to wear, and it could change in a year or two, you know what I mean? Who knows. Styles change, and you could find something that you like, and then you run with it, and it’s like, “oh, I’m going to make this a thing.” So, yeah, I don’t think we think about it too much.
Noah: I actually cut all my hair off right before I joined the band over five years ago. So I was working on a food truck in the Summer time, it was terrible. So, I had spent, you know, the past five years growing it all back. So, I just returned to my look before hand.
Caleb: I don’t know that you, have you cut your hair in five years?
Noah: I haven’t cut it in over a year.
Caleb: [laughing] Pure laziness.
AH: If you go way back to where the band started, Tyler’s got a great back story. It makes for nice reading. It’s that proper sort of crossroads moment, the right thing at the right time, can anybody else match that? Because it reads so well, you know, selling your dirt bike for a guitar…..
Caleb: I mean, no, I don’t think so. I mean, I think that’s the storybook story I guess, but, you know? I don’t have a story like that.
Noah: It’s talent meeting opportunity time and time again, you know?
Caleb: Yeah, you know being from a small town, and having the relationship that he did with Mr. Twitty, [FROM WIKIPEDIA: While still in elementary school, he met Roosevelt Twitty, a then-63-year-old blues musician from Paris, Texas. Mr. Twitty taught Tyler how to play the blues. At 13, Tyler and Mr. Twitty started playing shows around Texas. This was the age that Tyler also started writing songs.] and, you know, all of that, taking him to Nashville, him and I hooking up just through happenstance. It’s crazy if you really think about it, how all of that stuff intertwines and works together to bring us here, you know?
AH: It was just meant to be.
Caleb: Absolutely. It’s a universe thing, you know? It’s pretty cool, you know?
Tyler: [Stood behind us during the interview] His astonishingly good looks help, too, so…..
Noah: Shut up.
Tyler: I’m shaving right now, for the record. I have to do it twice a day.
Caleb: Sorry, there’s some inside jokes going on.
AH: It’s alright, it’s a good look man.
Tyler: [Laughing] You thought I had just hit puberty when you walked in.
AH: So talk to me about the album, because obviously this feels like the one that’s going to elevate you to the next level. You’ve got to think that from the critical responses to date.
Caleb: Yeah, the response has honestly been overwhelming. I can say that for everyone. It’s been pretty awesome to do things like this and people be like, “hey, we love the record that you made.” I think that’s also what’s so cool about it, that was the record that we wanted to make. We had no label involved, we had nobody, like no A&R person telling us what’s to record, how to do it, or this, that, and the other. I mean, we did that completely on our own, and I think that’s why it’s good, because it’s real, and it’s honest. You know? It came from a real place, and we just come off those tours you know? We were, man, those tours were more than just tours for us. I mean, that was like us going to school. We were learning so much watching those bands, you know what I mean? Going, “that’s how you craft a song, that’s how you get 80,000 people to put their hands in the air and sing along.” So, that kind of funneled into song writing, you know, and we spent a week in January last year, almost a year ago, and wrote four of the songs on the album as a band. That was really cool, we had a lot of that on this record, and we had a lot of everybody bringing their own flavor to the songs. I think that, I don’t know, I just think that for us it just is very true to the songs that we want to be playing, you know, out on stage.
AH: I can understand that. Was it difficult to decide on the order? Because the order of the songs actually feels as it should be.
Noah: We actually did go through three or four different sequences before settling on that final.
Caleb: Yeah, we did.
AH: If you take Ramblin’ Bones for example, that I understand is one that never quite felt right, clearly, until now, to put on an album. But, where it sits, right in the middle, it’s the perfect break point. It’s like the intermission, and then…
Tyler: To take a breath.
Caleb: That was one thing that I felt pretty strongly about, is like, having it be in, and too with the final, that’s what ends that first thought of the final. Then, you flip it over and Weak And Weepin’ starts. So, that was kind of something that went into play as well, because when we were doing the Guns and AC/DC tour, opening with Weak And Weepin’, now we’re closing with it. It’s neat, because, you know, as most people do, obviously we put Into the Black at the end, that felt like we were kind of sending that record off at the end, kind of like we were. As a band we were, as that first lyric says, taking a step into the black. We were doing that, and with the record we were doing that and kind of pushing it off the edge. That middle part felt like, felt right to have Ramblin’ Bones there in the middle.
AH: As it opens up with Heartland and Don’t Mind the Blood, it’s almost not what we would expect, isn’t it? There is a feel, I mean, our reviewer, she was writing about this, was pushing thoughts around about L.A. Guns and Phil Lewis’ voice, and that sort of, almost, dirty rock and roll sound as well. Naturally, the initial thought was, of it being Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown is going to be a Blues Album, and there’s the blues influence in there, but there’s sort of this dirty rock and roll feel to it as well. How did you manage to mash all that up?
Noel: I get, I think we’ve taken kind of, just a natural progression the past few years, you know? I feel like at this point we are a rock and roll band with blues influence, as opposed to a blues band with rock and roll influence.
Caleb: It’s some blues undertones, you know? And to be honest, when we’re writing, it’s not like…
AH: It doesn’t overwhelm it does it?
Caleb: No, when we’re writing it’s not something that we even think about, you know? It’s not something that we tried, “hey let’s stay away from this, or stay away from that.” It’s like, we just write what we like.
Noel: The cool thing is we can do both, you know, I think pretty well. There’s not a whole lot of thought that goes into it, if we come up with an idea whether it’s slanted more towards blues or slanted more towards rock and roll, if it feels good, it rocks, and it kicks ass, we just run with it.
AH: We talked about Don’t Mind the Blood, you’ve got almost a funk feel, there’s a real groove in that.
Caleb: It’s like a skanky groove in that one. But, it’s also really dirty, and then lyrically… Yeah, lyrically it’s very saying something. That was actually one that I was talking about that we wrote together during that week. That was one that came out of that week. So, you know, that song speaks about a lot of things. It speaks about our culture right now, like in the world, and I think it also speaks about us as a band, you know? We don’t mind getting our hands dirty and doing what we need to do to do what we love, you know what I mean?
Noah: We’ve all bled for rock and roll, literally and figuratively. It’s about that, it’s also a social statement, you know? We’re finding that, back home, today, we’re having to stand up for more and more individuals and groups of people, you know? If you’ve got to bleed for your fellow man to protect their rights, you do it. That’s just kind of where we’re at with that. Don’t have to get into detail about the tumultuous times back in the States, but it’s kind of a thing about that. Same deal with Heartland, that’s why we kind of thought it was kind of cool to start the record with those two back to back, you know? It’s just kind of like, “hey, here’s where we’re at with everything right now.”
AH: There’s an emotional feeling there from the off isn’t there?
Caleb: Yeah man, like I said, coming from a lot of different places, you know? And that’s why I love a lot of these songs man, because I think they can stand on their own. We’ve been doing a lot of these interviews about the record, and different people are taking different things from each song. So it’s like, one person can hear it this way, another person can hear it this way, and the truth is, I love songs like that. I think we gravitate, or we try to write songs like that that can be their own, it can be a personal thing, you know. It’s not like, “oh well this is clearly what it’s about.” Well it’s like, “yeah it’s about that, but it can also be this, it can also…” you know what I mean?
AH: It’s what it means to you.
Caleb: Right, so it gives it kind of a bigger spectrum of reality, I guess.
AH: Now, in terms of the commercial side, actually getting out there, getting things radio friendly, you couldn’t have picked a better track than something like Backfire. Was that the record label suggesting that, was that the band’s choice?
Caleb: No, the truth is, that song came after a meeting that we had with the new lawyer and it was like, Graham [Whitford] had a riff and it was just like one thing led to the other, and this song just came out. We sent it over to management and they said the same thing, it was like, “that’s the song that Shakedown needs”. Then, we loved the recording of it, and you know, that’s just something that simple… One thing we learned with AC/DC is less is more, you know? So, one thing that’s very simple and just straight to the point, there’s not a lot of lag time in there, vocals are always happening, it’s bam, bam, bam out of the chorus, right into the verse, out of the verse right into… you know what I mean? So, that felt right, and just kind of a drudgey groove, it’s just kind of the same throughout, and just big and ballsy rock. So, it felt right.
AH: So a quick year or two in summary. Two major tours like that under the belt, headline tour now, closing out the UK tour with a night here in London, you got some US dates early next year, what about the big tours, what’s coming up next? Or what do you want to do?
Caleb: As far as the big tours, they’re still up in the air. We’d love to go back out with Guns, they’re going to be back over here next year, next Summer, so we’ve… you know, obviously that’s been put on the table and we’ve started talking about that, because who wouldn’t want to do that? We know we’ll be back to do headlining shows for sure here in the UK, and in Europe. We’re going to really, the US is getting mad at us because we’re not playing in the US very much these days. So, it will be good to get out with our friends, Blackberry Smoke.
Noah: Ya’ll are too good to us over here.
Caleb: Yeah, man, it’s just that we just love this climate over here man. We just, it’s just good, it’s great for us. So, we’re excited for next year, excited to keep playing these new songs, excited to keep pushing the record. Speaking of Backfire, we did a music video for it, that will be coming out next year.
Noah: Top of the year.
Caleb: Top of the year, and we’re actually going to radio with that song in the States, and there’s been work, radio is different everywhere. This is going here, and this is going here, but in the States we’re pushing Backfire, and we’re excited about it.
As we wrapped, Blackwater Conspiracy come on stage and play a great set to warm up the crowd before Tyler & Co go on stage. The Shakedown delivered, yet again the goods playing a solid 17 track set that included Tom Petty covers as well as material from Elvis that sat perfectly in amongst the band’s own original material.
Opening with Backfire, the track that’s getting serious airplay at the moment, the band hit the ground running and a heaving, sweaty, energy filled Dingwalls began to bounce, not stopping until Ramblin’ Bones brought us all back down to close out the show.
With material from all releases, there’s a clear dynamic pairing between Graham Whitford and Tyler Bryant that brings to mind the great partnerships in rock n roll. Tyler / Perry, Jagger / Richards, Johnson / Young all spring to mind as you watch the band perform. With Caleb shrouded in darkness in the back corner of the dimly lit venue and Noah suffering a similar fate on the opposite side of the stage, it fell, unsurprisingly to Tyler and Whitford to hog more of the limelight. Tyler is a star in the making of that there is no doubt. Accomplished player and vocalist, he owned the stage and it’s clear that this is one of the last times we are likely to see the band in a small venue like Dingwalls. This is a band that will elevate rapidly. The stadium opening slots are doing them no harm whatsoever and it’s helping the band hone their craft playing to tens of thousands of people. Frankly it’s where they should be. A great live performance.
House on Fire
Don’t Mind The Blood
Lipstick Wonder Woman
Weak & Weepin’
You Wreck Me (Tom Petty cover)
That’s All Right, Mama (Elvis Presley cover)