local music scene south carolina
I’ve very much enjoyed exploring the American Gun catalog in preparation for this showcase, so much so that a couple of their songs have found a place in my most sacred of sanctuaries – my personal playlist. The band is spot on and come across as musicians who know exactly what each song expects from them. If I had to put it in words I would say their sound is a solid wall of melody built around a distinctive signature voice bent on telling you how the story just might end. Great band – great sound!
American Gun was formed in 2004 when Donald Merckle and Todd Mathis were looking for an outlet for songs that didn’t fit their current projects (Loch Ness Johnny, Boxing Day). After a few practices as an acoustic duo, Kevin Kimbrell (bass) and Andrew Hoose (drums) were brought in and Todd switched to electric guitar. The four piece lineup recorded a six song demo at the Jam Room (Demos, Guns and Girls). After a few shows as a four piece, the band added Jeff Crews as lead guitarist. Songwriting duties were pretty much split 50/50 with Mathis and Merckle each singing their own creations.
The lineup stayed the same through 2008, until Crews left for Atlanta. At this point Noel Rodgers was brought in on lead guitar and Tim Pape was brought in on keyboard. Tim was with the band for six months but does not appear on any of the recordings. In early 2010 the band parted ways with Donald Merckle when he decided to further his education out of state. 2012 saw the departure of Kevin Kimbrell and the addition of Barry Corley on bass.
Over the past five years American Gun has racked up a years’ worth of shows throughout the Southeast, traveling to any dive that will have them and broadcasting their own unique spin on rock and roll while attempting to, (and most often succeeding), connect with fans on a personal level. They also have a pretty darn good time themselves in the process of all the madness.
Laudatory reviews followed the bands’ previous releases of their three full-lengths, 2006’s Dark Southern Hearts, The Means & the Machine in 2008 and Devil Showed Me His Hand in 2009, drawing on such talents as John Morand (Cracker, Sparklehorse), Chris Stamey (Whiskeytown, Yo La Tengo), and lap steel guitar legend Al Perkins (The Flying Burrito Brothers). In the past few years the band has received attention from a variety of smaller record labels and distributors. Their songs have been featured on a number of indie compilations, PBS’s Roadtrip Nation, The Mountain Dew X-Games and ESPN2’s Bass: The Movie. And they have opened for such contemporaries as Lucero, Drivin’ N Cryin’, Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell, The Bottle Rockets, Shooter Jennings, Robbie Fulks, and others.
Initially inspired by the rough and tumble alternative country of artists like Lucero, Steve Earle, and Uncle Tupelo, the band quickly hit upon its own brand of rambunctious, barn-burning rock n’ roll. And while that is still very much a part of what they do, the past year has seen the group morph into a more muscular and electric force, taking cues as much from Social Distortion, The Hold Steady and Oasis as from their twangy roots.
Excited to document the new sound and direction, the band spent the summer of 2010 in pre-production at Jangly Records in Columbia, South Carolina with producer Paul Bodamer before entering Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium Studio to record their fourth full-length, Therapy. In addition to being a sonic breath of fresh air, the new record also featured some of the most powerful and brutally honest songwriting to date. Tales of love and heartbreak in a lonely city share the stage with the troubles and travails of a working rock band, painting as vivid a portrait of the band’s current state as the music itself.
Currently the band is recording their follow up to Therapy, with an expected release date of Summer 2014.
Todd Mathis – vocals, guitar
Noel Rodgers – guitar, vocals
Barry Corley - bass
Andrew Hoose – drums
Dark Southern Hearts – Released 2006 by Step Out of the Line Records
Produced by Mathis/Merckle, Recorded at the Jam Room by Steve Slavich, Mixed at Sound of Music Studios by John Morand
The Means & The Machine – Released 2008 by Red Wax Music
Produced by Mathis/Merckle, Recorded at the Jam Room by Steve Slavich, Mixed at Modern Recording by Chris Stamey
Devil Showed Me His Hand – Released 2009 by Jangly Records/Step Out of the Line Records
Produced by Mathis/Merckle, Recorded at the Jam Room by Steve Slavich, Mixed by Paul Bodamer at Jangly Records
Therapy – Released 2011 by Jangly Records/Step Out of the Line Records
Produced by Paul Bodamer and Todd Mathis (Appalachian Mining Co.), Recorded at the Fidelitorium by Paul Bodamer and Mitch Easter,
Mixed by Paul Bodamer at Jangly Records