The yardsticks for measuring a band's success come in all sizes and shapes. Rarely, when the right manager is able to align the stars, a band experiences more than one type of success, whether it be money and fame or fame and dedicated fans, or just subsistence and happiness or women and free drinks.
The guys of Denton, Tex.-based Slobberbone are doing OK in the money department, having no problems filling large venues across the U.S. They've also experienced something many bands never get-admiration from their own idols.
Their sound, which began as alt-country and has become more stripped-down Midwestern rock based around singer Brent Best's poetically thoughtful lyrics, has attracted the attention of novelist Stephen King. The horror maestro mentioned their song, “Gimme Back My Dog” in his best-selling book, Black House. Even more important to the band, however, was a review of their second album, Barrel Chested, that Best happened to see in a weekly paper he picked up in Oxford, Miss. It was written by his favorite author of all time, Larry Brown, who lived in the area and made it to the show.
“So we're in this crappy little roadhouse fixin' to play,” Best recalls in a raspy southern drawl. “I was coming out of the bathroom and a guy comes walkin' in. I kind of recognized him, but wouldn't have placed him and he's like, ‘Brent Best?' and I was like, ‘Oh my gawd, Larry Brown!'''
“We ended up going on really late 'cause we just sat and drank and talked about fishing and books and stuff. We've stayed in touch-he's written me ever since.”
If that wasn't enough, Slobberbone-made up of Best, guitarist Jess Barr, bassist Brian Lane and drummer Tony Harper-even found a fan in legendary producer, Don Smith, who's known for his work with rockers like the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, to name a few. Smith's $2,000-a-day recording studio wouldn't have been an option for a few poor rockers if he didn't swing them a deal.
“Don ended up doing the record because he was really into the band,” Best explains. “This was something that would have been unattainable for us, but we ended up paying like fifteen bucks an hour.”
Not only did Smith help Slobberbone record a great album in three weeks; he also gave them the rock 'n' roll experience of a lifetime, regaling them with intimate tales about their idols.
“He'd be telling a story, and you'd realize he's talking about Dylan or George Harrison,” Best says. “One day he brought in this video tape. It's Petty and Mike Campbell with the Traveling Wilburys when they were first writing the songs for the first album in Mike Campbell's garage. There's like two hours of Roy Orbison singing vocals and screwing up and chain smoking. It was just amazing.
“Everything we used, all the amps and guitars were either Keith Richards' or the Heartbreakers. One day we actually went to Mike Campbell's house and cut organ tracks. It was fun. It was like the L.A. rock 'n' roll, classic rock experience and meanwhile, we got to cull a record out of it.”
The classic rock experience may explain why their new album, Slippage, is the most rock of their four releases to date. Four Texans in L.A., visited by the ghosts of rock's past, present and future, partially setting aside their country roots and showing that the oil state boys are no strangers to the history in Don Smith's house.
Slobberbone performs with the ScotchGreens and Bartender's Bible at the Casbah on Jan. 15. 619-232-4355.