December 28, 2022 Music
Album titles come from a lot of different places. For Hectic Hobo, their latest came from the realization that for some people, the natural world has become just a form of entertainment and online engagement-hunting.
One of the best examples of this is the title track on their album, American Bison. Frontman Hasen Cone detailed a trip he took with family down to Yellowstone, and a hilarious encounter with a fellow tourist.
“There was a buffalo in the field, and we’re all standing behind the fence, and there was a single buffalo and there’s this guy with his camera and his kid, and he’s just like, ‘Come on man, come on,'” Cone recounts. The tourist tried and tried with all his might to get the creature to turn around for that great shot, but it just didn’t want to cooperate. “The guy started getting so pissed and his kid was like, ‘It’s okay, Daddy,’ and the guy’s like, ‘No, it’s not,'” Cone shared. He never got the photo, but the band got great inspiration for the title track.
“The line from the song is, ‘How can he post a picture of just a hump?’ How can this guy post a picture on Instagram of just the back hump of a buffalo? He needs that face shot,” Cone said.
The song jests and makes fun of the idea that for some, nature is just a form of entertainment, something to post online. The song emerges from the perspective of this person who longs for the perfect shot, and when they don’t get it, it’s as if they’re leaving a one-star review of the experience, as disgruntled people are wont to do.
Cone goes on to sing, “This park blows / Let’s go home / I’m done / Next year I’m taking you to Hawaii son,” perfectly encapsulating the hilarious encounter with this tourist, and creating a fun narrative for listeners to enjoy at the beginning of the album.
The longtime SLC Americana veterans have been creating music for about 15 years, playing their brand of whiskey-soaked, narrative-driven rock n’ roll, and they show no signs of stopping. In fact, American Bison is a favorite for the group—and they’ve been having a blast sharing it with the community.
Like many bands with a long and storied history, Hectic Hobo has gone through lineup changes over the years, but according to Cone, this lineup is the best it’s been. The five-piece features Cone on vocals and guitar, Eric Peatross on keys and vocals, Nicholas Newberry on accordion, TJ Johnson on drums and Christian Mills on bass and vocals.
While members have come and gone, the name has stayed the same over the years. “We’ve always kind of had this Americana vibe, very storyteller,” Cone said. “Even though it might not always sound like it, I always thought a lot about Woody Guthrie and some of those old folk singers, so that’s where the ‘hobo’ comes from. Then ‘hectic’ was more of a reference back in our younger days when we had a lot more stage energy, jumped around a lot more. It was just kind of describing the nature of the band. I wouldn’t call us hectic anymore, but I think the hobo part is still definitely there.”
The sound has varied in the time they’ve been playing, but the group has always enjoyed a wild west Americana sound dabbling in vibes that hearken to Eastern European folk music. “We used to do a lot more of that. We’ve kind of over the years just funneled into more just songwriter Americana,” said Cone. “But we have a new song on the album called ‘Girl Like You’ that we all like playing, because it reminds us of a lot of the old songs we used to play in that style, which we haven’t done as much anymore.”
While “Girl Like You” is a bit of an outlier, the majority of the album leans on Hectic Hobo’s Americana roots. “That style of Americana folk music just really lends itself to storytelling in a way that people can hear the lyrics as opposed to some other genres,” Cone said. “A lot of effort goes into the storyline and the characters and the strange situations they’re in.”
Hectic Hobo have tried to keep the storytelling elements in their music, but there were times they lost sight of it a bit. “We’ve struggled to try to keep the lyrics to act as a lead instrument with all these,” Cone said. “There’s been times we’ve had seven or eight players in the band. We’ve had horns, we’ve had fiddles, we’ve had other guitars. We’ve had all sorts of things. And I always feel like the more people in the band, the more fun we have on stage, but the less the stories get to shine through.”
American Bison does just that. It’s a rich and vibrant journey that takes listeners on an adventure filled with campfire stories and heartbreak. Cone mentioned that this album has a different vibe than their previous work, and some of that has to do with the pandemic. “A lot of it was written sitting at home during lockdown with my guitar and having a different perspective on the world than I had ever had,” he said.
“I’ve loved every record that we’ve made, but there’s something different about this one that I feel more proud of,” Cone detailed. “I feel like we’ve each gotten better at what we do personally, every year and every album. “I feel like the songs are just higher quality.”
Catch Hectic Hobo playing their new album at Lighthouse Lounge in Ogden on Friday, Jan 6 at 9 p.m. Cover charge is $5, well worth an evening of epic Americana.
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