Moonshine Bandits Interview
Hick Hop With an Attitude
For two guys who look tough as nails, the heavy-hittin’ Tex and Bird of the Moonshine Bandits are as approachable and friendly as can be. Using their charm and talent, the guys are quickly making their way up the music charts while working and hanging out with some of the biggest names in the industry. The boys recently released their album Calicountry, which is also their debut album on Average Joes Entertainment and Suburban Noize Records labels. The brash songs have a cut-loose beat—it is refreshing, and it kicks the alternative hick hop country music up a notch. The Moonshiner’s genre of outlaw country is filled with a mix of good ol’ Southern country rock and boisterous rebel rap. These guys aren’t afraid to belt out what they’re thinking!
Tex and Bird hail from central California, but it’s not what you think—there’s no liberal Hollywood politics and glam here, not to mention California has also given up its fair share of top-name country artists. As kids they grew up eatin’ the dust and dirt from the hills and fields around the little town of Los Banos. If you aren’t familiar with Los Banos, the place is almost always hot, dusty, and dry. It’s surrounded by agricultural fields and industry. A good majority of the blue-collar folks here bust out a living in farming and agriculture, manufacturing, and construction. For the working class it’s not a place for the meek. Life here isn’t much different than any other rural community—they share the same “up early to work, play hard after the job’s done” values as the people in the states that run up and down Appalachia.
We always wonder how some guys get started in music. We have frightening visions of silly little kids in tights dancing around in front of the mirror singing into Momma’s hairbrush, aka Bieber. But with Tex and Bird we can only think of two fun-loving, hard-working young men with busted and bleeding knuckles and split lips from scrapin’ cutting loose around a campfire or in dank corner bar. The scene is set with little beer, some whiskey and shine, girls dancing, hootin’ and hollerin’ while makin’ tunes out of a proud life. Good ol’ throw-down music is what it is!
Although we’ve listened to many Moonshine Bandit songs, we hit up iTunes for a few days straight so we could put in some hardcore time critiquing the boys’ hick hop country jams. A few songs come with an “Explicit” warning, but since our hides are as thick as the oldest water buffalo, we love the hip hop style music. The Moonshine Bandits’ music genre is geared towards the hard-partying, truck-owning country lifestyle. However, it’s not all outlaw or hip hop music. A great example of this is their song “My Kind of Country.”
Some of the cuts from the Calicountry album are just plain badass and would appeal to a broad spectrum of music lovers. Before the album was released we listened to it for days and couldn’t stop. In the old days, there were A-sides and B-sides to albums—or should we say “LPs”! The B-side usually held the unpopular filler music. Honestly, Calicountry is all A-side beat and we fricken dig it. There’s nothing ghetto about it. “California Country,” “We All country,” “What She Does to Me,” and “Throwdown” are just a few of the songs that serve up good guitar licks, hick hop beat, and our lifestyle lyrics. Joining Tex and Bird on the album is a cast of talent like Colt Ford, The LACS, Jeremy Penick, Sarah Ross, Charlie Farely, and Durwood Black.
We’re hooked on the Moonshine Bandits and we highly recommend checking out Calicountry. The album can be purchased just about anywhere. The partying, four-wheel-drive truck, girl-based tunes bring it home! The Moonshine Bandits’ licks not only mainline a shot of beat, memories, and adrenaline, but they remind us of the fun and tough lives we’ve lived too. The upbeat redneck noise makes us do things we really shouldn’t! Oh, Tex and Bird also have their own line of Outlaw Moonshine. This 90-proof moonshine is available in a number of flavors, like apple pie and peach. We’re waiting for our bottles to arrive so we can review them for ya. Great job, Tex and Bird!
Mud Life: Guys, we are lovin’ the rebel country music you’re creating. We find the hard-charging beat and lyrics mesmerizing and a perfect fit for the lifestyles of the Mud Life folks around the country. Who are your musical influences, and who keeps you going?
Tex: I listen to a lot of David Allan Coe. We are very blessed to have had the chance of doing a few shows with him. He’s a legend. I listen to Cash, Waylon, Jamey Johnson, Hank III, Shooter Jennings. If and when I’m in a hip hop mood, then I like to crank up some West Coast stuff from the ’90s, maybe some old-school Tupac. I like Kid Rock too, or our buddy Uncle Kracker. I listen to all kinds of stuff. I’m a huge John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater fan.
Bird: Like Tex, I also like to lose myself in old country . . . I also like Garth Brooks, George Strait, Doug Stone and a lot of ’80s and ’90s country and rock like Guns and Roses, Motley Crue , and Skid Row. As far as more modern music, I listen to our friends The LACS, Sunny Ledfurd, and Rehab.
ML: You guys are hitting it hard and performing with great country music artists like Colt Ford and The LACS, and you’re also doing shows with Toby Keith and Luke Bryan. Behind the scenes, what are the big names saying about your music, and what goes on backstage?
Tex: As an artist, getting acknowledged by your peers feels pretty damn good. We’ve been fortunate enough to tour with some great bands that have had very successful careers. Kottonmouth Kings, Insane Clown Posse, and Rehab have all brought us out on tours and taught us a lot about life on the road. We are forever appreciative of getting the opportunity, and we hope we can give some upcoming bands the same opportunity in the future.
Bird: For me, it is just an honor to even be on bigger artists’ radars—especially coming from a small town and now having the opportunity to travel the country with some of the same acts that we grew up listening to. For example, in 2013 we were the main support for around 20 dates with Insane Clown Posse, who were very pro and all-around good guys, and right when we jumped off that tour we played with Toby Keith and Luke Bryan, and at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. A lot of drinking goes on backstage! Ha, ha—that’s just how we roll.
ML: Tell us a little about working with The LACS, Colt Ford, Sarah Ross, and Danny Boone (Rehab) on your new album, Calicountry?
Tex: Working with The LACS was awesome because we get along so good. Those guys have a similar style of songwriting as we do, sing-songy hooks with hip hop verses. It only made sense to connect the dots and link up. Sarah is an extremely multitalented rapper and singer, and we were blown away how awesome her verse was on our song “We All Country” with our buddy Colt. We love working with Colt and appreciate all the doors he has kicked open for guys like us. We had Colt appear on one of our biggest songs we have ever written, “For the Outlawz,” so it only made sense to link up again. “We All Country” will definitely be an anthem and show the world that no matter where you’re from or what you look like, you can still be country. It’s a lifestyle. Danny Boone became a close friend that we have known over the years from touring together with Rehab. Danny is one of the best songwriters in the world, period. He’s underrated and a musical genius. I love staying up late with him on the bus drinking whiskey, smoking cigs, yelling, blasting music, and just having a hell of a good time when we are out on the road together. He stayed over my house to write a few songs one night, but we didn’t get one song written cuz we got too wasted.
Bird: Tex summed this one up very good. Yes, working and doing shows with The LACS has been a great experience and I can’t wait to get back out on the open road with those guys and tear shit up this year on the Country Gone Wild Tour. Sarah is badass, and I think she is going to have a great career. I am looking forward to seeing it blossom. Colt is like Tex said, one of those guys that has really opened up doors for guys like us. We had an opportunity to do six shows with him on the West Coast right before Christmas, and every show was a huge success! Boone is a beast. He is so talented and we are privileged to know and work with him.
ML: Out of all your songs, which is your favorite? Does it have a special meaning behind it?
Tex: I really don’t have one single favorite song. Our albums are like a book, and each song is a chapter telling a story so it’s hard to pick just one.
Bird: Great answer, Tex. I can’t single any one song out either because we put so much into every song that they are all special to me and Tex.
ML: Tell us one thing about yourselves that you would like your fans to know.
Tex: I might look like a crazy foul-mouthed tattooed drunk on stage, but at home I have a family and I enjoy every moment with my kids and wife. Whether it’s at a cabin in the mountains doing some trout fishing or just barbecuing in the backyard on our downtime, just being with family in general means a lot to me.
Bird: I am a golf fanatic, and I play every chance I get.
ML: If you aren’t bangin’ out your own music, what do you listen to?
Tex: See the first question for this one probably.
Bird: Same as Tex.
ML: So tell us, how does it feel to find your music on CMT and MTV artists?
Tex: It feels good. Seeing our name on both CMT and MTV is a feeling of accomplishment for not just us, but for the loyal Shiners that helped us get to this point of our career. But I‘m never satisfied. I just set another goal. Our music is far from traditional, so it is great to see any type of recognition.
Bird: It is just nice to see that after all of these years grinding out what we do, that our good fans, the Shiner Nation, have blessed us enough to be on MTV and CMT and other great sites and on TV and radio stations.
ML: We have driven along Interstate 5 and up and down Highway 99 hundreds of times. Man, that’s a whole lot of hard-working country. What bars and venues did you start off at?
Tex: We’ve played every type of venue you can think of. We’ve played some motorcycle clubhouse parties that have gotten really wild—some things I can’t even speak about in this interview. We’ve played awesome mud bogs in Texas, biker bars, biker festivals, country festivals, military bases, MMA events, and music venues all over the United States. We’ve done close to a thousand live shows. A promoter named Chris Ricci for The Fat Cat Music Lounge in Modesto helped build our fan base, the biggest in our home area. He gave us the chance to open for Digital Underground (multiplatinum hip hop group) on a Thursday, and Chris Ricci was blown away by our show. We had been sending Chris our CDs for years and we would always got rejected. The next thing you know Chris had us playing at his X-Fest festival in Modesto for 15,000 people and eating dinner at his house with his family, so it all worked out. We pride ourselves in our live shows. It’s not just about the music, it’s an overall experience that Shiners can meet other Shiners and forget about their problems, worries, or work for the night!
Bird: See Tex’s answer for Modesto. We have had several good promoters over the years who have helped and believed in what we are doing and our style of music. For instance, Ole Persson from Diamondback Entertainment in Humboldt County, California, really broke us in to the Northern California scene. We have probably played over 30 shows in that region in the past eight years, which has really opened doors for us in those markets.
ML: What kind of trucks and off-road machines do you guys own? Do you hit the mud and four-wheel?
Tex: I had a ’63 International Scout in high school that I would take mudding—damn, I miss that thing. What a punkass kid I was to get rid of it cuz I couldn’t afford the gas. Now I have a black Escalade and it’s four-wheel drive and I’m not afraid to get it dirty if I have the time. My other vehicle is a black Cadillac CTS that my wife mainly drives. I had a lifted ’88 Stretch Lincoln Limo with mudders and it can be seen in our music videos, but I sold it to a buddy that did a lot of the labor on it. I’ve always liked Caddys though, and I always like black paint jobs. I’m currently shopping for a Chevy truck, of course all black. I’ve had a lot of vehicles come and go—I get that from my dad—but we always seem to buy high and sell low. Ha, ha, ha.
Bird: I have an F-150 Super Crew, and I used to take it to Pismo Dunes a lot back when we had downtime. As the mud culture is beginning to grow here in Cali, I will be looking to add a Razor to my collection.
ML: Are you guys family men?
Tex: Yep. Wife and two kids, plus I have a fat English Bulldog named Harley whom I consider to be part of our family too when he’s not chewing up my bar stools. They all mean the world to me. My parents live around the corner, and my cousin’s family lives behind me. I try to surround myself with family. That’s why I preach family to our Shiners so that we all can help each other in times of need.
Bird: Recently single, but on the prowl. Ha, ha, ha. Our job demands a lot from Tex and me, and we are gone a lot. Tex has a great woman who has kept us together many times when we wanted to give up.
ML: Where do the women send their photos so they can get in on your videos?
Tex: Ana Sterling Olson, aka Outlaw Ana, works for us, and she is basically a lifesaver for us. She is constantly scouting girls for us and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have the tough job of looking at photos and seeing if the “talent” is adequate enough for our video!
ML: You two look like a tough crowd! Is it safe for fans to approach you and say hello?
Tex: My mom always taught me to never judge a book by its cover. Don’t let the mohawk or tattoos fool you—that’s just our way of telling the industry we don’t conform to your perception of what you think “country” is supposed to look or sound like. Actually, we pride ourselves in being approachable. We have worked so long for the position we are in that we feel extremely blessed and enjoy meeting people and hearing their stories. We often use their stories to fuel inspiration for songwriting. If anyone has been to our shows, then they know we can be found at the bar after our performance signing autographs or slamming a shot of Jäger or Fireball with someone. Granted, there are times we’ve done 20 shows straight and we need to go to sleep right after our show just to survive a grueling tour schedule, but for the most part we are definitely approachable.
Bird: One of my favorite things to do after we get off stage is to meet the good folks that paid good money to see us, hang out, take some pics, and slam some drinks.
ML: Did you guys grow up together and around the country working-class party scene?
Tex: Bird and I met in high school and have been friends ever since. In high school we would go to a lot of keg parties in the country, or shop parties, or even canal bank parties. Before high school dances we would leave an ice chest full of beer out in the cotton field. One time we went out there to go get our stash, and the ice chest was completely empty. To this day we don’t know if my uncle drank it and he knew what we were doing or if another farmer stole it. We had some crazy nights and did a lot of stupid shit and survived. We are from the Central Valley part of California, and it’s very well known for its agriculture. My grandfather owned and operated a seed and bean business for years. My uncle works for John Deere. My cousin helps run the biggest tomato processing plant in the world. My other cousin works on GPS systems for tractors, and a lot of our friends are in the Ag or farm business so blue-collar work and farming is thick in our neck of the woods. My brother-in-law and a lot of friends work for the water district too, which supplies the water for farming. My dad runs a farmers market/flea market here in our hometown where many locals go to buy their produce.
Bird: Tex nailed it. My family is very similar. My dad owns a construction business and I used to work for him before things got crazy with our career. He also raises cows and is in the hay business. My brother is a ranch foreman for one of the major almond outfits in California. My mom is a local bookkeeper for several of our local farmers. Pretty much all of our friends here in town and in the area do something related to either farming or ranching, like beef cattle, dairies, and sheep.
ML: Way back in 1999, what got you two to start throwing songs together?
Tex: We both shared a strong passion for music. We would be at parties out in the country, and we’d rap or sing along to our favorite songs just for fun. Then we started writing lyrics in high school and using karaoke machines to record on. After getting enough confidence and money saved up, we hit a studio in San Jose, California, to record our very first song. The rest is history.
Bird: Thanks Tex. Once we made our first demo, we put it out in our local CD shop called Fantasia and sold a ton of CDs.
ML: We’re hoping to get our hands on a few bottles of your Outlaw Moonshine soon. Can you tell us something about the 99-proof unaged grain whiskey that will make us want to drink it?
Tex: It’s by far the smoothest moonshine we’ve ever tasted—and believe me, we’ve tasted a shitload of moonshine from all over the United States. I am so confident that our shine is the best out there that I am willing to put up a “Friendly $1,000 Blindfold Taste” challenge to any of the other moonshines that are sold in retail. Outlaw Moonshine comes in three flavors: peach, original, and our favorite, which is apple pie.
Bird: You can also download the Outlaw Moonshine app on your smartphones.
ML: We know you love your Outlaw Moonshine, but what brand of beer do you drink?
Tex: Cold and/or free beer and Coors Light! I prefer Stella when I’m at the airport because it’s stronger and gets the job done quicker.
Bird: I don’t often drink beer, but when I do, it’s Dos Equis! Ha, ha, ha—just kiddin’. Coors Light or anything cold.
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Special Thanks To:
Average Joes Entertainment