Exclusive Premiere: Check Out The Warden's Adair's- and East Dallas-Loving Debut Single.
About a year or so ago, Ward Richmond got an itch to put his old band back together.
Following the birth of his daughter, he experienced a flood of creative energy and soon had an album's worth of songs that he thought would surely become the next Boys Named Sue record.
Alas, it wasn't to be. While the rest of the band was on board with the idea, ultimately John “Sue A” Pedigo's schedule was too busy with his other band — The O's — to carve out enough time to make it work. Rather than let the project die, though, Richmond pressed on under the new name of The Warden, recording the songs himself with the help of The Von Ehrics frontman Robert Jason Vandygriff, who produced the collection.
And with the more than two decades experience each had from playing around North Texas, plenty of old pals were available to be called in to help flesh out the tracks — like True Widow's D.H. Phillips and Patrick McAlister alternating on lead guitar, Paul Burnside on bass, Bruce Alford on the drums, Chad Stockslager on keys and Burton Lee on pedal steel, in addition to several horn players and many other guest appearances. Even Pedigo drops in long enough to contribute a verse in the album's standout track, “Our Town,” an autobiographical take on the 20 years he and Richmond have spent playing in bands together. That song also features a verse from Vandygriff and backing vocals from Madison King.
It's a horn-filled, country-tinged tune filled with East Dallas references and an undeniable chorus — and one that we're quite stoked to premiere below. Worth noting: When you pre-order The Warden's debut album from iTunes, “Our Town” is one of two songs you'll be able to download instantly ahead of the whole disc's October 9 release date. So check the song out, then stick around for a Q&A with Richmond below.
How long as The Warden project been in the works?
I always write songs, and I'll get on a songwriting kick and get super creative and write a bunch of songs. I guess it occurred when my daughter was born last year in May. I would sit around with her and play guitar. Whatever that little switch is in my brain, she just flipped it. I initially thought of is as, “Let's do another Boys Named Sue record.” I had all these songs and I talked to [John] Pedigo about it and all those guys. The O's are super busy doing their own thing and they were about to go into the studio to record their own album. I met with [Robert Jason] Vandygriff to go drink beers and hang out. I don't know if you're familiar with him, but he played in this band called The Von Ehrics. When Slick 57 played a bunch, we'd go on tour with them, probably from '04 to '06. He's been producing stuff. I'd just see it on Facebook and I let him know. The Sue record, there was just no way it was going to happen. My impatient personality got the best of me, and he talked me into it. We just decided to go do it. I called a bunch of my buddies, booked some time at the Echo Lab and went out there and did it. That conversation occurred in February of this year, and then we recorded it in May. We did one rehearsal with drums and bass and went in the studio. I think we recorded it in seven days.
Are there any plans to put some sort of band together to play this stuff live?
I think everybody — the core band that played on the album — is down to do that. Again, it's just the busyness of everybody's lives… I don't have a plan in place right now. Mission accomplished by recording the album to begin with. I know we're going to do a show — and then, I think, once we do one show, we'll probably do more shows. We don't have our sights set on touring or trying hit the big time or anything. I do have a lot of connections over in Europe from the Slick 57 days, so if a European tour popped up, that would be a nice little way to go on vacation, which I've done before. But no shows booked as of yet.
I think the idea of not necessarily wanting to hit it big comes across on the record. There's a lot of lyrics throughout that kind of hit on that theme that you've been doing this for a long time and you sound kind of resigned to the fact that going out and conquering the world may not be in the cards anymore at this point.
Yeah, exactly. With Slick 57, we really totally had that attitude. We released our first album in '98, but then in 2002 we signed with this Australian record label at SXSW. They basically bought us plane tickets and we did 30 days in Europe, 30 days in Australia and New Zealand, and then back to the U.S. and toured nonstop there. Literally, speaking to journalists, we were going to conquer the world. That was the mentality of that band. Ten years ago, we had done that. We played a bunch. We started Boys Named Sue to have something to do every night when we were at home from the road with Slick. That's kind of how the Sues came about. I just woke up one day and — it seemed like a dream job, but once you get in there and you're doing it every day, you realize that this is not a dream job. It's a very difficult job and it's a lot of work. To get paid properly is pretty much impossible no matter what level you're at. You meet people at other levels that might be touring and playing theater shows and selling them out every night and they're having just as tough of a time as we were having playing in a van and sleeping in it. Some people are cut out for that life. For me, I loved every second of it, but at a certain point in time, it was all I needed. In terms of writing songs and doing that, it'll never stop.
There's a lot of lyrics about Dallas in these songs, especially in “Our Town,” which plays further into that mentality that you're just going to play to the fans here and not really care what people in other parts of the world think.
It's funny seeing a couple of the first reviews that have come in from Florida and L.A. that are like, “I bet if you live in East Dallas you might really get this.” It's a little bit esoteric, but that's what I write about it. I don't try to do anything too groundbreaking. This if our life, and I love it. I think we live in a really cool community. I don't necessarily need the world to know about it, but I at least wanted to record my perspective on it.
Some of the lyrics in that song are about Adair's, which you've told me before you've been banned from a couple of different times.
Yeah, with Slick 57. I think it was 1998, and we really catered to the rockabilly crowd at that time. We kind of evolved from straight rockabilly into a cowpunk thing towards the end of our run, but at the beginning we were very rockabilly. We had this big rockabilly crowd come out at Adair's, and it was our first Friday night to play there. Adair's had a private party — it was still open to the public, but they had this event for FBI agents. So it was half FBI agents and half rockabilly people at Adair's. Jam-packed. Of course, this brawl broke out. It was like the movie Cry-Baby — y'know, the rockers and the Whiffles. We just kept playing. Lois [Adair] ran Adair's at that time, and she saw it like we were instigating the fight to keep going. It was a total barroom brawl, these straitlaced guys and these rockabilly guys. It'll never leave my mind. Then Slick 57 was banned from Adair's. Then, we started the Sues, which was a lot more honky-tonk. We brought a different crowd and it was all cool. Then Joel [Morales] bought Adair's and we had a show booked. It was really just a big misunderstanding, but Bobby Sue, our fiddle player, sprained his wrist and did not want to play the Adair's show, because an Adair's show is three sets. The night before, we had an AllGood café show, which is a one-hour set. On that Saturday, Pedigo had to go to a wedding in Memphis. So, basically, instead of telling Joel that Pedigo's got to go to a wedding in Memphis, we just told him that Bobby Sue sprained his wrist. But then he found out that we played AllGood the night before and thought we were pulling a fast one on him. We did cancel at the last minute. He banned us again for three or four years. We played Adair's once a month for four years before that. Those were sad days. We'd go in every now and then and beg Joel [to let us play] and he'd be like, “Sorry, you guys fucked me.” One day, three or four years later, he said, “OK, let me buy you guys a shot,” and we made up and we were allowed back in Adair's. So that lyric is 100 percent true.
“Miller Lites and shots and fights.”
Another thing I like about the record — and, again, it's a big player in “Our Town” — is that while it appeals to the honky-tonk and country crowd, it's got the nice addition of the horn arrangements that takes it to another place beyond just being just a straight country thing.
I wrote most of the songs last summer. “Bullets,” that song I do with Madison [King], is an old Slick 57 song. “Salvation” is an old Boys Named Sue song that we recorded back in 2006 that I didn't really like. I wrote it all on an iPhone and played it for Jason. The first thing he said was, “I just have these horn parts in my mind.” I was like, “Really?” I mean, I love that last Lucero album, I'm a huge fan of it. I sent him “Women and Work” and asked him, “Do you mean like this? Because this is fucking badass.” Jason had these horn guys in Denton and I had never even met them before. I was out of town when they did the horn parts in the studio, so I haven't even got to meet these guys. But Jason arranged and recorded the horn parts with these guys. It adds another dimension to these songs. I wish I could have had them on all the songs, but you know how it goes. But we got them when we could.
The Warden will be released on Friday, October 9, via Idol Records. A listening party will be held at Lakewood Landing on Thursday, October 8.