The Von Ehrics

by Mike Huberty
April 2009

The Von Ehrics

The Von Ehrics

Seemingly effortlessly mixing the speed and aggression of punk rock music with the structure and twang of country music, Dallas trio, THE VON EHRICS, (named after the infamous Texas professional wrestling clan) write and play memorable cowpunk that veers between the heavy and the heartfelt in equal measure without ever sounding an untrue note (as one of their songs mentions, when you see a VON EHRICS show, you have an equal chance of hearing Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Rancid, or Bauhaus.) The two founding members, lead vocalist and guitarist Robert Jason Vandergryff (is there a more regal rock name in existence?) and bassist Jeffery Wayne Mosley (name checked in a song for being known to cause trouble south of the border), have been playing together since 2000. After a string of drummers, finally solidified the lineup in 2005 with San Antonian Gabe Aguilar on the drums.

Their 2003 CD, Damn Fine Drunks, was a whirling album of razor-like guitars, four-on-the-floor high-speed train drums, and hilarious and thoughtful lyrics that talk about broken hearts and broken bottles and the hard living that comes from the life of a traveling performer. It was that year as well, that the band decided to hit the road and they’ve continued tour around the country several times a year as well as staying busy in their home region of the Southwest US. In 2005, they released their second full-length CD, The Whiskey Sessions.

Not ones to stray too far from their well-established themes of hard living and wicked women, their latest record released this month is called Loaded. Another reliably memorable collection of songs in the style they call “Steve Earle meets Motorhead”, it also has a special connection to Wisconsin because it was recorded in Madison (with local rocker Gavin Lefebvre, handling the production duties) and is also being distributed by Madison record label Crustacean Records. As to the unusual connection from Texas to Wisconsin, Vandergryff says, “Madison was just one of those cities where we caught on. A place that’s always been really friendly to us… and a lot of people say this, but as someone who’s lived in Austin, Madison and Austin are a lot alike. It’s the capital, sure, but it’s also a little town that’s completely different than everything else that surrounds it.” They recorded it this past winter right after Christmas and leaving warm weather for the harsh Wisconsin winter season could be taxing. “The cold was a big change, but a lot of the time we’d end up going out and having a good time because that’s what everyone did in the cold. And so some of the next days in the studio were rougher than others.” Having a reputation as a hard-partying band, though, only goes so far. “We do talk about that kind of life”, Vandergryff says, “but with this newest record, people have been using the word ‘reflective’ a lot.” Taking the last half of 2008 off as he had his first child and also taking the time to write the new album, he says, “We’re still writing about some of the same themes”, indeed, there’s songs called “Loaded All Day” and “Buy Me A Drink”, “but I think sometimes some of our gospel influences really shine through a little more here” (something you can really hear on the album’s closing track, “Lost, Found, Free”, as acoustic guitar and piano accompanies Vandergryff’s earnest voice and when you reach the end of the song, make sure to keep it playing for a wonderful throwback to old-time country radio.)

As far as their future’s concerned, THE VON EHRICS are planning to tour for the rest of the year on this record and are working on a European excursion for the Fall. Then Vandergryff says that their next record might be a punk treatment of their favorite gospel songs (Damn Fine Drunks closed out with an incredible sped-up version of “I’ll Fly Away”.) For right now though, they’ll be in Madison for a special early show at The Frequency on April 18th at 5:30pm. As to what new listeners can expect, “It’s a high-energy show”, Vandergryff says, “and a place to have a good time. People respond to us because we’re authentic, we’re really guys that grew up in small town in Texas, that’s who we are, and we play our version of the music we grew up with. The cowboy hat is real.” You can hear every cigarette burn and beer stain on Loaded as well. It’s like a cage match between Johnny Cash and The Ramones and it’s one of 2009’s most listenable independent albums so far.

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Von Ehrics
CD: Loaded Record Label: Crustacean Records
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