It’s the day before Thanksgiving and The Yawpers are driving somewhere across Kansas on the way to a show. The cell phone has dropped out for the third time during City Paper’s conversation with Nate Cook, the lead singer of this Denver-based three-piece whose music is a mix of hard rock, Delta blues and outlaw country, with a splash of punk thrown in for good measure. Cook, along with slide-guitarist Jesse Parmet and drummer Noah Shomberg, are on tour promoting their new record, American Man, through April. Cook took time out to talk to CP in advance of the band’s Dec. 4 show at the Thunderbird Café.
The new record has a really great, raw sound to it. I read somewhere that you described it as “Exile on Main Street on meth.” What did you mean by that?
[Laughing] That whole “Exile on Main Street on meth” was just some shit we threw at people who ask us what to call our music. I mean, who gives a fuck, right?
You guys finished the album last year and then put it on the shelf while you searched for a label. You’re now touring to promote that album 18 months later. Do you feel like it still represents where you are as a band?
The process is kind of exhausting and backwards. By the time the record comes out, you’ve already written the songs, and gone out and played them to death, and people are getting excited over them. But we are still happy with it and it’s still very much a part of who we are.
- Photo courtesy of Paul Beaty
- The Yawpers (Nate Cook, center)
“Doin’ It Right” is a great song off American Man, but you probably played it hundreds of times before the record came out. Do you ever start to hate a song?
There’s never any hatred, although, occasionally it catches the vibe of “going to work.” But, for the most part, we love playing live so much that playing a certain song is like shaking the cobwebs out of your head first thing in the morning. It’s like having that first cup of coffee in the morning — to help start the day with a positive attitude, as some fucking corporate schmuck might say.
I’ve listened to the album and I’ve watched videos of you guys live. It’s almost like you transform into another band on stage.
We recorded this record live in analog to try and reproduce the feel of our live shows as much as possible. A live show is so much different. We try to put on these very frenetic, very charismatic live shows, sort of like Nick Cave and cats like that, only maybe not as theatrical. I like the idea of being up there like some sort of snake-oil salesman or … well, I almost said “revivalist,” but I fucking hate it when these Americana bands come out and say, “Oh, I’m like some old-timey revivalist!” I fucking hate that. They can suck my dick with that shit. But playing live is more spiritual. It allows you to dig down to a core visceral level to see who we are as musicians. We live and die by our live shows.
The instrumentation of the band is two acoustic guitars, one with a slide, and a drum kit, so how are you able to pull the really powerful sound that you do?
It was an organic process. In the beginning we were a little more folky, but I am an incredibly angry fucking human being, and [it was] only a matter of time before that took over … [cell-phone signal drops for third time].
I guess the cell-phone reception in Kansas is a little spotty.
Yeah, what the fuck? There are so many self-righteous zealots out here you think they’d have decent wi-fi or put up a couple of extra fucking cell-phone towers, so they’d be able to properly share the drivel and nonsense that pours out of their mouths.
So, I guess religious zealots make you angry. What else makes you mad?
Zealots of any kind piss me off, actually. That’s a lot of what this record was about — the death of the individual being able to speak openly about things without being scrutinized or called out for it. Of course, I’m talking about the right wing, but even people who lean to the more progressive side like me have gotten so PC that they’re beating individualism out of the conversation. Out of what I think the vision of America originally was — you can do whatever you want as long as you weren’t hurting anybody. The culture of coddling is beating the shit out of this country. Just look at what passes for folk music. It’s this Mumford & Sons lullaby horseshit they use to sell more Apple computers, and so white people can pay $80 a ticket to feel better about themselves — that pisses me off.
You grew up in Texas. Were you raised in that far-right atmosphere?
My mom was an officer in the Air Force, and she was religious and very Catholic, but she really encouraged critical thinking. My family was on the left end of the spectrum, but every other person around us was the opposite of that. I was in an enclave of progressive thought surrounded by a sea of shit. I think I came out of the womb pissed off.