The loins are sizzlin’ at The Rodeo Boys’ practice pad. Two mounds of marinated flesh are on the downhill side of done, according to TRB keyboardist Ben Warren and drummer Clayton Scrivner, who are in charge of the grill while guitarists Brett Ludemann and George Elliot work out new bits of songs in the basement laundry room.
Grilling—and swilling—are an integral part of practice for the band. Music is a priority, but then, so is having fun. Practice, in earnest, begins only after the tasty loins are consumed. Warren and Scrivner, sated, set down plates and utensils, pick up beers, and proceed downstairs where they settle behind a Fender Rhodes/Polyvox synth and drum kit. Francis, the band’s black Lab mascot that sometimes “drops deuces” among the tangle of instrument cords and boxes of empties, looks on. It smells like fabric softener and stale beer. Time to rock.
The band members, arranged in roundtable fashion, consult each other on what to play first. Something new? Something older, but rehearsed and tight? They choose a tune and the jam session begins under strands of Christmas lights and a convenience store “tapestry.” Elliot and Ludemann play similar progressions on acoustic guitars in drop-D tuning, Scrivner beats the shit out of his drums. Warren’s long fingers depress keys, but no sound is heard. Everyone sings. Without the benefit of a soundman, The Rodeo Boys sound less than crisp. But that’s OK. This is practice, and practice means do-overs. If they feel like it.
TRB were originally less a band than three guys (Warren was a latecomer) jamming and playing loose, drunken indie pop for loose, drunken patrons of places such as Burt’s Tiki Lounge. The idea was simply to have fun, until they got it into their heads that they might try to be … good.
“We played SXSW when we were still a three-piece,” says Scrivner. “We got smoked bad in the first round. We felt a little like we might suck. I think we were a little hurt, [but we acted] like we don’t care what people think, even though we do.” TRB upped the ante, deciding to “get a little serious, get another member … maybe someone with more musical talent than us.” Along came Warren, whose keyboards provided the missing link. “The day he brought his Rhodes over to the house, we got 10 times better. Then we started buying all this gear. We basically declared war on ‘suck.’”
By their own admission, it’s an ongoing battle, but with Warren’s Rhodes and Russian Polyvox synth (purchased on eBay for $550—plus $350 shipping), providing an extra layer of melody, the band’s indie pop has become something more substantial and … good. Their often hilarious ditties about “Bill Gates & the Emoticons,” “Ecstasy Dad” and “Easy Bake Lovin’” became vibrant, melodious—still funny—songs. The Rodeo Boys now, says Ludemann, is about “exploring the infinite possibilities of sound, taking advantage of our eclectic ensemble of instrumentation and musicianship, having a good time in the process, and doing it all over again day after day.”
That is not to say that TRB shows are no longer beerfests. The party element remains intact, mostly because the band is rooted in friendships and fun. And as long as the loins remain tasty, the beer stays cold and plentiful and the washer isn’t spinning off-center, The Rodeo Boys will play. One day, they might even make an album (until then, you can hear songs at www.TheRodeoBoys.com). Right now, however, the goal is simply “to have more than ten close friends show up to our shows,” says Scrivner. “And we want those people to dance … get jiggy, for the love of God. And from there … fucking world tour!”