Local Organic Rock Takes the Stage
Black Dirt Rebellion started when drummer Tom Gidley and guitar player Lee Williams were looking for a something to do. They, along with their bass-playing friend, Chris Farrell, had previously been in the rock band, Slickfist, and the fire to make music was burning again. Chris was occasionally playing with Lance Wade Thomas and was pretty content with where he was. So, Tom and Lee went out searching for musicians who would fit with the sound they wanted to create. They thought it would be a typical Texas country sound.
The first job was to find musicians that jelled with the two. “Tom sent me a text as asked what I was doing.” Ruben Trevino said. Ruben was a self-described “bedroom musician” from Cameron, Texas. He had previously been the rhythm guitar player in the group, Allicit. His immediate response was “Hell yeah!”
The trio tinkered with who they would become, searching for other pieces that would complete their band. For a long time, the three of them came up empty. “We went through six singers and a couple of bass players,” Ruben recalls. Eventually, they came right out and asked talented bassist, Chris Farrell, if he wanted to play with him. It was a natural fit. Luckily, Chris said he thought it would be fun. The band was almost complete.
“We were almost sold on the idea of Lee and Chris taking turns singing,” Tom says. The band had placed an anonymous ad in Craigslist and up to that point, hadn’t had anyone walk through the door that fit. Then, Stephen Perez walked through the door. “There was nothing on the ad that indicated who they were. It just said they wanted a vocalist. Initially, I wanted to play guitar and sing. But, when I hit the door and I saw these guys in here, I knew exactly who was here.” Black Dirt Rebellion was born.
“It took us about half of a rehearsal with him for us to tell him he wasn’t going to be playing guitar anymore,” Tom says. Stephen says, “I never thought I’d be in a rock and roll band.” Stephen had played Christian music and old school classic country music in the past. “I didn’t realize I’d have two of the baddest guitar players I’d ever seen in my life, so I threw the damn thing down.”
The five musicians were a perfect miss-match. Tom says, “There is such a different diversity. Steve comes from hardcore country. I’m a hardcore metal-head. Ruben is a blender of everything. Chris comes from old school classic-rock and country. And Lee? He’s just an alien from everywhere.” It wasn’t easy, but the group jelled quickly and has been building songs and fans. Each gig they have been learning how to tinker with the live show to make it better. Tom says “If there’s three or thirty-thousand, we’re going to kick all of their asses!” Ruben chimes in, “We’re going to be the loudest band you ever saw!”
Having five musicians with that much talent has, so far, been a match made in heaven with the imaginative nature of their playing. The new songs usually start with a riff or an idea from someone in the band, with singer Stephen Perez usually penning the lyrics in one afternoon.
When asked what the long-term goals of the band would be, a quick, “To make good music” was the consensus. Black Dirt Rebellion is looking to get out on the road and play new venues whenever possible. Anything to surprise new fans. They have opened for bands such as Curtis Grimes and 7 Years Today. Each gig brings them a little closer to learning what their true identity is.
“Something that I personally don’t care for is over-produced Nashville music,” says Stephen. “If you don’t get up there and make somebody feel what you feel, what’s the point?”
The band depends on mostly original songs, with a couple of covers mixed in to fill. The band is in the process of mixing and mastering songs to go towards a CD. The ultimate goal is to put out a full length CD, but just like everything else the band is doing, they’re trying to make it happen naturally. Ruben says, “I think that’s what we’re trying to do. Keep it less produced and more raw.” The tracks are recorded live and then edited to keep that live feel to them.
The band name came about as a tongue-in-cheek dig at the stigma of what “Red Dirt” music as become. “We come from black dirt!” proclaims Tom. “We’re going to rebel against the ‘Red Dirt.’ Not that I hate it or anything, but we come from the black dirt!” Fans have, usually unsuccessfully, compared then to others, trying to describe their sound. Black Crowes, Blackberry Smoke, and others have been used. “Honestly, I don’t think we’re trying to set out to sound like anybody,” says Ruben. “We’ve got too many styles within the band.” A mix of country, rock, and soul influences are the main sounds that make up the band.
Black Dirt Rebellion is determined, even though the current climate of radio makes it difficult. “It used to be a lot worse, but there are a lot of new venues popping up that make it easier to play,” stays Stephen. “We’re just always just a little bit louder than we need to be.”
“Its really hard to pitch ourselves because we have some songs that would fit, but there are a bunch that absolutely would not fit (on Texas Country radio)” says Stephen Perez. They make no apologies for the music they are happily making.