Texas Country has become a huge genre of music. Bands come and go every day. For Austin-based band, The Warhorses, it seems that their road to success was littered with fate at almost every turn that kept them together. Army veteran and lead singer Casey Shaw explains, “In 2006, I was in Egypt. I was cruising around MySpace and I came across a band who had a song that I liked. So, I regularly listened to that song while I was working. Never really thought anything else about it. Fast forward a few years. I went to Iraq in 2008-9 and when I came back from Iraq, I was finally settling down and decided to start a band. I put an ad out on Craigslist and these two guys answered (Bassist Seth Tobin and Guitarist Sonny Bihl).”
It turned out that Seth and Sonny were in that band Casey had discovered years earlier in Egypt. “It didn’t really work out. We were all looking for something different at the time. They went their way and I went my way. I was in a band that wasn’t really going anywhere. So, I answered a Craigslist ad and showed up to the audition for a guitar player and harmony vocalist and it’s Seth and Sonny in another band!”
“If this isn’t fate,” explains Sonny, “And I don’t mean to be overly corny, but how many times can we cross Casey’s path and not make something happen?” The Warhorses were born. Veteran musicians Phil Medina came in on drums soon after and guitarist Lucas Seiferman was recently added to bolster the country/rock sound.
Fresh off the release of their new single, “Leaving In Your Eyes,” the band is gearing up for the release of their new self titled album, slated for release in early October. The band has worked hard over the years, building off of their 2014 EP “Regardless” and the success of 2015 single “Heart Like Mine.” The new album is years in the making and with the help of Dave Percefull of Yellow Dog Studios, the band is making the music they’ve been striving for.
“I really do feel like it,” says Sonny Bihl. “A lot of that had to do with how great Dave was, who produced the record. He did such a good job of creating an environment where the best of us could come out, but kept it really authentic. That’s really what we wanted. It’s got that authentic vibe, and that was critical for us.”
Recording at Yellow Dog Studios was great. Bassist Seth Tobin adds, “Not being stressed out! Most of the time, when you go to the type of studios that we want to be in, you pay for time and you have to be out of there by six o’clock. The pressure is on to get it right the first time or be really close to perfect the first time. That’s some pressure. Doing it this way with Dave over at Yellow Dog, we were really able to relax and try out some ideas.”
Casey chimed in, “Whatever it was – a combination of the vibe and a combination of Dave and his producer tricks, I felt like we got creative and got some things out of the process that we wouldn’t have got on our own. That was a real exciting thing for me. We went into pre-production that was going to go one way and what you hear on the record is completely the opposite of what we had rehearsed. And that was just a product of us being in a room together and trying ideas and getting outside the box.”
The result is an album of well written, rock inspired Texas country music. From the honkytonk “I Drink Whisky” to the radio ready single “Leaving In Your Eyes,” it’s entertaining from start to finish. Years of playing together has helped the songwriting process. Casey and Seth share the bulk of the songwriting duties, with the rest of the band fully contributing. “I think it’s funny because, if you talk about this record, most of the songs are so old, it’s probably hard to pick out how they came about to begin with. Really for a lot of these songs, we just poke around with them during practices as a full band, looking for some magic to happen. A lot of times, the magic does happen. Once that initial idea gets some of those sparks then really the songs come together. I’m really fortunate to be in a band with a bunch of guys that, not only do we work well together, but we pretty much know where we fit in so the collaboration part happens pretty easy. We don’t spend a lot of time stepping on each other’s toes.”
Part of the unique attraction of The Warhorses is the wide variety of influences each of them brings to the studio. “I grew up in my dad’s Ford listening to 8-tracks,” says Seth. “Conway Twitty, Hank and Hank Jr, and George Jones. As I got older, I did get into heavy metal. It was Cliff Burton that made me want to play bass guitar. But, since about 2005 or so, I have really fallen in love with the Texas Country Scene. As far as influences, as a more mature player and a bass player, Jeremy Plato is number one. I don’t play anything like him but I wish I did. Playing the shows, I derive a lot from Reckless Kelly and Mickey and the Motorcars. Those bass lines in Reckless Kelly and Mickey and the Motorcars songs line up really well with bass lines that are in bands like AC/DC for example. I feel like people tend to attach to those really well. I don’t emulate that, but I keep that in mind as I’m trying to come up with a bass line. When you listen to my stuff, on this record especially, it is definitely country music, but I insert fills as though it was a rock song.”
Sonny was a late comer to the country vibe as well. “When I was in my teenage years, I didn’t listen to any country music – at all. I was kind of anti-country music. I was living in my fist apartment and a friend of mine comes over and he goes, “You need to check this out! A guy wrote a song about you!” He puts in Robert Earl Keen’s No. 2 Live Dinner and plays “The Road Goes On Forever.” The character’s name is Sonny in the song. They mention the Navy. I actually went into the Navy and got kicked out of the Navy. It was all a coincidence. But that record opened the door to country music that I didn’t know existed. What I found out that I got a little older is that all this Texas Country music was really stories about my life and things I could relate to. Like Seth, my influences are more universal really. I listen to a lot of different music. For me, Reckless Kelly is a huge influence. It has been for the last 15 years or so in Austin since they were kind of more of a club and bar band. But, Slash and Neil Young and a lot of rock musicians that were prevalent in my teens and early twenties are influences as well. Really what I like for me as a guitar player is music that makes you feel something. I’d rather play a couple notes that sound really good and fit the song really well than playing 40 notes that are hard to play or some fancy technique. Neal Young is a good example. It’s really about the feeling than the proficiency of what’s being played.”
Casey’s road to today is a straighter path. “It’s all Country music for me. George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, and a lot of the stuff that was getting popular in the late 80’s. Randy Travis and Keith Whitley which led me to Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Willie Nelson. I got my love for music from that. As I got older I started to get into rock and some other stuff.”
Casey sums up The Warhorses sound eloquently. “I think that’s what makes us unique as a band. You just heard three totally different answers about what influenced us and we take all of those and fuse it into what comes out to the other end on the record. Some people think we’re a country band. Some people will think we’re a rock band. And I like that. Obviously, being a country guy, I feel good when people call us a country band. It’s fun. I like that we can do a real country song like “I Drink Whiskey” and then turn right around and play a rock song like “What Should I Believe” from our first EP. The flexibility to do that is really nice. Everybody in the band gets a say in how the songs go and gets to put their own individual style in it.”
Catch the Warhorses in Temple, Texas, at O’Briens Irish Pub on September 30th!
Get their current single, “Leaving In Your Eyes” on iTunes here!