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New Oldies: The Distilled Spirit Rebellion Looks Back for Inspiration, But Doesn’t Pretend to be From Another Time

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More and more, “I like all music except rap and country,” is giving way to being sort of into hip hop and country—but only the old stuff, not that Toby Keith crap on the radio.

That’s working out fine for Nazel Pickins, frontman of the Josephine County based Distilled Spirits Rebellion. The band has the sort of sound that answers Hank Williams request to “go honky-tonkin’ country honey baby,” with “sure, but only if you can keep up, fella.” Pickens and crew will be making their way in from the mountains for a performance at The Haul in Grants Pass on Sat., January 21, and he took the time to answer a few questions by email for The Messenger to preview the show.

(Editor’s note: we left many of his unique takes on spelling in place for flavor).


Rogue Valley Messenger: What drew you to your country sound. Was it a deliberate choice or something that arose naturally from the combined musicianship?

NP: Our musical directions go off the map [but] yes, a few of our heroes have always been cowboys. No apologies.

RVM: Are there unique challenges that come with playing in a genre rather than letting the song decide where it wants to go?

NP: The biggest challenge seems to be negotiating around mainstream culture’s concept of “country music” thanks to manufactured soulless bubblegum and chiseled-faced dude-bro’s with twang they call “New Country.” We attempt to weave the more authentic veins of country music.

RVM: So where do you feel a sound like yours fits into the contemporary music world then? Or does it?

NP: Some might call it Alt-Country or Country Rock, but hopefully we don’t get trapped anywhere as we blend and blur the edges of the musics we love with a rural touch and an outlaw spirit…And, while we love classic country and old-time, we don’t deny that we’ve all been forever affected by that naughty hip-swayin’ rock’n roll. We look back for inspiration, but don’t pretend to be from another time.

RVM: So how much of your music is original and how much is covers then?

NP: We tailor our set and mood to the venue and crowd, with rural originals penned from my crooked crayon, classics from Hank to Waylon, traditional favorites and foot-stompers, obscure covers we make our own, and some down-right ramblin’ rockers and cosmic journeys. About a third of our show is originals. They get the strongest response and feel more authentic to play, so I’ve been workin’ on more as we record an album this winter and spring. We’ll unveil a couple at upcoming shows at the Haul in GP and the Homestead in Rogue River.

RVM: What is the thought process for trying to write new old songs?

NP: Writing “new old songs” is the essence of what makes all of this authentic folk music—the unincorporated music of the people from the place and times we live, drawing from familiar wells, within the ongoing continuum of music.


The Distilled Spirit Rebellion

8 pm, Sat., January 21

The Haul, 121 SW H St., Grants Pass



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