Slim Cessna’s Auto Club Don’t Know Why People Call them Gothabilly
American, Not Gothic
Music genres are an endless parade of innovative portmanteaus, mashing up existing words with microniche trends. The one most commonly applied to Denver band Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is gothabilly.
“I don’t know where that came from,” laughs Slim Cessna, the band’s frontman. “I think we’re closer in roots to American folk music. We have our own take on that, obviously.”
And that take is something a bit darker than Woody Guthrie singalongs. Cessa’s lyrics cover some of the same hellfire themes as a southern preacher, his minor-key yodeled melodies more fit for a band like Interpol, and there are times when the licks from Munley Munley’s banjo sounds positively evil. Cessna calls the band “unapologetically gospel.” Dead Kennedy’s frontman Jello Biafra once described Slim Cessna’s Auto Club as “the country band that plays the bar at the end of the world.”
“It’s really nice that Jello would have anything to say about us, because he’s one of our heroes,” says Cessna.
But Jello-worship aside, Cessna feels that apocalyptic bent is right in line with American folk, especially the tradition of murder ballads.
“It’s music coming from people that are having hard times or harder experiences,” he says. “That’s why there’s so many songs about religion or superstition.”
And though as Cessna puts it, “there’s a lot of banjos right now,” that certainly wasn’t the case when the band started out in the ’90s.
“I would think we were the only original band making country music in Denver 25 years ago,” he says.
In that time, Denver’s music scene has exploded and country music has come and gone several times.
“I’m not really sure what it is,” says Cessna. “It comes as a trend and then it disapears again. Maybe that’s just people I know.”
Cessna attributes the band’s longevity to his being stubborn, but says they constantly challenge themselves to keep things fresh by taking the band to places it hasn’t been before.
“I think you can see that throughout the catalog,” says Cessna. “Our first album is just a traditional country and western album. Over the years we’ve grown. I think some of our songs are closer to The Swans than Hank Williams at this point. … There’s always growth. You never go backwards. It might be slower than we want it to be, but watching our music grow and attendance at shows, just things are always better than they were a year ago. It just keeps us moving.”
Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, with The Hollowbodies and Step it Up and Go
9pm Sun., July 19
Club 66, 1951 Hwy. 66, Ashland