Hogan’s Goat – Gritty and Southern FriedThursday, 20th July 2017
Finding more uniquely styled music is becoming something more difficult by the day. It’s not due to lack of inspiration or trying, it’s just the accessibility of it all. So many bands, so many styles, and so many labels and genres. It’s hard for a young band to step into something that isn’t immediately identifiable. Which is why when a band like Hogan’s Goat pops up, it tends to draw some attention from a wider audience.
The band has just released their first, self-titled album and it takes many shapes and forms. There’s metal, there’s rock, there’s southern influences…the dissection part we can leave to the individual. But there’s no denying the hooks and energy that the band provide on their first offering. So we grabbed vocalist John Salmon for a chat to further investigate the band’s origins, their Nashville location, and plenty to digest about their newly released debut.
Dead Rhetoric: First off, how’d the band come to be?
John Salmon: We are all from all over the place. Four out of the five of us moved from different locations to Nashville [Tennessee] for music. I’m the only one that was born and raised here in Nashville. Our guitar player and drummer, Donovan [Bettise] and Wayne [Michel], they are both from Billings, Montana. Our bass player Aaron [Stoner] is from Denton, Texas. Thomas [Banks], who is our lead guitar player, is from Southern Pines, North Carolina.
Everyone kind of moved here, and I was trying to form a band and had reached out to a couple buddies of mine that run studios and they hooked me up with Wayne, our drummer, and we built it from there. We’ve been active for three years, but we changed our name with this release. Our old name was Jack of the Ville. We ended up not liking that name [laughs] so if there was ever a time to rebrand it was now, with the album. The album was originally named Hogan’s Goat, so it was easy for us to just make it a self-titled.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of Nashville, you mentioned everyone moved there for music. Was there a particular style of music that everyone was looking for when they moved there?
Salmon: That’s the thing…no, definitely not. Wayne and Donovan are probably lean heavier towards the metal side of things, where I’m in the southern grit, heavy rock and roll kind of thing. Thomas does a lot of session work – he went to Vanderbilt [University] for guitar and he’s in and out of country sessions all the time and doing things of that nature. And Aaron was in a band called Seryn. I don’t even know what kind of genre they are, but they are pretty sweet. They aren’t heavy at all – I would say something close to indie rock or pop. We are all over the place, and collectively, we just came up with this sound. I think its part of why we are so hard to peg, because all of our influences vary so much.
Dead Rhetoric: Given the background behind the name Hogan’s Goat, you had it for your album title…why chose it for a band name too?
Salmon: Basically, the shortest answer I can give you is that the story of Hogan’s Goat – it’s this ugly, foul smelling creature that you can smell from a mile away and it’s got patchy fur. Our style is kind of against the grain, so we wanted something to symbolize that. There’s a saying too, “Fucked up like Hogan’s Goat” and that’s a drinking term. Something that’s fucked up, we are against the grain in that way. That’s the best way I can put it.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned that the band’s sound is hard to peg; how do you describe yourselves?
Salmon: I think it might still be on our Instagram, but I kind of like the term, ‘Southern hard rock, whisky-soaked gravel metal.’ It’s interesting. We’ve gotten a couple of reviews in and people are saying the whole stoner rock/psychedelic thing…I think that might just be a subconscious overtone for us. There was never a moment in the writing process where we were like, “let’s go all stoner/psychedelic.” I think it’s pretty cool though, because more and more people have said that, and I think it’s kind of eye-opening.
Dead Rhetoric: One of the things that drew me to the album initially was the album cover, with its retro-ish vibe. Could you talk about the artwork itself?
Salmon: We kind of wanted go over the top, like old Judas Priest-esque looking, in an ‘80s/early ’90s kind of thing. I think the grainy overlay – a lot of our influences are from the ‘80s/early ‘90s so it’s kind of an homage to that. The colors and everything about it I’m really happy with. I’m super proud of it. We had a couple ideas before we sent it off to the person illustrating it. This was actually his idea – he sent a couple sketches of our idea and this, and we were like, “yeah, that’s the one.”
Dead Rhetoric: Are you afraid that given the association with goats and metal, that some people might mistake you for a more brutal or satanic metal act based on the cover and your name?
Salmon: That’s something we talked about, and you know, it’s hard to play a hand that hasn’t been dealt yet. For us, we talked about everything…should the next album cover even have a goat on it? Should we print t-shirts with a goat on it? I think that you can’t live like that. I can’t anyways. It may not be the smartest business decision, but for us, we just want to put out what we want to put out. As long as we are happy with the content, that’s basically what it’s all about for us. Obviously, we want people who are listening to the music to be happy with what hear and take what they will from each song individually and the album as a whole. But It’s not something we are particularly worried about at this moment at least. Like you said, we are a relatively new band so we are just hitting the ground running and we’ll see how it evolves from here.
Dead Rhetoric: Sounds like you are planning ahead a little bit. Are you doing any new material now?
Salmon: Oh yeah. These songs, to us, are about a year and a half old. We are trying to remember that they are new to everyone else. We are starting to write a 5-song EP right now and we have about 7 songs written, so we are going to just keep writing and narrow it down from there. We want to hit hard…maybe by the end of this year or early next year with the EP.
Dead Rhetoric: Because there’s no simple way of describing your sound, do you feel there’s a lot of cross-over potential between metal crowds as well as rock listeners?
Salmon: Yeah, I think there’s definitely some cross-over appeal. The issue with cross-over is, “What other genres do we want to appeal to and still stay true to ourselves?” I think the main thing that puts us in the metal realm is the drumming. A lot of double-kick stuff. So we have that, the hard rock, and even the Nashville chicken pickin’ stuff…we have a couple of cool sections on the album that kind of appeal to that as well. For us, it’s about choosing…we don’t want to sound pop, that’s basically what I’m alluding to. We don’t want to sound country, but we want to sound gritty and southern. If it happens to grab a metal listener’s ear – awesome. If it happens to grab a hard rock fan’s ear – awesome. Whoever wants to listen to it – awesome.
Dead Rhetoric: In terms of planning, do you have any short term goals…like in the next six months. And also some long-term goals, like where you’d like to see the band in five years?
Salmon: Short-term, our main priority is and will forever probably be getting on the road. We want to play and we want to travel. For the next six months, we are hoping to book our own tour or jump on the road with a bigger band. That’s our main goal. Six-to-eight months, we’ll hopefully drop that EP I was just talking about. In five years, hopes are high. We’d like to be touring Europe, Australia, Asia, everywhere. We just have to put the footwork in and keep working hard.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems like a lot of those goals involve playing live – how much opportunity have you had to play shows at this point?
Salmon: We were playing quite a bit up until we started recording the album. We started recording around March of last year . We played quite a bit in the fall of 2015, and now we are just starting to book shows again. We just played a Hot Chicken Festival here in Nashville on July 4th. We have our album release on July 18th here in Nashville at The High Watt. We are putting tour dates together now, so hopefully in early October we will be doing a small, southeastern regional tour, or even better, maybe hopping on with somebody bigger.
Dead Rhetoric: So what’s a live show like for Hogan’s Goat?
Salmon: It’s pretty awesome. There’s no telling what we might do. We were trying to get a goat petting zoo at our album release but we weren’t able to get it done in time. There’s no telling what we will do – It’s rowdy for sure. It’s one of those shows that you want to come to, you want to drink, you want to jump around…you might want to punch someone, I don’t know [laughs]. We have also heavily prioritized writing music for the album that is going to translate well live. We aren’t trying to do anything where we write it in the studio but can’t do it live. We don’t want to be that kind of band. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for us, playing live is so important that we want that experience to be memorable for anyone who comes to a show.
Dead Rhetoric: Most people tend to associate Nashville with country. What can you say of the non-country scene down there?
Salmon: Man, there’s just music everywhere. I’d say it’s flourishing. I think that the indie rock scene is pretty big here. There’s a pretty big pop and electronic scene as well. As far as heavy metal and hard rock, it’s not as big as I’d like it to be, but it’s still there and viable. Obviously country is everywhere you turn, and for me as a native, it’s annoying [laughs]. But it keeps the city alive and keeps it thriving…music is music at the end of the day so I’m just happy to be around it.
Dead Rhetoric: The album was released independently, correct?
Salmon: There’s no label. We pitched it to quite a few people, and we got a few responses, but nothing ever made sense for both parties really.
Dead Rhetoric: Is that kind of a goal as well…to get a label contract or are you okay with going the independent route?
Salmon: If it makes sense for both parties, sure, let’s entertain it. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have said, “Yes, we will sign on the dotted line right now!” But the more I learn and the further we progress, if it makes sense it makes sense. You’ll only know when the right offer is put in front of you. If that happens we are all ears for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: We’ve kind of covered this a little bit, but what’s next for the band?
Salmon: Oh man, I gotta decide what I’m going to eat for lunch [laughs]! Hopefully touring this fall – we are working towards that, and we’ll start recording this new EP in a few months. Other than that, just doing the same ole same ole: working hard, putting in the footwork.