Seattle’s Country Lips released their latest album, Till the Daylight Comes in August. The thirteen tracks feature a classic country feel on tunes with quirky lyrics and honest emotion that highlight accordion, fiddle, piano, and dynamic harmonies (and the rotation of three lead vocalists) producing a diverse and unforgettable sound that lends itself to a good time. Before the holidays, front man Trevor Pendras kindly took the time to talk about the band's roots, the album, and more.
The new record and your fourth overall, Till the Daylight Comes, was released August. Going back a bit, how did the eight of you come together to form Country Lips?
We all started out in different bands and when they dissolved, we came together as a collective of musicians who hung out and listened to old country music, which we were all fans of. We thought we’d learn some old country songs for fun, and even though we were a little unpolished, we started booking gigs and found that people really liked the old school, honky tonk sound. In addition to playing the covers, we eventually turned to writing our own songs which allowed us to gig non-stop in town because we knew hours worth of material to play. All that led us to this year  when we finished out our second full-length record and are preparing for our fourth major west coast tour beginning in January.
You have a pretty unique blending of musical styles that you call “Party Country,” which to me, upon listening, really seems like music for the working man who after a long day wants to relax and unwind.
I could see that. Calling it that originally came from the vibe in our earlier shows when we played house parties. There was literally a houseful of people who were excited to party and the music, which has Tex-Mex, polka, accordion, twang, and a bit of the Bakersfield sound, really encouraged people to have a good time.
That it does.
Country Lips consists of eight members – yourself, Austin "Sheriff" Jacobsen, Hamilton Boyce, Miles Burnett, Alex Leake, Jonah Byrne, Kenny Aramaki, and Gus Clark. With such a large group, how do you approach the songwriting and arranging process?
A song usually begins with myself or Hamilton. We present the band with anything from a few lines to an almost finished song, and then we play it a few times and let people find their pocket. We go over it with a fine-tooth comb to open up certain parts like fiddle or accordion and once we do that it becomes obvious what arrangement will work. It takes a lot of discipline and we have to be vigilant about arrangements especially because there are so many of us. We try to leave room for each individual player, but songwriting and performing are definitely lessons in humility because we have a lot of skilled players who at this point could play great solo, but you have to think about what’s going to help the song the most. It’s about the song first, and we’re all okay with that…..it’s never come to anyone having a meltdown (laughing).
Is there any significance to the title of the album?
It comes from a line in “Bar Time.” In the context of the song, we’re complaining about the bartender who wants to kick you out because he wants to go home, but as a drinker, my work isn’t done til the daylight comes, so he or she can’t go home. In the context of our lives, last year we toured relentlessly, probably the most we’ve ever done, working hard trying to be the band that doesn’t stop til the sun comes up. We have a passion for music and in 2017, we want to tour more and see how far we can push it.
The closer is called “True Cross.” Can you tell the story behind that song?
Hamilton and I went to Mexico together a few years ago and we wrote three songs down there - two of which ended up on the previous record, but this one just wasn’t working at the time. After awhile, we decided to tackle the song, which is a waltz, again and we felt like we had a good grasp on what we wanted it to be and put it on this record. The song is about the city of Vera Cruz, which translated is True Cross. It was a pretty dangerous time when we were down there so much so that the concierge at the hotel told us not to go out – which we did anyway. But turns out, after we left, we read in the paper that some cartel dumped a truckload of heads in the middle of highway, which was really dark and grizzly so the verses in the song each tell a picture of something we experienced in Vera Cruz, like the guy on the beach tattooing tourists’ arms, the girl singing mariachi, and the band dressed in suits waiting to be hired.
As the year is coming to a close, is there one record that you would consider your favorite of 2016?
The Growlers released a great record, City Club, that was produced by Julian Casablancas and Daniel Romano’s latest [Mono] was a record I really liked too.
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