Jeff Smith of the Hickoids Talks Punk Favorites, Muddy Roots Festival and More (INTERVIEW)

Austin, Texas band the Hickoids has blended punk and country on and off for more than three decades. The band’s history stretches from playing with hardcore bands in the 80s to the recently released album All the World’s a Dressing Room: Live in L.A. By phone from Spain lead singer Jeff Smith discussed opening for Black Flag, the band’s “punk meets the roadhouse” sound, and the band’s history with L.A. cowpunk bands.

Glide Magazine: How’s it going in Spain and France?

Jeff Smith: It’s been going well. We just got back to Spain. We were in France for a few days. We’re going to do a little recording here in Barcelona.

GM: For a new album?

JS: Yeah. We don’t have a full album worth of stuff prepared. We have about four songs and a tribute-album thing, this other goofy cover that we started doing a while back.

GM: Your first show was in 1984 opening for Black Flag and Meat Puppets. How old were you at the time and what was that experience like for you?

JS: I was 20 I believe. It was a great show. That was when Black Flag was entering the mainstream I guess. I had previously promoted a show for them in San Antonio while I was still in high school. To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about the show itself. We were doing mushrooms and drinking tequila. I think we only played about 25 minutes, and it was pretty chaotic.

GM: When you first started playing, how did people respond to your blend of punk and country?

JS: Some people really dug it. When we took it outside of the cities to places like Alpine and Odessa, it wasn’t greeted quite as warmly in some cases. It really depended on where we were playing and who we were playing with. We did well on the local hardcore shows with bands like Scratch Acid and Offenders. Scratch Acid became Jesus Lizard. That was at the point when punk was making its final departure from hardcore. It was a little confusing audience-wise. A lot of times we’d get booked with hardcore bands that we didn’t really fit in with. Then we played with a lot of L.A. bands like Tex and The Horseheads, The Screaming Sirens, Blood on the Saddle. Those bills were always pretty good.

GM: A lot of those bands are mentioned in John Doe’s new book More Fun in the New World.

JS: We played a lot of those shows. We never played with X. X was much bigger relative to the other bands. They had a major label deal and had some money dumped into them and had songs on the radio. The Hollywood and L.A. cowpunk bands, we fit right in with them. We regularly played shows with them and hosted shows for them in Texas.

GM: What did it mean to you when the band was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame?

JS: It was an honor. It hasn’t really made any difference in our quote unquote career arc, I guess. It might be an extra five people at a show. It’s an honor, but I guess I was more gratified when Davy Jones was inducted posthumously. That was something I lobbied for pretty heavily.

GM: What was the impetus behind releasing this new live album?

JS: One, we’ve never had a live album. Two, we didn’t have any new material ready to go to record and get out in a timely manner for this summer tour. And three, it popped up on the internet. A friend said, “Hey there’s a bootleg. You should listen to it. This is your live album. This is it.” As I mentioned in the liner notes, we’ve had lots of decent live takes over the years. We did attempt to record a live album back in the 80s, which was a total waste of time and money. I felt like it’s a very accurate representation of where we’re at now and what the live show is. It’s not too pretty, but at the same time it’s not impossible to listen to. It’s what I like to hear in a live album. It’s got banter. It’s real.

GM: It’s a lot of fun to listen to, and it’s a good taste of what goes on.

JS: Thank you. The live show translated well. It’s lengthy and it does the punk meets the roadhouse thing with the off-color comedy. I’ll go so far as to say I’m proud of it, and I wasn’t even planning on it.

GM: You have Muddy Roots coming up at the end of the month. Have you played that before?

JS: We have not.

GM: Who are you looking forward to seeing there?

JS: MC50 of course. I’ve always been a huge MC5 fan since since the late 70s when I was 13, 14 years old. I shared a bill with Wayne Kramer back in the 90s sometime. He wasn’t doing MC5 material then. I’m looking forward to seeing that. A couple headliners I was really looking forward to dropped off. Nevertheless, it should be fun. Fishbone, we know those guys from back in the day. Great live band. That’ll be a good hang.

GM: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?

JS: Good question. I don’t know. I’d be doing something – probably thinking about making music. I fit into the category of someone who’s more of a performer than a musician. I do enjoy playing live shows, and I write songs as well. My musical toolbox is a little more limited than a lot of folks out there.

All the World’s a Dressing Room: Live in L.A. is available everywhere now. The Muddy Roots Music Festival is August 30 to September 1 in Cookeville, Tennessee.

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