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SCOTS Will Deliver Its Surfin' Southern Fried Psychobilly To Daryl's House Sunday

Published: June 21, 2018 at 12:00 am

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This feature was modified at 3:30 pm on June 25 to remove an incorrect reference.

The first time I heard the music of what would immediately and permanently become one of my favorite bands - Southern Culture On The Skids, or SCOTS - it was during the provocative closing credits to the 1996 Ben Stiller-Mary Tyler Moore comedy Flirting With Disaster.

So I immediately went looking to learn about the band and its very upbeat and unique style that combines coastal Carolina surfer shag with driving psychobilly and a dash of southern fried old-school country.

As I commenced to searching, I was immediately thrilled to learn the band and its founders - Richard "Rick" Miller, Mary Huff, and Dave Hartman - had actually been around for more than a decade, and already had five albums to their credit.

After obtaining copies of all five, I loyally sought to experience SCOTS in a live environment where they really display their true individual and collective talents.

Since their tours were few and far between, with no immediate plans to come to Connecticut, what followed were trips to Northampton, Mass.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and even a pilgrimage to their home state of North Carolina, catching a memorable two-night stand at the infamous Port O'Call in Kill Devil Hills - just a few hours from the band's base camp in Mebane, now known as the Kudzu Ranch.

In between and since, I've had to satisfy myself with bootleg recordings and YouTube clips. So you could imagine the ecstasy when I learned they would not only be coming in for a show this Sunday, June 24, at Daryl's House in Pawling, N.Y., but also for a scheduled October 13 set at New Haven's Cafe Nine.

The band first came together in Chapel Hill, N.C., and despite the comings and goings of support players on several albums and tours, the act has always been a three-piece outfit with guitarist/singer Miller handling primary songwriting duties, along with bassist/vocalist Huff and stand-up drummer Hartman contributing as well.

Besides showcasing arguably their most popular single, "Camel Walk," during the closing credits of Flirting With Disaster, the band can be seen and heard in the teen thriller I Know What You Did Last Summer.

In addition, the SCOTS song "Soul City" was featured in the 1996 Adam Sandler film Happy Gilmore and the 2005 Dukes Of Hazzard movie; their tune "White Trash" is featured in the soundtrack for the 1996 film Beavis and Butt-Head Do America; and SCOTS contributed four numbers to the 2001 comedy Super Troopers.

In 1998, SCOTS produced an EP of Halloween themed original songs released exclusively in Australia called Zombified, which was re-released with a slew of additional songs globally in 2011 through SCOTS' own label Kudzu Records.

 

Electric Pinecones


The band's latest release The Electric Pinecones (2016) hearkens back to when they would actually open for themselves under this secondary moniker during their formative years, according to Miller, who called into The Newtown Bee for a chat ahead of the Daryl's House stop.

"There was a brief period when we didn't have enough money to get opening bands and we had to do three sets back then," he recalled. "So we would come out as our alter ego The Electric Pinecones. We pared it down a bit - it wasn't quite as loud and full-throttle as the Southern Culture On The Skids stuff. Sometimes we'd do the set acoustic, once in awhile we had a guy who would play lap steel [guitar] with us, and we'd do covers and a few songs that maybe would come out later as SCOTS songs."

Miller said the Pinecones sets would run the gamut from Flying Burrito Brothers psychedelic to Merle Haggard, The Byrds, and other country rock.

The dynamic that instantly drew me to SCOTS, and that has endeared them to me for more than two decades. is their material, which would instantly cheer me up and was a go-to musical analgesic, whether I was mired in girl trouble or suffering through cancer treatments.

"That's what it's supposed to do," Miller said. "I guess 'Just How Lonely Can Lonely Be' could be considered a bit of a tear-jerker, which Mary sings of course - and my favorite cry in your beer song is 'Drunk And Lonesome Again,' so maybe we'll play that one for you at Daryl's House."

Miller was also excited to talk about how SCOTS is just completing a project rerecording two of the albums originally released by Geffen Records: Plastic Seat Sweat and Dirt Track Date.

"That was actually a lot of fun. We rerecorded 16 songs from the original records, which we needed to do for our catalog so we can get both sides of the publishing," he said. "I had always owned the publishing [rights] because I wrote the songs. Geffen paid for the recordings with an advance, which we since paid back. But Geffen still owns the recordings of those songs, so if they want to sell them, we really have no control over what they do with them."

Miller said he had been approached occasionally by filmmakers and others who wanted to use songs from the two Geffen projects, but acquiring the rights could be problematic.

"We wanted to let them use the songs, but they had to clear it with Geffen, and they just don't consider a lot of things that are smaller, independent projects," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about them. We really just needed to do the more popular songs, and we just finished that up. So I think we'll be selling the CD and some vinyl during our shows and through our website to our fans."

 

Replicating The Sound


To get as close to the same sound as possible, Miller said the band used much of the same recording technology available back in 1995, and even a bunch of the same instruments, amps and mics.

"We did all the rhythm tracks to tape, just like the originals," he said. "When we did the vocals, we'd transfer them from the tape to the digital realm so we could do some overdubs with the computer because it was just faster. But then, we mixed down everything analog through a tube compressor back out to a half-inch tape deck, and back into the computer so we could send it off to get mastered."

Miller said SCOTS even used the same engineer from the 1995 and 1997 recordings, Mark Williams.

"I mean you put 20 years on something and it's going to sound a little different, tighter at least," he said. "But bringing in Mark was important. He helped me build the studio here at the Kudzu Ranch, and he goes way back to the recording studios in Chicago where he worked with a lot of soul acts. Then when Reflections Studios opened up in Charlotte, he also produced a bunch of gold records for gospel groups. He's really full of a lot of knowledge, which he's happy to share."

SCOTS is coming into Pawling and New Haven in their purest configuration, with just the three original members doing the whole show. Miller agreed that it really is the way the band should be heard.

"I love it. Although if somebody is having a bad night, everybody knows it," he said. "And especially with Dave, he gets a good solid back beat going and he just drives it home.

"We've actually changed the stage setup more recently moving him up so we're three across the front. We were finding that when his snare drum was behind me it would get sucked into my microphone and slam back through my monitor. But now we're all up front and it's like the way we're supposed to be."

Miller said that while fans new and old come to hear the band's most popular numbers - "Camel Walk," "Eight Piece Box," "Soul City," and "Banana Pudding" - the threesome meets up before each tour to discuss any thematic elements they want to bring to audiences, and how deep into their catalog they want to dig to resurrect material to reintroduce in concert.

"Just today we got together to talk about coming up your way, and we decided we'd be doing a luau theme," Miller said. "So we rehearsed some of the surf instrumentals we haven't done in awhile, 'For Lovers Only,' 'Big Pine Tree,' and I think we're gonna do '40 Miles To Vegas,' along with a half-dozen songs from our new record, Electric Pinecones."

For tickets to the Daryl's House SCOTS concert Sunday, June 24 at 7 pm, click here.

For tickets to the Cafe Nine show October 13, click here.

To learn more about Southern Culture On the Skids, visit SCOTS.com

 

Slurp up some "Banana Pudding" with Southern Culture On The Skids live at BING Lounge:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nU5ADbJXz4

 

Check out Rick Miller's smoking guitar work on "Meximelt" from this 2005 Chapel Hill, NC show:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ-j_h10z5Y

 

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