The “Defibulators” band’s name was misspelled for their first gig and the misspelling has stuck for the country band from Brooklyn. As the band plays on, it has received many good reviews from the music industry. The band plays the Green Parrot Bar on March 21, so drop in and find out about them first hand. Meanwhile, let them tell you about that winding road from Brooklyn to country music sensations in Key West, in their own words.
Q: How did the band’s name come about? There has to be a story behind that.
A: A couple of us were working at a barbecue joint in Manhattan and some friends of our in punk band needed an opening act for gig. The show was on a Friday and they asked us to put a band together on Tuesday. We scraped a group together and some classic country and rockabilly tunes, but we couldn’t decide on a name. Finally, we settled on The Defibulators, “jumpstarting the heart of country music.” We told our friend to throw it on the flyer at the last minute but he ended up spelling it wrong, and it just stuck after that. We like it ‘cause it’s kind of like the hillbilly spelling that way. Like nuclear vs. nucular.
Q: How’d a Brooklyn Band get into country and bluegrass?
A: I guess after moving to NYC I was kind of homesick for Texas where I grew up. I started listening to more and more classic country thanks to Roadblock (Chris Hartway), our guitarist from Hoboken, NJ. He knows more about country music than anyone in the band. For me it was kind of like playing catch-up on my country music – the more I listened, the more we became obsessed with it. So actually if it wasn’t for NYC, this band wouldn’t exist. And our style is very influenced by the city – it’s kind of fast paced, short attention span, frantic, verging on chaos at times.
Q: The Green Parrot Bar is a Key West icon, what have you heard about the bar and what are your expectations of playing there for the first time?
A: We’re stoked!!! We have heard it’s an institution, and we’re honored to be playing there. I read that Warren Zevon used to come out to the Keys and hang out with Carl Hiaasen … I wonder if they ever went to the GP? But I imagine a bunch of interesting characters with good stories, ex-pats in their own country trying to disappear, laying low in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Is that too much of a romantic notion?
Q: Anyone in the band been to Key West before?
A: Nope. What’s wrong with us?
Q: Who are the band members and what do they play?
A: Bug Jennings— banjo, acoustic guitar, vocals; Erin Bru— vocals, misc. perc.; Chris Roadblock Hartway — telecaster guitar; Michael Riddleberger — drums; and David Dawda — bass.
A: It’s like a pickin’ party on hay bales, but with more amplification and darker, “debaucherous” songs. And no hay bales. We love that old-school style of country that was fun and rowdy and didn’t take itself too seriously.
Q: You’ve licensed and recorded songs for some interesting films and TV. How’d that come about and is there more of it in your future?
A: Those all happened pretty randomly. We have some people pitching our music but some happened through friends of friends making movies or whatever. The NFL songs were cool to work on but we never got paid for them. Haven’t made any real big money yet from licensing, but bands are becoming more and more dependent on income from that kind of stuff. I think the weirdest thing a song of ours was ever used in was a short film starring Cheryl Hines called “Goodnight, Vagina.” I don’t know if you can print that though.
Q: What’s the “Defibulators’ Songbook” and the coloring book?
A: Mel Bay published a book of our songs, guitar tab, fiddle solos, and a bunch of pictures. It’s awesome. The first instructional book I used to learn guitar as a kid was a Mel Bay book, so it’s an honor now to be included in their catalog. They are publishing some pretty cool stuff these days. And our coloring book was a self-published activity book put together the year we started up. It was like a Defibs comic book, illustrated by James Jajac, a great artist in Brooklyn.
Q: Your release “Defibulators Corn Money” has 17 tracks and 13 of them are original songs, is there another release coming soon?
A: Yup, it’s on the way! We’ve got about 10 songs done and we’re gonna finish it up when we get back home from this tour. In the meantime we just pressed our first vinyl release! It’s a 7-inch single with two songs, Cackalacky and Pay For That Money, which will both be on the new album. We handmade the record sleeves out of tweed amplifier material and custom stamps. They also come with digital downloads of the songs thru BandCamp.
Q: Do you write songs as a band or as individuals or a little of both?
A: Both. Usually one of us will have an idea that we bring to practice, and then the band develops it as a whole, working out the arrangement and any other details. The band is like a big team of editors which is cool, because we can get to a point where everybody is happy with the song before we play it live. Roadblock writes all the instrumental guitar songs.
Q: The band has received many good reviews from the likes of The Village Voice, Crawdaddy, CMT. Does the band have a favorite review?
A: “Carter Family-meets-Ramones” was a very flattering, cool description. Not that we would be so presumptuous to compare ourselves with either band
Q: What does the band like best about playing clubs like the Green Parrot?
A: These epic questionnaires.
Q: How many shows do you perform in a year and how far do you travel for them?
A: We are on the road about four or five months out of the year in our van we call Robert eggPlant. We go as far as Seattle, San Diego, Maine, Minneapolis, and now Key West. I think we got most of the country covered now, but the U.S. is so damn big that it’s hard to get back to all the cool places as often as we would like to. We’ve even toured Belgium and Holland once. The beer was so good!