by Kelly La Croix
The High Country String Band is made up of a batch of MT locals who are in a new band but are not so new to playing music. Any longer-term musicians or concertgoers might well recognize them from a dozen local punk, metal, or bluegrass bands they’ve played in over the years. I personally recognize them from playing in past bands together, watching many of their earlier projects, having one of their bands practice at my house, and having the same mother as one of them. Just trying to give the full disclosure. Anyway, enough about yesterday, here is where their heads are at right now:
Hi to The High Country String Band! Tell the readers your names, what you do in the band, and your favorite way to kill time.
Adam Rutt, guitar, vocals, smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo.
My name is Simon Wiesner and I play the banjo for the THC String Band. Drinking coffee and thinking about absolutely nothing.
Ben La Croix, I play mandolin and harmonica, favorite way to kill time is playing music and hanging out with my family.
Mat Regele, Bull Fiddle and off-key backup vox. I’m a pacifist, you shouldn’t kill. Ever. And Albert Dines is our fiddle player. You can run the interview without his answers… just put in generic farmer talk. Like, “knee high by July”.
Your band description on Facebook says “old punks with grandpa’s guitars”. How did you make the shift from faster, more aggressive styles of music to something more laid back?
M: We got old. And out of shape. And bald. Except Simon. Pretty sure he’s a robot.
B: I always liked playing acoustic as well, and really a lot of the songs we play now are just as fast as the punk rock songs we played before.
S: Some of the songs we cover like Don’t Fear The Reaper or Time are kicked up to another level. It’s like going from snorting coke to smoking pot. Both can be enjoyable at certain parts of your life, but sometimes you just want to relax.
A: We just put down our electric guitars and picked up acoustic guitars. A lot of our songs are old original punk songs from a previous band (we used to practice in your basement). We play them almost exactly the same way, sometimes even faster. Just with no drums or electricity.
You guys recently won Billings’ Magic City Music Awards for Best Americana, Folk, or Bluegrass Act of the Year AND Best New Band of the Year. What award is next?
S: We’re going to win The Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest in NYC. I think between the five of us we can eat 60-70 hotdogs in an hour.
A: We're going to win a Daytime Emmy award next year. Guarantee.
M: Highest country/string band of the year. Our only competition is The High Country Cowboys…
What do you prefer: improvising or having a song completely mapped out?
B: A little of both. Adam writes the songs and we improvise solos.
S: The songs are mapped out, but sometimes we like to improvise on the solos and have fun.
A: The songs are mapped out for chords, but we improvise our solos on every song every time. They are never the same.
M: I only play “E”.
You have a special dinner to make for an anniversary. You have $13 and only have access to a Kwik Way. What do you buy/make?
M: Bathtub burritos.
A: Pack of smokes, 2 tall cans, and as many muffins as I can buy with the rest of the cash. Muffins can be very filling.
S: What kind of an anniversary? Lets just say I bought a scratch ticket for $10 and win 10k. I am on my way to buying that Kwik Way. If I lose, I have three dollars left. I buy some string cheese and a hard-boiled egg.
B: MD 20/20, trucker speed, and combos.
What do you envision your life to be like at 80?
S: If I’m not shitting my pants, I better have a RV to shit in.
A: That Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino.
M: My double bass will double as my coffin.
What have you been listening to lately (music)?
A: Ever since I got back from New Orleans I've been really into the brass bands (Dirty Dozen, Rebirth, etc.) and Zydeco music.
B: Avett Brothers, Neil Young, Lucero, Nick Curran and the Nitelifes, Bruce Springsteen.
S: Primus, Elton John, The Police.
M: I can’t stop listening to Chromeo’s new album. I have a problem.
What have you been listening to lately that is not music?
A: The guitarist from No Use for a Name and Foo Fighters has a podcast called "Walking The Floor" that I really like. Besides that I listen to a lot of George Carlin, Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, and Bill Hicks. RIP fellas.
M: My apartment is next to the tracks, so I listen to a lot of trains.
B: A crying baby.
S: My dog barking at a dog that is barking at another dog.
What’s in the works for upcoming band-related stuff?
M: Recording? Music vid? Merch? Actual band stuff? Maybe? We said that last year?
B: Hopefully getting some recording done soon.
S: We will be recording, playing a couple weddings, and rocking out.
A: Once Wes Urbaniak gets my 12-string guitar fixed we're going to do some demos with him and a video. We're also in the middle of writing a concept album (a western). And more gigs keep popping up every week.
Where can we learn more about you?
A: Find us/like us on Facebook or call Mat or I. Mat 406-671-7239. Adam 406-633-0676.
M: Pretty sure we have a Facebook page? Or was that the High Country Cowboys?