Published Jan 20, 2020Gin, Steigl Radler and mint bitters — the makings of a classic cocktail or of a classic country band? Sometimes the answer is both. Named after the signature Denim Daddy offering from the beloved, though now shuttered, Wunderbar Hofbrauhaus in Edmonton, AB, the Denim Daddies have been slinging their self-proclaimed version of "outlaw-inspired alt-country" since 2015.
As legend has it, bassist Rick Visser met lead vocalist Rudiger Metsin while selling beer at an Edmonton Eskimos game. Visser, noticing Metsin was short a toonie, ponied up the extra cash and handed over the drink. "He told me I looked like I could play bass in a country band, and I said I could. He then told me to show up at his house to get my two bucks back," Visser tells Exclaim! "So I went to his place and we wrote the song 'The Beer Tastes Better When the Work's All Done.' It's been history ever since."
Joining Visser and Metsin are Shooter Mac (keyboard/organ), Bo Winchester (pedal steel guitar) and Merv Campbell (drums). Drawing inspiration from classic artists like the Flying Burrito Brothers, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, as well as some of today's contemporary alt-country influences like Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, the band have garnered a loyal following, in large part due to a stubborn refusal to walk the line.
Tired of the homogeneity and monotony of popular country radio, the Denim Daddies saw an opportunity to get back to country's gritty roots. "It feels like there's a country scene right now we don't have any interest in being a part of," laments Rick. Nowhere is this feeling more openly laid bare than on "Kill the Heart," the band's open letter to the modern country industry, off their Thinkin' EP. "You can't be surprised by the dead not being revived / Don't hold a candle to the ones barely clinging to life / Recycled phrases never bring any changes / Reboot the genre, forget those who are famous."
They oscillate between hard-hitting lessons on loneliness and the joys of friendship with ease. Sombre observations on the state of North America's dwindling political climate ("The Circus") are starkly contrasted by barn burners that talk of bush parties and howling at the moon ("Coupla' Sixers"). While they may be missing the traditional Southern drawl of country crooners, the Denim Daddies want for nothing in terms of the makings of a modern country band.
The Denim Daddies are quick to point out that the genre is slowly undergoing a transformation for the better. Artists like Kacey Musgraves, Orville Peck and Lil Nas X are among those broadening the horizon and bringing country back to the future. "It's a sign of the times," says Rick. "These new artists are getting all sorts of people into country and it's a good thing." Assertively more political, genre-bending and self-reflective, today's class is rewriting the rules — something that resonates with the band. "We're always trying to be inclusive of everyone and embrace diversity," he continues. "We're trying not to come off as typical white straight bros playing country."
Moving into 2020, the band are ready to continue working on their debut full-length album, as well as a duets album featuring country artists from across the Canadian prairies. "Our goal is to make this a career and keep moving forward with albums and growing our fan base," says Visser resolutely. "We're in it for the long haul."
Unconcerned with fitting in with the crowd, the Denim Daddies are content to spend their time bringing people together over good music and a few beers — even if you happen to be a couple bucks short.
The Denim Daddies play Exclaim!'s Class of 2020 concert series, co-presented by Collective Arts, on Thursday January 23 at the Buckingham in Edmonton, AB with the Nico Tobias Band and the Bobby Tenderloin Universe.