From their punk rock musicianship and their swinging country hooks and lyrics, Virginia-based “dark country” band Studebaker Huck is making people turn their heads and tap their toes.
The unique genre-melting band is composed of Jarrod Zbieg (lead singer, guitarist), Bobby Finley (bass), Zach Bradshaw (drums), and background vocalist (and euphonium player!) Andrew Mundell.
The four friends came into existence in a basement in Charlottesville, Virginia, and have been making music together ever since. They’ve played venues across the North and Southeast, and seek to grow their audience with their energetic new LP, Blood Moon, which officially drops today, February 4th.
Bradshaw has noted that he feels an emotional connection with the album because of how it’s shaped the artistic integrity of the band. “With Blood Moon, I feel like we really sound like us for the first time. When we recorded our first album, it was more about getting our music out there. After pandemic shutdowns and not being able to play live shows for so long. Blood Moon feels like the crossroads between the band we were and the band we want to be.”
We got the chance to chat with the band to learn more about their origins, Blood Moon, and much more.
So what’s the origin story of Studebaker Huck?
Zach and I had been playing together for a little while trying to get something off the ground with a handful of different line-ups. At one point early on he played guitar, I played bass and the sound was much heavier. We had a hard time finding a drummer so Zach bit the bullet and got behind the kit, something he had never done in a band before, and I moved to guitar and vocals.
The first time we ever jammed like this was on Zach’s birthday, and I had invited my old buddy Andrew over to hang out as he had just moved back to town and I figured he’d like to tie one on with us. With me singing and playing guitar it’s naturally a lot twangier anyways, but with Drew there singing along it created a nice sound that we hadn’t achieved before. Now that we felt like we had something with some legs to it Zach hit up his old bandmate Bobby and had him come down to the basement and jam on bass. We were all nervous because Bob is way too good to play with us, but after a few practices it seemed like he was digging it, and then one day he actually left his amp at the rehearsal spot, and that’s when we knew we’d hooked him. After woodshedding for a few months and working up enough songs to fill a set, we played our first gig in February 2017 and we’ve been at it ever since.
And how did the band get its name?
God, it felt like this was the hardest part about starting the band. We must’ve Googled 50 names trying to find something that sounded cool and wasn’t already taken. The problem with naming a new group is that you haven’t had enough time to really dig in and figure out your sound, but you’ve got to brand it with something so you can put it on a flier and get out there. It seemed like we had the beginnings of a Southern Rock band on our hands, so we started thinking along those lines. I remember we even found a website with a list of old-west slang terms that we tried pilfering from. We were this close to “Coffin Varnish”…
Finally, we had a gig booked and no name. Some contenders, but nothing that was really jumping out as a keeper. Serendipitously, I was drinking with a buddy one night and he said the phrase “Studebaker Huck” was something that his much-more-Southern-than-us boss would utter from time to time as some kind of down-home colloquialism. This immediately struck me as profoundly brilliant, and I texted the guys what I had just heard. A quick Google search confirmed that no one had yet put those two words together in any meaningful fashion, and one band vote later it became ours, for better or worse. Funny enough I guess it had its intended impact, the promoter for that first gig billed us as country/punk on the flier having never actually heard us perform. Variations of that have followed us since, with my favorite being “punky-tonk”.
So your new album, Blood Moon, officially hit streaming platforms today. What was the writing and recording process like, and how did you land on Minimum Wage Recording Studios in Virginia to produce it?
We recorded our first record with Lance at Minimum Wage, and a single a few months prior to our sessions for Blood Moon. We love working with him and the vibe at his studio is so comfortable for us. It’s magically unpretentious and rock n’ roll seems to ooze from the walls. So it was a no-brainer to go back in and do the record there.
As for the tunes, they were all written in a pretty creatively fruitful whirlwind over the course of about a year. It started becoming clear that we were writing songs that had a thematic link both sonically and lyrically that would flow nicely on an album, and it was actually pretty easy to whittle down the list to 12 tunes that we felt captured the vibe we were going for. It seemed to me that we were hitting our stride and these songs almost wrote themselves.
Are there any overarching themes or motifs throughout the record?
I think that it’s a wistful and mournful record. I didn’t intend to write a bunch of songs about some vague but tragic love story, but in sequencing the record it was pretty obvious that was what I’d done and it made deciding the track-listing a fun odyssey. The more that I listened through the more I realized that a story was being told and that it was important to capture the movement of that narrative through the pacing of the songs. Everything feels very minor key and brooding, like the whole world could burn down any given night and prevent you from keeping those promises you’d hoped to make in the morning. And maybe, sometimes, that’s a good thing…
Zach Bradshaw has a quote where he says, “With Blood Moon I feel like we really sound like us for the first time.” Can you elaborate on what makes this album sound different and what makes it more authentic than past releases?
I can’t speak for him directly, but to me it feels like we’ve honed in on the promise that we’ve always shown but not always lived up to. The first record was a collection of songs that I really like, but don’t feel fully formed quite yet. We were pretty green in the studio and still searching for our sound. The songs on Blood Moon started developing with a clearer understanding of what we were capable of and what we wanted to sound like after a few years of experimenting with combining all these genres. We started referring to the vibes we were getting as “dark country”, which really started informing the songwriting throughout the whole process.
Speaking of the album, what song or two might you be most excited for fans to hear, or perhaps to play live?
“Heading West” and “Tough Luck” are bangers, both live and on the record.
What might fans and first-time-listeners alike expect from this album?
If you’re familiar with us, you’re going to hear a more mature sound than we’ve put on record before. There’s more texture on this album, with acoustic guitars, horns, organ, and fuzzed out e-bow flying around. The songs are more concise but pack more punch.
If you’re a first-timer, I think that you can expect a rock n’ roll record with tinges of country, punk, and folk that can hopefully appeal to listeners that enjoy a trip on the darker side of life.
What does a dream gig look like for the band?
Plenty of whiskey.
What are some goals musically or otherwise the band has for 2022?
Getting on the road again is probably the thing we all want most out of this little life. It wouldn’t hurt to have some folks take a listen to our new record. At least once or twice. Hell at that point why not thrice?
Featured photo by Samantha Bradshaw