Interview: Hooten Hallers drummer Andy Rehms talks about band’s Missouri roots and entertaining aliens
Courtesy of Big Muddy Records
Four busted tour vans in two years. That tally is not appealing to any working band, but for the Columbia, Missouri-based trio known as the Hooten Hallers, the record number of roadside breakdowns is a sort of badge of honor. There’s no place the band — singer and guitarist John Randall, drummer Andy Rehms and sax player Kellie Everett — would rather be than on the road to their next gig.
The Hooten Hallers are, of course, on tour at this very moment, bringing their delightful blend of rock, blues and hillbilly music as heard on their new self-titled release The Hooten Hallers to fans across the country. That string of dates ends with a hometown show at the Roots N Blues N BBQ festival in Columbia on Sept. 30, giving the band a chance to sleep in their own beds and, most likely, renew their AAA membership.
In an exclusive interview conducted by email, we asked Rehms a few questions about songs on the new record, the band’s Missouri roots and having reached the milestone of being together for a decade. His commentary is below.
AXS: You just finished a six week tour leg. Could you share a favorite moment from the jaunt, on stage or off?
Andy Rehms: We returned to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada for the first time since last year’s appearance at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and were greeted with a totally sold out show! What a blast! We love Canada.
AXS: That tour started right about the time that your new self-titled album dropped. In a situation like that, do you ever get a little nervous about how the new material will be received on the road?
AR: In our case, we’d been playing a lot of the new material over the last year or so on the road. Many people already knew the new songs, so it was an easy transition. Of course we’ll always do our best to play some old favorites as well.
AXS: You’ll be playing at the Roots N Blues N BBQ festival in your hometown of Columbia, Missouri this fall, an event that will also feature stars like Ryan Adams, John Prine, Emmylou Harris and soul legend Booker T. Who among the scheduled performers would you most like to chow down on some barbecue with, or even join on stage?
AR: It’ll be great to see some of our old pals at the fest, like the Flood Brothers and the Pokey LaFarge crew. Personally I think I’m most excited for Lee Fields, Booker T and Leon Bridges, though it’s always a pleasure to see John Prine. The whole lineup is stacked and we’re very much looking forward to being in such good company.
AXS: The band’s Missouri roots are deep and often inform your music, with The Hooten Hallers cut “Charla” being a perfect example. There’s quite a story behind the song; can you give us the details?
AR: Our pals in Lupus have been staunch supporters of the Hooten Hallers for years, and we’ve made a lot of good friends there during that time. I’ll never forget Charla setting up some bunk beds in the shed behind her house for us after the Lupus Chili Fest. When the only way home is an hour drive or a boat ride across the river, hospitality like that is worth its weight in gold. I guess my point here is that it would be hard to find a more welcoming community of scoundrels. These are the good ones!
AXS: This year is the 10th anniversary of the formation of the Hooten Hallers, and that’s a significant chunk of longevity. What would you say are the main things that you’ve learned over the years that apply to keeping a band together?
AR: Being in a band, especially a hard traveling one, is unique in that you’re facing a lot of daily hurdles that most people don’t. Whether it be a van breakdown, a sudden show cancellation, or even something as simple as finding a clean restroom and a decent meal: you’ve got to “band” together to solve problems. Sometimes there’s just no winning and you’ve got to acknowledge that and move on.
AXS: The cover artwork for The Hooten Hallers is pretty trippy and includes a dozen or so lurking UFOs. Let’s say the band were to get beamed up, with instruments. What songs would you play for the extraterrestrials?
AR: I think most extraterrestrials would laugh at our concept of “Gravity” but even the crankiest old sourpuss of an alien could probably get down to “Rhythm and Blues.”
Follow the Hooten Hallers and find tour dates here.
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