At this point, Albany country-punks The Slaughterhouse Chorus have only one piece of merchandise besides their five-song demo — a beer koozie, which prominently features the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag snake logo that has become increasingly popular with the Tea Party political movement.
“We tried to reclaim the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag, but then realized that the Tea Party was way too strong,” said drummer Mark McKenna, while sitting outside of an Albany bar with his bandmates before a band practice recently. “We thought, ‘Hmm, we’ll just take that back.’ We like that flag; it’s a cool flag, and we’re sick of them using it for stuff that we don’t believe in, and we thought we could take it back. But I think they’re more powerful than us, which is sad.”
“That’s why we have the Sharpie marker now — ‘Don’t Tread on Me, Bro,’ ” bassist Dale Nixon added.
“So people realize it’s satire,” McKenna continued. He paused for a beat, before suddenly remembering something important. “No, it’s not ‘Don’t Tread on Me, Bro.’ It’s ‘Tread on Me, Bro.’ ”
The Slaughterhouse Chorus
What: Skeletons in the Piano’s fourth annual Halloween Bash
With: Henry’s Rifle, Black John Wayne, Josh Vincent
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Putnam Den, 63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs
How Much: $7
More Info: 584-8066, www.putnamden.com
Not too serious
The four members of the band — McKenna, Nixon (a pseudonym lifted from Black Flag’s Greg Ginn), lead guitarist Jason Bonafide and vocalist/guitarist Chris Jordan — aren’t interested in being a “serious” band, what with the constant wisecracking and unusual band merchandise.
“We kind of started the band as like, ‘Uh, yeah, we’re just a bunch of old dudes; we’re doing this for fun on the weekends,’ ” Jordan said (despite the fact that the oldest member of the group, Nixon, is 27). “So we never really took it too serious. I mean, it took us forever to do a demo and get merch together.”
The band’s sarcastic attitude holds firmly in place throughout the lyrics of songs such as “Peas and Beans” and “God and Country.” But the music is another thing entirely — a pastiche of heavy punk rock and old-school country ala Hank Williams that the quartet will work long hours crafting and recording in their home studios. “We’re amateur perfectionists, I think,” Nixon said.
Their attention to detail is paying off. On Saturday night, the band will join the bill for Skeletons in the Piano’s fourth annual Halloween show at the Putnam Den. Black John Wayne comedian Josh Vincent and Henry’s Rifle (a solo project for singer/songwriter John Pipino that features The Slaughterhouse Chorus as a backing band) round out the bill.
“There is a costume change involved,” Bonafide said.
“Oh yeah, there will be costumes. Fabulous costumes,” McKenna added.
Along with this high-profile gig, the band is also talking about touring in the South in February, along with Henry’s Rifle.
“He just told us he’s putting himself on tour in February, down to South Carolina, eventually to Texas and back or wherever,” Jordan said. “And since a lot of us have full-time jobs and things, we didn’t initially think that was a thing we could do. But people got vacation time coming to them, so I think that’s — we’re really looking to try and do that.”
Though the band is working on a full-length album to follow up their self-titled EP, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be ready by the time that tour rolls around. The group is once again recording at Nixon’s practice space in Schenectady, dubbed the John Wilkes Sound Booth — by their estimation, they’re about halfway through, but aren’t in any rush to finish.
“It’s better to take too long, I think, than to have to cram it all into a week and hope it comes out OK,” Bonafide said.
Bonafide owns all of the recording equipment, but using it has been something of a trial-and-error process.
“To be fair, we’ve also had our studio flood twice, I think, since we started,” he said, referring to the two floods that occurred after Hurricane Irene. “I deleted the tracks — I deleted all the drum tracks by accident and had to recover what I could, so it’s definitely been an arduous process.”
“We are not professionals,” Jordan quipped.
Jordan and Bonafide form the core of the band’s songwriting team, and the entire group contributes to arrangements. The two first began playing together in the ska band Public Access, which they formed in high school. When that band broke up in 2008, the two went their separate ways, but soon reunited.
Hankering for Hank
“Jay and I kind of sat around our houses, meddling with our own guitars — just bored, basically, just figuring out what to do,” Jordan said. “And we kind of simultaneously but separately developed a hankering for Hank Williams Sr. We touched bases a few months later and we were like, ‘Hey, we need to start another band,’ because we’re all going crazy cooped up not doing stuff.”
Nixon, who had played drums for a few years in Public Access, soon came on board, this time on bass. The trio met McKenna through Craigslist. Jordan originally played piano, but soon moved back to guitar because, in his words, “I’m not that good.”
“Initially we were like, yeah, we’re gonna start a band that sounds kind of like The Bronx — like a real heavy rock/punk band, but we’re gonna put some twang into it and make it country,” Jordan said.
“That isn’t exactly what happened,” Bonafide said.
“It’s actually kind of close,” McKenna said.