Northwest rockers Rust On The Rails is a collaborative ensemble fronted by vocalist Cody Beebe, with Australian born Guitarist and Didgeridoo player Blake Noble, and the energetic rhythm section of Eric Miller and Chris Lucier. What began as an acoustic based progressive rock meets world music hybrid side project, has grown into a regional favorite and powerhouse live band. On January 8, 2017, ROTR held an album release concert at one of Seattle’s best venues, The Triple Door to perform selections from their first full length CD entitled Talisman.’ Joining them were Andrew Joslyn and the Passenger String Quartet, along with Sarah Gerritsen and the Shadow Catchers. Northwest Music Scene got the chance to sit down with the guys before the show to get an inside story on this exciting new release and these rising stars of the northwest music scene.
Northwest Music Scene: Hello Rust On the Rails, here we are at the Triple Door Seattle. A new year and a new album, are you excited?
NWMS: Let’s start with a little back story. How did two guys from the outback, in Yakima and Australia meet?
Blake Noble: Yakima is the new outback.
Chris Lucier: Out BackIma!
Cody Beebe: Blake moved to the states and I heard about him from Michelle Bounds, our partner in Chinook Fest. I booked some shows for him and wanted to be the guy who introduced his didgeridoo and percussive guitar to the blue collar Northwest. Selfishly, I booked him shows opening for Cody Beebe and The Crooks. Quickly it became apparent that one guy would captivate the audience and make us step our game, and we were five guys. We became good friends and started writing songs together for fun.
NWMS: You and Eric were in Cody Beebe The Crooks for several years?
Cody Beebe: We started The Crooks in 2009, and put out our first CD in 2010 and toured thru 2015 until life brought along changes. We started this as a side project and brought in Scott Mercado as the drummer and Tim Snider on violin. The dynamic changed when Scott or Tim couldn’t make shows and so it moved ahead.
NWMS: It is hard to keep a group together with members from several other bands.
Cody Beebe: Yeah, it was really the result of Chinook Fest that we put it together as a special thing for the fans, that was just a cool one off. None of us thought it would be more than that. When things changed with The Crooks we got more series about ROTR.
NWMS: The project began as a very acoustic centered sound, is that still the basis of the songwriting?
Blake Noble: It’s easy to write songs with just our acoustic guitars. It’s a simple way to put our ideas together and then we bring them to these guys and they add to them and make them better.
NWMS: Chris, were those big shoes to step into replacing Mercado?
Chris Lucier: Kind of.
Blake Noble: Chris had been playing in my band so it was easy.
Chris Lucier: We were at a festival and I was playing the day before with the Blake Noble Band and I got a call a couple hours before the show to fill in.
Blake Noble: It wasn’t just some little gig, like “hey sit in with us at the High Dive in town” It was the Gentlemen of the Road Festival in front of 5000 people opening for Mumford and Sons.
Cody Beebe: It was one of the best shows I remember us playing because we were all like “Shit, here we go!!!
Blake Noble: And we had Brad on bass guitar because Eric had a broken arm. He was there taking photos but our guitar tech was playing bass. It was possibly the biggest show of the year and we said “What the fuck are we gonna do?”
Cody Beebe: We did the show and then left on tour.
Chris Lucier: I was supposed to stay and watch the festival and we ended up leaving.
Blake Noble: Yep, get in the car, let’s go.
NWMS: Seriously? You didn’t get to see the show? They Shanghaied you.
Cody Blake: You didn’t want to see Foo Fighters, did you?
NWMS: When was that?
Cody Beebe: Summer of 2015.
NWMS: And you spent most of this last summer 2016 in a studio in Cle Elum with Seth Paul. Is it his studio?
Blake Noble: No, it’s a studio that has been there for twenty years.
Cody Beebe: It was built by a guy with a vision who ended up pumping every central Washington band thru there. He went to work at Central Washington University and it sat dormant. We had an inside line on getting in there to record and Seth brought in some out-board gear. Cle Elum was great for Chris and Eric to come over from Seattle and Blake and I from Central Washington, so it was in the middle. Our manager lives there. We moved in and he fed us a bunch of wild game, it was awesome.
Blake Noble: You can hear it in the album.
Chris Lucier: You can hear the bears.
NWMS: The album does feel like it has some real space in it.
Chris Lucier: I think it feels like we are all playing together. It does not feel like it was tracked separate.
Eric Miller: For the most part that is true, we played live as a rhythm section. Which has become rare.
NWMS: The first project was cool, but to me this album sounds like a real rock band.
Blake Noble: Its evolved quite a lot. It’s evolved in band members and I would say for myself, my playing has changed quite a lot. I was in Seattle and moved out to Yakima area. Started hanging out with Cody and Eric and got into a different vibe. With different scenery around you it changes you. We do much better outside the city. We love playing in Seattle but playing in Yakima or Republic or Walla Walla, the further out you go the people are so thankful that you’re out there.
NWMS: Talisman is the title of the new album but you guys have all this visual stuff going on with Digital Vendetta and all the artwork and Chinook Entertainment, it’s a big package. Tell us about it.
Cody Beebe: Thank you.
Blake Noble: The video is these guys [points to Cody and Eric] it’s really a big part of it now because it’s not just playing your instrument and being a musician, it’s got to be visual. We are all inclined that way but Eric does all the filming and editing. He created all my videos and now all the Rust videos. We’ve done it all in house.
Cody Beebe: We just give it all to Eric and say make this great.
Chris Lucier: You don’t have a choice.
Blake Noble: Eric will be “so your gonna pay me?”
Cody, Blake, Chris: No!!!
Cody Beebe: He gets paid, literally tens of dollars. [All laugh]
Blake Noble: Talisman. Cody came up with it. It is difficult to name a band and an album because it is meant to represent what you have done.
Cody Beebe: Blake did a search on American and Australian joint efforts. He found a military training exercise with the U.S and Australia done every two years, to prepare for large scale events and disasters. It is a cooperative event. It is called Operation Talisman Saber.
Blake Noble: It goes back years and years with our two countries.
Cody Beebe: It fit our ideal of American and Aussie roots. In addition, the word Talisman means a circular etched emblem that contains a spiritual or good luck meaning. Not that people are gonna just listen to CD’s but it fits what a CD is.
NWMS: The ROTR logo is a nice mix of pioneer northwest and outback imagery and history.
Cody Beebe: Yeah, the rust on the rails is a train metaphor. In America, it’s the westward expansion with the rail road and in Australia the train connects the two sides of the country. We like the old hand cart because it is like Blake and I pushing on each other to make momentum.
NWMS: Let’s talk about the songs; The album kicks off with the song “Every Little Thing” featuring Blake’s signature acoustic guitar pounding. I see your guitar has duct tape on it, did you really break it?
Blake Noble: It’s been broken so many times and for so long probably five years. Some people are protective of their guitars, but it’s a tool to be used. If I can get sound like no other guitarist, I’ll do it.
NWMS: Abbott and Costello is a great name for a tune. Did you write that with Austin Jenckes? It’s pretty funky.
Cody Beebe: Austin was one of our secret weapons. Eric and I had the honor of touring with him for better part of 2014. I love his songwriting and he is one of my favorite people, so I wanted him to help produce the vocals and lyrics. He has a lot of experience now in Nashville and writes 200 plus songs a year for everybody. Blake and I would hash out the structure of a song bring it to the band and hash it out more and the final step was to bring it to Austin. On “Abbott and Costello,” he touched on the tag-line at the end of each chorus, but it makes that hook. Those sorts of things he helped with, taking what we had and making it that much sweeter. With that song, I had smoked some pot and was standing in my kitchen where it has awesome acoustics and I started singing that line in this echo spot.
NWMS: Where is the Trolley Barn that was used in the video?
Cody Beebe: That is in Yakima. One of my favorite parts about making videos in central Washington is that we have so many different landscapes, seasons and history. That trolley is one two places left on the west coast with a working Trolley line. It is facing extinction so we did it highlights it.
NWMS: More about videos; the second one for the album is for the song “Secrets.” I want to know about four things “The House, the girl, the car and the horse”.
Chris Lucier: That is basically the notes for the video, get a house, a girl, a car, and a horse.
Cody Beebe: I had to sign papers, so we are not allowed to say where the house is. It is in Washington state and people know about it, but it is very private family. It was a once in a lifetime experience. We had one day to make the video. We did a lot of work on the front end, we had a crew of 13 people there to pull it off and only 12 hours to do it. Eric ran camera, I directed and acted in it. The girl was in the “Abbott and Costello” video too. Her name is Samantha McFarland, she is also a photographer and incredibly talented. The car we borrowed after we put out a Facebook post.
NWMS: Did you borrow the horse too?
Cody Beebe: A friend of our manager brought it in.
NWMS: Amazing! It was all beg, borrow and steal but it looks like a million-dollar production?
Blake Noble: Cody and I talked about the crazy ideas for the video and I said “you better check with Eric, wow your talking about castles and horses, this is big.” It’s mainly about these guys and the team around us.
Chris Lucier: Cody’s brother did hair make up and styling. Everything was covered by one of our friends who are pros in their field.
Cody Beebe: We have a great team and have taken notes from people like Macklemore who have everybody in house and you see how they work. Eric is so talented in what he does. We got lucky to do other people’s videos in between our own stuff with Digital Vendetta productions.
NWMS: Tell us about your tour plans for 2017.
Cody Beebe: We’ll be hitting our favorite stops in the Northwest. Blake and I are doing some scouting missions next month to Texas and Nashville to plant the seed and bring the full band on the next trip. The whole month of April we’ll be playing in Europe. We have seven shows in Germany, six France on Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.
Blake Noble: We are hoping that Europe will be a big platform for us. When I was in France a couple years ago, and no one gave a shit that I was from Australia, it was that we were from Seattle. People were like “wow have you played the Crocodile?”
NWMS: Are you taking the string section with you?
Cody Beebe: The plan is to make this night so epic that they can’t refuse. I really want to say that Andrew was a huge part of the record. At the time, we debated about having strings or not because of the parting with Tim. We didn’t want just violin and to have that be stuck as part of our sound. Andrew worked on a Crooks record years ago, so we brought him back in to do a full string section. Once we heard it, I remember we were all freaking out because it was so good.
NWMS: Kudos to you for doing it. Do you know what is probably the best-selling blues song of all time? Can you name it?
Blake Noble: No idea.
Cody: Pride and Joy?
Eric Miller: Thrill Is Gone.
Eric: That was a total guess.
NWMS: Why? Because the producer took the blues and put strings on it and made it sophisticated. You have something like that with “Secrets.” Northwest Grunge Rock with strings.
Cody Beebe: I think the strings are what inspired the cinematic video for the song. It really works.
Blake Noble: It is all so cool for me because like the song “Lost and Found,” I’ve been trying to write that for like eight years, and it finally came to fruition. Cody brought out the parts I couldn’t and we brought it to the rhythm section and when Andrew added strings I could finally say “yes this is how I heard it in my head eight years ago,” it’s like magic.
(Talisman is available at www.rustontherails.com. You can also follow the band on Facebook and sample more of their music on via Soundcloud. Click on the play button below to watch the official video for the first single from the album.)