August 2014 – “Band of the Month – 100 WATT HORSE
Our “Band of the Month” feature began in January 2012, featuring Savannah-based trio CUSSES in a short interview that gave readers a glimpse of what to expect from one of Georgia’s hardest working bands. We then landed an interview with Of Monsters and Men right before they broke and would then go on to include acts like Ponderosa, Cheap Girls, Swear and Shake, Jonny Fritz, Torres, The Districts, and more over the next two years.
So as we move forward into 2014, our entire staff would like to extend thanks to the artists who have taken the time to speak with us and the readers who have been so dedicated to supporting the site.
100 Watt Horse hails from Atlanta, Georgia and currently includes George Pettis (guitar / vocals), Maddy Davis (vibraphone), Anna Jeter (bass / vocals) and any number of friends, family, and strangers. Judging by the mad-lib you’ll read below, they enjoy bathroom humor a little too much.
100 Watt Horse x Cowboy Crisis Summer Tour
August 4th – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk
August 5th – Midland, TX @ TBA
August 6th – Albuquerque, NM @ TBA
August 7th – Flagstaff, AZ @ Firecreek Coffee Company
August 8th – Los Angeles, CA @ TBA
August 9th – Berkley, CA @ Garden Shows
August 11th – Portland, OR @ Habesha Lounge
August 12th – Olympia, WA @ The Guest House
August 13th – Seattle, WA @ w/ Oh, Rose
August 15th – Big Sky, MT @ 44 Spruce Cone
August 17th – Omaha, NE @ w/ Thick Paint
August 19th – Chicago, IL @ Emporium Arcade Bar
August 20th – Cincinnati, OH @ Rake’s End
August 21st – Knoxville, TN @ The Birdhouse
August 22nd – Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
August 23rd – Athens, GA @ The Most Rad House Show Of All Time
Where does the story of 100 Watt Horse begin? I know that it was something that started while Wowser Bowser was still active but had you been sitting on those songs and finally wanted to share them or was it more of a burst of inspiration?
George Pettis (all answers): The story of 100 Watt Horse BEGIN-begins, like beginning of time style begins with two songs from a Sing Out! Magazine sampler cd that took over my life when I first heard them. Those songs were “Rove Riley Rove” by Bruce Molsky and “Belle Rose” by June Tabor. Those two songs (especially the Bruce Molsky tune) served as my first real introduction to traditional Appalachian music, at least as an adult, or semi-adult or whatever (I think I was probably about 14-15 years old), and that music has really always stuck with me, in the back of my mind and hiding in my musical vocabulary even in my synth pop songwriting days with Wowser Bowser. I think that I’ve been semi-obsessed with this goal to write a melody or multiple melodies as good as those that I heard on those two tracks. More recently, i.e. a couple years ago, 100 Watt Horse was an outlet for me to play some songs that I had written, which I figured were pretty good or at least worth playing live but that didn’t really fit with the style that Wowser Bowser had going either thematically or in their arrangements. Eventually the number of songs that didn’t fit Wowser Bowser’s sound began to greatly outnumber those that did, and that’s when I realized that 100 Watt Horse was just where I was heading, musically, and that I needed to start focusing full-time on it. The transition was slow and involved disbanding Wowser Bowser and adding members (including Gabe and Jake who were in both bands) to flesh out 100 Watt Horse, but I think it’s one that needed to happen and there were really no hard feelings involved.
Everyone’s dying to know the story behind the name also..
Haha! It’s not a story. It’s an anti-story, just like that of the naming of Wowser Bowser. It was just a mini-moment when I was opening the (wonderful) band Hundred Waters at the Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, NC. Basically I overheard a stagehand or sound guy or whatever say “100 Watt Horse” when talking about the bands playing that night, and when upon clarification discovered that he had actually said “Hundred Waters” made a mental note to steal that for a band name. It just sort of instantly resonated with me on some level. Part of it had to do with this deeper inexplicable facet of my brain which involves me being the worst band-namer in the history of music. Talk to Maddy Davis if you want to hear some examples of my all-time worst (which I nonetheless wholeheartedly pushed for when we were first starting out with the full band). We were gonna pick a different name than 100 Watt Horse since I had used that as my solo moniker and we figured people might have been confused (they were/are) but in the end I guess we just got lazy or I failed to overhear anything better, haha.
The self-titled EP was recorded over the past two years at various places around Atlanta, correct? And then you released it on Boom Done! Records, a collective label that was formed with a group of friends? How did Boom Done! come into formation at the same time while you were writing and recording this album?
It was mostly recorded at Katzman Sound Studios in Reynoldstown, which is run and operated by one of my oldest friends Paul Katzman, who is also a damn fine engineer. “Morning” was recorded in Jake’s bedroom and then “punched up” at Paul’s studio. I was producing the record and a few months earlier I had had this idea, along with my friends Sam Fisher (who was in the original Wowser Bowser with me) and Paul that we should just have our own label to put out all the material that our collective group of friends was generating since we all basically had other bands and solo projects and we were pretty fed up with trying to pitch records to larger indie record labels who really didn’t seem to give a shit about Atlanta bands anyway. There were a couple of labels in Atlanta that I liked, but the genres of the bands they put out were pretty uniform and didn’t mesh with our weird pop collective or whatever so we came up with Boom Done! Records, named after an inside joke Sam and I had YEARS ago and kicked off by the release of Sam’s Countless Others record. After that I sort of conned the amazing bands Shook Foil and Highlander into letting me “release” their stuff and then when that didn’t totally crash and burn decided to release my own EP. It’s all pretty shoddily done to be honest haha but that’s the charm I guess.
Can you recall your first show in Atlanta? It’s always interesting to me to hear about how people’s relationship with the Atlanta music scene has changed over the years. What keeps you writing, working… living in Atlanta still?
My first show in Atlanta (not counting high school coffee shop gigs in Decatur which I’d rather be set on fire than re-live) was Wowser Bowser’s first hometown show at this warehouse on Krog St. sometimes called the “Krog Jam.” It was actually super amazing and really just super sketchy. It was like this slightly dilapidated industrial warehouse-turned-venue that used to put on like jam band shows and events that Burning Man-type people went to. I remember there being a keg (of course that’s what I would remember, right?) that was sort of kind of being attended to by a member of the “staff” but certainly wasn’t in any way restricted to “of age” drinkers haha so we used to get a little wasted and see our friends play and it was just really great. There is a really awesome but potentially upsetting story about Jake Thomson from those days involving an activity that he performed onstage WHILE playing drums that you can ask me about when I see you but I shouldn’t put in print haha. I think Invisible Circus (Jake’s funk band featuring Cole Grant of A. Grimes, and Jared Pepper of Lily and the Tigers and Babar) may have played but I don’t remember. I was drinking a lot of wine out of jugs at that point in my life so it’s not crystal clear. So yeah I guess my relationship with Atlanta has moved location from those warehouse show days but to think about it now the goal has always been just to get drunk and see your friends play their awesome (even if its shitty) music and just have a good time so that really hasn’t changed at all. I guess that’s why I stayed here. It’s where my friends played and the rent is cheap and the music is just absolutely the best in the entire south if not the whole damn country.
I understand the band is about to head out on a tour that’s going to take you all the way to the Pacific before heading up the coast and back to the South.. The route can seem daunting in ways, but I think the excitement that surrounds it would override those feelings. Regardless, a tour that covers that much distance takes a lot of time to plan.. What went into that whole process and where did the plan start?
The plan to tour was always next on our list after “Make an EP.” But this particular tour really came together when I played with Cowboy Crisis on our last 100 Watt Horse “South By South South Tour” where we toured during SXSW but didn’t actually go to SXSW. I saw them play in Asheville to a crowd of maybe 20 people in a small living room, completely un-amplified and acoustic and it was just the best show I had seen in I don’t know how long and I was like “I have to tour with these guys” so I approached Dailey about it and he was like “sure.” The idea came together really easily, it was booking the fucking thing that sucked haha. But I mean that’s always the way it goes you know? For a month long tour you have to just bust your ass for two or three months beforehand chasing down elusive promoters and irresponsible musicians to play with you and book you at their shitty house or bar or whatever and it just kind of makes you hate your life and everyone/thing in it but then the day comes when you’re driving out of town and watching Atlanta sink down behind you and you realize you’ve got nothing to do for the next 23 days but meet new people and play music and just see the country and it makes all the hard work more than worth it. Yeah I’m really excited to say the least I love being on tour. Have ever since I was kid, touring with my Dad in the 90’s to the various folk festivals and house concerts that existed back then in an economy which could financially support a touring musician. Needless to say things have changed, infrastructure-wise, but that allure of the open road or Wanderlust or whatever is still there for me.
Creative Loafing recently published an incredibly introspective look into how the band has grown, despite losing members, over the last few months. How did the change in formation affect things as you were rehearsing and planning this tour?
It was sort of scary and fun simultaneously. Scary because the full band (with Jake and Gabe) had already toured and was doing well and being received well and we had an EP with that line-up and a full length already in the works, but fun because it meant I got to write new songs and re-write the arrangements of the old ones in a way that made sense for three people, which is, like, what I DO as a songwriter. So it was interesting. I think it is a really useful thing to be knocked on your ass every once in while or to shake things up yourself to keep things interesting and fresh. I think Maddy and Anna were maybe more worried than I was about the switch, probably because they have brains and I don’t haha, but I just sort of knew it would work itself out and it really has. And I think the new songs are some of best so that’s nice.
From times we’ve spoken about your music before, you have a hesitancy and displeasure to be pigeonholed as a “folk” or “folk revival” act. Understandably, because the songs on theEP have a strong pop backbone, but still the comparisons are often made. Where does this hesitancy come from? Most of the time the comparisons are flattering..
Well it’s sort of like if someone told me I was one of the best, most-beautiful handcrafted dining room tables they’d ever seen; it would be a lovely compliment but it wouldn’t make any sense or mean anything to me because I’m not. I really just know very clearly that I am not a folk musician and that our band is not a folk band. It’s kind of hard to describe. It’s like a feeling of alienation sort of, like people don’t really get it even though they are being very nice. It makes me feel weird because I obviously am so grateful that anyone is even listening to this shit, but as an artist there is this deeper desire to be understood or to communicate accurately through the stuff you create, and when people make those comparisons I feel like I failed to do that. So I sort of struggle with that a little bit, but I think I’m getting better at writing songs that couldn’t possibly be described as folk haha.
Going back to the tour, I assume you’re playing in a number of markets that have never seen the band. Any cities in particular that stand out on your end?
I am really really excited to see and play California. I guess that’s sort of cliche or to be expected but yeah I’m really excited. Also Olympia, Washington but that’s mostly because we’re playing with Oh, Rose and I think they’re one of the best groups in America. And I am not saying that hyperbolically. Check out all their music, especially their song “Prom.” You’ll love it.
Cowboy Crisis is joining you all out on this tour.. What are the top three things we should know about them?
1. Dailey Toliver has the most beautiful voice in the world and his songwriting is incredibly powerful and delicate at the same time. I’ve never heard anything like it.
2. They are ALL insane musicians. Like top-tier blow your mind good. Can’t wait to learn from them by watching them blow minds all over the country.
3. There is going to be a pedal steel player, and pedal steel is the coolest sounding instrument ever.
100 Watt Horse Mad Lib Biography
Remember that one poop you had earlier this week? How stinky and doo-doo it was? How it reminded you of a trip to the toilet when you were a child? Remember all the pee-pee and boners and how awesome they seemed? It’s strange, because in a way, 100 Watt Horse is just like that. It is a song that has been farted by many people before, just never in the same butt. Though the band’s members currently diarrhea in Atlanta, the open road is their port-o-potty, a never-ending throw-up of shitty nights, shitty meals, and shitty music. Whether the work of one man or many friends, the love of crack cocaine is was powers this machine. Shart easy, jizz freely, and know that 100 Watt Horse is on your dick.