Interview: Monty Colvin, Dane Sonnier, Alan Doss & Ben Huggins, Galactic Cowboys

Space Invaders

An intriguing band are the GALACTIC COWBOYS. They have recently released their self-titled debut album: a potent mix of effortless late-60s psychedelic pop harmonies that for the best part weld together with the intense, atmospheric heaviness they create. It's all spiced up with an interesting array of rootsy influences ranging from blues harp, flamingo guitar, harmonica, and there's even a bizarre little jazz ditty thrown in at the end. Yup, idiosyncratic, and, as their name would suggest, they make music that knows no boundaries.

"Exactly," agrees bassist Monty Colvin. "You've nailed it on the head."

Before we go any further, I decided to deal with the KINGS X link. After all, both bands hail from Houston, both used the same producer, Sam Taylor, both have toured together (the COWBOYS supported KINGS X over here at the end of the year, their one and only visit to these shores), and, as guitarist Dane Sonnier admits, both bands "listen to a lot of the same music. We have a lot of the same influences as they have. Obviously there's gonna be some things that sound similar but I dunno, we feel like we're pretty distinctive."

Point taken. But do the inevitable comparisons bother you?

"I think people will figure it out eventually," reasons Monty. "If they see us live, get to know who we are, they'll see we're very different in a lot of ways. But, y'know, KINGS X are a great band to be compared to."

You also talked about sharing a lot of the same influences as KINGS X. I would imagine you'd be referring to gospel and more prominently the psychedelic pop thing.

"Sure, yeah, I'd agree with that," responds Dane. "We like a lot of the vocal bands of the 60s and late 60s. I guess Alan [Doss, the drummer] is really into THE BEATLES, psychedelic stuff and y'know, we all like that type of stuff."

Monty clips in: "We all grew up singing and we all grew up liking bands that sing, so I think it was just natural that we wanted to harmonise."

Musically, the band encompasses more styles and moods in some of their songs, than say some other bands achieve on an album's worth of material, something Monty acknowledges.

"Yeah, I think that's kind of the consensus, that we do a lot of different things and I think it just comes from having a lot of different feelings."

They also specialize in the six-minute-plus song, a format that comes naturally to them and which enables them to fully express their complex musical moods. THE COWBOYS appear to be oblivious or unconcerned about conceding to commercial demands. Naturally, the band have their own perspective on the matter.

"For me, the songs don't seem that long," Alan. "I guess in actual time they do. But just like a few other bands that write long songs, if they're good songs, I never really wonder how long they are."

Emotive vocalist Ben Huggins interjects.

"When you think of the classic songs that get requested at radio stations, like Stairway to Heaven and Freebird, I mean those are long longs."

Hmm, partly true, but long or short, it's not what you do with it, it's the way you do it that counts. So, let's take a look at some of the highlights of the record.

I'm Not Amused is a startling intro to the album, beginning with, amongst other things, a Texas longhorn mooing and the sound of breaking glass. As for the song itself, it seems as if THE COWBOYS are seriously pissed off about something or other. Ben explains.

"Basically Monty and Alan had come up with this idea of not being amused. It was about the time when there was the murder of a young man here in Texas. It was actually in Mexico, just across the border, and he was murdered by a group of Satan worshippers. At the same time, Monty was seeing a bunch of videos that were glamourising Satan worshippers and we were just saying, 'look we're not amused anymore."

Whilst Alan points out that "people know Satan worship, and stuff like that, isn't something that you fool around with. It's not some game. It's serious stuff."

Reading between the lines, I'm reminded of KINGS X's Christian values and beliefs. I decide not to pursue this subject further but the vaguely spiritual quality of their music and their strong stance against things like Satanism and drugs suggest that they might share more than simply just a musical common ground!

Why Can't You Believe in Me is, in my humble opinion, the album's stand out track; a musical tour de force as well as a desperate plea from the heart, but yet strangely uplifting. It's a very personal song, according to Ben.

"The lyrics were written about my brother. He was living with me and my wife at the time and he'd had a lot of problems with drugs and, y'know, he's real paranoid. So he was telling me, at some point in time, about his problems. I was trying to ask him why he really couldn't get along with people and why he couldn't make friends and why friends that he did make were total drug addicts, and these were some of the thoughts that he was expressing."

Keeping the focus on your songs, Kill Floor could be about the slow death induced by the 9-to-5 existence - mental, physical, and spiritual.

"That's a nice observation," notes Monty. "Yes, it's actually just a story about this guy and it could possibly be true. It's a story I heard from somebody else, about this guy that kinda went crazy working at a meat factory, killing animals all day. Yeah, it is that kinda grinding existence, where you think there's gotta be more to life than this."

On a lighter note, Pump Up The Space is, according to Dane, "a blast to play at that point in the show where we just really get to have a lot of fun. It's a song born out of a spontaneous jam."

The GALACTIC COWBOYS profile, both here and in their native land, isn't exactly high, as the band themselves confess. Although, as Dane says, "a little groundswell of activity is beginning to build."

The GALACTIC COWBOYS could be the type of band that the critics gush about but that the music buying public are generally unaware of or indifferent to. I believe they call these type of bands 'cult' bands. Granted, they're never going to achieve the commercial success of the BON JOVIs of this world but it would be a crying shame if they languished in relative obscurity.

Definitely the sort of music that requires time and patience, but as Monty aptly puts it: "I think it is something that kinda grows on you."

Right, and we're not talkin' fungus!

Mark Liddell
Riff Raff
September, 1991

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